In the fourth part of our series interviewing representatives from the five major political parties, Sudha David-Wilp of the German Marshall Fund spoke to Stefan Liebich, a member of Parliament representing the Left Party, about transatlantic relations in the run-up to the German election.
What does the United States' recent strategic policy focus on Asia mean for the transatlantic relationship?
I think this is a very normal development. I think it is completely clear that the president of the United States has to manage his politics about the interests of the United States and not of the Europe friends. But I have to see that my older colleagues are sometimes not very happy with that.
When it comes to the relations between Europe and the U.S. right now, the topic of discussion is the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). What do you think is the biggest challenge for TTIP to come to fruition?
To be honest, my party, or the parliamentary group of our party, decided that it is not a good idea to open these negotiations. I was not very happy with it because I think we should start, we should discuss, and then we can see the problems and decide to go on or not to go on. But most of my colleagues think that there would be no chance for the good standards we have in Europe in environment or data protection or something like that, and so they decided not to go on with it. I think there will be a lot of problems, but we should decide in the end.
What do you think Germany’s most pressing problems are today?
I think the most important topic we have in Germany is the Euro crisis. The people here in Germany, we are living on a very high standard. We have a very low unemployment rate, but we can see what is happening in the South of Europe. And so the people are afraid, and I think most of them are very happy with our current government because they have a feeling that this government is protecting us from the problems. I am from the opposition. I think it’s not completely right. I think we will have problems too, and it would be a good idea to help the countries in the south of Europe, not because of them, because it is in our own interest.
You grew up behind the Wall and saw the wall come down and became a politician afterwards. Nearly 25 years after the fall of the Wall, do you think the transatlantic relationship is still important?
It is, and I had to learn about this because we as people from East Germany are from the former GDR. We didn’t have so close contact to the United States. Of course not. And I think in the last 20 year, and especially after September 11, there were developments where most of the young people make contacts, private contacts, or business contacts or something like that, and we know that there is a big strong power on the other side of the Atlantic, and I think these relations are very, very important. I think they will change, and they will no longer be based on the history of the Luftbruecke (airlift) or something like that. It will be based on the interest of Europe, of Germany, and the United States too. But I think these are very important relations. And I will find that we will have these relations in the future too.
This interview is the fourth in a special series created by Berlin Stories and the German Marshall Fund.
The project was created by the novelist Anna Winger in 2009, and since then, more than 100 Originals have been broadcast on NPR Berlin and NPR Worldwide. Berlin Stories are produced in Germany by Anna Winger, Melanie Sevcenko, and Victoria Gosling. For updates, Like Berlin Stories on Facebook or follow the show on Twitter @BerlinStoriesFM.