The careers of a few students of the Leibniz promotion (1961–1962)
and their present views on Europe’s future
The Leibniz promotion arrived in Bruges by the fall of 1961 to live one academic year under the leadership of the famous Europeanist Henri Brugmans. It was composed of around thirty young people coming from almost all the countries of Western Europe and three representatives of the countries of Eastern Europe (one Jugoslav, one Hungarian and a Polish lecturer), plus two Americans.
Having completed the course in June of the following year, each one undertook a different professional career and contacts among them were reduced to rare occasions. As far as we know, only three of them became officials of the European Institutions. Others have done there only a “stage” or worked for a short period. At least two have undertaken the academic career, while others have worked in their national administrations. For the rest they remained in the private sectors. Apparently only one has chosen the political career, which anyway he had started before the College.
Fifty-five years later some of the surviving ones thought a good idea to make the point of their achievements and above all to let know what are their ideas concerning the European Union, which has now grown in competences and members, but which is still far from what their Rector and themselves hoped for at the time of their studies in Bruges.
Unluckily we don’t have any record or other ways to know whom, among us, has already left this word, but that their number will necessarily increase. It is for this reason that a small number of the members of the promotion (which came together thanks to Internet, something unimaginable at their College time) thought that their achievements and present views on Europe future might be of a certain value for the younger promotions of the College.
The careers of five Leibnizians
Albert Rohan, diplomat
Albert joined the College after completing his law studies in Austrian universities. He had already a European experience, having followed part of his secondary studies in France.
After the College, he joined the Austrian Foreign Service, and served in Vienna as well as in Belgrade and London, and later as Ambassador to Argentina.
From 1977 to 1981 he worked as director of the Executive Office of the UN Secretary General in New York.
Back in Vienna he occupied different important jobs, ending as Secretary General for Foreign Affairs.
Since retirement in 2001, he undertook many interesting activities as lecturer in different countries institutes and universities, particularly on the Balkans, the Middle East and Russia, as well as on Transatlantic Relations.
From 2005 to 2008 he acted as Deputy Special Envoy of the U.N. Secretary General for the Kosovo Status Talks.
At present he is member of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
He published a biography: Diplomat at the fringe of world politics.
Emiliano Fossati, European official
Leaving the College he joined the economic research office of the Italian Oil Company (ENI) in Rome.
Two years later he was called by the European Commission to work in the directorate managing the European Development Fund in favour of the African associated countries. This experience, which he thought of a short duration, in fact took all his professional life, because of the growing responsibilities entrusted to him. So he was able to visit a large number of emerging African countries and successively those of Latin America and Asia and exchange view both with their authorities and common people.
His major experience was to put in place the new cooperation policy requested by the European Parliament for the countries of Asia and Latin America and to direct the negotiations for the conclusion of cooperation agreements with a number of these countries.
When he retired from the European Commission in 2000, he held the position of Director for Asia and was equally in charge of the political responsibilities, which the new treaties had conferred to the Commission.
After retirement he is still concerned with international policies and European questions, but he spend most of his time with his "violon d’Ingrès”, that is sculpture, and taking care of his garden in the Italian Riviera.
He has published an autobiography: Memorie di un eurocrate disilluso.
Merrick Baker Bates, diplomat
After the college fantastic experience, he thought to enter public service, and, given that at that time Common Market Institutions were not fully open to British subjects, he looked at the British Foreign Office. In order to prepare to the difficult entrance examinations he spent two years in Brussels helping a well-known journalist.
When in 1963 he was finally admitted in the Foreign Service, he was asked, despite his European training, to start learning an hard language. Somehow Japanese was chosen, and he spent the following five years in that country, of which, despite initial doubts, he fell in love with it, particularly for its comprehensive culture.
After some years in London, he was attached to the British mission in the United States and later for five years again in Japan. There, in parallel with the other European member states, he lobbied for a real opening of the local market.
At this point of his career he decided to have a complete different experience and became General Manager of a Hong Kong firm in Tokyo.
Back to the Foreign Office he was posted in Malaysia, where the main problem was to improve relations with Dr Mahathir, its difficult prime minister.
Back in London he was involved in restoring relations with Argentina after the war and a modus vivendi with the Falkland islanders.
His last post, and the top of his career, was as British Consul General in Los Angeles.
Retired in 1988 he has worked as part-time adviser to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Michael Reupke, journalist
Michael started immediately after the college to work as a journalist.
Starting as a "stagiaire" in Paris with the Reuters Press Agency, then one of the world leading ones, he soon became a professional and, after a few years, he received the task to open a German branch, when, at the end of 1966 (after chancellor Erhard's resignation), this was felt necessary.
Later he led the Latin American and Caribbean branch of Reuters from 1975 to 1977, after which he was appointed Editor-in-Chief in London, from where he directed more than 1200 journalists working in different parts of he world.
Retired, after differences with the new property, he moved near Oxford, had a stroke, which has left him paralyzed in the limbs, but intellectually very active. Now is fighting to start walking again and initiating a new career.
Richard Motsch, university professor
Having studied as a jurist, after the College, Richard completed his academic training with research activities in Italian, British and naturally German universities. He also spent a time working with the European Commission in Brussels.
In his capacity as a jurist, he later worked successively in the German ministries of economics, intra-German relations and finance; in this last post he is proud to have successfully defended, first in front of the Federal Court in Karlsruhe and later of the European Court for Human Rights, the principle that compensation should be paid for wealth nationalised by the German Democratic Republic.
After retirement, he is still very active with publications on different subjects, but mainly on the need to sustain world peace.
Jointly with his wife he has contributed in China to the edition of the numerous writings in European languages of a modern Chinese scholar, Quin Zhongshu.
Their visions of Europe’s future
All the five participants to this exercise maintain the basic beliefs with which they came out of their College experience, that is: the European cooperation is important for maintaining peace in Europe, and can also contribute to a better world equilibrium.
Concerning the future however, the opinions vary from optimism to pessimism. The major risk they see is the nationalism emerging in many member countries and the popular feeling that there is a democratic deficit in the Union.
One of them consider that the existing rules, and the values behind them, are a valid defence against a return to the situation before and for the necessary improvements, while another believe that France and Germany, which were the essential actors for the European project, will be able to maintain the Union. All believe that some improvements, and possibly the reformulation of the Union structure, are required. One go further maintaining that is necessary to recognize the reality, to forget about “an ever closer union” and reorganize the Union as a Confederation, as well as to abandon or to reform radically the common currency, that is the Euro.
All the five agree that Brexit is not a major problem for the future.
One of them however had a change of heart and voted for it, having realised over the years that Great Britain’s role is outside the continental group of countries, because, as De Gaulle said, she is insular, linked to the most diverse parts of the world, and in all her doing is very marked by original habits and traditions. This last view is shared by another member of the group, who consider that the positions taken by the different British governments inside the European Community, and later the Union, has always been a restraint for all the tentative steps forwards.
European Integration is certainly the greatest achievement of the 20th century, it brought peace, stability and prosperity to Europe. Having said this, it is evident that the increasing number of member states has made the decision making process of the EU slow and cumbersome. Moreover, the organisation has become over-bureaucratic and over-intrusive, with a tendency to regulate even tiny aspects of the people’s daily life. Finally, while economic integration is well advanced, integration in other areas lags behind. What is needed therefore are reforms based on the principle of subsidiarity. Matters which are better dealt with on the local level should be left in the competence of the member states while the EU should deal with issues that require a global approach. In some areas - security and defence, external border control and migration, the governing of the EURO-zone – a deepening of integration is necessary. I am confident, that in the coming years and under the leadership of the revamped French-German axis the Union will meet these challenges.
At the College I, and possible a large number of our colleagues, was convinced that it was just matter of time, but out of the Common Market, a real federation of European States would develop. At that time we looked with amazement De Gaulle’s opposition to the accession of the UK, while our Rector and a number of colleagues thought that a United Europe should comprise also the countries of Eastern Europe, at the time under communist regimes.
Finally in 1973 the UK joined the EEC, and with the Single Act of 1986 all the provisions of the existing treaties were fully implemented. At the time the EC comprised twelve member states and the UK applied the common rules better than some of the founding states. However it had unexpressed reservations to the objective stated since the beginning of the process, that is: “an ever closer union”.
The system worked, even if the Member Countries maintained full control and, and, while formally supporting increased powers for the Commission and Parliament, de facto strengthened their own.
Things did not change with the following emphasis to move towards a European Union, which apparently should be a real federation: the Maastricht treaty was concluded in 1992, followed within short intervals by the treaties of Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon. In the meantime, the fall of the Berlin wall has allowed the re-unification of Germany and subsequently an ever-ending process of accessions of new members. All the former communist countries of East Europe became full members, disregarding the level of their preparation to the new rules and duties.
The present European Union is not the hoped Federation, but a sort of Confederation, to which a common currency has been added without the necessary bases, such as common fiscal and labour policies, as well as real commitment to solidarity among its members.
In my view it is impossible to come back toward a real federation because, not only the politicians of the different member countries wish to maintain their power, but also because the populations of these countries feel that they can express their wishes only at national level, given that real European political parties never existed, nor are nowadays possible.
On the other end, I believe that coming back to the full national sovereignty of the European states should be absolutely avoided because of the risk in the long term of new internal wars, not to talk of dangerous begger-my -neighbour policies. .
Therefore the way out is not to deepen the Union, but to recognize the reality and adopt efficient rules for allowing it to work as a Confederation. Great Britain’s exit in not a real problem, particularly if the Union will move in the direction just mentioned. The Association Agreements, already in existence for a number of other European states, are valid models to maintain economic and cultural relations with this country.
For the Euro, on the contrary, it is evident that a way out is a very difficult undertaking for any country individually, while it would be easy for Germany, which, against her wishes, has become the hegemonic country. However, unless serious reforms are undertaken, starting with the cancellation of the un-payable Greek debts, the Euro survival is impossible.
I don’t believe that the measures foreseen by some political leaders, such as a deepening of the Union among a reduced number of countries, are feasible. What should be done instead is to fight in order to maintain all the positive “acquis” of the Community achievements, through the introduction of clear working rules for a future effective Confederation.
My change of heart on Europe.
I voted for Brexit. This was the most difficult decision I could remember since committing myself to marriage, an earlier (and very successful as it turned out ) leap into the unknown over 54 years ago. After graduating from the College I spent eighteen months in Brussels as a callow young ‘journalist’ helping to cover the negotiations between Britain and the then Common Market. I very much hoped then that Britain’s application would succeed. I was in Brussels when President de Gaulle, a great European, vetoed British entry for the first time. It was a bitter disappointment. I have, however, recently reminded myself of what the President said at the time of his second veto in 1967 : ‘England in effect is insular, she is maritime, she is linked through her interactions, her markets and her supply lines to the most diverse and often the most distant countries; she pursues essentially industrial and commercial activities, and only slight agricultural ones. She has, in all her doings, very marked and very original habits and traditions.’ Over the ensuing years I came to agree with those views.
As a diplomat I never worked in Europe. On several occasions, however, I wrote on to the Foreign Office saying that I would like to work in Western Europe. But it was not to be. So whilst my earlier enthusiasm for a united Europe, bound by ties of free trade and investment, remained and I voted “remain” in the referendum of 1975, it was eventually overlaid by experiences in the wider world of Asia and the Americas. I saw myself in that wider world, supporting British interests in those “diverse and often distant countries” and interested in a future that would surely be shaped by Asia.
By contrast, when I read or heard about the Common Market, then the EEC, then the EC and now the EU, it seemed an introspective, protectionist entity obsessed with “more integration, more Europe”. Persuasive political voices urged Britain not to “ miss the European train” and to plunge more wholeheartedly into EU so as to shape its policies. It was never clear to me how that was going to happen, since British views could always be outvoted The almost farcical exit of Britain Exchange Rate Mechanism in September 1992, so strongly advocated by Prime Minister John Major and many economists, greatly weakened the “ more Europe” argument. More recently from outside the eurozone, I watched with dismay the harsh way (as I saw it) in which the Greeks were treated over their bailout and the animosity, particularly against the German Government, that arose in Greece as a result.
This is not the place to rehearse the arguments for and against Brexit and the reasons why the Brexiteers won the referendum. However, I knew that David Cameron’s failure to get any serious concessions on the free movement of labour, had affected attitudes in Britain. I heard that every day from contacts and friends. I was very aware of the “democratic deficit” in EU governance that troubled many in this country. I was aware too of the controversial interventions, indeed threats, of some foreigners, notably President Obama, that were designed to support a “ remain “ vote. Nonetheless, I was surprised by the result. It exposed the great gulf between an out of touch “London elite” and much of the rest of England and Wales. The EU, with its “ more Europe” agenda and, as I saw it, intransigence in the matter of the free movement of labour, had spectacularly failed to inspire the Common Man & Woman in this country.
I want to see a relationship - essentially a trading relationship - between Britain and the EU that is happy and prosperous, benefitting both sides. Well, who wouldn’t? Whether or not that will emerge from the present discussions remains to be seen. The waters are very muddy. There are still politicians (some of them British alumni of the College of Europe!) who hope to reverse the result of the referendum by a vote in Parliament. If this were to happen, it will solve nothing in the longer term. The UK, bitterly divided, will continue to resist “ more Europe” and will probably over time find supporters elsewhere in the EU. How much better I feel to “ cut the cackle” as the Americans say, to let the UK shape its own destiny as a friend and ally of the EU and stand or fall in the wider world.
I joined the College of Europe (I always treasured the richness of the year spent there) since I was already convinced of the need to unify our continent, from the U.K to the then communist countries in the East. My main reason was that after World War 2 there was the need for peace. I still believe that there is no document nearer to a European peace treaty than the treaty of Rome.
My opinion has not changed and I strongly believe that the European Union, which was built thanks to the reconciliation of France and Germany, is something necessary not only for peace, but also for the wellbeing and the freedom of all its people, and therefore to be preserved and cherished.
Therefore I was upset when the British people decided in their referendum that they wanted to leave the Union: it is a pity, but the European Union can go on even without Great Britain. Myself I want to retain the advantages of being a European and therefore I decided to obtain also the German nationality, to which my birth in occupied East Germany allows me.
Of course there are things that need to be put right in an organised Europe. Possibly the most important is to correct the popular perception that the Union is governed by an army of bureaucrats who do not understand the realities of life out here.
Equally a number of other policies should be reformed or improved, such as the fisheries and agricultural ones. But in general I am optimistic about the survival of the Union, supported in the short term by the strength of Germany and France.
Kishore Mahbubani (Singapore) sees Europe from the outside. To him the European Union is a success story. He writes:
- „Until recently, it appeared that only North America and the European Union (EU) had abolished war from their soil. Now the rest of the world is also converging toward peace. Major interstate wars have become a sunset industry.“
- „The EU states have accepted a rules-based order to guide their relations with each other. This order is made up of legal instruments and a complex political ecosystem that reflects the values of the European populations. Despite of enormous geopolitical and other rivalries, there are major constraints on the behaviour of EU states. Significantly, while there are some legal sanctions on violations of some rules and norms, the adherence to rules reflects values rather than fear of sanctions. – There is not fundamental reason why this European ecosystem of perpetual peace cannot be shared with the rest of humanity.“
Summing up there is no sufficient ground for optimism neither for pessimism. It is up to ourselves to determine the future. My hope is in the younger generation. For them, I hope and feel, „OneWorld!“ has more appeal than „America first!”.