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Germany’s role in the international scene grows

April 23, 2013

Published here on April 18, 2013

Approximately 90 people crowded into Caldwell Hall Wednesday to hear German Consul General Christoph Sander speak on Germany’s growing role in the modern world.

Sander’s talk, titled “Germany Today: Responsibilities and Challenges in the Heart of Europe,” mainly covered Germany’s role in the European debt crisis but included other topics such as the Iranian nuclear threat and German integration of green technology.

Though the audience was largely students seeking class credit, some members were also faculty and non-N.C. State affiliated. Before the talk started, the group had to move buildings because the original room wasn’t large enough to fit the entire audience.

Helga Braunbeck, who planned the event, said that she hope attendees left with a greater understanding of the complexity of Germany’s role in Europe.

“It’s important for students to see the big picture,” said Braunbeck, who is also the Section Coordinator in the NCSU Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. “It’s not just Germany, but Germany in the context of the European Union. I think [Sander] conveyed that.”

Sander, who has an extensive background as a German diplomat, now serves as German Consul General to the southeast portion of the United States and is headquartered in Atlanta. His visit at N.C. State is one among several in a tour across North Carolina.

The talk began with a reminder of today’s positive German-U.S. relations.

Sander mentioned notable German companies that had invested in facilities on American soil, such as Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen. He then moved on to explain the importance of Germany’s location, stating that diplomacy and politics are often determined by geography.

“Germany is always affecting its neighboring countries because of its location,” Sander said.

Sander reasoned that Germany has been able to help these neighboring countries because of steps it has taken in the past. During a financial crisis in the early 2000s, Germany’s government launched a series of reforms that lowered the cost of doing business and created more flexible labor laws. Germany also raised the retirement age to 67, which is almost 10 years higher than Greece’s retirement age of 58.

“Most of these reforms were in place when the Euro crisis hit,” Sander said. “Our ability to help our neighbors didn’t come by accident. It was something we had to work for.”

The talk also covered Germany’s aversions to bailing out struggling European countries, such as Greece or Cyprus — chief among them was fiscal responsibility.

“We in Germany will not finance politicians who will not make tough decisions in their own countries,” Sander said.

Still, Germany has been able to significantly help Europe. Sander reminded the audience that in the past year, the euro stabilized and has generally remained steady in relation to the dollar. Sander defended Germany against allegations that it was taking too long to do anything.

“The European Union is composed of 27 independent nations, and we have to come to compromising decisions,” Sander said. “These always take a little bit of time.”

Germany, which is committed to expanding its role in the world, has become increasingly involved in United Nations affairs. Earlier this year, when France invaded Mali, Germany assisted by offering aircraft. Sander said this was notable because German citizens are generally against Germany’s aiding other European countries.

“We are still, given our history, in a very difficult situation regarding European relations,” Sander said.

After Sander’s talk, students were able to ask questions, which ranged from Germany’s role in sanctions against Iran to European expansion into Turkey. Sander also answered several questions about Germany’s dwindling population.

“We will have trouble finding a workforce in a couple years,” Sander said.

In the end, most students left more informed about Germany’s role in the world. Ryan Smith, a senior in nuclear engineering, said although he came for class credit, he found the talk interesting.

“It was very informative,” Smith said. “I’m in a class similar to what he was talking about. It was nice to see his input as a German representative.”

Braunbeck said she was impressed by Sander’s presentation.

“I thought it went really, really well,” Braunbeck said of the talk. “He adds a lot of depth to his view because he’s been a diplomat for so long. He looked back into history to see the big picture.”

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