With layers of history from various eras marking every area of the city, Berlin has proved to be one of the most historical places I have ever visited in my life. While yesterday we took advantage of our free day by visiting the Holocaust Memorial and other significant sites, today we returned to business as usual as we completed our last official site visit, a brief trip to the German Foreign Ministry. Following this interesting visit we participated in the long awaited EU and US simulation. Weeks of work culminated into about two hours of introductory speeches and negotiations concluding with a final paper of agreements. Both of our activities today proved to be very insightful in different ways.
Upon arrival to the beautiful German Foreign Ministry building, we met with a young diplomat named Marius Osswald who had just finished a three-year period in Washington DC. He began by showing us a short video about German foreign policy that included a few interesting and memorable moments. While most of the video seemed very typical of any foreign ministry, one particular quotation struck me as interesting. In a brief clip that would never be dreamed of in the United States, the video stated that the UN was the “most important actor in world affairs”. This brief quotation served as a key example of the difference between the view of the US and German foreign policy. I find it interesting that views can be starkly different and still lead to success. While the US arguably gained the majority of its international respect through hard power, Germany gains its respect in a different way as it prioritizes partnerships and organizations including the UN and the EU. Germany strives to be “good at building relations between states” and their success has lead to their respect in the international community. Both entities have used different approaches to reach the same goal, international respect and success.
Following the video, Mr. Osswald spoke at length about the current events that are most relevant to German policy. The topics that he focused on included the effects of the UK Referendum and the influx of refugees into Germany. While it was interesting to hear of the effects of the UK Referendum from a German perspective, the discussion of the current state of the refugee situation in Germany captivated me. As a country, Germany has been a leader in the situation, taking in over a million refugees according to our speaker. Well this was already common knowledge, I had never considered why Germany took initiative when many countries shied away from responsibility. Mr. Osswald spoke at length of the capabilities of Germany due to its economic strength and cited this as a key reason for the acceptance of so many refugees. I believe this coupled with the position of Germany as one of the leaders of the EU has facilitated this much needed acceptance of refugees. Without the UK it is likely that Germany will have to step up in more situations in the future; however, this is only speculation due to the overwhelming uncertainties created by the UK Referendum.
After a swift lunch, we began our simulation. For this assignment, we were divided into two teams, the EU and the US. Within these teams we were further split into four groups of two that chose a particular issue to research and present. Following these presentations, negotiations between the two sides ensued. These negotiations ultimately resulted in a lengthy final transcript of the agreements and compromises between the two sides. The four topics negotiated were the future of NATO, the Russian and terrorist threat, TTIP, and data privacy. The entire process was an interesting chance to culminate all that we have learned into one process. Perhaps the most significant part of this process was the negotiations. Well I cannot speak for the entire group, I can speak for myself in saying that it was a difficult but rewarding discussion. Seeing this process made me understand fully the effort it must take to make negotiations and compromises in the real world.
In sum, today was an excellent way to end our long series of site visits and also a great opportunity to culminate all that we have learned in one assignment. With nine days left in our trip, I feel that our course material is being wrapped up nicely and will value the coming days before our departure home.