Welcome Speech of the President of the Hamburg Parliament at the International Conference „The Future of Transatlantic Relations“ (FOTAR 2018)

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Dear Mr Steinbrück,
Dear Professor Kotzur,
Ladies and Gentlemen,


Europe was close to the heart of Helmut Schmidt, the worldly politician with Hamburg roots. And so were good relationships to the NATO, and to the important partner for German economy, the USA.


During his time as German chancellor and later as esteemed publisher of the “ZEIT”, he was a regular dialog partner of the respective American administration that appreciated his advice.

At times, the White House explicitly asked him for his assessment of the global situation. I am sure, attitude and policy of the current US-President would alienate him. He would be shocked about the style and the effects of a policy themed: “America first”.


The French President Macron just put that very right on the occasion of the end of WW I-celebrities last week –  memorizing 17 million dead –, when he said: “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By putting our own interests first, with no regard for others, we erase the very thing that a nation holds dearest, its moral values”.


The results of this American policy are the issue of this symposium commonly held by the Europa-Kolleg Hamburg and the Bundeskanzler-Helmut-Schmidt-Stiftung. As it is the first conference of its kind in Hamburg, I am delighted that there are so many relevant contributions announced, and it is a special honor for me as President of the Hamburg parliament to welcome you all.


The Hamburg parliament supports this conference and we do hope that from the speeches and discussions some ideas how to heal and stabilize the tensed Transatlantic relations will be gained.


The punitive customs that already entered into force and the threat to widen them on European goods already influences the world trade negatively, which also for our Free and Hanseatic City is a delicate situation, since the freight traffic from and to the USA is an important factor for the Hamburg port. So, we do not want a further intensification of this protectionism.


There are some reasons to watch out and to be worried because of the “America first”-position that president Trump underlined when speaking in front of the United Nations, opposing in every sense the existence of a global world. And he did not revise this position after the midterm elections last week.


He is still working on the disruption of his country and even forcing nationalism. And what is more, he is even trying to infect the European Union with this disruption.


Ladies & Gentlemen,


Such nationalism does not only harm global trade, but also the global climate. In Hamburg, we are very aware of this fact. We make an important contribution to the exploration of the world climate change: Hamburg enjoys an excellent reputation, also internationally, because of our German Climate Computing Center.


Only a few weeks ago, their outstanding results were honored with another excellence-title and high funding means. If there is one thing that takes global effects and that impacts every single place in the world, then this is the global warming. The rise of the sea level is perceptible on all the shores in the world – also the North American ones. On the other hand, we see parched countries with no chance to feed their people.


Therefore, Hamburg has set ambitious goals to bring down the CO2 burden. Only a few weeks ago the Hamburg government decided to buy back our district heating network from a private company. This follows a referendum among the Hamburg citizens who voted for re-municipalization of all energy networks. The gas distribution and electricity networks had been reacquired before.


So now we have the control over an energy-production that is low in pollutants and modern. But: at the same time, it is always the issue to offer energy low at costs, because housing is expensive anyway and we do not want socially deprived inhabitants to pay the bill for climate change.


So, climate-friendly energy production is one aspect, saving energy in general is another. That means reduction of energy consumption, in houses and in traffic sector, e.g. avoiding greenhouse gas emission in public transport.


A smart waste management is another important point – especially when thinking about our oceans. But: the results of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference did not convince everybody. So, all the more the attitude of the Trump administration ignoring all scientists’ warnings is annoying.


Instead, global warming is denied – with applause of the coal and oil industry – as if it didn’t exist. And if it did, it wouldn’t have anything to do with us human beings…


This policy is not only dangerous for our world climate but is enlivening existing conflicts or even triggering new ones. This conference is held to work against this and to find answers to three complex transatlantic problems:

  • Trade + investment
  •  Sustainability and climate
  •  And it is about peace and security.


These two days are a platform for experts from politics, economy, science, civil society and journalism.


Ladies & Gentlemen,


Helmut Schmidt’s purpose was the peaceful life together, the development and welfare of the states and peoples of Europe. This includes our main democratic values, including human rights and the separation of powers. Protectionism and populism together endanger the international and European collaboration.


It would be lovely, if later on one could say: It was the Hamburg Congress, then in November 2018, we got Ideas and Impulses for a trend reversal from.


Thank you.


Datum: Freitag, 16. November 2018 at 9.45 a.m.
Lichthof, Edmund-Siemers-Allee