Gesine Schwan – Keynote Speaker

Political Science Professor and member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany

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Specialist Subjects

  • Democracy
  • Germany
  • Globalisation


  • German


Gesine Schwan is a German political science professor and member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany.


Born in Berlin on 22 May 1943, Gesine was baptized in the Roman Catholic faith. During the Third Reich dictatorship her parents were members of the passive resistance offering protection to a Jewish girl by hiding her. After World War II, the family engaged actively in the reconciliation of Polish–German relations.


Gesine 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.


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). 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.


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. On 26 May 2008, SPD chairman Kurt Beck announced Schwan’s renewed nomination for the upcoming presidential elections in 2009. Once again she competed with Horst Köhler, who announced his repeated candidacy on 22 May 2008. In the event Köhler was re-elected to a second term over Schwan.


On 15 September 2010, Gesine 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.

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