'Open Door Day' at the German Foreign Office
Visitors at the German Foreign Office on the occasion of 'Open Day' in Berlin interacted with various German ministers including the German Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, & shared their views on foreign policy.
How does the Foreign Minister work? Where is Europe heading? And what anecdotes lie hidden behind the walls of the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin? This year the Open Day took place on 26th and 27th August and enabled visitors to explore the building at Werderscher Markt in Berlin.
In the course of the many programme items, discussions and flashmobs they found out a lot about diplomacy and German foreign policy. They were able to view the old building, the new build, the large covered courtyard atrium, and the Weltsaal, learned all about the Federal Foreign Office’s cultural organizations, and those who were lucky enjoyed the taste of a slice of the large Europe cake.
The major foreign policy issues
Europe, Ukraine, USA, Turkey or the Partnership with Africa – the civic forum with Federal Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel discussed all the current topics. At the beginning, Minister Gabriel welcomed four children with him onto the stage in the atrium. “When it comes to talking about Europe, we are actually talking about these four, about their future, and about how they will live when they are as old as we are, in a world that has changed completely,” Gabriel said. By way of saying thank you, he gave them each a scoop of blue Europe ice-cream that had been brought onto stage at the end of the event. In-between, the Foreign Minister emphasized the Federal Foreign Office’s unequivocal stance on dialogue: “I often hear it said we should be tougher diplomatically, but what is that supposed to mean?” The objective of foreign policy, he continued, is to maintain diplomatic relations even when they are difficult. “They are the most important thing we have.” And Gabriel insisted on there being mutual respect within Europe. “Europe is made up of many small countries and a few large ones. We must treat one another with respect and as we one of the large countries must not ignore the small ones. At some point that would go against Germany.”
How we want to live
A Sunday breakfast that escalates. A painter who paints a dead child and in this way forces himself into the painful process of coping with bidding farewell and remembering. Or how to handle hate commentaries in the Net. These were among the themes of the short films just made by young-talent directors and producers for a short film competition on the major “Heritage” study – and they were as varied as is life itself. The inspiration for the themes was provided by 3,000 citizens who participated in the study conducted by ZEIT, infas Institut für angewandte Sozialwissenschaften and Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB); the respondents’ attitude were polled towards their job, their private life, personal fulfilment and material prosperity, self-determination and family aspirations. The short film competition was financed by funding from the Federal Foreign Office. The filmmakers presented their projects in the Weltsaal.
Experiencing deutschland.de live
Not virtual, but in real life: Editors from the deutschland.de Germany platform presented the new Website design and the large number of new interactive functionalities. Many visitors to the stand also seized the opportunity to make their very own “Germany Picture” in our photo booth and then post it directly on Facebook. deutschland.de reported on some of the key items on the two days’ agenda via Livestreams on Facebook.
What do you need for a successful date? Good food! The bakers’ guild in Berlin-Brandenburg baked a huge Europe cake for the visitors especially for Open Day. It took 60 hours’ work, six different types of sponge cake and bright blue food colouring – that’s how Europe got baked.
An exciting visit
André Lodama was at the Federal Foreign Office to find out about the work of the policymakers. André studies Political Science and Business Administration in Frankfurt and is just doing an internship with Ökumenisches Netz Zentralafrika (http://oenz.de/) in Berlin. He took part in a guided tour of the Federal Foreign Office and was surprised about how functional the rooms are: “I’d expected something luxurious, but the matter-of-fact style of some of the rooms really impressed me. I was thrilled by the transparency that enabled us to see where and how the staff members worked.”
We are Europe
“You on your own are not Europe, I on my own am not Europe, together we are Europe” – the Federal Foreign Office has published stories by young people on the European Union as an e-book brought out by Aufbau-Verlag. More than 200 children and young people inside and outside Germany submitted their stories. The winning texts in three age categories were read out by two actors during the Open Day, and by some of the prize-winners who had come to Berlin especially for the occasion. At the beginning there were warm-up exercises for the body and miming, and then primary school pupil Benno impressed everyone with his text. He and his family currently live in Tokyo and in his class there is only one other foreign pupil, a French boy. And Benno found out that the two of them function like a tiny European island abroad, as their Japanese fellow pupils cannot tell them apart. “Laurent and I, we are Europe, our countries are very similar, and quite unlike Japan,” says Benno says.
Along the red carpet to the Minister’s office
Every ten minutes there was a guided tour of the ministerial suites, six an hour. So many people wanted to take part, however, that visitors found themselves squeezing their way in throngs down the corridors, across the red carpet on the second floor, and into the Bismarck Hall, the former headquarters of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party in then Communist East Germany. Inside the hall, where the section heads now hold their meetings, there is a clock with four faces in the middle of the table. It was a gift from the first German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer to make certain no one spoke longer than allowed. Visitors were also able to view the office of Federal Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel – not much has changed since he moved in a few months’ back. He inherited the furniture from his predecessor Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and only the modern art on the walls and the books on the shelf moved with him from his old office in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.