There is so much I need to catch up on but our schedule is extremely busy. Yesterday, I had an interview with the Slovak Design Center, the Slovakian equivalent of AIGA and IDSA combined but under the Ministry of Culture. I have a lot to write about that so I will have to catch up on Friday. Now just so highlights on arrival to Germany...
Today, I arrived in Hamburg, Germany. I am enamored of the city. I really am a City girl. It is very green, with beautiful architecture, lakes, rivers, and canals. Where we are staying is in one of the most posh neighborhoods which makes a difference of course. But I love the vibe of the place.
The World Cup is going on here, so there are a lot of people in the city.
We are being hosted by Petra Pissulla of the Drager Foundation, which is an important corporate foundation in Germany. We are getting to eat at some of the best and most trendy restaurants in Hamburg. I mention this because the German colleagues keep mentioning this. For those in the know: Paolino, Henssler & Henssler, Die Bank, Turnhall St. Georg, Vapiano, Rive, and Engel.
I met the third most charming man I know. Rankings: (1) My husband Mohammed, (2) Ric Grefe, and (3) Dr. Theo Sommer, editor-at-large for DIE ZIET newspaper. We had a fascinating overview of economic and political reforms under the Grand Coalition, which refers to the coalition government between the two major political parties in Germany, the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats. More stuff than I have time for.
Some quick highlights:
1. EU and the fear of Germany because of past aggression
Germany's push for the participating in the EU is just as much about mitigating the fear of its nine neighbors, especially post reunification, as it is about economic benefits (ex. being able to export its products throughtout the EU without trade barriers). This is very different from Slovakia of course.
2. German Federalism Reform
One of the most important issues with the grand coalition is defining the form of Germany's federalism. At dinner, I sat next to Dr. Julia von Blumenthal a political science professor at the University of the Armed Forces. We had a long discussion about the potential reforms in terms of transferring much of the decision-making power and financial responsibility for education to the 16 states from the Federal government. This has serious implications for regional development because not all German states are equally wealthy. Dr. Sommer told us that the former East Germany states receive $100 billion Euros per year, for over 15 years. The implications of this is unknown.
3. A major shift in recognition of minorities
Again it was iterated that Germany has taken 30 years to recognize the fact that it is an immigrant, not just emigrant, nation. Some reforms have begun, but it has a long way to go.
Its been a long day, but it is really going to be a fascinating journey.