Diplomat, Deputy Secretary General for Inter-institutional Affairs of the European External Action Service
DAAD Scholarship 1989–1990
The German language accompanied Maciej Popowski from his childhood. He was born and raised in Poland and first came into contact with German vocabulary at the market square in Wrocław (Breslau) where a poster from the 1930s still hung. "I think it was an advert for Persil," says Popowski, and recalls another façade where "LSR" (short for Luftschutzraum, air-raid shelter) was written on one of the walls – 20 years after the war. This did not only spark his interest in history: at school he decided to take German as a second foreign language after the compulsory Russian.
I was fortunate enough to belong to the generation that was too young to be seriously confronted with the communist regime, and old enough to be able to make an unencumbered contribution after the end of the regime.
In the 1980s Popowski began his studies of German and Dutch literature at the University of Wrocław. A month before the fall of the Berlin Wall, a DAAD scholarship gave the then 24-year-old academic an opportunity to get to know the country and people of Germany in addition to its language and literature. From October 1989 until February 1990 he worked as an assistant at the University of Siegen, which had just been rated Germany’s best university by the news magazine Der Spiegel. On his way there he had travelled through the old East Germany, and on his way back he saw a country in the midst of a democratic awakening. Formative times. During his training as a diplomat, Popowski returned to Germany – to the Federal Foreign Office’s training centre in Bonn.
Shortly afterwards Popowski moved to the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Poland to the EU in Brussels and in 2008 became a Director in the Directorate-General Development of the European Commission. A year later he was appointed to the post of Head of Cabinet by Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament. Since 2010 he has been Deputy Secretary General for Inter-institutional Affairs of the new European External Action Service. Building up something new is something he has learned since the collapse of Communism. And bringing together people, mentalities and countries is also something he was taught by his exchange experience with the DAAD. In 2015 the skilled EU diplomat led the negotiations with Switzerland in a dispute about new immigration rules.