With the European Union trying to decide how to solve the debt crisis in Greece, students listened to a lecture Thursday about the history of the European Union and what the crisis means for Europe and the rest of the world.
The event was hosted in part by the European Studies program, the European Studies Society, Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars and Associated Students, Inc. The lecture on the Euro crisis was presented as a part of Humanities and Social Sciences Week.
Wolfgang Drautz, consul general of the Federal Republic of Germany, gave the lecture based on his experience working in German foreign affairs.
“The Euro crisis is not just a European crisis,” said Drautz. “It affects the United States as well as the entire world. We are all interconnected.”
Drautz also said there were some positive effects from the current economic crisis. He said when he first started as consul general stationed in Los Angeles in 2009, students and Americans in general did not seem very interested in Germany, and many could not even name the German chancellor, but the situation has changed.
“Now I am excited to see so many students interested in Germany and Europe,” Drautz said. “This is something that affects you as well.”
Cora Granata, Ph.D., director of the European Studies program at Cal State Fullerton, said student interest was the primary reason for inviting Drautz.
“We sent the consulate a letter … We were so pleased that he agreed right away to come and he was thrilled,” said Granata. “This was his first time on the CSUF campus and he was really delighted.”
The lecture followed the history of the EU, leading up to the problems and criticisms that the supranational body has faced today with economic crashes in places like Greece and Italy.
“Many have asked why we allowed Greece to join the EU when we knew they were not economically strong,” Drautz said. “I believe it was much more of a political decision than a financial one.”
At the time of Greece’s entry to the EU in 1981, it had overthrown a dictatorship and had become a democracy. This was the primary reason for allowing them entry, said Drautz.
“We could not say ‘Oh, good job at becoming a democracy and joining the free world, but you can’t join with us,’” Drautz said. “It was political as an act of encouragement towards our European friends after such an historic event.”
Drautz said similar thinking affected the decisions to allow Spain, Portugal and members of the former Soviet Union to join the EU.
The lecture also covered some of the other problems the EU faces, such as how much sovereignty to give up and retain upon joining the EU. This is especially notable in times of political or economic crisis in countries.
Drautz said many countries in the EU are asking for more German leadership, a position Germany is hesitant to take after World War II.
“Even the Polish prime minister, of all people, said he could not believe he was saying it but that he wanted more German leadership in the eurozone,” Drautz said.
These requests come because Germany’s economy is still strong, and Germany has measures in place to use its economic power to help countries like Greece. Drautz said the German government is hesitant to take a stronger role and use the EU to overpower individual governments.
Drautz has been stationed as consul general in Los Angeles and covers the Southwest region of the United States, from Southern California to Arizona and Utah. The consul is different from an ambassador, who lives in Washington, D.C. and acts as the direct link from one head of state to another.
There was a large crowd throughout the lecture, and students had the opportunity to ask questions at the end.
“(The lecture) was good,” said Martin Ugelstad, a history major who attended the event. “It was interesting. Maybe a little more time for questions (from students) would have been good though.”