Diverse Germany: The 9th Diplomatenkolleg Explores Germany’s Regions and Political Culture
For the participants of the 9th Diplomatenkolleg, the highlights of the first months of 2014 were definitely the trips to Baden-Württemberg and Saxony as well as the programme event in Berlin. Their many high-ranking discussion partners included Saxony and Baden-Württemberg government officials, the mayor of the city of Freiburg, a Constitutional Court judge, experts from the different political foundations as well as directors and senior managers of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics and the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems.
Germany’s federal system
On their trips to Baden-Württemberg and Saxony, the young diplomats found that, while local and regional conditions may vary, the challenges faced are often very similar. Issues such as demographic change, skills shortages and responsibility in politics were candidly explored and discussed.
Participation and civic commitment
Many of the discussions revealed that local people are keen to get involved in politics and influence developments in their communities.
On their visit to a housing project within the Weingarten neighbourhood in of Freiburg the group saw for themselves the close link between sustainable energy management and residents’ involvement in the processes of urban renewal and modernisation. The town of Zwenkau provided another very tangible example of how local people can help shape structural change in their region. For decades a byword for opencast mining, Zwenkau is now reinventing itself as a pleasant lakeside resort.
Discovering German history
Encounters with contemporary German history are another focus of this year’s Diplomatenkolleg. A guided tour through the Forum of Contemporary History in Leipzig provided vivid background on the division of Germany and Europe and its consequences as well as the circumstances that led to the German reunification. The group’s visit to the archives of the Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the former GDR and a discussion with Commissioner Roland Jahn revealed how extensive the system of surveillance in East Germany had been and prompted critical reflections on the nature of dictatorship. In their discussions with Thomas Krüger, the president of the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Thomas Krüger, and Adam Kerpel-Fronius from the Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the focus was on the importance of confronting German history and accepting responsibility for its legacy. This part of the programme ended with a very frank and intensive debate with representatives of Germany’s political foundations, in which the participants also explained prospects and scope for civic education in their home countries.
The Diplomatenkolleg is a unique advanced training programme organized by the Federal Foreign Office and the Robert Bosch Stiftung for young diplomats who are accredited in Germany. The programme is implemented with support from the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).
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