Gesine Schwan

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Gesine Schwan
2015-12 Gesine Schwan SPD Bundesparteitag by Olaf Kosinsky-8.jpg
President of the Viadrina European University
In office
1 October 1999 30 September 2008
Preceded byHans Weiler
Succeeded by Gunter Pleuger
Personal details
Born (1943-05-22) 22 May 1943 (age 76)
Political party SPD
Spouse(s)Alexander Schwan (died 1989)
Peter Eigen (since 2004)
Alma mater Free University of Berlin
University of Freiburg
Profession Political scientist

Gesine Schwan (born 22 May 1943) is a German political science professor and member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. The party has nominated her twice as a candidate for the federal presidential elections. On 23 May 2004, she was defeated by the Christian Democrat and former president Horst Köhler. On 23 May 2009, both competed again for this position and Horst Köhler won his second term. [1]

Political science is a social science which deals with systems of governance, and the analysis of political activities, political thoughts, and political behavior. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics which is commonly thought of as determining of the distribution of power and resources. Political scientists "see themselves engaged in revealing the relationships underlying political events and conditions, and from these revelations they attempt to construct general principles about the way the world of politics works."

Social Democratic Party of Germany Social-democratic political party in Germany

The Social Democratic Party of Germany, is a social-democratic political party in Germany.

President of Germany Head of state of the Federal Republic of Germany

The President of Germany, officially the Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany, is the head of state of Germany.


Personal life

Born in Berlin on 22 May 1943, Schwan was baptized in the Roman Catholic faith [2] as the daughter of Oberschulrat (Senior School Inspector) Hans R. Schneider. During the Third Reich dictatorship her parents were members of the passive resistance [3] offering protection to a Jewish girl by hiding her. After World War II, the family engaged actively in the reconciliation of Polish–German relations.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with its capital, Potsdam. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

Baptism Christian rite of admission and adoption, almost invariably with the use of water

Baptism is a Christian rite of admission and adoption, almost invariably with the use of water, into Christianity. The synoptic gospels recount that John the Baptist baptised Jesus. Baptism is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. Baptism is also called christening, although some reserve the word "christening" for the baptism of infants. It has also given its name to the Baptist churches and denominations.

In 1969, Schwan married her first husband, Professor Alexander Schwan, with whom she had two children and who died in 1989. [3] In 2004, Gesine Schwan celebrated her second wedding with longtime companion Peter Eigen in Berlin. He is a former World Bank manager as well as a founder and current Chair of the Advisory Council of Transparency International. Schwan is very engaged in German and Polish mutual understanding and therefore supports, in numerous ways, the work of the Freya von Moltke Stiftung for the New Kreisau. She has given numerous presentations on this topic. [4]

Peter Eigen German lawyer

Peter Eigen founded the Advisory Council of Transparency International (TI), a non-governmental organization promoting transparency and accountability in international development since 1993. Headquartered in Berlin, TI supports National Chapters in more than 90 countries.

The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides interest-free loans and grants to the governments of poorer countries for the purpose of pursuing capital projects. It comprises two institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), and the International Development Association (IDA). The World Bank is a component of the World Bank Group.

Transparency International e.V. (TI) is an international non-governmental organization which is based in Berlin, Germany, and was founded in 1993. Its nonprofit purpose is to take action to combat global corruption with civil societal anti-corruption measures and to prevent criminal activities arising from corruption. It publishes for example the Global Corruption Barometer and the Corruption Perceptions Index. Transparency International has the legal status of a German registered voluntary association (Eingetragener Verein) and serves as an umbrella organization. Its members have grown from a few individuals to more than 100 national chapters which engage in fighting corruption in their home countries. TI confirmed the dis-accreditation of the national chapter of United States of America in 2017.

Academic life


In 1962, Schwan graduated ( Abitur ) from the bilingual Französisches Gymnasium, a German-French secondary school in Berlin. In the same year, she began her studies in history, philosophy, romance languages, and political science at the Free University of Berlin and later at University of Freiburg. [5]

Abitur is a qualification granted by university-preparatory schools in Germany, Lithuania, and Estonia. It is conferred on students who pass their final exams at the end of their secondary education, usually after twelve or thirteen years of schooling. In German, the term Abitur has roots in the archaic word Abiturium, which in turn was derived from the Latin abiturus.

Romance languages All the related languages derived from Vulgar Latin

The Romance languages are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin between the third and eighth centuries and that form a subgroup of the Italic languages within the Indo-European language family.

Free University of Berlin research university located in Berlin, Germany

The Free University of Berlin is a research university located in Berlin, Germany. One of Germany's most distinguished universities, it is known for its research in the humanities and social sciences, as well as in the field of natural and life sciences.

Early career

After research stays in Warsaw and Kraków, she obtained her Ph.D. in 1970 from FU Berlin for a dissertation on the Polish philosopher Leszek Kołakowski. [6] After that, she became assistant professor at the same university. Here, she continued her works on the critique of Marx [7] for which she received the habilitation in 1975.

Warsaw City metropolis in Masovia, Poland

Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. The metropolis stands on the Vistula River in east-central Poland and its population is officially estimated at 1.780 million residents within a greater metropolitan area of 3.1 million residents, which makes Warsaw the 8th most-populous capital city in the European Union. The city limits cover 516.9 square kilometres (199.6 sq mi), while the metropolitan area covers 6,100.43 square kilometres (2,355.39 sq mi). Warsaw is an alpha global city, a major international tourist destination, and a significant cultural, political and economic hub. Its historical Old Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kraków City in Lesser Poland, Poland

Kraków, also spelled Cracow or Krakow, is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Kraków was the official capital of Poland until 1596 and has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, economic, cultural and artistic life. Cited as one of Europe's most beautiful cities, its Old Town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Doctor of Philosophy Postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities in many countries

A Doctor of Philosophy is the highest university degree that is conferred after a course of study by universities in most English-speaking countries. PhDs are awarded for programs across the whole breadth of academic fields. As an earned research degree, those studying for a PhD are usually required to produce original research that expands the boundaries of knowledge, normally in the form of a thesis or dissertation, and defend their work against experts in the field. The completion of a PhD is often a requirement for employment as a university professor, researcher, or scientist in many fields. Individuals who have earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree may, in many jurisdictions, use the title Doctor or, in non-English-speaking countries, variants such as "Dr. phil." with their name, although the proper etiquette associated with this usage may also be subject to the professional ethics of their own scholarly field, culture, or society. Those who teach at universities or work in academic, educational, or research fields are usually addressed by this title "professionally and socially in a salutation or conversation." Alternatively, holders may use post-nominal letters such as "Ph.D.", "PhD", or "DPhil". It is, however, considered incorrect to use both the title and post-nominals at the same time.


Schwan was appointed full professor at the Department of Political Science at FU Berlin in 1977. At the time, her research fields encompassed political theory, philosophy, psychology, and culture as well as theories of democracy and socialism. In 1980/81, she had a research stay at the Wilson Center for Scholars in the USA; another research stay in 1984 at the Robinson College at Cambridge University; in 1998, she was visiting professor at the New School for Social Research in New York. From 1993–1995, she was dean of the Political Science Faculty at FU Berlin. [5]

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars think tank in the U.S.

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, located in Washington, D.C., is a United States Presidential Memorial that was established as part of the Smithsonian Institution by an act of Congress in 1968. It is also a highly recognized think tank, ranked among the top ten in the world.

Dean is a title employed in academic administrations such as colleges or universities for a person with significant authority over a specific academic unit, over a specific area of concern, or both. Deans are common in private preparatory schools, and occasionally found in middle schools and high schools as well.

In 1999, Gesine Schwan competed for the post of president of FU Berlin, but was defeated by Peter Gaehtgens. [8] In the same year, she was elected as the president of Viadrina European University in Frankfurt (Oder). [8]

Political life

Schwan belongs to the German tradition of social democratic opposition to Karl Marx's theories. In September 1974, she was one of the founding members of the Seeheimer Kreis , a conservative think tank within the SPD. [9] She became a member of the SPD Grundwertekommission (Commission for Fundamental Values) in 1977. In 1984, she was removed from this position after criticizing the party's Ostpolitik as cooperating too closely with communist governments, while not engaging enough with dissidents. [10] Rather she sought for support and dialog with those Eastern Europeans who would dare to criticize their governments. [11] Schwan was reinstated in the Grundwertekommission in 1996. Since 2002, she has presided over the German-Polish Forum together with Janusz Reiter. In November 2004, the German government under Gerhard Schröder appointed her to the newly created office of the co-ordinator for cooperation with Poland (her counterpart on the Polish side was then Irena Lipowicz). [5] She retained this position when the government changed and became headed by Christian Democrat Angela Merkel. In February 2009, she criticized Schröder for being too uncritical towards Vladimir Putin and too insensitive about Polish concerns about closer German-Russian ties. [12]

On 15 September 2010, Schwan supported the new initiative Spinelli Group in the European Parliament, which was founded to reinvigorate the strive for federalisation of the European Union (EU). Other prominent supporters are: Jacques Delors, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Guy Verhofstadt, Jo Leinen, Andrew Duff, and Elmar Brok.

Presidential elections

On 23 May 2004, Gesine Schwan was the SPD candidate for the German presidential election. She received 589 votes in the Bundesversammlung (Federal Assembly) but was defeated by Horst Köhler who won 604 votes from the 1205 delegates. [13] On 26 May 2008, SPD chairman Kurt Beck announced Schwan's renewed nomination for the upcoming presidential elections in 2009. [14] Once again she competed with Horst Köhler, who announced his renewed candidacy on 22 May 2008. [15] In the event Köhler was re-elected to a second term over Schwan.

Controversy over statements on the German Democratic Republic

Before the 2009 presidential election, Gesine Schwan was criticized by the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records, Marianne Birthler, for statements on the political regime of East Germany. Reportedly, several electors from the Green Party refused to vote for Schwan due to her statements regarding the communist state. [16]

Other activities

List of works

Awards and honours

Related Research Articles

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Party political offices
Preceded by
Johannes Rau
Candidate of the Social Democratic Party of Germany and the Alliance '90/The Greens for President of Germany
2004, 2009
Succeeded by
Joachim Gauck