• Germany's news in English

Get more young Brits to Germany: Ambassador

Tom Barfield · 1 Oct 2015, 17:39

Published: 01 Oct 2015 17:39 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

"I hope that during my period in post, more and more young people from Great Britain will come here to Germany, so as to better understand Germany," Sir Sebastian told The Local and German journalists at his first press conference in the modernist British Embassy building near to the Brandenburg Gate.

He's particularly happy that his own four university-age children will be able to visit him in Berlin – "the coolest city in the world".

There's certainly room for improvement in this field, as Germany sent more than twice as many students to Britain as Britain did to Germany – 4,428 compared with 2,112 – under the EU's Erasmus exchange programme in 2012-13.

Although a stroll around Berlin's hip Neukölln district will convince just about anyone there are more Brits than that in the capital alone, there's definitely still room for improvement when it comes to understanding between the two countries.

Close cultural relations

"I had the strange feeling that I was, so to speak, coming home," Sir Sebastian said of his move to Berlin from his previous position as the British Ambassador to Beijing.

'"I think it's got something to do with the fact that the cultural relations between us are so close. I myself was named Sebastian after the composer Johann Sebastian Bach, who was my father's favourite composer."

But since the Ambassador's birth and the bequeathing of the great German musician's name – some 54 years ago – things have developed for the better, he believes.

The British Embassy in Berlin was opened by the Queen in 2000. Photo: DPA

"I have the impression that in the past five years, people in Great Britain have a more complete picture of Germany," he said.

Neil MacGregor, the man behind 2014's exhibition "Germany: Memories of a Nation" at the British Museum, is expected in Berlin soon to head up the Humboldt Forum – the reconstruction of an imperial Prussian palace. His place at the British Museum will be taken by Hartwig Fischer, a German and the first foreigner to run the institution in almost 150 years.

Sir Sebastian argues that connections like those, even more than trade and politics, are what really enable countries to understand one another.

Britain and the EU

Although there's plenty of work to be getting on with between the UK and Germany – from foreign-policy crises in the Middle East and Ukraine – Sir Sebastian's biggest job will be to bring Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government onside in the battle to keep Britain in the EU.

Having promised a referendum on UK membership of the Union by the end of 2017, Prime Minister David Cameron has committed to extracting promises of reform out of other EU members to address British people's gripes about Brussels – and he'll need to deliver something to give a "Yes" vote a fighting chance.

The Ambassador pointed to four areas he'll be focusing on: economic competitiveness, fairness between countries with and without the euro, the balance of power between national parliaments and Brussels, and migration within the EU.

"There is misunderstanding about the British position" in other EU countries, especially regarding internal migration, he said.

Story continues below…

"We don't reject the important principle of freedom of movement for people. But it's important that it should be personal freedom to move so as to work," Wood continued.

"It's very important that we make it clear that this is not possible in the EU to immigrate into another country simply to gain social benefits. Otherwise this political problem will become bigger and bigger."

Immigration was already a much bigger political problem in Britain than Germany, Sir Sebastian said, because of the UK's growing population compared with Germany's shrinking one.

"In the last five years, the population of the UK grew by 2.3 million," he pointed out. "That's a lot."

Cameron has been assiduously wooing Merkel for many months, hoping that she will be a key ally in getting the reforms he needs out of other EU countries to sell continued membership to people at home.

But "we are not exclusively holding a dialogue with Germany," Sir Sebastian said.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Tom Barfield (tom.barfield@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Obama to visit Berlin in last presidential trip to Germany
President Barack Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel during a Berlin trip in 2013. Photo: DPA.

The White House announced on Tuesday that US President Barack Obama will be paying one last unexpected visit to the German capital - his last before he leaves office.

Hostility towards minorities 'widespread in Bavaria'
A village in southern Bavaria. Photo: DPA.

Hate and hostility towards groups deemed to be different are not just sentiments felt by fringe extremists, a new report on Bavaria shows.

Hated RB Leipzig emerge as shock challengers to Bayern
RB Leipzig. Photo: DPA

RB Leipzig's remarkable unbeaten start to the Bundesliga season has seen them suddenly emerge at the head of the pack chasing reigning champions and league leaders Bayern Munich.

Munich taxi driver in hospital after attack by British tourists
Photo: DPA

A taxi driver had to be hospitalized in Munich on Monday evening after three British tourists refused to pay their fare and then attacked him.

German police carry out nationwide anti-terror raids
Police outside a building in Jena during raids on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Police forces in five German states carried out raids on Tuesday morning with the aim of tackling the financing of terror groups, police in Thuringia have reported.

The Local List
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Photo: DPA

So you've mastered German, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

Iconic German church being eroded away by human urine
Ulm Minster towering over the rest Ulm surrounding the Danube. Photo: Pixabay

It will now cost you €100 to spend a penny. That’s if you get caught choosing to pee against the world-famous Ulm Minster.

German small arms ammo exports grow ten-fold
Photo: DPA

The government has come in for criticism after new figures revealed that Germany exported ten times the quantity of small arms ammunition in the first half of 2016 as in the same period last year.

14-year-old stabs 'creepy clown' in prank gone wrong
File photo: DPA.

A 16-year-old in Berlin decided he wanted to scare some friends, but his plot backfired in a violent way.

Four Ku Klux Klan groups active in Germany, says govt
An American member of the KKK at a gathering in Georgia. Photo: EPA.

The German government estimates that there are four Ku Klux Klan (KKK) groups currently active in the country, according to a report by the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) on Tuesday.

Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd