The actual situation within the European Union can be described as one of the most challenging within the last decade. The Brexit – negotiations and the Greek debt crisis will have to be solved without damaging the overall European idea. Nonetheless the French elections displayed that the idea to unite all Europeans and benefit from our diverse competitive advantages mobilized the French citizen. The tendency of nationalist parties being more and more visible and attractive in a certain way for voters like the UK, the Netherlands, France, Italy or even Germany is threatening the idea of a European community. As a matter of fact the election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States of America while using the idea of constructing a wall to Mexico or stereotyping the muslim world could be interpreted in the same way.
From my point of view there are many citizens who are afraid of the speed of globalization and digitalization. This speed is the root for many highly complex interactions between economies that most people can’t understand i.e. what will be the result of the strategies that the central banks actually implement or how will the general idea of TTIP influence our daily lives. On the one hand, everyone has the obligation to inform and further educate himself on these matters, on the other hand, there is no real support provided.
The idea and benefit of free trade between countries or continents is the basis for our wealthy society, however, nobody clearly communicates this advantage. Nobody theoretically answers the question what would have happened if we did not form the European Union or what would happen if we will not continue the trade with the USA. Global supply chains are daily business, but if you follow national media it is rarely seen the connections between companies of different nationality.
There are different ways of action that can be undertaken in order to underline the benefit of trade, or transatlantic trade. Firstly the national tv channels, such as ARD or ZDF in Germany, should highlight the results of transatlantic cooperation on a regular basis and in simple terms, i.e. demonstrating the supply chain of a “German” product such as an VW Golf or calculation the jobs in Germany that are linked to this cooperation.
Secondly the school education should demonstrate the younger generation the necessity of cooperation and global trade on a more product linked basis. There should be economics lessons in every German “Gymnasium, Hauptschule und Realschule” in order to ensure that the students are forced to think about the reason for global trade. That will help them to be more open-minded when it comes to elections or discussions on TTIP or other trade-related issues.
Thirdly, and probably the most important way of action, is to experience the other culture on a personal level. That means to raise the support for student exchange programs within both countries. If younger people get in touch with a different culture and stay there for a minimum of two weeks that will help them to understand decisions and reports from this country. Moreover it will strengthen personal bonds and mostly friendship between students that can communicate via modern media, such as facebook or twitter, many years in the future. Sharing these experiences with other students in Germany will lead to a better understanding of cultural differences.
If there is a sustainable strategy that combines the presentation of the advantages of global trade with the understanding for a different culture, then I am convinced the transatlantic bond will be stronger. However it will take a lot of time, effort and money in order to implement these action plans. The monetary funds for the exchange-programs could be offered similar to the idea of “BaFöG,” meaning that students partially repay the money in the future. From my point of view the transatlantic relationship strongly depends on the understanding for differences in culture and society on both sides. This understanding and the relationship needs steadily to be built between people and to be supported via media.