Roman Herzog, former President of the Federal Republic of Germany, died on January 10th, 2017. A member of the Christian-Democratic Union party (CDU), Herzog was the first president elected after German reunification in 1990. He was also a member and president of the Federal Constitutional Court as well as minister for Culture and Education. During his mandate at the Constitutional Court, he intensely devoted his work to immigration and integration policies for minorities.
In the European context, he held many positions, among them he had also been a member of Reset-Dialogues on Civilizations’ Founding and Scientific Committee since 2004. During his post-presidency period, between 1999 and 2000, Herzog was Chairman of the European Convention that drafted the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Angela Merkel spoke of his great intellectual energy, while Germany’s current President Gauck recalled Herzog as an intellectual and a wise man who had fought for liberty and civil rights. Herzog’s constant interest in the coexistence of different cultures and religions led to tributes from many ethnic minority communities, such as the one led by Josef Schuster, president of the German Central Council of Jews.
In 1999, during the World Economic Summit in Davos, Herzog had explained how the intensification of an inter-cultural dialogue might be fundamental as a premise for every peaceful political and economic scenario. He had established a dialogue with Mohammed Khatami, former Iranian president, who also supported a dialogue between religions. Together with Bassam Tibi, another member of Reset-DoC’s Scientific Committee and a notable Syrian political scientist, he co-authored the book Preventing the clash of civilizations (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1999). One of the fundamental arguments in this book addresses the enhancement of ethical elements shared between different civilizations that could also help overcome conflicts.
Herzog had a vision of the European continent, developed in his book Europe neu erfinden: Vom Überstaat zur Bürgerdemokratie – Reinventing Europe: from supranational state to democracy; a vision that was less utopian and less federalist, compared to that of the European Union’s founding fathers, and very attentive to the future of the nation state. In 2007, on the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, he has been critical about the European Union’s supranational ideologies, challenging centralization policies and the excessive transfer of power to Brussels’ institutions.
As a reformist and cosmopolitan politician, Herzog argued that cultures capable of understanding their own traditions and their own limits, would be able to better deal with international dialogue.