Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin wall, we look at Germany today. We focus on the impact of reunification, its enormous success, as well as its pitfalls. Germany is unquestionably still the most powerful country within the EU, and we ask where it is headed now?
|DATES||Sunday 3rd to Saturday 9th November 2019|
|DESTINATION||Germany – Dresden, Berlin|
The tour is led by Gerald Knaus.
Single supplement: £500.00
We start and end in Berlin. We also travel to Dresden. We examine the huge investment made to bring the two former states into line politically and economically with each other. Politicians – both current and former leaders – shed light on the process and leading analysts and think tanks also contribute.
We also visit some of Germany’s key institutions both regionally and in the capital Berlin and look at the more recent political fallout with the rise of a more populist brand of politics. Could this affect Germany as it has done elsewhere in Europe?
The tour is led by Gerald Knaus, the founding director of the European Stability Initiative, one of the Europe’s leading think tanks that has worked on EU enlargement and foreign policy.
Sunday, 3rd Nov: Berlin
Arrivals and check in to the hotel. The tour starts in the evening, with an introductory dinner with Political Tours experts. We look at the week ahead as well as the questions first faced by a united Germany in 1990.
Overnight in Berlin
Monday, 4th Nov: Berlin
We start the tour near the remnants of the Berlin wall before heading to the Bundestag for briefings with senior politicians on the challenges faced by Germany at reunification and their legacy today. The Merkel era is nearly over, and traditional German politics is fragmenting, with the environmentalist Greens surging into second place in the polls, and the right-wing anti-immigration Alternative for Germany winning 94 seats in the Bundestag. We get an overview of where Germany stands today.
After lunch we head to suburbs of what was East Berlin, Marzahn-Hellersdorf – the classic scenery of endless soviet style housing.
There has been a significant investment here, but frustrations remain; votes that initially went to the hard left are now veering to the right. The area was subject to a report by the Open Society Foundation: https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/reports/white-working-class-communities-berlin.
We meet local journalists and voters before returning to the centre for dinner.
Overnight in Berlin
Tuesday, 5th May: Berlin – Dresden
We head to Dresden (two and half hours) and check into our hotel in the city centre. Dresden stands witness to both huge investments in the East and growing frustration among ordinary voters. There has been large-scale migration of young to elsewhere in Germany or Europe. After a very brief tour of the restored city centre (bombed by the RAF and USAF) – we get an introduction to the city’s politics. Despite the success there has been massive migration of the young to elsewhere in Germany or Europe. Resentment has increased among the unemployed and elderly left behind, contributing to a rise in the hard right. We visit large-scale housing projects on the edge of the city.
Overnight in Dresden
Wednesday, 6th May: Dresden
The Economy, The Hard Right
In the morning we meet with the local founders of PEGIdA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) or the AFD Saxony – leaders of the new- right in Germany (local elections will have taken place in 2019). How have their politics taken seed locally and is their success a long-term trend? We also meet an NGO, which works against hard right tendencies in Saxony.
After lunch we look at Germany’s huge economic success; Dresden and the wider region is home to some key industries – in the automobile sector and farming. We have options to visit to auto manufacturer or supplier or a farm – Porsche and Volkswagen suppliers are based close to Dresden – both are facing challenges. Dinner with local speakers.
Overnight in Dresden
Thursday 7 Nov: Dresden - Berlin
In the morning we leave Dresden and head to the surrounding countryside. German farmers are one of the most powerful lobby groups in Europe, and a good barometer of conservative thinking which has been dominant in Germany for so long.
Next we return to Berlin where we get an overview of Germany’s leadership under Chancellor Merkel, by far the most influential politician in Europe for the past decade and more. She presided over slow but steady economic growth and strict budget discipline in Berlin, while insisting on drastic austerity for eurozone debtor nations such as Greece. Most controversially at home, she opened Germany’s borders to more than a million refugees, prompting both praise and condemnation. We meet two leading newspaper editors/journalists and look back over Mrs. Merkel’s time in office. What will follow? Dinner with experts in Berlin.
Friday, 8th May: Berlin – Germany and the EU beyond Merkel
Over the day we get a national overview of German politics with access to some of the capital’s leading politicians and think tanks. Where is Germany headed now and what will be its role within the EU? Meet leading diplomats and speakers based in Berlin to discuss the future of German in Europe and the challenges to its leadership. At dinner we review the week.
Saturday, 9th May: Tour Ends
Tour Ends after breakfast
Book Your Tour
Sunday 3rd to Saturday 9th November 2019
Cost £3940 Single supplement £500
This tour starts in Dresden and ends in Berlin.
All of your accommodation and meals with water are included, as well as local transport (except during your free time). Flights are not included in the price and need to be arranged by customers themselves or with an agent.
Following the news
Like all our tours the itinerary is focused on current affairs. Events on the ground may change and the final schedule may be adjusted accordingly.
As on all our expert-led tours the groups are deliberately small and will not exceed 14 people. Frequently we travel with 10-12 people. Limited spaces are available.
Citizens of the Schengen member states can travel visa free throughout the whole territory. Nationals of non-Schengen countries are permitted to enter the whole area with one unified document known as the Schengen Visa.
Late autumn/fall weather can see temperatures around 9 deg C/48 deg F and rain is likely, so warm clothing, layers and waterproof clothing and footwear are essential.
Men: Will need a jacket and tie for some of the meetings.
Women: Will need smarter dress for one or two meetings.
FCO Website – Travel Advice
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office publishes regularly updated travel information on its website www.fco.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo which you are recommended to consult before booking and in good time before departure. Where it considers it appropriate to do so, the FCO may advise against all travel or all but essential travel to particular countries or parts of particular countries. Similarly, the FCO may withdraw any such previously given advice. Where the FCO issues such advice, we may as a result cancel your tour or make changes so as to avoid the area concerned (see clause 10). Alternatively, we may ask you to sign a form confirming you wish to proceed with the tour notwithstanding the FCO advice. It is in the nature of the itineraries we offer that the FCO may have issued such advice in relation to the country or parts of the country we are intending to visit prior to confirmation of your booking. In this case, you will be asked to sign the above form before we confirm your booking.
Advice on health requirements may be obtained from your GP, or alternatively from the Department of Health leaflet Advice on Health for Travelers, or the Department of Health in the UK. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit http://www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk/destinations.aspx
It is also useful to travel with medications for traveller’s tummy – like imodium, probiotics and rehydration sachets.
We suggest you visit your own doctor or local travel clinic who will have the most up-to-date travel advice, and be able to recommend any vaccinations prior to travel based on your medical history.
Currency is Germany is the Euro.
Plugs are 2 pin European and 220v.
Wifi is available in all hotels, as well as many coffee shops and restaurants.
International Passenger Protection Insurance (IPP)
All our travel arrangements are covered by the UK’s package tour regulations and are financially guaranteed. We are a land-only tour operator and flights are not included.
Gerald Knaus (Austria) is the founding chairman of the European Stability Initiative (ESI), a think tank with offices in Berlin, Brussels, and Vienna working on South East Europe and the Caucasus, European enlargement and the future of EU foreign policy. He studied in Oxford, Brussels and Bologna, taught economics at the State University of Chernivtsi in Ukraine and spent five years working for NGOs and international organisations in Bulgaria and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
From 2001 to 2004, he was the director of the Lessons Learned Unit of the EU Pillar of the UN Mission in Kosovo. In 2011, he co-authored, alongside the British MP Rory Stewart, the book “Can Intervention Work?”. He wrote scripts for award-winning TV documentaries on South East Europe (www.returntoeurope.eu, 2008-2012) and co-authored many ESI reports on EU enlargement, the Balkans, Turkey and the Caucasus that have triggered wide public debates, including “Islamic Calvinists – Change and Conservatism in Central Anatolia” (2005), “Caviar Diplomacy – How Azerbaijan Silenced the Council of Europe” (2012), and most recently “The Merkel Plan” (2015) and “The Rome Plan” (2017) on the refugee crisis and “The European Swamp” (2016) on corruption in the Council of Europe.
He is a founding member of the European Council on Foreign Relations and was for five years an Associate Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, where he was also a Visiting Fellow in 2010/2011 lecturing on state building and intervention. In 2016/2017 he was a Mercator-IPC Senior Fellow in Istanbul. He is based in Berlin and Istanbul and writes the Rumeli Observer blog.
Comments on Recent Political Tours
“Political Tours gives you on-the-ground access that would otherwise not be possible. No matter what type of adventurous traveller you are, it is just not possible to easily meet with political leaders in other countries and hear the words directly from their mouth. Furthermore, PT takes the planning out of the question, meaning we could sit back and take it all in, rather than worrying about where the next meal was coming from or organising transport.”
SC, Traveller to Lebanon
“I would recommend political tours to anyone who seethes when they see an umbrella being wafted about in the air leading 80 audio-listening tourists behind. It is for the traveller who truly wants to discover life in a foreign country and understand the ins-and-outs of their political system. The discretion and individuality of these tours is what makes them so special and memorable.”
NG, Colombia and Jordan
“There is no way I could have lined up people for meetings and interviews the way you did. Getting to meet people involved in the war and politicians of later vintage offers a perspective on this that I would not otherwise have got. Let me also mention that the “reading list” you offered was very helpful.”
EL, Traveller on tours to Lebanon and Cuba
“They speakers were excellent in every respect. Nice blend of styles between them. They could deal comfortably with every question and handled the logistics well.”
“For me, the great thing about the tour is that it was interactive – we got to be junior journalists for a week, asking our own questions, exploring our own interests while learning about the country as it is today.”
LM, Baltics, Russia and Jordan
Germany 30 years after reunification – Gerald Knaus
Major changes that have a paradoxical effect
Germany is more open than ever before, the border with east is gone, the whole country and the former GDR alongside former soviet block has been transformed. The effects have been dramatic. Germany has benefited as a whole but for others, it is a shock.
Along with that change there has been a significant movement of the population both within the GDR and Germany – with many leaving their former hometowns. While there have been huge opportunities but it has also left people behind, the unemployed and elderly.
Germany also transformed in terms of its values from the West Germany of Helmut Kohl (Christian democratic and conservative) to a more liberal, multi-ethnic society – (with Berlin resuming its role as the liberal capital of Europe)
In terms of values – West German changed from Kohl to a more multi-ethnic – liberal, encompassing women’s and minority rights, LGBTQ, etc.
And that all happened quickly – the former population of the GDR found itself plunged into a much more open society. For many people, this was a massive dislocation – socially, in term of values as well as economically. On top of that, the pace of change has continued right up to the present day.
Initially that translated into a protest vote for the left, motivated by a kind of nostalgia for the past, and then as the left became more mainstream – (they entered government, locally and nationally ) the right steps in.
So what does all this mean? The effort that was put into reunification was extraordinary, there was a massive investment, not just in terms of infrastructure but in terms of social spending, welfare – social transfers – ostensibly trying to give the same opportunities that were enjoyed by western Germany to the east. But it shows that despite enormous amounts of money spent the frustration is still there.
Paradox is that this fall out has not significantly affected mainstream German politics. The rise of the right and AFD has certainly been emphasized by the Anglo-Saxon media, but German has not been affected in the same way as Poland has for example. Many former GDR citizens and leaders are big believers in the transformation. (Merkel being the obvious example) The political class has not been affected so much, and whilst the CDU has been threatened by the conservatives in Bavaria and the prospect of the AFD, it still dominates.
(There is a clear taboo on making an alliance with the AFD – it has been almost impossible for them to get into power. See it in now – it hasn’t affected CDU or Merkel. SPD is in crisis but still in government in many of west German states (under pressure to become less populist) The Greens have been winners
The question is will this last? Will popular discontent eventually change the direction of German politics? No so far.
All this comes despite the fact that Germany has taken most migrants in Europe, more than any other country per capita.
Germany under Merkel has become more influential – the most influential in Europe, and that won’t change in the next few years. The CDU has continuity with Krampe. Krampe and Merkel are the two most popular political figures in the country. The Greens are also popular.. – that alliance would be most western pro-EU government ever. And the Franco-German alliance remains strong – with Macron in Paris. Polls also show that the Germans see the French as their closest allies.
But opposition is much more visible than ever before. For the moment there is a dam between this sense of discontent and the political elites, and where the centre of power in German lies. Will it hold?