September 7 , 1999
Volume 52, No. 3
German diplomat Walther Kiep addresses Halle Luncheon
Old stereotypes and grudges will be difficult to shed, but that is what not only Germany but the rest of the West must do in the next millenium, said German statesman, businessman and educator Walther Kiep at an Aug. 30 luncheon sponsored by the Halle Institute for Global Learning.
"Globalization came upon us like an earthquake" after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Kiep told an audience of about 75 in the Carlos Museum reception hall. "Globalization is not really an option-it's the world of tomorrow, and we consider European integration the European solution to the challenge."
Kiep is chairman of Atlantik-Brücke e.V. ("Atlantic Bridge"), an organization dedicated to furthering understanding between Germany and the United States. According to Halle Director Marion Creekmore, Atlantik-Brücke is collaborating with the institute on a study abroad trip to Germany next spring for 15 Emory faculty. The luncheon also honored Beate Lindemann, Atlantic-Brücke program director and executive vice-chairperson.
The solidarity of the European Union, expressed economically in the unifying Euro currency, is a statement of "the utmost confidence and determination of Europe to speak with one voice," Kiep said, and it is necessary to maintain the partnership between Europe and America. He talked with admiration for the recently published The Lexus and the Olive Tree, by Thomas Friedman, and its assertion that globalization as manifested in the EU does not equal the surrender of sovereignty. "Globalization doesn't mean the end of a society that has grown over the years," Kiep said. "The 'software' of nations must be maintained."
Though Kiep admitted Germany has been slow to react in some areas--"We're in danger of being the taillight of the European train, as far as internal changes," he quipped--he did say the country is making strides economically. During his recent tour of U.S. cities in the Midwest, Kiep said he was amazed to hear local mayors speak of balanced budgets for their cities, and that he found unbelieveable the fact that these cities' biggest worry was a labor shortage.
"It is amazing, for the first time, to hear [government officials] in Germany speaking about a balanced budget by the year 2006," Kiep said. "We have to do our homework to strengthen our country and its ability to face the challenges globalization has forced upon us."
Of course, Germany forced some of its upheavals upon itself. Kiep said the country is still dealing with the reunification of a decade ago, but the problems are more psychological than economic. He said many East Germans considered the fall of the Wall to be "more an annexation than a unification," and there is lingering dissatisfaction for not being recognized for years of quietly opposing the former Communist government.
"There is a whole generation of people who lived under a government they had no chance to vote out of office and were forced to accept," Kiep said. "There is some resentment among Germans 50 to 75 years old toward the attitude of some of the younger people that they've wasted their lives. They had no choice."
Kiep spoke of the opportunities in a post-Cold War world but also said there are challenges from events that might not have happened during "the ice age." For example, he said the recent wars waged by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic would not have happened during the Cold War. Still, the rewards far outweigh the problems.
"For the first time in my lifetime, I see a world that can be shaped and improved, which never happened from 1945 to 1989," Kiep said. "And the outcome will determine the quality of life on this planet for generations to come."