How to Negotiate, Manage and Consolidate Coalitions – Programme for Political Partners from West Africa
Not long ago, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom welcomed a West African delegation from Senegal and Cote d`lvoire who wanted to be informed about how coalitions are negotiated, managed and consolidated in North Rhine-Westphalia. The programme aimed at giving the delegation members, who mostly had already attended a coalition training seminar in Dakar, some insight into the German political landscape and to exchange their views regarding the factors for stable coalitions with experienced liberal politicians.
The program started in Brussels a few days earlier, where the group met several representatives, who have been dealing with that subject at the European level. >> Read more about it here.
In Germany the group had its first meeting in the town hall of Leverkusen. Monika Ballin-Meyer-Ahrens, chairwoman of the Leverkusen FDP-council group, took her time to show the delegation the council’s meeting room. She then shared her experience with multi-party coalitions at the local level, using the example of the so-called Jamaica Coalition.
The German political system and coalition-building in Germany were the main subject of the workshop with Roland Werner, former Deputy Minister and State Secretary in the Saxon State Ministry. Topics of the workshop included human factors in coalition negotiations, different conditions in the new and old German states, channels of communication and the position of the FDP.
A special highlight was the visit to the regional parliament in Düsseldorf. Being guests at the plenary meeting, the participants had the opportunity to listen to the national chairman and regional chairman of the FDP in NRW, Christian Lindner addressing the low economic growth in North Rhine-Westphalia. His speech was followed by a heated debate about the root causes, as NRW currently ranks lowest among the German states. Angela Freimuth, vice chairman of the FDP’s parliamentary group in the regional parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia shared her experience in working in a government coalition with the delegation. A tour of the parliamentary building rounded off the visit.
At the Theodor Heuss Academy in Gummersbach the delegation had the opportunity to discuss the subject of future coalition-building with Jan-Frederik Kremer, Regional Director of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. In 2015 the Selfkant-opposition consisting of SPD, Pro Selfkant, FDP and Bündnis 90/Die Grünen had appointed Mr. Jan-Frederik Kremer as their joint candidate for the mayoral election in Selfkant. That coalition process was discussed lively.
The questions of liberalism at the international level, the history of Germany and why another political landscape has established in Germany were in the focus of the workshop with Wulf Pabst, seminar leader of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.
On the last day the delegation visited Ralph Sterck, leader of the FDP group in the Cologne Council. Being a long-time liberal politician, he was able to talk about many coalition-building processes of the FDP in Cologne. The delegation was particularly interested in the alliance formed between the CDU and the Greens to support the election of the current mayor Ms. Henriette Reker. When taking a look at the campaign publications, the participants got an idea of the different interests, needs and sensitivities of the allies. The alliance is still working successfully. Finally Mr. Sterck showed the delegation the town hall and the council’s meeting room.
The delegation had the opportunity to exchange views on the various types of coalitions with liberal politicians of the regional and municipal level. The fact that the meeting partners had different backgrounds was very helpful for the Delegation’s understanding of the federal system of Germany and to take home many new ideas.
There is rise in terrorism across the world, especially the Islamic State, which have taken over large tracts of territory in Syria and Iraq. This has led to the refugee crisis – millions of people seeking refuge in European countries including Germany, the venue of the seminar. The future of the Eurozone is in jeopardy. The European Union is grappling with one crisis after another. As a reactionary force, there appears to be a rise in right-wing forces in Europe, in countries such as Poland and Hungary, and elsewhere too; the fear being that long-cherished Democratic rights of the people could be a casualty. There are various other developments all across the world which are threatening the very survival of the little man, the little voter, the little citizen – with a free voice.
And against this tumultuous backdrop, a group of young lawyers, politicians and activists from 23 countries descended at Gummersbach for the IAF Seminar on Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights: the Liberal Approach. It was like getting a bird’s eye view of world affairs and then testing the times against the concepts of Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights.
We tend to become too practical and concentrate on actions without pausing to think about and clarify our understanding of concepts which ought to be the driving force behind our actions. What our very skilful moderators and the group discussions did was to clarify my own concept of what Rule of Law means. We learnt the various concepts of Rule of Law, from the thinnest (Rule by Law) to the thickest (Social Democratic Rule of Law or the fattest, as our liberal moderator preferred to call it), Rule by Law having hardly any safeguards and Social Democratic Rule of Law being a point where the State itself assumes the role of the Father, mother, guardian and regulator. The liberal approach is to prefer a liberal Rule of Law where the State is neither too intrusive, nor too withered away. The citizens are allowed to breathe and grow – the State only creating the fertile ground. I seemed to agree to the approach to a great extent.
The work group requiring us to explain the Rule of law and fundamental rights situation in our own countries enabled me look at India, my country, with an objectivity which I hitherto lacked. I returned as a citizen of my country and much in love with it, yet with the awareness of its deficiencies.
The discussions on fundamental rights and the three generations of Human rights was the one I greatly enjoyed. We poured all our ideas on to the floor and with the help of efficient marshalling of discussions by the mdoerators, we educated ourselves about democracy and democracies and rights and their extents and the general world situation of rights. What I learnt was that the liberals vouch for the first generation rights first and later move on to the second and third generation rights. I disagreed with Dr Rolf, our moderator and said that in my opinion, the first and second generation rights should go hand and hand. What the discussion culminated into is not important – but I took away from the debate a far enhanced understanding of the essentials of democratic thought and endeavour and I am much grateful to our erudite moderators. (Doctor and I have promised to continue our debate by email). To aid our understanding we were introduced to the Rule of Law Index published by the World Justice Project and the Bertelsmann Transformation Index, both of which will be of great help to me in future.
The underlying issue which overshadowed the seminar was the refugee crisis. Important questions about the right to freedom of movement (how free and unrestricted is it) were raised and we deliberated on them. Coming from a country having its own share of migrant and refugee problems, I was able to share my inputs. How far should refugees be allowed unrestricted access to countries like Germany? How far will they be able to blend with german culture? What could be the repercussions if they couldn’t. What security risks could be posed by refugees (with reference to the recent Paris Terror Attacks). We analysed threadbare, the problems – and possible solutions – rationing of refugees, establishing camps in their own countries run by the more developed countries. We also considered the legal aspects, which have helped sharpen my own understanding of refugee and migrant issues, being a lawyer engaged in refugee related work in India.
For 12 days, we were like family. It seemed barriers between cultures, religions, territories had all melted and the fact that we were all human beings possessing the same characteristics of humanity took precedence.
The excursions to Cologne and Strasbourg only increased the bonhomie and also gave us a chance to explore new places, meet new people and witness cultures first hand. We also made an interesting visit to the International Institute of Human Rights where we also became aware of the obstacles language could pose when working in the field of human rights. There can be no Rule of Law and fundamental rights without people. The food and lodging were excellent to say the least. Apart from the seminar proceedings, we had freewheeling yet engaging discussions at the bar and while travelling, sharing experiences from our respective countries. In the modern world, learning is exchanging.
The best aspects about this seminar were its emphasis on practical realisation of all that we were discussing and secondly, the freedom of expression it gave us. The world is becoming intolerant towards diversity and conflict thought yet here we were given an absolutely free forum where we could simply explain and express ourselves in the manner we liked.
Finally, we were asked to prepare project proposals to enhance Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights. We presented our proposals. The moderators were very appreciative.
I went to Gummersbach as a citizen of India and returned as a conscious and vigilant citizen of the world. My outlook has been broadened, the knowledge has deepened, and seeds of truly liberal thought have been planted in my being. I only expect it to grow and guide me in my actions and endeavours towards making the world a better place for ourselves and others.
I am grateful, IAF.
by Deepan Kumar Sarkar
Some impressions from our excursion to Strasbourg and Karlsruhe
A delegation consisting of seven representatives from the Tunisian liberal party “Afek Tounis” recently came to Germany to participate in a study trip on “New perspectives for Tunisia – EU/Germany relations”. The aim was to discuss the international relations with Tunisia with German experts in order to establish new contacts and networks for future cooperation.
The program covered several visits to institutions and think-tanks in Brussels and Berlin. At the German Federal Foreign Office the group met with Barbara Wolf, director of the Maghreb-division, to discuss the current state and future of German foreign policy towards Tunisia. Among the focal points in the debate were initiatives like the partnership for transformation and Germany’s diplomatic reactions to the revolution. This topic drew lots of questions from members of the delegation who were questioning Germany’s foreign policy strategy in comparison to the U.S. or Great Britain.
At the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development the delegation had the chance to exchange information and experiences with Christiane Bögemann-Hagedorn, Deputy Director General for North Africa, Middle East, South Eastern and Eastern Europe and Latin America. Dr. Martin Henkelmann, director of the German Chamber of Commerce abroad in Tunisia and his colleague, Philipp Simon Andree, head of division for North Africa at the Federation of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), analyzed the pitfalls and potentials for ever closer economic relations between Germany and Tunisia during a working lunch. The topic was continued during a discussion with the experts Alexander Knipperts, Patrick Meinhardt and Rainer Ptok from the trade association (Unternehmerverband Deutschland).
German, European and American policy towards Tunisia was intensively examined from a scientific perspective during a meeting with Isabelle Werenfels, director of the study group on the Middle East and Africa at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, SWP).
Ulrich Niemann, head of the international division of Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation for Freedom and Beate Apelt, director of regional division North Africa, Middle East and Eastern Europe, welcomed the group in the FNF-headquarters and gave a presentation on the international work of FNF in North Africa and in the world.
From May 14 through May 19, 7 representatives and officers of the HaTnuaParty, the Foundation’s counterpart, visited Berlin.
The visit was conducted under the theme “50-Year Diplomatic Relationship between Germany and Israel” and concluded with the solemn inauguration of the photo show “Religion*Freedom*City”. Pictures were chosen from a photo contest held by the FNF in Jerusalem.
An intense program was conducted in Berlin covering political informational conversations and a deep examination of the Jewish history and life in Berlin.
During two days of the program the participants visited the FDP federal convention in Berlin. Once there, they had the opportunity to become thoroughly familiar with the work of the Liberal Youth and the FDP municipal politicians, as well as to analyze the relevance of these political organizations and the own party structure.
FNF fellow workers explained to the visitor group the positioning of the FDP within the political party spectrum, both in Germany and in Europe, as well as the work performed by the FNF both in Germany and abroad.
Visitors were particularly interested in getting acquainted with Jewish life in Berlin. Talks held with a board representative of the synagogue located at Oranienburgerstraße and a representative of the Central Jew Council, as well as a visit to the synagogue offices, were highly enlightening. A city round trip was especially dedicated to Jewish life in Berlin before and during the Nazi regime. Meetings with German-Jewish society representatives and the European-Jewish ELNET network focused on the enhancement of relationships.
The IAF International Seminar on Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Information 2015 took place from April 19th to May 1 in Gummersbach, Bonn, Cologne and Hamburg. Twenty-six participants from twenty-five countries world-wide explored the current state of media freedom in their respective countries and identified core threats like political oppression, religious fundamentalism, self-censorship and digital surveillance.
Media, unfortunately on the decline in recent years in a number of countries, was identified as an indispensable part of liberal democracy driving political liberties and fundamental rights. The optimism still linked to social media and the versatility of new mobile digital devices has been seriously cautioned by new authoritarianism and an increase in physical violence towards information-doers and practicing journalists in war-torn or conflict-prone societies. Digital spying and surveillance motivated by commercial or security interests add a new dimension of global danger to the freedom of information and the protection of privacy.
Visits to the Deutsche Welle in Bonn (read more about our visit here) and to leading German media houses in Hamburg complemented the academic part of the 12 days programme. The participants met various interlocutors who shared their practical experiences, insights and professional concerns.
In a final proactive work group the participants identified and drafted a number of concrete interventions and projects to enhance media freedom in their countries and regions in accordance with the concurrent UN World Press Freedom Day 2015 theme:
Let Journalism Thrive! Towards better reporting, gender equality and media safety in the digital age.
- – Freedom of the Press Report 2015 published by Freedom House
- – About the media situation in Turkey and Germany
From March 14 through March 21, 2015, a group of 7 Cambodian politicians, including two women, visited Germany. The group was composed by 6 parliament members and the deputy director of the Public Relations Department of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). The participants are members of the parliamentary committees led by the CNRP. The CNRP is the only opposition party with 44% of votes, versus the ruling Cambodia Popular Party with 48% of votes. The topic of the 1-week academic trip was “The Constructive Role of Opposition Work in the Parliament”.
The primary goal of the visiting program focused on getting acquainted with and discussing those instruments employed by the Parliamentary opposition’s work in Germany, as well as particularly knowing the work performed by the committees led by the opposition.
This visit included Berlin, Brandenburg/Potsdam, and North Rhine-Westfalia/Düsseldorf. Our Cambodian visitors learned first about politics, state administration, federal system, and the panorama of the political parties in the Federal Republic of Germany. Particularly significant was for them the opposition work and the efforts conducted by committees in the following areas: politics, human rights, fight against corruption, health, budget, education, as well as press and public relations work at federal, regional, and municipal levels. They also exchanged experiences with their German peers about the parliamentary work. The culminating part of the trip was the visit to the German Federal Parliament in the Reichstag Building in Berlin.
The study group visited the headquarters of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, where they received information about the liberal-oriented work performed internationally by our Foundation.
At the end of the academic trip, all the participants were very satisfied with the obtained results. Topics such as politics and state administration, party structure, media work, education, health, etc. were greatly welcomed. They thanked the Foundation for the organization and opportunity to make the trip; they will use the knowledge acquired to perform their political activities in Cambodia, in order to foster freedom and more democracy in their country.
by Sophanna Khim and Hans-Georg Jonek
North Korea often makes the headlines on politically sensitive issues. However, this country has also daily problems related to developments that Germany got already over in part. Thus Germany serves as a role model, especially when it comes to technical issues.
In late November, nine North Korean delegates went on a one-week journey to Germany with most of them being urban planners and architects. The main theme of the trip was “Sustainable Urban Planning”. During the trip across Germany from Berlin by way of Bitterfeld and Kassel to Bonn and the Ruhr region, the delegates learned not only about technical innovation but got also fundamental information on sustainable urban planning in Germany.
The tour was mainly focused on restructuring measures. In Bitterfeld-Wolfen, mayor Petra Wust portrayed how the long-standing industrial base, the chemical stronghold of former GDR, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, bored the downfall of the GDR-companies (such as AGFA) and was reinvented through a prospective location policy. The Ruhr region was confronted with a similar problem about twenty years ago. Above all, the mine shutdowns brought the region to a structural crisis. Several cities reacted, strengthening the urban marketing and establishing a new branch. In this context, the North Korean guests were highly interested in the transformation and renaturation of the Emscher channel, the biggest sewage drain in Germany.
Even though this visit program was technology-oriented, politics was not left out. In the Landtag in Duesseldorf, the regional parliament of the state North Rhine-Westphalia, MP Kai Abruszat, a member of the liberal party, received the delegates and had a talk with them about the work of the Landtag and about the question on water supply, which is ensured at local level in Germany.
Since 2002, Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom has conducted activities in the North of the divided peninsula. For quite some time, there has been the sign of changes in the economic policy in North Korea. The foundation wants to give support from this start point. Besides economic regeneration, the foundation dedicates also to the field of city planning and renewable energy.
Dumb Ways to Vote is a three-minute animated video on Philippine electoral candidates. It is an entertaining parody on the qualifications of politicians who keep winning elections – a comedian, the corrupt, or even a murderer! Dumb Ways is a reminder that people should vote intelligently. As the country gears up for presidential elections in May 2016, Filipinos can refer to the video as a tick off sheet when they screen candidates.
Arab mayors, congressmen and judges visiting trip on decentralization
It is a great surprise: Eric Weik (FDP), mayor of Wermelskirchen at North Rhine–Westphalia, declares that he can only implement what the city council decides. He was asked: “But, as a liberal mayor don’t you automatically obtain a majority at the council that votes for your project?” “No, that is why I have to fight each time for a majority and convince people”, explained Weik. This has little to do with the arbitrary conduct of dignitaries in many Arab countries. A local government has, at the same time, own incomes, for example, from the trade tax – and the young liberal mayor delights with his great achievement: When he lowered the trade tax, the town attracted numerous companies and therefore, greatly increased its trade tax derived income. Mayors, members of parliament, politicians and judges of six Arab countries that participate in the information trip to Germany, are fascinated by this degree of municipal self-management.
There is enormous interest in the subject. The majority of Arab countries are now experiencing a period of upheaval and transformation, in which the centralist order of the State is also critically assessed. In Morocco, the first decentralization bill, which was announced years ago, is circulating these days. In Tunisia, after the revolution, new non-party mayors were partially assigned and new State building laws are now being generated. But Lebanon and Jordan are also thinking about generating more municipal self-management. In this regard, the German federal system becomes an interesting model – even if its complexity represents a challenge. The visits and conversations –at the Federal Parliament and Federal Council, the Regional Parliament of Düsseldorf, two municipalities with liberal mayors, the Cologne Municipal Congress, the Ministry of Economy of North Rhine-Westphalia and the State representation of North Rhine-Westphalia in Berlin- illustrate and exemplify the delimitation and cooperation of the different levels.
The liberal spokesperson of the Committee for Europe and One World at the regional parliament of Düsseldorf and former minister, Ingo Wolf, masterfully presented the historic evolution of the German model and also disclosed its weaknesses: excessive mixed financing at all levels. His advice from the liberal point of view: “In case of financial compensations, there must exist sufficient incentives and the overcompensation of differences must be avoided”. And: “Define objectives, but provide the greatest freedom possible on the way to achieve them.”
The conversation held at the German County Association in Berlin resulted to be very confusing for the Arab guests: the participants asked about the origin of this level in this three-structured system and its purposes. It is highly probable that this institution will not find followers in the Arab world – but some tools regarding civic participation, municipal self-management and federal structure will be integrated to the proposals and discussions in Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.
by Andrea Nüsse, FNF Project Director Morocco
…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)