Berliners Comment on Obama and Transatlantic Relations
Atlantic-community.org conducted video interviews at Obama's first Berlin speech in 2008 and again this week when he spoke as President to a smaller, but still very enthusiastic, crowd. I did not interview the usual suspects from think tanks, but two high school students, a representative of the Pirate Party, and the President of the Berlin Academy of Arts who gave us an interview at the 2008 speech as well.
Part of the mission of the Atlantic Initiative, publisher of atlantic-community.org, is to provide a voice for a new generation of thinkers, broaden Germany's strategic community, and promote a culture of constructive foreign policy debate. We strive towards more connections between interested citizens and among all relevant social spheres (politics, arts, business, academia, and media). Thus these videos feature not the usual transatlantic relations pundits, but other Berliners with important messages to share.
1. Two students from the John F. Kennedy school about the need for strong transatlantic bonds:
2. Simon Kowalewski is a member of the Pirate Party and was elected to the Berlin State Parliament in 2011. Since the Pirate Party has a strong focus on data protection, I asked him about the PRISM surveillance program. Mr Kowalewski also commented on Obama's drone policy and argued that German-American cooperation is needed to find a solution in the Middle East.
Our video with the attendees of Barack Obama's rally in Berlin in 2008 included an interview with Christopher Paun, who was protesting against Obama's support for FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is the legal basis for PRISM. In 2008 only few people in Germany realized the gravity of FISA and I am proud that our video featured Mr. Paun's description of FISA and Obama's position on it. You can watch the entire 15 minutes video with all interviews here on atlantic-community.org or follow this link to Christopher Paun's statement at 9:08 minutes. Last year, we caught up with him and a few other interviewees and had them reexamen Obama's 2008 speech.
3. Klaus Staeck, President of the Berlin Academy of Arts, reflects on Obama's Berlin speech in 2008 and the expectations and hope for Obama, freedom and terrorism, and anti-Americanism. I also asked him whether Germany should follow America's request to increase defense spending. Regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, Mr. Staeck said that he and his colleagues had asked the German government to keep culture and cultural funding out of the negotiations. He is glad that the French agreed to do so. The Berlin Academy of Arts, founded in 1696, is one of the oldest cultural institutes in Europe. This video is in German and was conducted just before Obama's speech on June 19, 2013:
Right after Obama's Berlin speech in 2008, Klaus Staeck gave an interview to my then-colleague Ben Heine, which is still very relevant and worth watching again:
4. My thoughts on Obama's speech and transatlantic relations
While I stood behind the camera for the videos above, I also had the privilege to be in front of the camera for the international news channel France 24. After roasting in the sun for hours waiting for Obama, I got to stand under equally strong spotlights for an hour of live television and sweated like never before. The other participants of the debate moderated by François Picard were Tyson Barker of the Bertelsmann Foundation in Washington DC, Professor Anne Deysine of Paris X-Nanterre, Professor Anton Koslov of the American Graduate School of International Diplomacy, and the journalist Martin Untersinger.
In the first video of the show I commented on Obama's statements on nuclear arms reduction and his goal of Global Zero (at 11:47 minutes). I also pointed out what I believe was Obama's most important message to Germans and Europeans in general (at 13:27 min) and called for solidarity and an increase in German defence spending to meet the NATO criteria (14:00 min). I assessed his speech in general (15:36 min) and spoke on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (16:10):
The second video for the other half of the talk show begins with my comments on the high security measures for the speech, then I spoke on PRISM and data protection (12:13 min), and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) again (18:57 and at 23:38):
I was honoured by the invitation and appreciate that they gave the sweating talking head from Berlin the last word on TTIP, especially since France 24's "mission is to cover international current events from a French perspective and to convey French values throughout the world."
Prefer reading to watching videos?
I blogged about my expectations prior to his speech "Germany Needs Tough Love from Obama" and also shared my initial thoughts after the speech: "Obama Criticizes Complacency in the ‘City of Hope'". I argued that Obama successfully charmed the crowd and gave an emotional boost to German-American relations, but that his political message to Germany was too subtle and has not convinced politicians and citizens.
Moreover, David Francis interviewed me for the Fiscal Times.
Joerg Wolf is editor-in-chief of atlantic-community.org. Follow him on Twitter at @transatlantic