Study and Information Tour to Germany for U.S. and Canadian Political Professionals
The Transatlantic Dialogue Program of the North America Regional Office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation was delighted to bring a delegation of U.S. American and Canadian political professionals to Kiel, Lübeck, and Berlin for a productive and insightful week-long study and information tour to facilitate exchanges between U.S., Canadian, and German political professionals on the transatlantic relationship. Participants gained firsthand impressions and deepened their understanding of Germany’s political and economic situation on the local and state levels in Kiel and Lübeck and on the federal level in Berlin.
In Kiel, the group learned about the history of the city and the state of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany’s northernmost state, as well as the issues voters care most about ahead of the state elections there on May 8, 2022. The Mayor of Hennstedt, Anne Riecke, gave a great introduction to how local government works in her municipality in the district of Dithmarschen, while Christian Renatus, Campaign and Marketing Consultant, and Jan Voigt, Executive Director of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) in the State of Schleswig-Holstein, discussed campaigning on the state level. From MP Gyde Jensen, Member of the German Federal Parliament, and MP Dennys Bornhöft, Member of the State Parliament of Schleswig-Holstein, the group got a lesson on how German state legislatures function and on the role of the states in the German federal system. Participants also learned more about the German dual education system and compared the role of the trades in the German economy and education system with their roles in Canada and the U.S. Participants gained further insights into the state of economic development and commerce in the state of Schleswig-Holstein in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic from Dr. Sebastian Wilckens, Head of Department at the Ministry of Economy, Transport, Labor, Technology and Tourism for the State of Schleswig-Holstein. Highlights of the program in Kiel were site visits to two medium-sized, family-owned businesses that operate worldwide and are the backbone of German economic success – Wulff Med Tec, a mattress production company for medical centers, and Meldorfer Flachverblender, a flat-facing brick production company –along with a tour of the German State Parliament of the State of Schleswig-Holstein.
On the way from Kiel to Berlin, participants stopped in Lübeck and met with Thorsten Fürter, a Member of Lübeck’s City Parliament and judge at the higher regional court, for a lunch and a discussion on the workings of government at the municipal level in Lübeck. After a tour of the City Hall of Lübeck, the delegation then departed for Berlin.
In Berlin, participants met with MP Knut Abraham, Member of Parliament and Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Human Rights & Humanitarian Aid to discuss German politics on the federal level, especially regarding the pandemic, Ukraine, NATO, economic sanctions, and defense spending. At the Federal Chancellery, participants received a briefing on German foreign policy from Alexander Eberl, Advisor in the Department for Security Policy, Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, and Bilateral Relations with the States of North America, Northern, Southern, and Western Europe, and Turkey. This conversation was followed by a visit to the German Bundestag for a discussion with MP Johannes Vogel, Member of Parliament and Chief Whip of the FDP Parliamentary Group, on contemporary domestic issues in Germany, including demographic change, pension policy, and climate change, and the process of coalition building. Participants also met with MP Michael Georg Link, Member of the German Parliament, Coordinator for Transatlantic Relations for the German Government, and Spokesperson for European Affairs of the FDP Parliamentary Group, and MP Torsten Herbst, Member of the German Federal Parliament and Whip of the FDP Parliamentary Group, and discussed several issues, including COVID mask and vaccination mandates, immigration and integration in Germany, and the war in Ukraine. Participants also visited the Truman House, the Headquarters of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Potsdam, and learned more about the international work of the Foundation with Sascha Tamm, Head of the Department for North America and Latin America, and Diana Luna, Advisor in the Department for North America and Latin America. Other highlights of the program in Berlin included a tour of WELT’s newsroom and TV studio by Jens Wiegmann, Foreign Affairs Editor at WELT, who also shared his insights on the current digital and print media landscape in Germany, a tour of the Reichstag Dome, and a visit to Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall.
Throughout the week, participants made valuable connections with professionals in Germany who work in their areas of expertise with the intent on bringing their insights and experiences back to the U.S. and Canada to supplement and inform their work.