Berlin Stories: Interest In America Strengthens Transatlantic Ties, Says CDU's Johanna Wanka

Sep 16, 2013

Professor Dr. Johanna Wanka
Credit Steffen Kugler / Bundesregierung

In the fifth part of our series interviewing representatives from the five major political parties, Sudha David-Wilp of the German Marshall Fund spoke to Johanna Wanka, Education Minister and CDU member, about transatlantic relations in the run-up to the German election.

How do young people in Germany view the U.S.' recent strategic focus on Asia?

I believe that young people in Germany are very interested in America and the USA but also have a big interest in Asia. There’s no competition, and we want to promote this in the educational and scientific spheres through international student exchange. Germany is currently the third most popular country for foreign students, and I believe this shows that there a lot of movement here.

There is a lot of buzz regarding the transatlantic trade and investment partnership. If TTIP is passed, how should Germany prepare future generations for a more competitive marketplace?

Crucial for the situation in Germany, but also for our prosperity, is education and science. We must prepare ourselves for the international market with such reforms as those that were introduced at a European level in Bologna. Master program homogenization, for example. We are trying to better place ourselves in a global educational context.

In your opinion, what is Germany’s most pressing problem today?

Germany has successfully weathered the financial crisis. It is now stronger than it was before, but there is still more ahead of us if we consider the overall situation in Europe where Germany is a forerunner and very important a country.

Certainly the Euro crisis and other items have been brought up in this campaign season. What do you think the potential outcomes of the German Election could mean for transatlantic relations?

I hope that regardless of the outcome of the election, the good relationship and the growing relationship which we now have, the transatlantic relationship, remains so and continues to grow. For me the young people and their huge interest in America will guarantee that.

You’re the only person in Chancellor Merkel’s cabinet from the former East Germany. It’s been almost 25 years since the fall of the wall. Why do you think the transatlantic relationship is still important after 25 years of a united Germany?

Yes, it is very important. It has evolved positively, and I think it has a good future.

This interview is the fifth in a special series created by Berlin Stories and the German Marshall Fund. Mrs. Wanka's interview answers were translated from German to English.

Berlin Stories Originals are personal essays about the city, read aloud by the writers who wrote them.

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.