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Staatssekretär Prof. Dr. Ingolf V. Hertel : Grußwort
European Series 1999: Is German Federalism the Model for Europe?
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,
the Senator for Science, Research and Culture in Berlin, Peter Radunski, had the very firm intention to participate in this exciting meeting of such an elite selection of young leaders from Europe and from around the world. Unfortunately, the Senator had on short notice to attend a very important political meeting where crucial decisions have to be made. He has therefore asked me to address you with a few words on his behalf.
Thus, it is a great pleasure and honour for me to welcome you here in the heart of Berlin, the second station on your exploratory voyage - may I say to Europe through Europe. Your tour will lead you from Brussels via Berlin to London - what an interesting triangle! And from all I have read about the idea of this meeting - one in a successful series - I can only congratulate you to be able to participate in such an ambitious enterprise and I also would like to congratulate the organisers of the meeting. For all who are concerned about the future of Europe this is a very important moment in history and this meeting provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the potentials and possible catch-holes on the way to Europe.
You have come to Berlin at a very special moment. In these months the German Parliament moves to Berlin as well as most administrations of our Federal Government. Berlin is in the process of becoming really the German capital. For my generation and especially for those who have lived in this city for many years during the cold war, this is still some kind of miracle. You remember: Berlin was the German capital until the end of world war II, East Berlin was the capital of the late German Democratic Republic and next to it West-Berlin was located in the middle of the "red sea" - as one used to say in those times. The capital which is now emerging will be the capital of a new united Germany as an integral part of Europe. The people of Berlin are confident that this city will make its contribution to the completion of Europe. The specific role which Berlin could play in this process toward Europe would have to do with its geography and also with its history, specifically with its post-war history.
Let me phrase it as follows: Here the triangle Brussels - Berlin - London meets the line Paris - Berlin - Warsaw - Moscow. Or: in whichever direction you turn from Berlin, you will always be faced with Europe. This is a great challenge and responsibility which the city has to accept.
Welcome thus again in the German Capital, in the New Berlin, as we like to call it these days in order to mark the spirit of our revitalised (or should I say: reborn) city in the prime of its new beginning - I hope you will get a chance to taste some of this spirit between or after the sessions of your rather tight schedule.
I suppose, one of the reasons for you to be here - in between the cornerstones of this series of meetings, Brussels and London - is the German presidency of the European Union. As you know, the political leaders of the EU-member states conveyed here in Berlin several weeks ago. I understand that many important issues were moved. Depending on whom you ask you can hear either that things have been moved but not really been brought forward - or that only very little has been reached - but some people also say that a lot has been achieved considering all aspects and difficulties by finally deciding on the "Agenda 2000".
Of course we cannot expect this meeting to find solutions for all the remaining open problems in Europe - especially so since most problems within the community are in one way or other of financial nature and deeply linked to national egotism - which unfortunately has not fully been overcome in Europe at the turn of the 20th century. And of course, these days we cannot discuss the evolution of Europe without at least mentioning this horrible military conflict in the middle of our continent. I sincerely hope that there will be sufficient strength, humanity, good will and wisdom to terminate this conflict and the terrible suffering of people in Kosovo and the other regions involved as soon as possible.
But let me come back to the theme of this meeting. For this mornings session Senator Radunski was asked to speak about "Is German Federalism the model for Europe?" - You will forgive me: such a question feels very awkwart to me, actually shocking. It reminds me of a slogan which we have long deposed of in the graveyards of German history. "Am deutschen Wesen soll die Welt genesen". Thus, the answer to this theme is definitely "no" - for principle as well as for pragmatic reasons. However, there may well be some aspects of our constitution and its practice which may be worthwhile considering in the European context - and be it in some cases only to learn how not to do certain things. To avoid any possible later misunderstanding: I am a convinced believer in federalism. But it has also its problems one should know.
I think it is well understood that Europe as we all want it to succeed is not the Europe of a distant bureaucracy, of Eurocrates in Brussels, of butter-mountains and agricultural mismanagement. This is a cold Europe which the people will not accept in their heart, even though we will not want to miss the economic force of the joint market. And the potential strength of a joint monetary system is also a strong argument. However, I am convinced that only a Europe of plurality and diversity, of individual cultural identity of the nations (and possibly of the regions) will finally be accepted by the people. I think this is our great strength and challenge: to have and use this cultural richness, this individuality in which we need to respect each other, our languages which we should try to learn from each other. To organise this and balance it with the unavoidable amount of co-ordination and centralisation in economic and political matters is a very difficult task which requires great wisdom. Let us hope our European leaders, the European parliament and one day possibly also the European commission may have it, this wisdom. Nevertheless, some lessons can possibly be learned from the German constitutional practice.
Let me concentrate here on the said cultural aspects, which coincide also with the responsibilities of our administration within the Senate of the Land Berlin: science, research and culture. Clearly, these are the fields (as well as education) where the German constitution is most precise in terms of allocating the main responsibility to the Länder. There are certain areas where the Federal government and the Länder may undertake joint activities or where the federal government may have specific duties (e.g. in research and technology). But the core business in these fields is in the hands of the Länder. Usually it is somewhat difficult to explain this to anyone not familiar with the German constitution. Let me illustrate it with some numbers: About 90% of all public funding for cultural activities in Germany originates from the Länder and from the communes while the federal republic participates only with 5%. For the cultural sector Berlin spends each year about 700 Mio. DM while the federal government contributes in 1999 for the so called "Hauptstadt-kultur" 120 Mio. DM - and we hope that this amount may in future still increase, thus taking account of the fact that flourishing arts, music and theatres in the capital are a national challenge.
In the field of science and research (universities, colleges, research institutes) the relation is somewhat less pronounced but still dominated by the efforts of the Länder. In Berlin e.g. all in all about 4 billion DM are spent annually for science and research from which around one billion DM comes from the federal government.
This immediately leads to the first question which the organisers of this meeting have asked to address: Power Sharing. Closely connected with this question is the necessary co-ordination of efforts among 16 German Länder and the Federal Government. And - since education on all levels is in the sole responsibility of the Länder - of vital importance is also the question of how to allow for mobility of the people and guarantee equal conditions of living within the republic. I have no time to go into the details - which would fill a whole series of lectures. Let me just mention that in the field of culture, science and education we have probably the most elaborate system of joint committees and working groups between the Länder and the federal government, most importantly the "Kultus-minis-ter-konferenz (KMK)", the "Bund-Länderkommission für Bildungs-planung und Forschungsförderung (BLK)" and the "Wissen-schafts-rat" as well as dozens and dozens of subcommittees - you realise immediately that the construction is not trivial. Open and so far unsolved questions which recently have become more and more subject to public discussion are e.g.: how much co-ordination and equality do we need, and how much competition and divergence is good or tolerable? How can we optimise the machinery for decision taking? Do we really need 16 Länder and how can we minimise bureaucracy? How can we share our economic wealth without destroying the motivation of those Länder who are economically prospering? Maybe we can discuss these issues in some more detail later.
The next question to address is "How do the Länder influence policies decided within the EU". A very difficult question and a very timely one. Formally as you know there is a Committee of Regions according to the Maastricht agreement, since May 1st succeeded by the of Amsterdam contract. In Germany the regions are represented by the Länder. This Committee of Regions has only advisory rights but I believe that such advise cannot readily be overlooked if essentials of the regions are concerned i.e. in the context of decisions in the European parliament. It remains to be seen how this works out in the long run.
Within Germany, the situation is more complex. In the context of the Maastricht contract several agreements between the German federal government and the Länder have been worked out. We even have a law which regulates formally the participation of the Länder in the decision making process by sending special envoys of the Länder along with the negotiating bodies of federal government. It may amuse you that presently about 400 civil servants from the German Länder are involved on different levels of the European decision making process - but it tells you something about the problems connected with federalism. The whole matter is rather complex and, again, contains enough material for a whole series of learned seminars.
"Does federalisation allow for different rates of economic development?" The German example clearly shows that this is indeed the case, appears even to be a constituent of federalism. Just compare the industrial productivity, the rates of unemployment, the economic growth between the new and old German Länder (East- West) or between the Schleswig-Holstein or Niedersachsen on the one hand and Bavaria or Baden-Württemberg on the other (North-South). In Germany as well as in Europe the discussion on the most desirable degree of harmonisation is quite vivid. One example of an open issue is the value-added-tax. Will we get a full harmonisation? Is this something to look forward to or to avoid? How rigorous should the European commission enforce the "Free Market" philosophy? Again, I can only very briefly touch the subject - in particular so since I do not feel competent in the field of economics - being a simple physicist. Perhaps we can leave this aspect to the discussion among the audience and maybe I get a chance to learn something.
"Does the culture of federalism make it more difficult for German leaders to understand the approaches of the Flemish or French colleagues?", is the last question to be mentioned. I think we can only warmly welcome the tendencies in France and Belgium towards regionalisation or even federalisation. In Germany we live quite well with federalism and watch with interest how our neighbours also move into this direction. Any step to decentralise political decision making wherever it can be done more efficiently in close contact to the individual citizen this is a step towards more identification of the citizen with its state. Subsidiarity is the generally understood principle as developed and practiced e.g. by the catholic church over many centuries. Thus, if in other states of Europe the movement goes in the direction of regionalisation, if the idea of making the state more accessible to its citizens or alternatively to support the identification of the citizen with its state, this will also work towards a better acceptance of Europe by its citizens - if Europe can integrate the regions with their individual needs and potentials, with their specific colour, taste and culture, in a convincing manner. That there is still a long way ahead of us goes without question.
Maybe I stop at this point and apologise for the rather superficial and brief elaboration of the questions which have been raised to me. I understand that this statement is only supposed to stimulate now a vivid discussion. Thank you for your attention.
Prof. Dr. Ingolf Hertel, e-Mail: Hertel@mbi-berlin.de
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