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The UK Meets Germany
The UK meets Germany: A Forum for Young Leaders
German and British Approaches to the European Union: Common Ground or Battle Ground?
(Berlin, 13th - 18th December, 2010)The weeklong seminar -‘German and British Approaches to the European Union: Common Ground or Battle Ground’ - examined the similarities and differences between German and the UK from political, economic, and cultural perspectives.
As a founding member of the EU, Germany has always been deeply committed to the European idea. The UK, on the other hand, was slower to join, and has opted out of the Schengen Agreement and the Eurozone. Thus, at a foundational level, the two countries diverge. The speakers contributed to an exchange of ideas and lively discussions and, at the end of the week, presented their ideas about German-British relations and their separate approaches to the EU.
Social events included a visit to a German Christmas market, a group dinner, a pub quiz, and evenings out experiencing Berlin’s famous nightlife.
The ideas contributed by each speaker are summarised below.
Dr. Karsten Neuhoff(Director of the Climate Policy Initiative of the German Institute for Economic Research)
“Climate Change: British and German Approaches and the Role of the EU”Dr. Karsten Neuhoff has worked for the German Institute of Economic Research since 2003 and became Research Director of climate policy impact and industry response in 2009. He read Physics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Freiburg, Theoretical Physics at the University of Granada, and obtained his PhD in Economics from the University of Cambridge.
Dr. Neuhoff’s speech dealt with the climate policy of the UK and Germany, as well as the overall global response. The European emissions trading scheme was a point that received particular attention. He argued that the UK demonstrated strong support for the scheme, whereas industry groups in Germany were generally opposed. In the end, the backing of BP, a company which is spread across Europe, enabled the scheme to move forward, in recognition of the fact that standardisation would facilitate cross border co-operation. In Neuhoff’s opinion, the failure of the German government to present a full and detailed explanation about the scheme meant it lacked public support.
The German people, have, however, engaged with the importance of renewable energy. Here, the UK lacks public support, despite the UK government’s aim to deliver more renewable energy.
The Climate Summit in Cancun was also discussed. It remains questionable whether this will present a consistent framework for the future. According to Dr. Neuhoff, Europe needs to have common climate policy in order to avoid confusion and because a collective voice will more likely be heard on a global stage.
The questions asked by the participants focused on the US contribution to climate change policy and their reluctance to commit, as well as the German domestic decision to prolong nuclear power plants. Dr. Neuhoff pointed out that nuclear energy plays only a small part in Germany, and there is a national renewable energy action plan coming into force.
Larissa Israel(Project Manager in the Berlin Philharmonic Education Department)
“The Role of Music in Bridging Cultural and Societal Barriers”Larissa Israel is a Project Manager in the Education Department of the Berlin Philharmonic. The Berlin Philharmonic is one of Germany’s leading orchestras in the field of educational programmes, offering a broad range of initiatives that are beneficial in terms of social integration, development and cultural diplomacy, including the renowned project ‘Rhythm is it’. In her lecture, Larissa Israel outlined her experience working with disadvantaged adolescents and prisoners.
The English conductor Sir Simon Rattle established the education department when he took the position of the principal conductor at the Berlin Philharmonic in 2002. During the 1970’s, many education departments were established in the UK as a result of government cuts.
The education department in the Berlin Philharmonic is set to break social and cultural barriers. It works with different schools in Berlin, with the aim of introducing instruments and classical music to disadvantaged children of every age whose parents do not have the means to fund a musical education. Mrs Israel recognised the enormous success of the project. Children with behavioural problems have often turned out to be the most ambitious in the class. Unfortunately, the Berlin Philharmonic cannot provide education after the project has ended, although they try to maintain contact with the participants.
Another programme brings musical insight to prisoners: musicians from the Philharmonic visit prisons with the purpose of introducing them to a musical education. A short video was shown documenting how the initiative is progressing. One prisoner declared that the project made his stay in prison worthwhile. Questions were raised as to whether there are any ethical concerns. Israel stressed that the musicians were not informed of the crimes of the men beforehand, and that they volunteer to be a part of the project.
Prof. Ulli Brückner(Jean Monnet Professor for European Studies, Stanford University in Berlin)
“Germany’s Approach to the EU”Prof. Brückner has been Jean Monnet Professor for European Studies at Stanford University in Berlin since 2003, specialising in European integration. He studied Political Science, German Literature and European Studies in Würzburg and Berlin. Prof. Brückner explained Germany’s attitude towards the EU and its changing role within the current economic crisis. He also presented his views on European enlargement in general and Turkish accession in particular.
After 1945, Germany was eager to show that it upheld western values, and to associate itself with something new and innocent, namely the EU. According to Prof Brückner, there is still a tendency to revert to the national stereotyped identities and images of Germany and England formed during the Second World War. Germany recognised it could only rebuild itself with the help of neighbours, especially considering its reliance on an export-led economy.
With the Eastern enlargement in 2004, Germany has become centrally located and able to trade across the EU. The wealth in the EU is concentrated at ‘blue banana’; the question remains what to do with the periphery. In terms of the Turkish accession to the EU, Prof. Dr. Brückner explained that changing its constitution is not enough; Turkey needs to accept the ethics of the club. The EU maintains an open policy providing the required level of commitment is shown. But we should be conscious that the size of the country matters; therefore, the treatment of Turkey differs from the treatment of Bulgaria. Furthermore, it is important to consider that issues regarding Cyprus remain unresolved, and since Cyprus is a member of the EU, it is likely to veto Turkish accession.
The EU can become wider or deeper; it is difficult to do both. Brückner compared this with gaining weight: If the EU does not strengthen its muscles before enlargement, it would simply become fat. Therefore, it is important to have a new treaty or at least treaty changes before accepting a new member in order to function well.
Rory Maclean(Bestselling Travel Writer and author of the Goethe Institute’s “Meet the Germans” blog)
“Walking Through the Wall: A Personal History of Berlin”Rory Maclean is an independent travel author whose work comprises the best-selling book ‘Stalin’s nose’ that deals with East Berlin. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a regular contributor to BBC Radio, the Sunday Times and the Guardian, as well as an active member of the charity English PEN. His speech deals with his three separate experiences of Berlin: West Berlin, East Berlin, and the unified Berlin.
On his first visit to Berlin, Mr. Maclean worked on a film set with David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich. During this time, and confronted by the reality of the Berlin Wall, he was forced to acknowledge the limits of the free world. Being a young and carefree Canadian, this has had a lasting impact on his life.
Questions were raised about the process of coming to terms with the past of the GDR and ‘Ostalgie’ (a German pun describing the yearning for the past of the GDR in an idealised form). Mr. Maclean explained that differences in the process of coming to terms with the past can be examined in dealing with the Nazi period. West Germany has wanted to be open and honest about it, whereas Eastern propaganda taught the people that Fascism is synonymous with West Germany and an open discussion never took place.
Mr Maclean’s final focus was on the differences between East and West Berliners. Maclean still sees differences in the mentality between the two today. Berlin is a constantly-evolving city that has been changed by both the ‘times’ and through time.
Dr. Astrid Klooth(Lecturer in the Department of Anglophone Studies at the University of Duisburg-Essen)
“Raising Cultural Awareness by Analysing National and Social Stereotypes”Dr. Astrid Klooth is a Lecturer at the Institute of Anglophone Studies at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Her field of academic interest comprises the English language, foreign language teaching and the language of advertising. Dr. Klooth completed a PhD thesis entitled ‘Auto-Stereotypen? Deutsche, britische und französische Fahrzeugwerbung im Vergleich’. Her interactive lecture examined stereotypes of the UK made by Germany and vice versa, as well as stereotypes within both countries.
The term stereotype is used in everyday language, and is generally perceived to deal with oversimplified images. The word is Greek in origin, ‘stereo’ meaning rigid and hard. Stereotypes about the UK reveal a dual identity: Politeness and reserve versus hooligan behaviour rooted in the overconsumption of alcohol. The stereotypes of Germany depict efficiency, a dislike of disorder and hard work.
Dr. Klooth distributed the academic article ‘Introduction: Contemporary Anglo-German relations’ written by Rainer Emig, which deals with these stereotypes. Categorisation is an essential human tendency because it enables us to simplify, organise, and to a certain extent, predict our world. But stereotypes are also able to undermine a national identity through negative identification. Post-war German national identity, for instance is based on the economy and the D-Mark. However, stereotypes also exist within a country. In Germany, there is the East/West divide and in the UK there is the North/South divide.
Julia Rawlings(Head of Climate Change and International Relations at the British Council Germany)
“Cultural Relations in a Changing Climate”Julia Rawlings has been Head of the Climate Change and Transatlantic Relations at the British Council Germany since 2003. She also worked as a Project Manager on the Europe Programme at the British Council in Brussels between 2003 and 2007. She has an MA in Modern & Medieval Languages and an MSc in Environmental Policy. Her lecture presented the work of the British Council in climate change matters.
The British Council works for education and cultural relations within a broader framework of promoting wider knowledge of the UK. Its vision is to build trust and mutual understanding with other countries. Examples of programmes organised by the British Council are Open Cities, FameLab, and Climate Change and Sustainability, the latter of which recognises the importance of building strong relationships in order to tackle such a global issue. The strategy is to create understanding, leadership, innovation and research through working with the civil society as well as academics. The programme Climate Champions sent young people with their own projects to Cancun. Another programme, Climate4classrooms, provides resources for teachers through a multilingual website.
Greening the Arts is a project that works with the arts community in order to develop creative approaches and stimulate new ideas.
The questions of the participants related to the functioning of the British Council. Mrs. Rawlings explained that the institution is independent, and that it can, therefore, be described as complementing the Foreign Office by working within civil society. The British Council itself is not well known within the UK and it needs to do more to create greater public awareness.
Carsten Rüpke(Deputy Director for Northern European States at the German Foreign Office)
“The Role of the German Foreign Office in German-British Relations”Carsten Rüpke is the Country Consultant responsible for German relations with the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Sweden at the German Foreign Office, where he holds the position of Deputy Director for Northern European States. With a background in Economic Studies, Mr. Rüpke’s career with the Foreign Office spans over 20 years. After a general introduction to the work of the Foreign Office, which included a short video, an interactive session addressed questions regarding its history and relations with the UK. Amongst the issues raised, Wikileaks and its potential impact on diplomacy was discussed.
The relationship between the UK and Germany is strong and stable, Mr. Rüpke informed the group. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor are able to have open and frank discussions, and despite the EU, each recognises the importance of a bilateral relationship that is mutually beneficial.
Peter Craven(Political Moderator with Deutsche Welle TV)
“The EU and the UK: Personal Reflections from a British journalist based in Berlin”Peter Craven is a leading news presenter at Deutsche Welle TV. He has reported on both soft and hard news stories from Germany, covering everything from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the state of German football. His main interest is currently Germany’s new image as a hugely dynamic and diverse society. His lecture was based on his personal experience of living in the UK and Germany.
The UK and Germany have different approaches to politics and government. The UK’s system is based on the traditional Anglo-Saxon approach to politics, whereas Germany’s approach is based on a system of codified law, and is therefore more constitutional. Mr. Craven also highlighted that Germany is a proper decentralised country and that the UK is completed centralised, a difference that plays a role in shaping politics and an approach to the EU.
There are two clubs now: the EU and the Eurozone. The UK is not a member of the Eurozone but according to Craven the UK needs to realise that it needs to be a member of a big club in the modern world. Most of the time, Britain is outside of the EU frame or debate. This leads to a growing impatience on the side of Germany but at the same time there is a slight indifference to UK concerns.
The image of Germany in the UK is shaped by a fixation with the Nazi period, partly due to the national curriculum, but also to do with Britain’s self-perception of saving Europe. Mr. Craven recommended reading the book ‘Alone in Berlin’ which has different reviews in Germany and the UK. Nevertheless, there is a special relationship between the two countries.
Mr. Craven argued that the EU might be compared to an Empire - always trying to expand and constantly in need of reform. But in contrast to previous models, the EU is primarily a peace mission that guarantees rational thought and integrates other countries and cultures. As for the future of the Euro, the Euro needs to be understood as a political symbol and ‘the cement’ of the Eurozone; everything needs to be done to save that symbol.
Dr. H.C. Gebhardt von Moltke(German of the German-British Foundation, Former German Ambassador to the UK)
“The German - British Relationship: The Importance of Acknowledging Differences”Dr. Von Moltke is the Chairman of the Deutsche-Britische Gesellschaft and former German Ambassador to the UK, as well as former German Permanent Representative to NATO. During his career he worked in the Foreign Minister’s office in Bonn, in the Economic Department of the Federal German Embassy in Moscow, at the German Embassy in Cameroon, and in the Federal Foreign Office in Bonn.
The UK and Germany have been allies and partners for decades and the governments work very closely together. Queen Elizabeth II is highly regarded in Germany and David Cameron and Angela Merkel have a close partnership.
During Dr. von Moltke’s term as an Ambassador to the UK, the Schröder government was, in the beginning, strongly anglophile. However, Schröder recognised that the pragmatic British approach to the EU was not conducive to German needs. There was further disagreement over the war in Iraq. However, economic relations remained strong; Germany is the second strongest market of the UK.
In cultural matters, the German language is not widely taught or studied in the UK. There are about 12,000 German students in the UK but only about 1,200 British students in Germany. Dr. von Moltke believes that Germans and Brits know too little about each other and that youth exchange should be encouraged.
Having served as a German Permanent Representative to NATO, Dr. Von Moltke stressed the importance of the US within the organisation. The US is a key player; nothing happens without them, or against them.
Katja Dörner MdB(Member of the German Parliament for the Green Party)
“European Future Perspectives: A View from the Bundestag”Katja Dörner is a member of the German Parliament for Bonn and the German-British parliamentary group, and also serves on the Federal Committee for Family, Senior Citizens and Women. Since June 2009 she has been a Board Member of the ‘Institut Solidarische Moderne’. Her lecture outlined her party’s Alliance 90/The Greens view on Germany’s role in the EU, as well as the future of the EU itself. She also presented her party’s position on Germany’s education system.
As a member of the German British Parliamentary group, Mrs. Dörner shortly presented the group’s work. The group’s aim is to foster relations with the UK and to maintain an on-going dialogue, which also implies an exchange of information with British MPs.
According to Mrs. Dörner the EU is in a serious crisis regarding several issues. On the issue of climate change, no progress is being made. It is rather guided by small minded nationalism, and heads of state and governments are holding on to their own power. The EU must abandon economic particularism and contribute a collective European vision for change. Mrs. Dörner points that the Green party is committed to a social Europe. She concluded with the quote that the nation state is too big for the small problems and too small for the big problems.
Questions to Katja Dörner included those concerning the EU, the development of the Green party, and Germany’s educational system. The future of the EU can only exist with a strong Euro. If the member states were to get rid of it, the EU would crack. Mrs. Dörner believes that the EU is unlikely to be a leading force in the future due to its inability and unwillingness to speak with one voice. In order for reforms to be made, the Commission should reduce its power in favour of the European parliament.
Mrs. Dörner explained that the German educational system is one of the hottest topics in Germany. The difficulty lies in the sovereignty of the Länder; The Green party holds that Germany should get rid of the system and more money should be spent on education.
Simon Boyden(First Secretary for EU Affairs at the British Embassy in Berlin)
“German - British Cooperation and the European Union”Simon Boyden took up his appointment in Berlin as 1st Secretary for EU matters in August 2010. He arrived directly from Vienna where he had worked for four years in the United Kingdom’s Delegation to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), with responsibility for resource, management and institutional questions, as well as for the OSCE’s activities in South East Europe. Boyden presented the relationship between the UK and Germany from the British Foreign Office’s perspective.
‘Perhaps there is a key, and that key is national interest’ - Winston Churchill. Boyden quoted Churchill to present how the EU could work. On the other hand, what the EU might kill is no major transference of power to Brussels in their parliament.
To date, the Council holds the most power, and according to Mr. Boyden, it is clearly shaped by the leader’s agenda. For instance, Merkel wants a treaty change, whereas Cameron wants a smaller budget increase. Merkel also pursued sanctions for ‘deficit offenders’, but the risk of referenda in a country like Ireland is too high. Currently the Council mainly deals with the crisis in the Eurozone, which leaves non-members, like the UK, outside of the debate.
It is obvious that the three big countries in the EU - Germany, France and the UK - have different objectives. Nevertheless, the EU would not work without the Franco-German relationship; for Boyden, this is key to the future of the EU.
The questions of the participants mainly focused on the future relationship of the UK with the EU. It should not be forgotten that the UK originally applied for membership in 1962, but was vetoed by France; nor should it go unmentioned that the relationship with the US, which used to distract the UK from Europe, is no longer the case. It should further be brought into consideration that the EU foreign action service will also change how Britain’s national Foreign Office operates.