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The coexistence of generations is the foundation of our democracy

KAS Day 2023

The Russian war of aggression on Ukraine, climate crisis, future of pensions, social injustice and demographic change influence the relationship between the generations. On KAS Day, all these points were debated within workshops, talks and discussion rounds. Under the motto "See and be seen - generations connect even more", guests from politics, business and civil society debated at this year's KAS Day. Guests included Friedrich Merz (CDU Chairman), Dr Carsten Linnemann (CDU Secretary General) and Célia Šašić (DFB Vice President for Equality & Diversity Ambassador of EURO2024).

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Prof. Dr. Norbert Lammert opened the evening event and welcomed the numerous guests to the Academy, in particular the Chairman of the CDU of Germany and Chairman of the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group, Friedrich Merz, as well as the Vice President of the German Football Association, Célia Šašić. From the very beginning, the focus of the speech centered on the many things that sport and politics have in common: competition, fairness, transparency, and performance expectations and evaluations. In this context, Lammert critically referred to recent changes in the Federal Youth Games. He said that the school children now only get a certificate of participation instead of a certificate of achievement. 

Friedrich Merz emphasised the relevance of the generational issue in his speech. "There is nothing more important in the time we are in right now than to talk about exactly this." The last three years, for example, have been marked by Corona, the Russian war against Ukraine, recession and inflation. This does not leave our society unscathed and also has an impact on the way generations live together. According to the Rheingold Institute, we are psychologically in a stretched, energy-sapping post-game period. But what can be done now to strengthen the cohesion of the generations again? According to Merz, politicians need to spread more optimism about the future again. "We have to make sure that we also catch up again economically. We have to encourage performance, but also demand it. We have to talk about how we can manage to keep older people in the labour market longer." In this context, he said, one should discuss "whether a social year - perhaps a compulsory one - would do us good". According to Merz, interest in involvement in political and church youth organisations is declining sharply. The chairman of the CDU of Germany encouraged the young audience: "Politics must be a model of commitment." A democracy needs democrats. "The empty shell of a democracy will not give us a prosperous future."

Célia Šašić, Vice-President of the German Football Association, emphasised: "Courage, authentic leadership, role models are needed. She called for more support for voluntary work and pleaded in her speech for more social togetherness. The upcoming European Football Championship in 2024 could be a real opportunity for this, she said. Merz also agreed with her: "Well-run sporting events can have a great effect on the feeling in a society." 

Before the exchange between Friedrich Merz and Célia Šašić, the KAS day started with the GenerationenTalk - and with it the debate on the mandatory Society Year. Poet Bas Böttcher got the audience in the mood with a fitting poetry slam and addressed the question of who actually wins when it comes to volunteering. Afterwards, Dr. Carsten Linnemann (Secretary General of the CDU), Cedric Finian Röhrich (Federal Chairman of the SchülerUnion), Captain Jan Czarnitzki (Youth Officer of the German Armed Forces) and Dr. Nino Galetti (Head of the KAS Italy Office) spoke on the topic. 

Carsten Linnemann, who is in favour of the "Year of Society" in principle, also delivered concrete demands right away: Social consensus, openness for the design and structure of the program and sufficient options to choose from are needed. Dr. Nino Galetti, currently head of the foreign KAS office in Italy, headed our office in France from 2015 to 2020 and shared his insights on the introduction of the "Service Civique". Currently, 90 per cent of the participants there rate the voluntary service positively. Captain Jan Czarnitzki reminded the audience that peace, security and democracy cannot be taken for granted and that certain structures from the time of compulsory military service could be reactivated through the social year. 

The programme continued with the first workshop: "From Influencer to 'Sinnfluencer'?" with Wiebke Hönicke and Rares Antal. Both note that for young people, social media is the first choice for information. That's why Wiebke Hönicke, as "WiebkeHerzchen", shares her private and professional everyday life as an officer in the Bundeswehr, in order to show her employer authentically and to attract young people to the Bundeswehr. Rares Antal, on the other hand, launched the GenStiri project - a news portal in Romania that presents political topics for the young generation. 

Climate concerns and climate protests make it clear that our environment is in acute need of help. The participants of the second workshop showed how this can be tackled constructively and across generations. Approaches from Fridays For Future or the Last Generation were discussed. Guests included experts such as Dr. Jochen Roose (expert for electoral & social research at KAS), Cedric Finian Röhrich (Federal Chairman of SchülerUnion) and Viviane Raddatz (Policy Advisor International Biodiversity Policy at WWF Germany). Cedric Finian Röhrich, himself a member of Fridays For Future, sees a problem in reporting when it comes to climate protection. He also said that, apart from demonstrations, people need to be given more and different perspectives to get involved in climate action. Viviane Raddatz advocated targeting concrete solutions for climate protection instead of focusing on protest actions and also referred to the "ecological handprint" in this context. At the same time, however, she stressed that: "Fridays for Future has clearly led to an acceleration of processes and decisions in politics." 

Clichés about generations abound. However, the reality is quite different - and the generations have more in common than differences separate them. This is proven by the new study "Generation is more than age" by our colleague Dr. Jochen Roose, which was also presented and discussed during the KAS Day. Hermann Gröhe, Vice Chairman of the KAS and of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, emphasised in his speech that life experiences shape the generations and less the age itself.

Johannes Winkel (Federal Chairman of the Junge Union), Ramona Pop (former spokesperson of the Green Youth, Executive Director of the Federation of German Consumer Organisations), Ria Schröder (former Chairperson of the Young Liberals, FDP Member of the German Bundestag) and Niels Annen (former Chairperson of the Jusos, Parliamentary State Secretary for Economic Cooperation and Development) reported on their own imprints during their political careers - be it climate change, pension insecurity, borderless Europe or the perception of the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine. A central point that came up repeatedly was the challenge of climate change and the security of pensions, which already concerned all of them in their youth and continue to play a central role in their political careers.

Ramona Pop concluded by emphasising that it is tradition for youth organisations to always be more radical than the mother parties, and that in doing so they have to show assertiveness in order to be heard. Finally, there needs to be a shift in the discussion away from the older generation to the younger generation; this is also how Johannes Winkel sees it. Ria Schröder also emphasises that a cross-generational dialogue is necessary in order to understand how the world is seen. Niels Annen agrees and points out that political youth education has a high value and that the cultural connection to youth is maintained.

After the discussion - but also as a message of the entire KAS 2023 Day - the conclusion was clear: There is a need for intergenerational dialogue. A good basis for this exists, because the different generations are driven by the same concerns, but also by the same values.

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Evening event: See and be seen - generations connect even more


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"Generation is less than age" - Presentation of the study & subsequent discussion


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Susanne Kophal

Susanne Kophal bild

Head of Event Management +49 30 26996-3216
Monitor Election and Social Research
Adobe Stock / Sheviakova
September 1, 2023
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