Dr. Markus Ingenlath
(Secretary-General Franco-German Youth Office DFJW/OFAJ, Partner GFYL)
Opening Speech German French Young Leaders Conference 2017
Berlin – Haus der Commerzbank, 11 May 2017
Monsieur le Président de la République,
Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,
Au nom de l’Office Franco Allemand pour la Jeunesse, je vous salue très chaleureusement. Je vous souhaite la bienvenue ici, également au nom de Madame Angrand, ma collègue française avec qui nous dirigeons l’OFAJ en tandem et qui est malheureusement retenue à Paris ce soir.
Ich begrüße Sie im Namen des Deutsch-Französischen Jugendwerks (DFJW) sehr herzlich und übersende auch die Grüße meiner französischen Kollegin Angrand.
Votre parrainage, ainsi que votre présence sont un grand honneur pour cette German French Young Leaders Conférence et pour l’OFAJ, comme soutien principal et source d’inspiration de ce forum. De par votre parcours, vous assurez ce soir le dialogue intergénérationnel, ainsi que l’expérience de la coopération franco-allemande la plus étroite dans l’intérêt de l’Europe, et plus largement, dans l’intérêt de l’idée européenne.
Ihre Bereitschaft zur Übernahme der Patenschaft der diesjährigen Ausgabe der Young Leaders Conference und Ihre Anwesenheit, sehr geehrter Herr Staatspräsident, ist für die Organisatoren dieses Events wie für das DFJW als Hauptpartner und Initiator eine große Ehre. Mit der Autorität Ihrer politischen Vita können Sie heute Abend den Dialog zwischen den Generationen wie auch die Erfahrung aus der deutsch-französischen Zusammenarbeit im Dienst Europas und der europäischen Idee sicherstellen.
Please allow me now to continue in English because I do not want to exceed my time, an impossible task by respecting strict equality of the two languages French and German.
"A couple of weeks after the British PM in Brussels formally asked to leave the EU and a few days after the presidential elections in France [...], we become aware, more than ever before, of the significance of interdependency between our two nations.
The first steps towards the introduction of the European Monetary System (EMS) in order to reduce the exchange rate risks between the member states of the European Community as well as the foundation of G7 in a context of great economic insecurity are just two examples of the joint political initiatives taken with Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. These were strong signals which still have an impact nowadays.
Mr President, I think your speech this evening as well as this Young Leaders Conference is very timely. A couple of weeks after the British PM in Brussels formally asked to leave the EU and a few days after the presidential elections in France (and before the parliamentary elections in France and Germany as well as the government renewal in both countries), we become aware, more than ever before, of the significance of interdependency between our two nations.
The German media are following the political development in France as closely as never seen before – it was even possible to follow the TV discussions in real time and translated into German – and I would even say that we witnessed a further step to a real European public sphere and civil society! Actually, German politicians discuss frankly how to adapt German policy in order to make the cooperation with President Macron successful for the sake of our European destiny – even though M. Macron is not yet in office!
A time of big mutual interest can be also a time of big misunderstandings. We witnessed that Germans tried to follow and to understand the big carousel of candidates in France, the rise and fall of political stars, the behaviour of some of the candidates after the first round and of course of the electorate.
Of course, the Franco German Youth Office (FGYO) is particularly concerned about the vote of the young people between 18 to 24 years, with a rather high abstention rate and a clear preference for political parties which hope to gain votes with critical attitude towards Europe. We at the FGYO know, of course, what can be done against the dissemination of false information or all types of stereotypes and prejudices. It will not be a surprise to tell you that there is nothing like the direct contact between people as the FGYO and many of our partner organisations experience it for over 50 years. The effects are very positive – you learn another cultural viewpoint, you see ”through the glasses” of your counterpart and at the end you will change yourself – at least a little bit. This mission of the FGYO has of course to be adapted to the circumstances of actual times.
Today this means for us to bring together as many young people as possible from both countries that do not have the experience of international educational or professional career. Who even do not dare to leave their urban quarter or village and – in many cases feel excluded from the wealth of their nation. And who tend to follow the promises of populist parties... The FGYO wants to raise their participation rate within our programs significantly. By doing so we want to contribute to the ideas of participation, democracy and stability in Europe.
"But in these rough times for the European project we need more: We need especially from young leaders in France and Germany a deeper mutual and intercultural understanding."
But why are we supporting this conference? You do not seem to be the right target group: mobility, foreign languages, open mindness – these items seem to be your natural equipment to foster the challenges of your daily work in an international background. But in these rough times for the European project we need more: We need especially from young leaders in France and Germany a deeper mutual and intercultural understanding.
We know that at the time when you Mr. President, were President of France and even 20 years ago it was very natural that nearly every young leader in France and Germany spent a time of his education in the other country. Even if it was only for a couple of days for a school exchange program! Today many of you took the opportunities of a globalized world and spend your school or study time anywhere but not in France and Germany.
This is ok, but by doing so we tend to forget the close neighbour, his language, his culture and traditions. And there is a risk that we are taken by surprise and misunderstanding when we suddenly have to work together very closely in order to maintain our common project Europe. Mr. President, I need not to underline it you better know the need for strong personal ties from your experience by working together with Helmut Schmidt.
Therefore the FGYO strongly supports this Young Leaders Conference which gathers more than 80 high potentials around the topic of digitalisation which unites “France and Germany”. We even “forget” some of our key principles like the strict use of French and German language, an age limit of 30 years and so on.
For the purpose of this conference the following issue is more important: “crafting European solution” and I would like to add “shaping European spirit by bringing French and German leaders of tomorrow together”. I thank Mr. Skrylnikow and the whole team for the tremendous job they have done and wish you a fruitful conference.
Bonne chance, guten Austausch und herzlichen Dank für Ihre Aufmerksamkeit!