Recently the German Ambassador, Georg Boomgaarden, visited the University to attend the annual International Association for the Study of German Politics conference, held on 26th May.
During his brief visit, Communications Officer Louise Russell was able to catch him for a few minutes to find out what life as an Ambassador is like and the importance of good international relations.
LR: In what ways to you feel that British and German universities can work together and with what success?
GB: I think it is proven that they can. Germany has more than 160 partnerships with universities, institutes and research organisations and this number shows that it is not just possible - it is working! When I first came to the UK I was surprised by the number of Germans who are now working in British universities. There’s slightly less British academics working in German universities but this is definitely to do with language - if you are English speaking you can work anywhere in the world. I believe that getting ahead in Europe is to know at least three languages!
LR: Do you think a greater emphasis should be placed on the role of education?
GB: The future of Europe depends 100 per cent on education. The competitive edge is in research, investigation and innovation and education is responsible for all of these. You need knowledge in society and you need to know how to make things.
LR: Is Germany experiencing the same problems as the UK in the housing sector?
GB: There is a huge difference. House prices in Germany have been stable for twelve years now. If you want a mortgage you it is usual to just get 60 per cent. Private individual debt is very low. Germany also enjoys 12 per cent saving rates and there is no inflation problem although it does have the same banking problems because of the globalised world.
LR: What does your role as the German Ambassador involve?
GB: First of all it is my role is to represent my country; I am the face of Germany. Secondly, my job is to inform my government and be an interpreter between my government and another. It involves giving context to decision making. For example I will advise on who might have vested interests, who the pressure groups are and what public opinion is.
The third function is to give a service to the public. There are now between 100,000 and 300,000 Germans living in Britain. The Embassy also has applicants from third countries who want visas for Germany. This is all very normal and administrative work that has to be done in the Embassy and this part of the service is not to be underestimated!
Finally, the Embassy has to be understood and that means public diplomacy. I have to maintain excellent relationships with the press as they form public opinion.
LR: Finally, is a typical day for you?
BG: The problem is for an Ambassador is that there are no typical days! If an ambassador has a ’typical day’ every day just sitting at a desk that person is doing the wrong job!
Coming soon... an article on the School of Languages and Social Sciences' growing contribution to Anglo-German relations.
Words by Louise Russell