Today (June 15) we switched gears back to studying foreign relations and TTIP with site visits to the German Foreign Ministry (Auswartiges Amt) and the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin. The building of the Foreign Ministry has its own history, as it was once the bank for the Nazis and later the home for the Socialist Party of East Germany. Our briefer from the Foreign Ministry is a Deputy European Correspondent. He spoke to us about a wide range of topics including, German foreign policy and its strengths and weaknesses, relations with Brussels and the EU, the Ukraine crisis and its impact on Germany, migration, the Middle East, and the future of European security strategy. He began by talking about how Germany is streamlining their foreign policy into Brussels to help reach a common position among the 28 member states, and within Germany by reflecting on their past work via an open process among different departments. When discussing the European Union he began by saying that the E3 (UK, Germany and France) have less global influence than previously, which provides reasons for the European Union and it growing to be more than an economic union. The difficulties of finding consensus among 28 different opinions and different geopolitical priorities do not make the EU perfect, but compromising is an important part of the EU. More integration is the only way to continue moving forward.
He then spoke briefly about Germany’s relations with the Middle East. Germany views Tunisia as a “lighthouse project.” It serves as an example for other countries along with the Middle East Peace Process. The next topic he spoke about was the issue of migration. It is a big problem in Europe, especially in Italy. The CDSP operation has sent German naval ships for search and rescue operation and to find typical routes for the migrant boats. The issue with this plan is that it does not fix the problem at the root because it does not fix the problems that the migrants are experiencing in their home countries. He finished his briefing by speaking about the 2016 Foreign Security Strategy. We live in a changing world, and the foreign policies of countries must adapt to the world. Germany, and other countries’, has to evolve to a different Russia, having enough resources and taking responsibility. He said that the German public doesn’t feel that it is their responsibility as a country to take action abroad, and they do support military action, partially due to history.
I found the discussion on the migration issue to be very interesting because the current solution is not long term. The current migration efforts of finding routes to help them get to Italy and further into Europe only fixes the problem at the surface. These people are seeking asylum from the dangerous and poor conditions of their home country. Europe continues to let more in, but they should be working to help the people from their home. If Europe and other countries go into the home countries of the migrants, the problems would be fixed in the long term. Europe is unable to continue letting people in and has to make people return to their countries. Countries, such as Italy, are arguing for a quota because of the hardships it creates within their countries. Though a long-term solution may take more time to implement and show signs of success, it will create a better future for the people in those countries.
The discussion about German reluctance to act militarily was interesting because it goes back to the history of Germany. Life for the German people is better without war. Though this does not explain why there is a lack of intervention, it is justified by saying that the general culture and attitude of the German public lacks ambition to partake in the “first league” of military action. Germany, Berlin in particular, has experienced so much turmoil, so I understand why they would not want to join another war. I do think that a country with the economic power of Germany, should be helping more globally. There are other ways to help other than militarily, and there are groups within Germany who want to help.
Our next site visit was to the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), where we were briefed about TTIP from BDI. BDI is an organization that focuses on external economic policies and perceives them as the “voice of German industry.” BDI views TTIP for three dimensions: economic opportunity and jobs and growth for small and medium size companies and cheaper products, rules and norms for the global economy and the transatlantic partnership. The three areas of TTIP are market access, regulatory cooperation and global rules. Though the Transatlantic economy is already very integrated, TTIP is important. TTIP will lower tariffs. There are still tariff peaks for certain products within specific industries. Lowering or getting rid of these will help trade, especially in the agricultural sector. The reduction of non-tariff barriers has the biggest potential for TTIP. Examples of non-tariff barriers are standardizing or recognizing the equivalency of car parts, medicines and machinery. The harmonization or mutual recognition, joint development of new standards and close cooperation between the US and the EU will work to reduce non-tariff barriers and improve transatlantic trade. EU wants more open access to public procurement in the US and mutual recognition for service training to improve mobility. Our speaker summarized her presentation with the “Do’s and Don’ts” for TTIP.
- Improve transparency
- Development of rules that benefit the globe
- Boost transatlantic trade and use positively
- Deregulating at the expense of the public
- Weaken the right to regulate
- Weaken the WTO, especially in regards to third world countries
- Development of an “economic NATO”
We have had many discussions on briefings about TTIP, but I enjoyed this one because of the focus on the German perspective of TTIP. The German public is more critical about TTIP. The main problem is that the public is not informed and not finding the information. The German public never considered foreign trade policy to be important until it involved a partner as big as the United States. Many of the members of the Green and Left parties in the German government share the same concerns about TTIP as the public and are skeptic of the EU. The BDI informs the public about the progression and negotiations of TTIP by publishing position papers online and participating in stakeholder dialogues. We learned at our briefing at the Commission that they are working to be more transparent by posting documents online. I think making all the decisions, plans and summary of each round of negotiations public and easily accessible will help the German public be more knowledgeable about TTIP and realize that it is a good thing for the country and the EU. Social media formats should be used as a way to quickly update the public about TTIP to prevent rumors from having a strong impact. I thought this was a great overview about TTIP and the German perspective. The briefer spoke in more detail than we had discussed, but also provided the general goals for the future of the transatlantic partnership.
In between the two site visits, we had some time to explore Berlin. I visited the Grunewald Station Memorial to the Jews that were taken by train to the extermination camps and the Holocaust Memorial. I found both of the memorials to be very powerful. Berlin has a very full history, and they make sure that it is not forgotten. This has been something I really appreciate about Berlin. Even though their history is not positive and they were on the losing side, Berlin chooses to show everything that has occurred, their history surrounds you.