By Fredrik von Bothmer
I do not believe that I am exaggerating when I say that meeting an ambassador to the U.S. is an exciting opportunity for any student of law and diplomacy. Well, during Fletcher’s Washington DC career trip, seven of us had the honor of meeting Dr. Peter Wittig, the German Ambassador to the U.S., who generously received us in picturesque Georgetown.
The annual DC career trip in February featured events across two days with 200+ speakers and 300+ students participating. The seven students who met with Dr. Wittig agreed that it was the absolute highlight of their trip. The discussion focused on current world events affecting both the US and Germany. The Ambassador started off with giving insight and background on Germany’s and the US’ roles in the attempt to end the war in Syria. As a logical consequence, the group discussed the refugee situation in Europe and Germany’s chances of convincing other EU member states to support a common approach towards refugees. Ambassador Wittig stressed the importance of also coordinating with the states of first entry, notably Greece, and the current diplomatic consultations ongoing between Germany and Turkey.
Afterwards, Dr. Wittig addressed the bigger picture of the current state of the European Union, including the potential for, and accompanying risks of, a Brexit. He moved on to describe how the situation in Crimea has changed world politics. As a consequence, he explained, NATO is reviving, and the growing demand for Germany to do more financially and militarily in an unstable world. According to Dr. Wittig, however, Germany stands ready to take on more responsibility. In Ambassador Wittig’s words, “Germany has maybe not aspired this role but has grown to become a European Union leader teamed up with other EU powers.” This was shown in the Greek debt crisis, where Germany was propelled into the leadership position – and the same seems to be the case now in the refugee crisis.
With this, Ambassador Wittig closed by once again addressing transatlantic relations: Germany is willing and able to do more, he maintained, although it will only be able to do so if the US keeps being actively engaged in world politics. One example of this positive leadership is Germany’s chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) 2016.
In the end, we had an enlightening discussion with the Ambassador. He encouraged the Fletcher students to take up leadership positions on either side of the Atlantic Ocean. The students got an idea of where their careers might (hopefully) lead them. The Ambassador, on the other hand, extended a warm invitation to the Fletcher students during their next trip to D.C.
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