In the latest edition of “De Cara al mundo”, Atalayar’s program on Onda Madrid, we had the intervention of David Henneberger, director of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, who spoke about the current situation in Europe, and in Germany in particular, after the energy crisis triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The director of the Naumann Foundation also explained the Foundation’s new project with the documentary film Voices in Movement, a work on immigration in the Mediterranean.
The German Liberals in the tripartite government with the Social Democrats and the Greens are facing a serious test: the serious crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Yes, when we first formed this government late last year, no one could have imagined what would happen in February with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The current coalition is in permanent crisis and the challenges are enormous.
Angela Merkel has said in recent hours that Putin’s threats must be heeded. Angela Merkel now has a lot to explain about the decisions taken under her government, including shutting down nuclear power plants and leaving Germany in the hands of Russian gas.
Absolutely. We try to correct the mistakes of the past. One of them is the decision to close nuclear power plants, and the other is independence from Russian energy. For decades, we have been in a situation of dependence, which would not be a good thing in democracies, because we have to diversify energy supplies.
Are the Germans prepared to be cold this winter, or even close factories if there is not enough gas because of the Russian gas cut?
That’s the big question. It’s a question we all have to ask ourselves, although it’s obviously colder and more urgent in Germany. How much are we willing to pay for freedom and democracy? We see that in the east of the country, because of its communist history, they are closer to certain Russian elements or to Russian influence, which we have seen in the demonstrations against the sanctions. Italy is another case, we have to watch very carefully how the population and private companies react to price increases.
Personally, I fear that we are getting to a point where consumers and private businesses will have such severe problems that a recession could occur. In Germany there will certainly be one.
European unity is essential and Germany’s role in leading this unity is essential.
Of course, if we are looking for something positive in this situation, it is European unity. The unity not only of Europe but also of NATO is impressive, even if no one would have imagined it before. It is now a question of consolidating and maintaining it. Again, there is the question of Italy, which is generating a lot of uncertainty with last Sunday’s results, but I don’t see us letting ourselves be divided in the face of this situation.
Your work here in Madrid at the Naumann Foundation, which focuses mainly on the Mediterranean, wanted to devote particular attention to a documentary: Voices in Movement, a work on immigration that you made. A call for equality, isn’t it?
Yes, not in the sense of equality of outcome, but of equality of opportunity, which we liberals support. It is everyone’s responsibility to take advantage of these opportunities, but we must put more emphasis on education, on access to the labor market, access to health care, access to job creation. business, and that’s what we’re looking for with this documentary. The face of immigration is sometimes very different from what the media show us on a daily basis: there are problems of integration or protection at borders, of course, but it is also true that the rate of immigrants seeking to creating their own business and not depending on the state with, for example, social transfers is higher than among the native population in most European countries. This is the case in Germany, for example.
In this documentary there are faces of young migrants who are learning, who are starting social projects and who, in the end, bring something positive to Spanish society, in this case Barcelona.
We are very proud of this documentary because it also opens doors for the migrant community, because there is no other way: we have to live together. In Spain and in many Western countries, we agree that we need immigration if we want to maintain pensions or if we want to maintain economic growth; in the long term, we are understaffed.
A fact of this documentary. Since 2016, the migrant population represents 70% of the new workforce in the Spanish labor market. We must always look at the glass as half full and not half empty, because the stigma that is often applied to immigration by the media is always negative, whereas what the migrant population is looking for is a job, a life worthy, it contributes to the social security system, which means that they also finance the services they have with their contributions. I think that’s an important insight in this Voices in Movement documentary.
Absolutely. From a liberal point of view, it is essential to offer opportunities, both to immigrants and to the Spaniards themselves. If for me, as a German, it is difficult to set up a business in Germany, can you imagine what it is for an immigrant? So it’s a bit unfair to blame migrants who sometimes can’t work or start a business because it’s too complicated for them. So that’s the approach we should have in public policies and regulations, to facilitate the process.
Where can you watch this documentary?
It can be seen on our YouTube channel, which is md-go.com.
Finally, how is the Mediterranean affected by the Foundation’s objectives? The countries bordering North Africa were already emerging from the crisis caused by the pandemic, now there is the Russian invasion of Ukraine with the energy and food crisis. These countries are suffering the most and need Europe’s attention.
Yes absolutely. The situation in North Africa is complicated. However, already during the Covid crisis we have seen positive developments, with what is in the new sharing. European companies looking for suppliers in the Maghreb to replace suppliers in China, for example. Today, the issue of clean hydrogen is gaining much more momentum. We are again talking about new agreements between Africa and Europe.
Spain and Germany are negotiating, despite the challenges posed by France, new energy connections between the two countries. We see positive developments despite the difficulties. We also see the rapprochement of Spain and Germany with Morocco, which also has to do with the geopolitical situation. There are many shadows, but there are more rapprochements in certain sectors.
And the terrorist threat in the Sahel, which is trying to destabilize this entire region in what would be a humanitarian, migratory, political, security, etc. disaster. NATO has now turned its strategic concept towards this area because the threat is serious.
Absolutely. I think the strategy Putin developed in Syria is the strategy he developed in the countries of the African continent, in the Sahel and also in East Africa. We have to be very careful. NATO has not traditionally played this role and it will be difficult for it to accept it and develop military strategies. Within the European Union, we must also define a common foreign policy because we often lack a common objective, in particular because of the history of European countries with African countries. But I think stopping the influence of Putin and Russia is a great opportunity to work together, because we have the same goal.