Berlin Stories: Reinhard Buetikofer Says Europe 'Opening Up' To Asia

Sep 10, 2013

Reinhard Buetikofer
Credit Henning Kaiser / Getty Images

In the third part of our series interviewing representatives from the five major political parties, Sudha David-Wilp of the German Marshall Fund spoke to Reinhard Buetikofer, the former chairman of the German Green Party about transatlantic relations in the run-up to the German election.

Reinhard Buetikofer is currently European Parliament Minister.

How have Europeans reacted to the United States' recent focus on Asia?

My take is that the immediate reaction from many European quarters was complaining. I remember Hillary Clinton speaking about that when she challenged this self-pitying attitude, and basically told the Europeans, 'Well, maybe you should do your own pivot.' And since then I think there has been a clear change of European attitudes. In the European parliament it's obvious. People are thinking more about Asia more broadly, not just about China. So even though Europe is by far not where the Americans are,  Europe is opening up. And in public discussions, and even in private discussions, the need to redefine our own attitudes and policies towards Asia- that's clearly a more common understanding presently.

U.S. President Barack Obama, in his last State of the Union address, talked about the so-called TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. What do you think are the greatest challenges for TTIP?

Well I would say the greatest single challenge for TTIP is whether we are willing to consider that a geo-strategic initiative or whether the agenda is going to be hijacked by some very narrow, sectorial economic interests.  I believe that questions like, 'Can we get beyond the perennial controversies regarding GMO will be core. I think we should also try to use the opportunity and tackling some problems that some of our leaders have not yet thought about. For instance, both of our economies are somehow confronted with the need to transform into low carbon economies in the future. Could we use the negotiation to lay a foundation for that transition? That would be a great idea.

What do the potential outcomes of the German election mean for transatlantic relations?

Well, I don't see any of the possible coalitions differing fundamentally on transatlantic relations. No one would stop TTIP. No one would question NATO. No one would tone down the criticism of NSA. The problems will stay. The aspirations will stay. We will still have to deal with each other.

This interview is the third in a special series created by Berlin Stories and the German Marshall Fund.

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.