In our next 5 Questions interview, I spoke with Peter Beyer, a Member of the German Bundestag since 2009. He is also a member on the Foreign Affairs and Legal Affairs committees and Special Rapporteur on Trans-Atlantic Relations.
Claudia: From the beginning of your time in the German Bundestag, you have been a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Rapporteur on the Trans-Atlantic relations and the Western Balkan region. How would you describe the transatlantic relation between Germany and the USA?
Peter: The relations between Germany and the USA are essential for Germany and an integral part of German foreign politics. They form one of the main pillars on which we define and base our foreign politics activities. We share the same values, believe in the importance of a democratic society with the individual freedom of every citizen. Germany is aware of the historic role the USA played for all Germans. The peaceful reunification process of both parts of Germany would never have been possible without our American partners. 25 years after the German reunification, we face common challenges worldwide, where our two nations must play jointly a leading role following the idea of a Leadership in Partnership. Among those are the fight against international terrorism, cyber security, climate change, international trade, regional crises in the Near and Middle East, to name but a few.
Claudia: Last month, the U.S. and EU negotiators for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) gathered in Miami for their 11th round of negotiations. How will TTIP impact the German economy?
Peter: A number of scientific studies predict economic growth and job creation in a “TTIP-world”. More importantly though, I strongly believe in the overall positive impulse that a TTIP will have on not only economic aspects, but also in the transatlantic relations between the USA and the EU in general. It will bring the two regions to a new level of cooperation and joint addressing of global challenges. TTIP is a great chance to set high standards for further free-trade agreements by creating the world largest single market, covering more than 800 Million people, 50% of the global output and a third of global trade in goods and services. Doing away with bureaucratic obstacles, providing much easier market access and reciprocally will do good especially to SME.
Claudia: Given the importance of the digital economy in creating economic growth today, how important will it be to promote digital trade in TTIP?
Peter: Digitalization of almost all parts of our lives is a development that is rapidly ongoing. I consider it vital to promote digital aspects of trade in TTIP. In the aftermath of the ECJ [European Court of Justice] decision on Safe Harbor, we need to strive for a good and practicable method to exchange personal data between Europe and the USA while at the same time guaranteeing the highest standards of data protection possible and desirable. Given the importance of digitalization, I do not think it would be a good idea to have a separate chapter within TTIP dealing exclusively with this matter. Rather, it should be taken care of in a separate regime, and only directly trade-related aspects of digitalization should be covered by TTIP.
Claudia: Europe and particularly Germany is touched by an unprecedented refugees migration. How is Germany handling all this?
Peter: For Germany, dealing with the large number of refugees is one if the biggest challenges – if not the biggest – since the reunification in 1990. Current estimates place the figure at up to one million refugees for 2015 alone in Germany. As Chancellor Angela Merkel said, we still can manage the situation, thanks to many volunteers and fast reacting German government and emergency forces. We nevertheless have to consider how far we can go: The Bundestag (i.e. the Federal Parliament) has passed a package of bills addressing the issue of asylum seekers with the aim to fasten the process until we know if an asylum seeker can legally stay in German or has to leave the country. The laws are quite clear about this. Furthermore, the German government has taken several measures on both national level as well as in direct consultation with its European partners to find solutions for the current challenge. Germany is a society proud of having no walls and fences.
Claudia: What are the key measures the German government is adopting to integrate the refugees and how are German people living all this?
Peter: The key measures are to establish European mechanisms of sharing responsibility between the Member States in receiving and providing for refugees, a faster processing of the applications of the refugees and a faster return of rejected asylum seekers. Accepted refugees must learn our language as fast as possible, the language is key in order to integrate foreigners in our society and in the labor market.