Germany's CDU      Britain's Conservatives


Konrad Adenauer was one of the founding fathers of European federalism.

His successors used Cadenabbia, on Lake Como (his favoured resort) to promote rapport with British Conservatives. The meetings are organised by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which supports European integration and is part-financed by the German government.

They have continued to September 2005, the month of publication of a set of essays:
German British Relations and "the Spirit of Cadenabbia".

This is a friendly and nostalgic look back at the past relationship, exploring common aims - and divergence - over the years. Here are some quotes that might give a clue to the future direction?


Angela Merkel, then German opposition leader
'Shaping a Free Europe together'


[on German-British relations]. "Both sides have always considered the debate about the progress of European integration to be the key issue. Although there were disagreements regarding this issue, it has always been German policy to keep Great Britain aboard the European steamer. in spite of major and minor differences of opinion.

The relationship between the German Christian Democrats and the British Conservatives has always played a special role in this context".


"The German CDU and the British Conservative Party share social and political convictions and values: Christian Democrats and British Conservatives not only share similar views on economic, financial and social policies, but also on foreign and defence policies, and on the essential questions of European policy".


"The stronger and more united the European Union presents itself, the better equipped will it be to be an active partner and ally of the United States".


Michael Howard, then Conservative leader

"I have long been an admirer of the CDU"... "The CDU has made an outstanding contribution to European politics".


Hartmut Mayer/Thomas Bernd Stehling (editors)

"A moderate re-ordering of the present relationship between central and regional centres of decision making is seen as unavoidable in both countries. The changes driven by the process of European integration and the newly developing multi-level system of political decision making within the EU as well as between the EU and its member states, the challenges posed by globalisation to national democracies and the desire of their inhabitants for regional identities and transparent political decisions all make such reforms necessary".


Norbert Lammert

"British colleagues (whose names have naturally slipped my mind...) complain of their own government’s narrow-minded approach to Europe, German and British participants embrace each other enthusiastically outside the conference room, proclaiming that their concept of "modern conservatism" is the true core of the new Europe: we know this has to be Cadenabbia".


Hartmut Mayer/Thomas Bernd Stehling (editors)

"After their third severe election loss on May 5, 2005, the Conservative Party continues to find itself in an unprecedented historical crisis. In the next few years, the Conservative Party will have a debate about a new "Tory Agenda". The party will have to open itself to new ideas regarding both its content and its social concept. The generation change imminent in the Conservative Party is also going to change the Cadenabbia talks. A new generation of British decision-makers, who will generally look less frequently to Germany than the post-war generation of politicians did, will have to develop its own image of Germany.

In the same way, the younger parliamentarians of the Christian Democratic Union are generally less in tune with Britain than any other democratic generation before them in Germany. The new definition of the Conservatives’ and the Christian Democrats’ programme contents in a world where, by now, almost all parties offer the combination of solid economic policy and social justice, will be one of the most fascinating topics at the Cadenabbia conferences.

The common values which connect us do not necessarily result in comparable political approaches. In many cases, particularly concerning the future of Europe, the ideas of German Christian Democrats and British Conservatives seem to diverge, as seemed to be the case 20 years ago when the London branch office of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation started the meetings of German and British parliamentarians. Hence, in spite of all the success we celebrate in this volume, Cadenabbia will remain in the future what Germans like to call "Eine ständige Herausforderung", and the British "work in progress"."


German-British Relations and "the Spirit of Cadenabbia"
20 Years of the Cadenabbia - British-German Parliamentary Meeting -
Edited/published by Hartmut Mayer/Thomas Bernd Stehling, Konrad Adenauer Foundation
Sept. 2005 ISBN 3-937731-58-X (PDF file, 729kb)

- well worth a read.

Footnote: The Cadenabbia connection is still very much alive during David Cameron's leadership, too. Federalist-supporting MEP James Elles diary for 9-12 March 2006 shows a 'policy development' meeting between the EPP, the EIN (his European Ideas Network think tank) and the KAS (Konrad Adenauer Foundation, German initials).



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This page compiled: 1 January 2006, updated: 8 June 2006.
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