Our group of RIAS Berlin Kommission Fellows was afforded the tremendous opportunity to visit the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin and listen to a speech from Mr. David Schwake, Deputy Director for the transatlantic cooperation at the office.
Schwake works at the German equivalent of the U.S. State Department. The German Federal Foreign Office employs 6,700 regular staff with 2,000 based at the main office in Berlin. The rest rotate assignment throughout the world.
Schwake spent time in the Congo as well as Vietnam and the United States. He even replaced the German ambassador in Liberia for seven weeks. Germany now places two people at each of their embassies worldwide. Almost all of their ambassadors are career-foreign service officers, not appointees, as many of the ambassadors are for the United States.
Schwake says the United States remains Germany’s most important partner outside of Europe, however, he says that China is increasingly more important for Germany and that last year, Germany traded more goods with China than the United States for the first time. Russia, says Schwake, is also an important trading partner for Germany because of their proximity and Germany’s dependence on Russia’s natural gas supplies.
Germans in general, have much more interest in United States politics than most Americans have in politics in Germany or the rest of the world for that matter. Schwake says that Germany largely agrees with Mitt Romney’s opinions on the war in Afghanistan but that most Germans don’t sympathize with Romney’s take on climate change, nuclear disarmament and some other issues.
The Trans-Atlantic Economic Council was Schwake’s next topic for discussion. The TAEC tries to help the business between nations. For example, it might work on non-tariff barriers or push for plugs used for electric cars to be uniform worldwide. The thought is that if the TAEC sets a standard, the Chinese and others may follow.
Schwake also talked about the difference between political campaigns in the United States and Germany. In Germany, he says, you must campaign nationwide and appeal to a much broader audience than U.S. candidates often target.
“You must move to the middle”, says Schwake. “In the U.S. this no longer seems to be the case”.
Most journalists watch two to three television stations, some are public and the journalists tend to be quite neutral.
Germany’s voter turnout is traditionally 80% to 85% of the population while United States voter turnout is significantly lower.