Diplomatensymposium

This year, Training for International Diplomats offers a four-week-long “Diplomatensymposium” for young diplomats mainly from Europe, the Southern Caucasus, and Central Asia who are currently accredited to Germany. The Symposium gives the participants a unique opportunity to experience German politics, economy, and culture from a variety of perspectives. Talks and discussions with experts introduce participants to important aspects relevant to their professional life in Germany.

 

While considering global issues, Europe, domestic politics, the media, economic policy, cultural dialogue and civil society, the programme is closely linked to current affairs. The Diplomatensymposium offers a tour d’horizon through Germany, introducing prominent personalities, institutions and issues across the country that grant insights far beyond what can be experienced in the everyday working routine. The participants gain new insights and valuable contacts for their work, thereby expanding their own network and enhancing interpersonal cooperation. The programme is mostly hosted online.

 

A Report for the Yearbook 2020 by Dr Karolien Michiels (Belgium)

The Diplomatensymposium 2020 was the response to the traditional Diplomatenkolleg, a programme for diplomats posted to Berlin, necessitated by the pandemic. This year’s version was shorter but intensive with ten programme days in just four weeks.

 

Most of the 15 participants were relatively new to Berlin and had arrived in the capital at a time of virtual meetings and teleworking. There was palpable enthusiasm about participating in the programme which immediately created a familiar atmosphere.

 

Even though the set-up was different, the content retained the same high quality that had so enthused my colleagues at the Embassy. What was on offer was a broad overview of topics key to understanding Germany: ranging from politics and state structure to environmental policy and the media landscape, as well as challenges within society.

 

It would be foolhardy to try and summarise all the components. As a diplomat from a neighbouring country, I was fascinated to see differences in the structure of our respective ministries. I was pleased one speaker managed to highlight the basic challenges of the budget without getting caught up in formalities and it was great to have the opportunity to discuss not just German but European security as a whole.

 

What really struck me was that Germany is not just a permanent feature in Europe but also that Europe is a permanent feature in discourse in Germany, whether the focus is on healthcare or German-Chinese relations. We gained a better understanding of German polycentrism both political and economic.

 

The breaks offered the perfect opportunity to hear different perspectives from various parts of the world: the New Zealand angle on the German Government policy guidelines on the Indo-Pacific region; Mongolia’s economic relations with Europe; a conversation with a colleague from Kazakhstan about the country we both used to call home.

 

Not everything was focused on state organisations. We had frank talks with a former director of the German Association of the Automotive Industry and the Chairman of the Board of the Investitionsbank Berlin. The dialogue about healthcare was particularly beneficial, also because it was not restricted to the COVID 19 pandemic.

 

Heartfelt thanks goes out to the team which organises such programmes, particularly because the programme had to switch to an online format after only a week due to new corona restrictions. This is a challenge the team mastered with aplomb. The technology worked without a hitch; the catering a particular reason why we agreed to meet in person down the line; the meetings were moderated with remarkable competence. The warmth emanating within the group even made it through our screens. I look forward to further cooperation in the years to come.