Anna Diamantopoulou gives insights into her Richard von Weizsäcker Fellowship at the Robert Bosch Academy and how it enriches her current activities.
“The atmosphere at the Robert Bosch Academy is motivating and the relationship forged between the fellows very enriching. The Academy is an extremely stimulating, high-level international hub in Germany”, recent fellow Anna Diamantopoulou says about the institution of the Robert Bosch Stiftung, where international opinion leaders, decision-makers, and experts work on issues that address the global challenges of our age.
The Richard von Weizsäcker Fellows are provided with intellectual and physical space to pursue individual research beyond their professional commitments. The Academy organizes the stay, as well as opportunities to dialogue with the German and international public. Fellows expand their networks and enrich their expertise with insights into German and European policy debates and decision-making processes. In turn, German experts and decision-makers gain new perspectives on major social and political issues by engaging with the fellows - an intellectual win-win-situation.
The backgrounds and interests of the fellows are diverse. Therefore, the program and duration of their residencies are highly individual. They spend a few months up to a year in Berlin.
In 2016, former Greek politician Anna Diamantopoulou, a member of the Greek parliament for eleven years, spent nearly half a year at the Academy. She was European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs from 1999 to 2004 in Brussels. And between 2009 and March 2012, she served as Greece’s Minister of Education, Lifelong Learning, and Religious Affairs, and then as Minister of Development, Competitiveness and Shipping until May 2012.
Today Ms. Diamantopoulou is president of the Athens-based think tank Network for Reform in Greece and Europe (DIKTIO). At DIKTIO, she works on the digital revolution, its challenges and prospects as well as its impact on international structures. As a fellow at the Academy, she focused on the social reforms of the 1998 to 2005 German government referred to as the Agenda 2010 reforms, which are identified with the person of the then-German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder. She says: “I had the opportunity to discuss with people who were involved in the project and had experienced and studied the outcomes of Agenda 2010.”
Among her interlocutors, Ms. Diamantopoulou spoke to several former ministers of the Schröder government, such as Hans Eichel, former minister of finance, Otto Schily, former interior minister, and Wolfgang Clement, former minister of economy. She also interviewed scholars who had researched Agenda 2010, such as Jutta Allmendinger, president of the Social Science Research Center, and Clemens Fuest, director of the Ifo Institute. She also interviewed Peter Hartz, who designed aspects of Agenda 2010.
These meetings helped her understand the reforms’ background: “I solidified my view that the importance of every political project or reform lies in how it benefits the whole society in the long term. And that’s what Agenda 2010 did in Germany.”
However, her activities in Berlin did not focus exclusively on the past. She is confident that DIKTIO will benefit from a better understanding of the German experience. Moreover, “contact and interaction with the German economic and political institutions paved the way for cooperation with my think tank in Athens”, she says.
The fellows, who come from a wide array of backgrounds and countries, all become part of an international community of fellows that lasts beyond their residencies. Ms. Diamantopoulou is a good example. As part of a reflection group, she participated in the Hypocrisy Project of former fellow Ivan Krastev, which addresses the West's policy of 'double standards' and the criticism of the West's own 'hypocrisy' as an ideological basis for attacking the liberal order created by the West. She cooperated with co-fellow James Kondo, whom she later hosted in Athens. Former fellows Kemal Derviş and François Heisbourg were also both hosted by DIKTIO as keynote speakers in closed-door policy meetings attended by major Greek political, diplomatic, and industrial figures. Mohammad Darawshe and Soli Özel were invited upon her recommendation to the Delphi Economic Forum.
These are just a few examples that illustrate how fellows cooperate after their stays at the Robert Bosch Academy in a diverse and ever-growing community. The entire community also comes together once a year for the Richard von Weizsäcker Forum: “The annual reunion is indicative of the Academy’s solid belief in long term and sustainable partnerships and goals. The fellowship stands as the home of a rigorous, diverse, and ever-growing community of influential scholars, politicians, and leaders in the heart of Europe”, states Ms. Diamantopoulou.
As for the question of which insights into German society she found most surprising, Ms. Diamantopoulou says: “I was very impressed by the way that Germans treat their past; trying on the one hand to present the tragic truth of the two world wars, and on the other hand propel young Germans to be proud of what their homeland has achieved and offered to Europe and the world.”
In her opinion, the example of Germany further shows that being disciplined and targeted brings fruitful results in all sectors of public life. At the same time, she alerts that achievements and advantages should not be taken for granted. “The example of Greece teaches us that a state, perceived as having comparative advantages as does Germany, can easily collapse when there are no robust institutions.”
Ms. Diamantopoulou sums up her fellowship like this: “It was all about seeing Germany with Greek eyes and then seeing Greece with German eyes”.
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