Forty renowned individuals from the business, cultural and political spheres in Spain and Germany convened last week at the invitation of Banco Santander, the ICO Foundation and the Bertelsmann Stiftung to discuss current viewpoints and future developments in both countries. Liz Mohn, vice-chair of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board, and Matías Rodríguez Inciarte, vice-president of Banco Santander, welcomed the participants to the Bertelsmann office in Berlin.
A number of speakers from Spain were present, including State Secretary for Communication Carmen Martinez Castro and Escolano Román, president of ICO, the Spanish development bank. Germany’s government was represented by Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth of the Federal Foreign Office and government spokesman Steffen Seibert. Participants also included Spain’s ambassador to Germany, Pablo García-Berdoy, as well as members of the Spanish and German parliaments.The participants agreed that the economic crisis has not influenced the attitudes people in Germany and Spain have toward each other. On the contrary, German-Spanish relations are characterized by a high degree of stability, something that can be seen in the respect the Spanish have had for Germany for decades and in Spain’s remaining a travel destination for many Germans. According to Mohn, Germany and Spain have much in common. “The Germans like and respect the Spanish. I am also glad to see that the economic crisis has not changed the image that most Germans have of the Spanish,” she said. “Yet in light of the high levels of unemployment among the young, the danger is present that an entire generation of young people will have few prospects for the future and will give up completely as a result. It’s in exactly these types of situations that the importance of solidarity within Europe becomes clear.”
As discussion at the event showed, it is therefore important that each country remains attentive to and supports the other. If Germany and Spain were to work together more closely, they could serve as a bridge enabling more in-depth exchange between Northern and Southern Europe, and not only in the economic sphere. “Germany and Spain were and are two important countries for the past, present and future of Europe and the European Union,” said Rodríguez Inciarte. “We’ve done a lot to realize our dream of Europe, and we both firmly believe that Europe is a forward-looking project and a global example of integration, democracy, economic development and social progress.”
The conference in Berlin is part of the German-Spanish Forum, which since its inception in 2002 has offered high-level policymakers, business leaders, cultural representatives and academic specialists from both countries one of the most important platforms for exchanging views on future challenges facing Spain and Germany, within the framework of the countries’ bilateral-relations.