Leadership Profile:  David McAllister, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, European Parliament

Stephan Wallace

Defense and Security Policy Analyst

Stephan Wallace is a defense and security policy analyst following political, military, and economic developments in Europe. He has worked more than 33 years on this area for the U.S. government, most recently for the U.S. Department of Defense.

New European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman David McAllister is expected to play a prominent role in shaping the European Union’s relations with the new U.S. Administration and with a post-Brexit UK. 

McAllister, a German Christian Democrat, took over the committee on 24 January 2017, replacing fellow German Christian Democrat Elmar Brok, who chaired the committee from 1999 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2017.[1]   Chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs Committee provides a platform for public communication (Brok was a frequent guest on the talk-show circuit) and for building ties to foreign leaders and parliaments.[2]  The committee deals with European foreign and security policy matters as well as issues related to EU enlargement and relations with partner countries.  It also frequently addresses issues related to the promotion and defense of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights.  The committee oversees the work of EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn.[3]

Since his election to the European Parliament in 2014, McAllister has served as Chairman of the delegation for relations with the United States and been a member of the delegation for relations with the Parliamentary Assembly of NATO.  He is an alternate on the Committee for Constitutional Questions and the subcommittee for Security and Defense.  McAllister also is engaged with the western Balkans and serves as the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Serbia’s preparations for accession to the EU.[4]

  • Relations with the United States: McAllister stated in late January that he continues to believe close European-American relations are critical to global security and prosperity.   However, he warned that it could become “uncomfortable” for Europe if the new U.S. administration reconsiders its commitment to transatlantic cooperation and support for European integration.[5]   
  • European Defense Integration: McAllister advocates a common European defense and security policy, including moves toward greater military integration.  He said the Europeans should respond to U.S. demands that they do more in the area of defense through common efforts because acting individually would be inefficient.  He also said the EU needs “more common operational forces, a common civil-military headquarters, [and] substantially better cooperation in arms procurement and research and development.”[6]
  • Brexit: McAllister expressed strong disappointment over the UK’s decision to leave the EU, which he claims was “the saddest political decision” he can remember in his lifetime.[7]   He believes the UK is most likely headed for a “hard Brexit” (outside the internal market), in which the UK will have to negotiate a new trade agreement with the EU, as well as a political agreement for strategic cooperation in matters such as defense and security.  McAllister said negotiating a new relationship will require “more than two years,” and therefore require an interim solution for the immediate post-Brexit period.[8]

Political Career

David McAllister developed his political skills as a local politician in the Cuxhaven District of northern Lower Saxony before winning election to the State Assembly for the first time in 1998.  As a protégé of state Christian Democratic Union (CDU) chairman and later Minister-President of Lower Saxony Christian Wulff, McAllister held several important state-level posts and eventually succeeded Wulff as Minister-President when Wulff was elected Federal President in 2010.  McAllister also enjoyed the support of Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose policies he mostly supported, although he declined Merkel’s offer to become CDU Secretary-General in 2005, preferring to pursue his political ambitions in Lower Saxony.[9]  Merkel reportedly values McAllister’s loyalty and his ability to connect with the people (Volksnähe).[10]

Soon after becoming Minister-President of Lower Saxony, McAllister was tagged as a rising star in the CDU and considered one of the leading candidates to eventually succeed Merkel as chancellor.[11]  His career was derailed suddenly, however, when the Christian Democratic-Free Democratic coalition narrowly lost the 2013 Landtag election by a single seat to its Social Democratic-Green challengers.  In the wake of this loss, McAllister shifted his political ambitions to the European Union and was chosen to head the CDU’s list of candidates for the 2014 European Parliament elections.[12]

Despite his move to the European Parliament, McAllister remains part of the national leadership of the CDU, which reelected him to the party’s presidium in December 2016.  Although his career ambitions are now clearly at the European level, the example set recently by Social Democrat Martin Schulz proves this need not preclude McAllister’s later return to German politics.  Finance Minister and former CDU Chairman Wolfgang Schäuble recently named McAllister as one of the next generation of party leaders with a chance to succeed Merkel.[13]

  • 1988   Joined the Christian Democratic Union (CDU)
  • 1991-1994 – District Chairman of the Junge Union in the Cuxhaven District
  • 1996-2002 – Council Member, Bad Bederkesa
  • 1998-2014 – Deputy in the Lower Saxony State Assembly
  • 2001-2002 – Mayor of Bad Bederkesa
  • 2002-2003 – Secretary-General of the Lower Saxony CDU
  • 2003-2010 – Chairman of the CDU parliamentary group in the Lower Saxony State Assembly
  • 2008-2016 – CDU State Party Chairman for Lower Saxony
  • 2010-2013 – Minister-President of Lower Saxony
  • Since 2014 – Member of the European Parliament
  • Since 2015 – Vice President of the European Peoples Party (EPP)
  • Since 2017 – Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the European Parliament

Education:  David McAllister received his Abitur from the Niedersächsischen Internatsgymnasium (NIG) in Bad Bederkesa in 1989.  Following two years of military service, he studied law at the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz University Hannover from 1991 to 1996 and became a lawyer after completing his second state exam in jurisprudence in 1998.  In 2012, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.[14]

Military Service:  David McAllister entered the Bundeswehr after completing his Abitur in 1989 and served until 1991 with the 74th Armor Battalion (Panzerbattaillion 74) in Cuxhaven-Altenwalde.[15]

Personal Information:  David James McAllister was born 12 January 1971 in West Berlin, the son of a Scottish father and a German mother.  His father, James Buchanan McAllister, served as a British Army Captain in the 51st Highland Division during World War II and continued to serve with the British military as a civilian official after the war.  His mother Mechthild was a music teacher.  After the father’s retirement, the family moved in 1982 to Bad Bederkesa, a small village in northern Lower Saxony between Cuxhaven and Bremerhaven.   Bad Bederkesa remains David McAllister’s official home, where he lives with his wife Dunja.  The couple have two daughters, Jamie Elizabeth and Mia Louise.[16]

David McAllister was raised bilingually, attending British primary school and living in a small British community in West Berlin where the streets were named for British writers.  He holds dual-citizenship of both Germany and the UK, and as of late 2012 he still retained a British passport, although he claimed not to have used it in the past 10 or 15 years.  He is a fan of both Hannover 96 and the Glasgow Rangers and considers his Scottish heritage more of a political asset than a liability.  At a campaign rally in Hannover, for example, he reminded voters that the last leader of Lower Saxony to run a budget surplus, post-war administrator Sir Gordon Macready, also was a Scot.[17]

[1] “McAllister folgt auf Brok als Ausschussvorsitzender im EP,” Politik und Kommunikation, 24 January 2017, https://www.politik-kommunikation.de/personalwechsel/mcallister-soll-auswaertigen-ausschuss-des-europaeischen-parlaments-leiten-532448716

[2] Robert Birnbaum, “David McAllister wird der neue Elmar Brok,” Tagesspiegel, 23 January 2017, http://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/europaparlament-david-mcallister-wird-der-neue-elmar-brok/19298302.html

[3] Maïa de La Baume, “German MEP McAllister gets foreign affairs role,” Politico, 24 January 2017, http://www.politico.eu/article/german-mep-mcallister-gets-foreign-affairs-role-cdu/

[4] European Parliament, Abgeordnete – David McAllister, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/de/124806/DAVID_MCALLISTER_home.html

[5] Stefan Schlag, “McAllister mahnt Europa zur Einheit gegen Trump,” Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR), 23 January 2017, http://www.ndr.de/nachrichten/McAllister-mahnt-Europa-zur-Einheit-gegen-Trump,mcallister1184.html

[6] Stefan Schlag, “McAllister mahnt Europa zur Einheit gegen Trump,” Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR), 23 January 2017, http://www.ndr.de/nachrichten/McAllister-mahnt-Europa-zur-Einheit-gegen-Trump,mcallister1184.html; Martina Fietz, “Nationale Heere „nicht zeitgemäß“: McAllister erneuert Forderung nach europäischer Armee” (interview),  Focus, 26 January 2017, http://www.focus.de/politik/deutschland/interview-mit-david-mcallister-28-armeen-viele-in-schlechtem-zustand-das-ist-weder-effizient-noch-zeitgemaess_id_6549337.html; Martina Fietz, “Mann mit Doppelpass wird erster Außenpolitiker des EU-Parlaments,” Focus, 24 January 2017, http://www.focus.de/politik/deutschland/david-mcallister-ein-deutscher-mit-doppelpass-wird-erster-aussenpolitiker-des-eu-parlaments_id_6540084.html

[7] Derek Scally, “Irish Brexit concerns will be heard, insists Merkel ally”, Irish Times, 1 November 2016, http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/irish-brexit-concerns-will-be-heard-insists-merkel-ally-1.2849755

[8] Interview, “McAllister zu Mays Brexit-Rede, ‘Das ist auch eine Form der Rosinenpickerei,’”,Deutschlandfunk, 18 January 2017, http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/mcallister-zu-mays-brexit-rede-das-ist-auch-eine-form-der.694.de.html?dram:article_id=376628

[9] Robert Birnbaum, “Einer für die Zeit nach Merkel,” Tagesspiegel, 16 July 2011, http://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/einer-fuer-die-zeit-nach-merkel/4401602.html

[10] Peter Müller, “Kohls letzter Mann tritt ab,” Spiegel-Online, 23 January 2017, http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/elmar-brok-helmut-kohls-letzter-mann-tritt-ab-a-1131229.html

[11] Alex Spillius and Zoe Brennan, “The Scot Destined to Lead Germany,” Telegraph, 9 December 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/9733545/The-Scot-destined-to-lead-Germany.html

[12] Europawahl 2014, “Deutsche Parteien und ihre EU-Kandidaten/Abgeordnete im Europäischen Parlament,” Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Baden-Württemberg, http://www.europawahl-bw.de/kandidaten.html

[13] Schäuble Interview with Oswald Metzger, “Schäuble nennt Namen für mögliche Merkel-Nachfolge,” European, 12 January 2017, http://www.theeuropean.de/wolfgang-schaeuble/11699-gespraech-mit-wolfgang-schaeuble

[14] David McAllister personal webpage, Das bin ich | Lebenslauf, http://www.mcallister.de/das-bin-ich-lebenslauf/

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.; Alex Spillius and Zoe Brennan, “The Scot Destined to Lead Germany,” Telegraph, 9 Decmber 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/9733545/The-Scot-destined-to-lead-Germany.html; Allan Hall, “Could Germany be ruled by man named McAllister who got married in a kilt, supports Rangers… and drinks Irn-Bru?,” Daily Mail, 6 February 2009, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1135559/Could-Germany-ruled-man-named-McAllister-got-married-kilt-supports-Rangers–drinks-Irn-Bru.html

[17] Alex Spillius and Zoe Brennan, “The Scot Destined to Lead Germany,” Telegraph, 9 December 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/9733545/The-Scot-destined-to-lead-Germany.html

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.