On the 22nd anniversary of Germany’s reunification, Harald Leibrecht answered the question “Is the Transatlantic Partnership Still Relevant?” with a firm “yes” in his public lecture during Georgia State’s Think Transatlantic Week.
In his lecture, the German parliamentarian and coordinator for transatlantic cooperation for the German government stressed the current ties between Europe and the United States, as well as future prospects for the transatlantic relationship.
Leibrecht asserted that the United States and Germany are still connected very literally. He said around 50,000 American soldiers are still stationed in Germany, while hundreds of thousands of Americans work for German companies. And, according to Leibrecht, 50 million Americans claim German heritage.
Leibrecht discussed what he termed “the main pillars” of the relationship between Europe and the United States, which included economic exchange, political partnership and research and education in civil society. He said the challenges raised by these pillars could bring the European Union and the United States even closer.
Despite the global recession, Leibrecht said that the United States and Europe are each other’s most important markets.
But in addressing the debt crises on each side of the Atlantic, Leibrecht explained that Germany opposes a loose monetary policy on both sides of the Atlantic and that Germany cannot solve the European Union’s problems on its own.
Asia and the region’s growing economic power also plays a role in transatlantic dialogue, Leibrecht said, as both the United States and Germany have interests in peace and security in Asia.
Leibrecht paralleled Europe’s strug- gle towards a United States of Europe to the changing society in the United States of America. While European officials strive to find the best way to unify politically, many Europeans are concerned over the deep divide between the right and left in the United States.
But regardless of who will become the next President of the United States, Leibrecht was confident that Europe is ready to live up to their increasing expectations.
A challenge Leibrecht said was close to his heart, academic exchange and ed- ucation, also brings hope to the future of United States-German relations.
“Last year, 9,500 students from Germany studied in United States and 8,500 students came to German universities. Nearly 50 students from Germany are at your university here, and 25 students from Georgia State University study in Germany.”
Leibrecht said that in order for a solid partnership to exist between different cultures, there must be “people who are committed, interested and motivated in advocating this partnership.”
Calling for a promotion of German as a foreign language in U.S. high schools, Leibrecht explained that learning a lan- guage is the best way to incite interest in other countries—an interest that he thinks has dwindled in the United States over the decades.
Contrasting the postwar generation with the young American politicians of today, Leibrecht said:
“We have to invest in the young gen- eration and convince them that the trans- atlantic relationship is still important.”
“What Europe and the United States both need now is visionary and determined leadership for a joint project that will boost growth on both sides of the Atlantic,” Leibrecht said.
He suggested an “establishment of a true transatlantic marketplace,” including trade agreements between several countries, cooperative workforce training between the United States and Germany, and a strong focus on affordable and sustainable energy.
“The transatlantic relationship is relevant and will remain relevant in the future. Even more, our strong partnership is indispensable. The United States needs a strong Europe, and we need a strong United States. Only together—and in close cooperation with other powers— can we solve the challenges of a globalized world.”