Peter Kettner is the head of the policy division for cultural relations and educational policy at the Federal Foreign Office: “The title is quite complicated, but actually what we are doing is kind of what others call soft power. It is about establishing a basis to foreign policy by bringing together people and societies. Because it might be more stable than just working together between governments.”
Mr. Kettner presented current issues in German society and Germany itself. The lecture was transcribed.
Presentation by Peter Kettner
© Christian Lue, Unsplash.
"I will give you a glimpse on what I think is going on in German society as the issues we will be dealing with in the upcoming years. And, of course, I will also talk about the role that the creative industry plays in Germany and in foreign policy as well.
As you might know, we are going to have general elections in the end of September. There is a vivid debate on several issues in German society right now. When we think about probable results of the elections, one of the consequences might be that the green party in Germany might be in the next government, and for them, climate change or fighting climate change is one of the key issues. This is something that will be even more important in the upcoming years because we will have a number of new members of parliament, especially coming from the younger generation out of the Fridays for Future movement. This is something that really moves Germany right now.
The climate change or the climate crisis will be one of the most important issues.
Of course, the pandemic also moves Germany as in all the countries worldwide. We do not know where we are heading right now, so numbers are going up. Again, we used to have quite a good vaccination rate, that is slowly stopping now because there are a lot of people that might see themselves as vaccination sceptics. This is not only a health issue but also a society issue in the sense that we see a growing gap in German society, as it is in other societies as well, between those who say vaccination is good and COVID-19 is a huge problem and others who don´t see vaccination as something that might save their lives. And this is something that goes much deeper than just being a health issue.
In general the gap in German society is growing. We have a growing number of people who are openly racist. We have a growing number of people who talk about “alternative facts” and fake news. We have a growing problem with acceptance of democratic instruments and democratic procedures. And that is also because we have not really understood how social media and digitalisation has been influencing or are still influencing democratic procedures. And that is a problem for democracy but also for minorities because they are under attack from right-wing extremists.
We have not really understood how social media and digitalisation has been influencing or are still influencing democratic procedures.
Another gap is that we see a growing urban rural gap. There are regions in Germany that are left behind, where, for instance internet is not working, where we do not see any schools or kindergartens, shops have left, doctors, too, and people seem to lose their confidence in the state's ability to solve problems.
Another point is the question on how we deal with multi-cultural and multi-ethnic realities. Germany is a multicultural, multi-ethnic country. Although, some parts have not yet come to the point where they accept this fact, and still a lot of people do not see that diversity as something that enriches German society and that helps us in getting along with a number of issues on the international level as well and helps us in developing tools for future challenges.
Also in our foreign cultural policy that has led to a change of mindset in the past two decades. Today we say that migrant cultural influences, post-migrant cultural influences, have a big influence on what we are doing in foreign cultural policy.
Another point is the role of Europe, of the European Union, how Germany acts within the European Union, how it sees its future in the European Union. Not only as an economic or political framework for acting together with the other countries, also as a tool: when acting together the European Union can play a strong role on the international level.
We see a growing need to get to act together as European Union. At the same time, we also see the split within the European Union on a number of issues. But still, for us the European Union is one of the most important continuities of the past decades. It helped us in getting to terms with our neighbours, in developing perspectives in this very complicated region. So, for every government in Germany this will always be one of the most important issues: to see the European Union as a central pillar of foreign policy.
For us the European Union is one of the most important continuities of the past decades.
Last but not least I would like to talk about culture and creative industries. The most striking point is the fact that you do not find that one and only cultural centre. But a lot of centres, culture is very strong in our regions, everywhere. If it comes to foreign cultural policy, for instance there is a day-to-day cultural foreign policy in nearly every village: an exchange of football clubs, choirs or clubs in general with other countries, that means that people from different countries are getting in touch with each other and getting to know each other. And that definitely helps us in bringing together societies.
We have a multitude and a diversity of cultural players. When it comes to creative industries, a lot of people only see Berlin - and it is true we have a lot of creative industries in Berlin, but you will find people all over the country, who are working in design or in other forms of creative industries.
This is not only about culture, but it is also very important as an economic factor because there are more than 100.000 people working in that sector in Germany and it is much more than 1 billion Euros that has been earned by the creative industries every year in Germany."
We would like to thank Peter Kettner for his presentation!