‘Europe’s secret weapon is its diversity’

© Andreas B. Krueger

‘I’ve only been here for five minutes and have already met someone who happens to work in the same company as me. We’re just in the throes of a highly interesting conversation about cyber security’, explains DAAD alumnus Michael Benske. He is standing at an elevated table in a light-flooded room in the ‘Maison de la Chimie’ conference centre. This building in the heart of Paris was the location for its ninth Symposium for German DAAD law alumni. flags were flying for a weekend between the Hôtel des Invalides and the National Assembly. There was a particular reason for the alumnae and alumni to come together precisely in Paris to celebrate the symposium’s 20-year anniversary: it was here 60 years ago that Germany and France sealed their bond of friendship with the Élysée Treaty. That’s also the same length of time that there’s been a .

Under the motto ‘Same same but different? Europe as a community of values – strong enough to hold together?’, around 120 DAAD alumnae and alumni exchange views with high calibre guests on the most important issues and challenges facing Europe. The keynote speeches and panel discussions cover topics such as the jurisdiction of European courts in times of increasing nationalism, the European perspective on Ukraine and our Franco-German self-image. The alumnae and alumni themselves played a decisive role in shaping the event given their discipline-specific expertise.

DAAD alumni meeting in Paris

DAAD alumni meeting in Paris
DAAD alumni meeting in Paris ©

Stephan Steinlein, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to France, gave an inspiring opening speech that invited the audience to exchange ideas: ‘The beginning and end of this year’s motto contain question marks. I'm curious to see if we can use this weekend to turn these into exclamation marks’, says Steinlein. Although he wouldn't be too happy about that, because Europe is not and could never be considered to be ‘the same’. ‘Europe’s secret weapon is its diversity, our ability to repeatedly turn differences into similarities.’ This occurs in a difficult process that puts everyone involved to the test. ‘Yet we undergo this process time and again – because we know the alternative from centuries of experience.’ At a time when war has returned to Europe, it’s important to remember that Europe was and remains a peace project.

We need partners throughout the world if we want to transform the world in a positive way’

Professor Joybrato Mukherjee, DAAD President

DAAD President Professor Joybrato Mukherjee also spoke about the current conflicts in his welcoming address. He felt a lot had happened since the last symposium in Brussels five years ago. ‘The world has not become a better place. We are experiencing a multitude of mutually reinforcing crises and more than ever before we need to demonstrate our problem-solving skills.’ By way of example, he cited the coronavirus pandemic, the consequences of global climate change and the bloody conflicts in various regions of the world, such as the Hamas attack on Israel and Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. ‘We need partners throughout the world with whom we exchange ideas and develop transnational solutions if we want to help shape and change the world in a positive way. In other words transformation by means of exchange. We also need you – our alumni – to be able to do that.’

Éric-André Martin, Secretary General of the Study Committee on Franco-German Relations (Cerfa), derives important tasks for Germany and France from these crises in his keynote speech and the subsequent discussion with alumnae and alumni. ‘Both of our countries face major challenges. They need to develop a common agenda, unite their potential and act as a driving force within a process of efficient modernisation in Europe.’

We work in quite different disciplines, although we’re united by the DAAD and our international experience. This creates trust and opens up many new perspectives.

Dr Andreas Knaul, lawyer and DAAD alumnus

This was the first symposium of its kind for Michael Benske. He was mostly interested in topics such as EU regulation in the domains of digitisation and artificial intelligence. ‘These topics aren’t necessarily the programme’s focus, but the great thing about such events is that you can also strike up informal discussions and extend your network, whether in the coffee breaks, over dinner, or during the sightseeing tours in Paris.’ In contrast to Michael Benske, Dr Andreas Knaul had attended each of the previous symposia – in Hamburg, Brussels, Rome, Freiburg and Oxford. ‘The atmosphere is friendly, almost familiar’, explains the lawyer. ‘We work in quite different disciplines, although we’re united by the DAAD and our international experience. This creates trust and opens up many new perspectives. That’s why I always keep on coming.’


  • Alumniportal Deutschland-Team


    Thank you Mubarak, all the best for 2024 to you, too!



    I wish you a merry christmas and happy new year 2024.

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