Live Q&A with Ambassador Boomgaarden
To conclude the Guardian's Germany week, Ambassador Boomgaarden answered readers' questions last Friday. Here are some of the highlights ranging from cheese to British-German relations and of course that famous goal in 1966.
(Courtesy of guardian.co.uk.)
LukeHarding: It looks increasingly likely that there will be a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU. In your view should Britons vote to stay in the EU - and if, yes, why?
Plus, has the UK - and its tabloid media - finally moved on from the cliches and stereotypes that have dogged our relations in the past?
Georg Boomgaarden: 1. Definitely yes! In the world of tomorrow, Europe will be an important factor. National states will not.
2. Some media lived on clichés and stereotypes, but they have become more and more positive.
nickthelight: The German author Bernhard Schlink has recently stated that "being German is a huge burden". Are you an advocate for the concept of hereditable guilt confined by national boundaries as he is and if so why?
GB: There cannot be hereditary guilt. But there is the responsibility of all following generations to keep in mind the Holocaust and the atrocities committed under the German name, and to shape German politics accordingly.
Stuttgarter: When you see the disastrous mismanagement and botched construction of the new Berlin international airport, the breathtaking increase in costs of the Elbphilharmonie, and the downright insanity of the Stuttgart 21 project, do you not worry that Germany is damaging its international reputation for excellence in planning and implementing major construction projects?
GB: Well, you can't always be number one - and things do go wrong all over the world.
But yes, there has been a certain coincidence of projects which were not exactly record-breaking.
But we'll do our best to become our usual engineering self again.
HongKongBlue: Ambassador, what is your favorite cheese?
RobertSchuman: How has the crisis in the last few years affected the British-German relations? Do you feel an increased interest in Germany? The last German elections were the first that were actually covered by the British media.
GB: There is an increased interest in Germany, and even curiosity. We are glad it is happening. In an ever-closer union it is good if a European public is emerging where it will be normal to be interested in each others elections.
philipalexander: The economies of the so-called "bailed-out" countries are shrinking and their citizens suffer. We've seen countries like Spain, with debt lower than Germany's, falling victims to the markets. In many instances, investors are practically paying Germany to take their money. Many have argued that your country is benefiting from the crisis, therefore it has not interest in playing an active role in promptly resolving it, especially before next autumn's elections. There are also arguments about German banks not being truthful about their balance sheets.
What is your take on all these?
GB: All countries have benefited enormously from European integration. I will not go into details on the role of the financial sector for the financial crisis which hit not only Europe, but all countries in the world. To put the house in order, sacrifices are necessary and will be beneficial. But patience is necessary, as we have learned in Germany where it took 10 years for the reforms to have a beneficial effect.
The points put forward that Germany benefits from the crisis simply don't add up in view of the amount of money Germany has been providing to bail out Eurozone countries in need.
Rheged: Why does the EU seem to be so antagonistic towards the UK? From the British rebate (to combat the ludicrous CAP/CFP), the idea that the FTT would be in anyway fair given Britain's obvious reliance on the finance sector and the recent idea of common forces (which no doubt Britain would contribute mostly to given our current military status) without the ability to veto?
GB: The EU is not antagonistic to the UK. The UK is a member of the EU.A common future cannot be based on vetos, but on common policy.You are right that relations between the people are extremely important in Europe.I would wish that free travel without border controls would one day include even the UK.
joffy: Ferrero Rocher or after dinner mint?
GB: In Britain, mint. In Italy, Ferrero.
GrishNakh: How do you respond to the claims (quoted below) by Phillip Inman in the Guardian about modern Germany, and how do you think the level of knowledge about each others country may be raised on both sides, not least with journalists as important multipliers of public opinion? "Young Germans ... are living in an ageing society that insists on retreading a traditional culture so stultifying and straightjacketed that it suits only those who like repetitive work practices that date back to the 1950s".
GB: I think this week's articles in the Guardian newspaper have shown that Germany is much more diverse than described in your quote.
berlinfish: As an Englishman who's lived in Germany for quite a few years now, I can't believe that the great sense of German logic hasn't teamed up with the great British sense for innovation on a much wider scale. Look at Formula One for an example of what it can achieve. Who's holding the cards here to stop this happening?
GB: Teaming up German and British genius is already happening. There are BMW motors built in Britain and Rolls Royce engines built in Germany.
hombreverde: How do you feel about England's third (and controversial) goal in the 1966 World Cup Final ? Did the ball cross the line or not ?
GB: In 1966 I closed my eyes because I was so excited. So I did in 2010, where even the referee did it.
Torquemada: Do you think that in the near future Britain and Germany will share a friendship of nations akin to the French-German relationship enjoyed by all German/French Government's until now? As Hollande has decided to tear up the old relationship and go his own way, isn't the time now ripe for an Anglo/German friendship to lead Europe?
GB: It is wonderful that Germany, France and Britain are now friends. But we should also include the other European nations in this friendship. Let us travel more between all European countries to make even more friends.
BarkinginLattin: When I visited Germany earlier this year I saw an affluent society at ease with itself. There was plenty of trade in the shops, cafes were busy, new cars abounded and the Rhine was busy carrying goods up and down the country and yet here in Ireland it is desolate. Shops are empty, businesses are closing and nobody really believes that unemployment is only 15%.
Unfortunately this state of affairs is usually blamed on the German banks (amongst others) recklessly lending your money to just about everyone and anyone and so causing the construction bubble and subsequent devastation of the Irish economy. Would you agree with this and how would you suggest Ireland recover?
GB: The financial crisis started with subprime papers in the US. But you are right, many banks (amongst others also German and Irish banks) invested in the construction bubble. I do not know who bought all these houses. I believe that Ireland is on a good way and may recover faster than others.
markriceoxley: Do you think it fair to say that any German chancellor would rather lose office than lose the euro?
GB: It would be excellent if politicians would generally put the common good above electoral calculations.