When you ask Germans how they would like to live, most of them will probably first think about their personal everyday life: a student about school, an employee about his job, a pensioner about his hobbies or health. When it comes to fundamental political questions, many would argue for a life in peace, freedom and justice, because that is one of the core promises of the German social contract. All in all, it has been fulfilled for decades.
However, even with peace and freedom, a problem arises that is often neglected in the German debate. A people does not alone determine how it can live. The fact that there is war in Europe again, that our energy supply is in danger, that the prices for electricity and gas are rising to dizzying heights – all this is a result of the fact that others want to live differently than we do. In this case, it is Russian President Putin who does not want a democratic order for (Eastern) Europe, but rather an authoritarian one under his leadership. And he doesn’t want to settle such questions at the negotiating table, but with military force. That is why Germany is now supplying arms and must take precautions in case it is attacked itself. Before February 24, the day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, few Germans could have imagined living like this. And nobody wanted it.
Different priorities are set not only in Russia, but in many countries. It starts with our neighbors and partners in Europe. The European Commission has been surveying political opinions in the EU member states for decades. Even with very topical issues, there are sometimes significant differences. In the most recent study from this summer, most respondents considered inflation (34 percent) and energy supply (28 percent) to be the two most important problems. This is not surprising as these two issues are currently worrying people in many parts of the world.
But opinions differ even when it comes to “environment and climate protection”: In Germany, where there has been a strong green movement for a long time, 24 percent still consider this to be one of the two most important problems. In Cyprus it is only four percent, in Latvia five, in Bulgaria and Estonia six. In Cyprus, 50 percent consider immigration to be an important problem, in Germany only eleven percent. That doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the current situation. Both countries have been experiencing a lot of migration again recently: Germany from Ukraine and via the Balkan route, Cyprus from Turkey and Lebanon.
Family is important to almost everyone
Such differences can also be found in personal goals, not least when looking beyond Europe. The Pew Research Center, an American opinion research institute, asked 17 developed countries last year what is important in people’s lives. In almost every country, including Germany, it was the family. The occupation was usually named second, but only in just over half of the countries surveyed. And in three countries, family didn’t even make it to number 1: In Spain it was health, in South Korea it was material prosperity, in Taiwan it was society.