Exposure Program to Germany
An increasing number of people, devices, and sensors are nowadays connected by digital networks which have revolutionized the ability to generate, share, and access information. Data create enormous value for the global economy, driving innovation and growth. At the same time the ever growing amount of data presents a formidable challenge to the privacy of citizens.
In order to better understand the potential of big data for both citizens and organizations while addressing the challenges to individual privacy the Regional Office of Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) organized a study tour to Germany. Digital rights activists, researchers and representatives of business associations from Pakistan, India, Bhutan, and Bangladesh spent one week in Hamburg and Berlin speaking to data protection agencies, think tanks, data scientists and information and communication technology (ICT) companies.
During official appointments participants discussed latest technological developments, how a modern data protection framework should look like, and which ideas could be translated into initiatives in South Asia. The recent European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation which for the first time creates pan-european standards for data protection and a level playing field for companies targeting European citizens made the participants particularly interested.
“The different perspectives presented during the study tour were eye opening and I strongly believe some ideas can be implemented in South Asia to combine openness for innovation and safeguards for individual privacy” said Ruben Dieckhoff, Project Manager South Asia who organized the tour together with FNF’s International Academy for Leadership (IAF).
It has been forecasted that in the following two decades there will be a strong increase in energy demand in Southern Asia. In the largest countries, energy supply is critical. India alone, with its high demographic increase and stable economic growth, develops an increasing and permanent demand of energy. Daily power outages are today a reality in the cities and in extensive parts of the country. Many towns and regions are not connected to the power supply system.
The chronic lack of electric and gas power in Pakistan has become an everyday experience for the population and economy. Even in the capital of Islamabad, most of the time the heating system is defective during winter. Consequently, gas cut-offs occur. When gas is flowing, lack of pressure in the pipelines is hardly enough to cook. Gas stations that provide natural gas –fuel that is most commonly used– only open a few days per week due to lack of supply. Furthermore, there are outages that last hours. When spring arrives, shortage of electric power worsens with heat.
As a result, the following questions arise: Can the Southern Asian countries benefit from the German experiences regarding the use of new and sustainable energy sources? Do these offer solutions to the chronic energy shortage?
The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty invited a group of economy and energy experts from Southern Asia to take part in a visiting program about renewable energies in Germany. Participants came from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
- To better understand Germany’s energy transformation (Energiewende), the plans and measures at the different State levels to reduce CO2 emissions.
- To develop a Liberal consciousness regarding climate change aspects.
- To look for market-oriented solutions regarding the production of renewable energies and greater energy efficiency concepts.
The visiting program started in Stuttgart. With a high number of successful and export-oriented companies, in the last decades Baden-Wurttemberg has managed to consolidate its reputation as a renowned economic location. Also, the Federal State is positioned on the cutting edge regarding renewable energies in Germany’s Southwest.
Dr. Till Jensen, energy expert at the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Energy Industry, explained to the guests the energy transformation that took place in Baden-Wurttemberg. The State had a greater nuclear energy dependency than the northern states. Almost half of its power was produced in nuclear power plants. In 2011 –after Fukushima– the Federal Government decided to abandon nuclear power. In 2022, the last nuclear power plant will be closed. The deficit that results from this will have to be greatly supplied by renewable energies. The State developed a sustainability strategy which, in the following decades, completely readjusts production and consumption. Photovoltaic, wind and biomass energies –to a lesser extent also geothermal energy-, are especially considered as energy sources. Measures to generate energy efficiency, mostly in buildings and traffic, should considerably reduce energy consumption.
In the three mentioned areas, the State was able to increase its renewable energy production. In particular cases, the production amounts projected for 2022 have already been reached today. However, critical questions remain unsolved.
Obtaining green energy is subject to fluctuations and uncertainty. It is often generated when it isn’t needed and it is needed when it isn’t produced. It is tied to forces of nature such as wind and sun. Because of that, the issue concerning storage becomes very important. The development of adequate storage is still in its early stages. Therefore, the storage of – for example– wind energy to be utilized as electricity, is highly expensive. Also, existing power lines are not enough to supply energy to the desired places. While the country’s industrial core is markedly located in the south (Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg), the mass of wind energy is produced up north and there are plans to extend it by building great wind turbines along the coastline. This arises the need to build great energy supply paths from north to south. But this project hasn’t been started yet. The newly emerged deficits create a paradoxical situation in which –meanwhile– more energy is obtained from conventional power plants (carbon and lignite), which aggravates climate-damaging CO2 emissions.
These and other questions were intensively discussed by the delegation members in the following visits. The program included meetings with liberal politicians in Stuttgart and a conference about the development of electromobility, which is specially promoted in the car state of Baden-Wurttemberg. Furthermore, visits to the Federal Ministry of Economy, the Federal Association of German Industry, the German Railways and the Checkpoint Energie took place. The trip ended with a visit to the energy-autonomous town of Feldheim in Brandenburg.
The situation in Thailand has been the center of attention in the German media for the past months. In addition to the demonstrations which continued for months recently the head of government and nine cabinet members had to resign from their posts following a ruling of the Constitutional Court. Since then the Thai army declared material law and the news on Thailand are changing by the minute.
One focus of the foundation’s work in Thailand is working with the Ministry of Justice in regard with injustice and usury debts. Therefore, the Foundation invited a twelve -member delegation from the Ministry of Justice and Chulalongkorn University for a visiting program to Germany. The aim was to get to know the German legal system in more detail in particular with its efforts against private debt.
The head of the delegation Suwana Suwanjuta, is the director of the Legal Aid Centre for debtors and victims of injustice, which is attached to the Ministry of Justice. Since its founding in 2010, the center has dealt with approximately 360 cases with a dispute value of more than 559 million baht (about € 12.4 million).
At the beginning of the visiting programme in Germany, the participants were informed about the proclamation of the “danger zone“ in Hamburg in November 2013, and its impact on the rule of law. The participants met the liberal parlamentarian Carl Jarchow, the domestic policy spokesman of the FDP parliamentary group in the Hamburg Parliament. The legal basis for the declaration of a danger area was explained to the delegation by three judges in the Hamburg Administrative Court.
The delegation moved on from Hamburg to the capital of Germany, Berlin. Not only the city of Berlin is deeply in debt, but also its inhabitants. Therefore Bettina Heine, board member of the Regional Working Group for debtors and insolvency consulting Berlin eV, reported of the measures taken by the asssociation to avert the debts already in the prevention stage. To establish equality before the courts in Germany, in civil as well as criminal cases the plaintiff and the accused can get legal aid and advice, or use an assigned counsel. Again, this shows the differences to Thailand.
Specifically, in the discussion with her German counterpart from the Ministry of Justice and Consumer Affairs, Mathias Hellmann, the participants saw possible approaches to a reform of the legal system and what the advantages of outsourcing consultancy organizations such as the debtor and insolvency advice or the consumer centers are.
Overall, besides the unstable situation to which the delegates returned, they were able to learn a lot about the German system and returned with new ideas for their work in Thailand.
…This appreciation was shared by the 6 economy experts from Brazil, Argentina and Mexico with Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, Director of the European Center for International Political Economy in Brussels. – The economic situation in the emerging countries and their respective local currency crisis at the exchange market caused a broad public debate worldwide in the last months. Simultaneously, the upcoming negotiations concerning the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are critically discussed precisely in Germany, also attentively followed on the American continent. At present, global trade and the international economic system are issues intensely criticized. Politicians and social decision-makers do not take free trade and open markets for granted any longer, as they used to 10 years ago.
Considering this scenario, 6 economy experts from Latin America traveled to Brussels and the Cologne/Bonn region. During their meetings in Brussels with representatives of the EU Commission and liberal European parliament members, they discussed about the European positions concerning the commercial relations with their respective countries, the upcoming negotiations about the free trade treaties between the EU and USA, Mercosur and Brazil, and also about an update for the 2002 free trade agreement with Mexico. The debate focused on questions concerning the access to the market for industrial and agricultural products, but also for services and participation regarding public contracts, as well as regulatory measures, such as food regulations, industrial standards and certificates of origin. And precisely considering the free transit of goods for international trade, it is extremely important to have standards as transparent and unified as possible. This is the only way to pursue true competition and a seamless market access. In addition, the issue regarding the “certificates of origin” becomes a problem with the current international production chains when agreeing on a bilateral free trade agreement. How can one presently establish whether a product has been really “made in Mexico”, if its production material, for example, is purchased in Asia or USA to manufacture a product in Mexico? Ricardo Sondermann, Director of the Instituto de Liberdade of Rio Grande do Sul, and Vice-President of the Chamber of Commerce of the federal state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, emphasized that these regulations mean a significant setback for companies. “An expert lawyer in my company required 6 months to conduct a thorough study on the legal provisions and product materials of a final good, in order to prepare a statement regarding the legal, unimpeachable certificate of origin of a single product! Just figure out what this means for a company that has a wide range of products!
During the conversations held with liberal members of the European Parliament, the economy experts from Argentina, Brazil and Mexico exchanged insights, especially about the repercussions of the political evolution on the international markets. The meeting held with the Dutch member of the European Parliament and President of Liberal International, Hans van Baalen, focused on the current events in Ukraine and Crimea. “I am afraid that we are facing the beginning of a new cold war,” said van Baalen, showing his extreme concern about the scenario currently developing in Ukraine. A shared concern on the Crimea situation led to an alliance between the EU and USA. But this does not necessarily mean that negotiations on the expected free trade agreement between USA and the EU will advance more quickly. He worries about the repercussions of the crisis on the energy supply in the EU countries. In this regard, the members of the Latin American delegation stated that a very productive biofuel industry has emerged by now in their respective countries –particularly in Brazil– which, by means of an international energy market, could surely contribute to diversify the European energy market and reduce its dependence from Russia.
During their visit to the Rhineland, the topic focused on the overall economic conditions for Latin American entrepreneurship. At the regional parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia in Düsseldorf, the group received information from the economic-political speaker of the state parliamentary bench of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), Dietmar Brockes, about North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) as economic location and the country’s economic promotion. A conversation held with business representatives of Bayer in Leverkusen focused on the overall economic conditions for international companies in Latin America. This meeting also quickly evidenced that the traditional “tariff barriers” (customs) are no longer the key problem. The regulatory measures are precisely the main problem, such as the production guidelines for chemical and pharmaceutical products, which hinder the market access. Several Latin American governments increasingly tend to demand international companies to establish production segments in their countries, even in particular country regions. Bayer representatives stated that this is no problem at all, as long as it concerns distribution structures. But when the demands comprise the establishment of production segments at entrepreneurial unreasonable locations, this is no longer feasible. The delegates agreed upon this insight: Unfortunately, interventionist interferences and overwhelming bureaucracy are precisely common in Argentina, but also in Brazil. A personalized political style as well as widespread corruption and a judiciary system that is not quite independent, depict a problem for each entrepreneur and hinder the economic growth of their countries. But the delegates had also a request for their German peers in this regard. “Our countries are strongly afflicted by corruption. International companies should not support this practice. The Siemens corruption case should not occur again. By doing so, you could help us at least in some extent to build an honest culture of competitiveness”.
In a public event held in Düsseldorf about the topic “Globalization under Pressure – the Future of the Economic Relations between Europe and the American Continent”, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, President of the German liberals at the European Parliament and leading candidate for the upcoming European elections, pointed out as follows: Free trade does not destroy jobs. It facilitates technological change and progress – thereby wealth and poverty reduction. Manuel Molano, Director of the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, complemented this statement: “Trade promotes development. We should rather focus our criticism on topics such as fight against corruption, transparency and competitiveness, or the granting of public contracts. These areas show deplorable conditions, detrimental for every entrepreneur, but also for each consumer and tax payer”.
by Birgit Lamm
- FNF Regional Office for Latin America in Mexico
- The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
10 Years of EU Expansion – Despite Disillusion and Nationalism, a Strong Conviction for Europe, Particularly among Young People, Prevails
May 1st, 2004 was a great joyful date in Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, and the three Baltic countries. The acceptance of the young democracies into the European Union initially evidenced in those eight countries a strong economic growth that had positive repercussions on politics and society. The global crisis and the subsequent Euro crisis were factors that came mostly to ruin it all. The resulting reductions of social benefits, joined by a severe austerity policy implemented by the governments led broad population groups not only to impoverishment, but also disillusion regarding the personal and economic freedom achieved by the adherence to the EU.
Bonn, Düsseldorf, Magdeburg and Berlin. Representatives of the Ministry of Planning and Investment, university professors, and representatives of the Central Committee of the Vietnamese Communist Party, of the Department of Treasure and of the Hanoi National University in Vietnam were part of the group of visitors accompanying Huy Dong Dang, Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment. Before arriving in Potsdam, the delegates traveled to North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony-Anhalt, and Berlin. More »
by Zaidi Sattar, Bangladesh
In Berlin you come to realise that walls, no matter how high and impregnable they might be, cannot divide people. It is people who divide people — if you see what I mean! Unification of Berlin and of Germany is a glaring example of how a people can rise above all forms of repression and achieve their desire for unity which, in the German case, has also meant significantly higher economic prosperity for all Germans, particularly those who lived in the former East Germany. More »
Nine participants from Pakistan, Egypt, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Central Africa, Russia, and Ukraine – all experts in human rights – had via the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom the chance to take part in this year’s summer course of the International Institute of Human Rights in Strasbourg. During the 3-week course, every year current knowledge and issues concerning international human rights law are conveyed based on international conventions and protection mechanisms. Two hundred and seventy-six participants from many countries attended this meeting which every year offers a forum intended for intense learning and dynamic discussions. More »
Berlin. Staff members of the Foundation’s project offices from all over the world visit Berlin
Which outcomes and changes will emerge from the election in September? It is also with great expectation that many staff members that work at any of the approximately forty FNF project offices abroad are following the developing events in Germany. Now more than ever it is more difficult to forecast the voters’ decision on the election day. It is even more unclear to predict which coalition will be victorious in these elections. More »