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Expectations of the Berliner Republik

  • Date(s)
    27 January 2015, 28 January 2015
  • Location
Expectations of the Berliner Republik

Policy Network will co-host a workshop on Germany and the future direction of progressive politics in Europe. This international roundtable will mark the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the magazine Berliner Republik. It is held in partnership with Berliner Republik and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

This event will bring together German and European thinkers, politicians, academics, journalists and other relevant players to discuss the future of Germany and how it needs to adapt to its role in today’s Europe. There will be an emphasis on what other European progressives expect of Germany and how social democratic parties across Europe need to adapt to the key social, economic and political trends that are shaping our societies in the 21st century.

The daytime roundtable will be complemented by a major public event in the evening, where the German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will give a speech and a new award will be presented for outstanding intellectual, moral and political contribution to the Berliner Republik.

Background to the meeting
The term Berliner Republik refers to German politics and German political culture in the period since Berlin became the capital in the nineties. In the past 15 years, Germany has changed dramatically. Among the most relevant shifts are the modernisation of the welfare system, school reforms, expansion of early childcare, investment in renewable energies and a vibrant new enterprise culture. Altogether, Germans have a more relaxed and self-confident view of their country.

On the other hand, there are some worrying developments. Inequality is on the rise. Upward social mobility is decreasing. Resentment towards migrants is getting stronger. Both public and private investment levels are too low. Even the picture of the allegedly robust German economy has been shattered: evidence suggests that economic recession is around the corner. The European economic, financial and debt crisis is not yet over. To sum up: political reforms seem necessary in many different areas, while public willingness to accept disruptive change has decreased.

In parallel with these internal shifts and developments, Germany has gained importance internationally, not the least through the crisis in the eurozone. However, the ‘reluctant hegemon’ was not very well prepared for its new role as the leading power in Europe. This has damaged Germany’s image in other countries. Many Europeans hold Germany responsible for the drastic austerity measures in the crisis countries – and point to the drawbacks and sustainability of the German economic model.

The Berliner Republik was also unprepared for the latest foreign policy developments in the Ukraine and in the Middle East. Aspirations to take more international responsibility – announced by German politicians – are only partially shared by the public and tends to dissipate completely when it comes to concrete action and technical feasibility. 

The focus of the seminar
The overarching question of the seminar is how the Berliner Republik needs to prepare for the future: which progressive reforms should be put on the political agenda – and what are the right strategies to implement them? What expectations are there – especially from its European neighbours – with regard to the future European and international role of Germany? And with which topics and means can German social democrats contribute in alliance-building to make European social democracy as a whole capable of winning majorities again?

I. The German economic and social model: necessary reforms and reform barriers?
II. The future of European social democracy
III. The role of the Berliner Republik in Europe (and the world) – taking more responsibility?

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