Germany after two years of grand coalition
On February 28, GMF, in cooperation with the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS), hosted German Federal Minister and Head of the Chancellery Dr. Thomas de Maizière for a presentation and discussion titled "Germany after two years of grand coalition." The event featured opening remarks by Mr. John Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress and former chief of staff to President Clinton. Dr. Jackson Janes, executive director of AICGS, introduced the speakers, and Dr. Karen Donfried, executive vice president of GMF, moderated the discussion. Mr. John Podesta began the discussion by comparing the current political environment in the United States and Germany.
He briefly discussed the U.S. presidential campaigns, noting that the tenor of the campaigns suggests that the United States may be moving towards its own kind of grand coalition government, with both the right and the left reaching out to cooperate with each other. Mr. Podesta then focused his remarks on a number of issues which he sees as central to the transatlantic relationship. Discussing Iraq only briefly, he noted that U.S. attention is shifting increasingly from Iraq to Afghanistan, a fact German policy makers have not yet come to realize. The future of NATO, and specifically its mission in Afghanistan, ISAF, will remain at the top of the transatlantic agenda in the months to come, seeing how both Democrats and Republicans see the deployment of NATO troops as critical to the success of the mission. He then noted that Russia will remain on the transatlantic agenda, as both Europe and United States look to see how relations are affected by the transition of power in Moscow.
This is one area in which U.S. and German policy may differ. Mr. Podesta praised Germany's leadership in the field of climate and energy security during the country's dual EU and G-8 presidency and encouraged Germany to stay on course. Though the United States has lagged behind Europe in responding to climate change, he reassured the audience that policy makers are starting to move in the direction of their European counterparts. Federal Minister Dr. Thomas de Maizière followed Mr. Podesta's comments by outlining the major foreign policy issues on the German grand coalition and transatlantic community agendas. In his remarks, the Minister focused on the nexus of foreign and domestic policy, stating that "no country can stand up to its foreign policy challenges without a viable domestic agenda." The Minister then discussed four challenges for which the cooperation of the United States and Europe is crucial: Iran, Afghanistan, climate change, and globalization. He assured the audience that Iran remains a priority of the German government, and called for the international community to "remain united and resolute in its strategy of threatening sanctions and offering to negotiate under clearly defined negotiations." He then re-affirmed Germany's commitment to NATO's ISAF, despite critical German public opinion. He stressed that the debate surrounding involvement in Afghanistan needs to be broadened beyond military action to focus more on reconstruction, economic stability, and security. The Minister noted climate change as an area in which Germany hopes to see increased transatlantic cooperation, calling for "common yet differentiated responsibility," and referring to the Bali Road Map as providing "a good basis for the crucial follow-up agreement to Kyoto."
Finally, the Minister discussed globalization as both a challenge and an opportunity. While there is a growing fear among some people that globalization is leading to a long-term shift in the global balance, globalization will undoubtedly continue to have positive economic effects on Germany and the United States. The Minister pointed to Germany's successful economic growth in recent years as a product of globalization, due mainly to the success of the country's export industry. He also outlined a number of grand coalition reforms and policies that have fostered a successful economic plan, such as social security reforms, corporate tax reforms, and labor reforms.