Mike Vickers' Blog

June 10, 2012

David McAllister – Prime Minister of Lower Saxony

Filed under: economics, Scottish Independence, World Class — derryvickers @ 8:59 pm

David McAllister – Prime Minister of Lower Saxony gave an interesting seminar to the David Hume Institute on 6th June.  See a shortened version of his seminar in the Scotsman on the next day:  http://www.scotsman.com/news/david-mcallister-scots-and-lower-saxony-can-stride-together-1-2341728

The seminar was entitled the UK and Germany: Partners in Europe – prospective from Lower Saxony but the article in the Scotsman is entitled Scots and Lower Saxony can stride together – an interesting difference and the latter is more in tune with the all-consuming Independence consideration though McAllister refused to be drawn.  I will not duplicate what can be read in the Scotsman but will list out a few things that attracted me

  • Lower Saxony is one of the 10 Länder of West Germany – the number is now 16 following reunification.  McAllister made frequent reference in the questions afterwards to a critical review of the structure of Germany in 2019.  Wiki tells me that 2019 will consider the state of the reunification and whether the Western Länders will continue to pay a solidarity tax of 5% to the Eastern Länders.  McAllister took this further and wondered whether the number of Länders would be reduced.
  • Underlying McAllister’s talk was the federal structure of Germany.  This structure is underwritten in the Constitution and cannot be changed by any political party.  Despite not answering any questions on Scottish Independence it could be that McAllister was offering the federal concept to this audience as a way of maintaining the UK.  But as I see it unless England is federated into say 5 ‘Länders’ then there would always be a serious misbalance between the Länders of any federal UK.
  • McAllister dwelt on the sovereignty of the countries of Europe and he could equally have been directing our attention to Europe as a federal organisation.  He would of course be very cautious to dwell on this directly recognising the anathema of the Westminster Parliament to any such suggestion!   
  • McAllister defended strongly Angela Merkel’s European policy of balanced budget and considered that whilst there could be more flows of money from the North to the South of Europe the structures for managing those flows are in place already  – he quotes EU2020 Strategy, EU Structural Funds and the European Investment bank – my knowledge of finance and fiscal policy is not up to considering whether McAllister is right or not but it is clear to me that Germany has already contributed significant funds to the Southern European countries and I understand that the German people must need a great deal of convincing to continue  contributing.  Of course German does require a prosperous Europe to sell its manufactured goods to and must be concerned if the euro fails and the Deuchmark is resurrected and saws in value.
  • McAllister referred several times to the fact that Germany has always fostered its manufacturing businesses which 5 years ago were decried by other European countries not least by the UK but the tables are turned and Germany is considered the ‘Power House’ of Europe.  Personally I have worried and still worry about the lack of focus in the UK on manufacturing businesses though I am prepared to believe that it is not as bad as it looks with the UK being a significant supplier of parts to the big names in Europe.
  • Why was McAllister in Scotland – well he came as a member of a delegation from Lower Saxony to support co-operation on renewables development and manufacturing.  He spent some time on the need for energy and in this respect for renewable energy and he brought up the intention of the German Federal government to phase out nuclear by 2023 – an ambitious task – but on the other hand he said that Lower Saxony’s target was for 25% of energy by 2020 being from renewable sources – a much more realistic target than the Scottish Governments’ 100%.
  • A more modest target of the delegation is to arrange a swap of 20 teachers for 3 months between Lower Saxony and Scotland.  McAllister is obviously worried that German may be a dying language.  English is his 2nd language but it was impeccable not only in his seminar but more particularly in his answers to questions.  Embarrassing how monoglot we British are!
  • Finally McAllister is the son of a British soldier and a German mother – hence his name – the father obviously also won on the Christian name also!  As an encore he spoke of when his father who was in the Allied D Day landing shaking David’s hand when he was commissioned into the German Bundeswehr  – all men were required to do conscription in the 1990’s.

McAllister came over to me as a very polished politician who could well become German Chancellor one day – he is only 41.

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