The new government coalition made up of Social Democrats (SPD), Liberals (FDP) and Greens is pursuing the motto ‘Daring to make more progress’ to fundamentally modernise Germany. Four Members of the new German Bundestag described their objectives and visions for the next legislative period to interested DAAD alumni and answered their questions. Alumni from 23 countries took part in the online discussion on 20 January. The event was jointly organised and moderated by representatives of the DAAD alumni associations in the USA and Italy, Professor Dr Rosmarie Morewedge and Professor Dr Sandro Moraldo.
‘The climate crisis does not afford us any great delays’, said Dr Franziska Brantner from the Greens, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. The major task for the new government is reported to be advancing ‘the socio-ecological economy in Germany, but also in Europe and internationally’. Overcoming the challenges posed by climate change, the corona pandemic and new technologies would require close international cooperation between politics and academia, stressed Brantner, who in 2004 completed a DAAD-funded internship at the United Nations in New York.
SPD Member Dr Bärbel Kofler, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) named two core issues for the next legislative period: firstly, the transition of renewable energies has to be designed in such a way that people with lower incomes would not be excessively burdened. Secondly, the foreign ministerial and human rights politician wants to campaign internationally for human rights and for social and ecological standards throughout the entire supply chain. Kofler served as a DAAD Lektor in Moscow from 1999 to 2001.
The idea of arranging an online discussion with Bundestag Members after the election was conceived at the global DAAD alumni meeting in June last year. Back then, a change of power in Germany was considered to be unlikely. Rosmarie Morewedge from the alumni association in the USA particularly highlighted the smooth and respectful process: in her view, the ‘crowning glory’ of the change in government was that the conservative CDU and CSU parties, which had to switch to the opposition after 16 years in government, wanted to continue shaping the democratic process rather than secede like the election losers in the USA.
The CDU Member Jürgen Hardt explained this constructively critical approach: the Foreign Policy Spokesperson for the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group in the Bundestag acknowledged the new government's climate goals, yet he expressed scepticism about the timing, since the current tensions with Russia could significantly delay the energy transition. Russia is the major supplier of natural gas, which would be needed as an interim energy source. Jürgen Hardt answered the alumni question on how Germany could cope with the planned phase-out of coal-fired power by 2030 after the shutdown of the last German nuclear power plants at the end of the year. He did so by referring to new nuclear power technologies.
The three Members representing the governing parties conversely reaffirmed their rejection of nuclear power. Franziska Brantner also pointed to security risks in this context. Germany is ultimately seeking to set an example in the switch to renewable energies. ‘We have decided to invest state funding in the technologies that can be exported worldwide.’ The Development Policy Spokesperson for the FDP Parliamentary Group in the Bundestag, Dr Christoph Hoffmann, spoke about the ‘massive opportunity for development policy’ that the energy transition represents. Many developing countries could become suppliers of renewable energies in the medium term. ‘A win-win situation for the countries in the earth's sun belt’, said Hoffmann, who studied at Berkeley University in California as a DAAD scholarship holder in the 1990s.
The foreign policy discussion involved all Members declaring themselves in favour of further advancing European integration. Human rights aspects would have to play a significantly greater role in future relations with China, stated Bärbel Kofler and Franziska Brantner. Christoph Hoffmann and Jürgen Hardt called for a common EU geopolitical strategy towards China. All of the Members expressed their extreme concern regarding a possible Russian attack on Ukraine. All diplomatic means should be exhausted to prevent a war.
The last alumni question concerned the increasing hostility towards academia in some parts of German society. Answers provided by the Members unanimously stressed the importance of academia for politics. At the same time, they pleaded for greater social enlightenment regarding cognitive academic processes.
After two hours, the discussion had to be ended due to time constraints. Moderator Sandro Moraldo felt that the huge interest in the discussion was an ‘encouragement’ to organise further international alumni events.