Aurora Mínguez.- 09/06/2012
BERLIN. “We are preparing this visit to Madrid carefully, it is important for us," said Steffen Seibert, spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who pays an official visit to Madrid today Thursday. "The number of high-level business representatives and experts who travel with her shows this," he said. This was not only just a way of answering on behalf of Seibert, a member of Merkel's closest staff, who receives questions week after week from this journalist.
Something has changed during the last days in the German perception of the situation and the urgent problems in Spain. If in July and the beginning of August, German media, almost without exception, strongly criticized and recalled corruption cases, irregularities and incongruities in Spain, especially in the real estate and banking sectors, the tone has changed since the middle of last month when the political life in Germany resumed.
It may be that the aggravation of the Spanish debt situation, with desperate calls for help from Catalonia, Andalusia and other autonomous regions, and the possibility of a total rescue for the country, has been an eye-opener in Berlin. Maybe they have finally become aware that in the eurocrisis there are winners and losers and an obvious injustice: while for companies in Spain it is almost impossible to obtain credits, in Germany, money is cheaper than ever.
The chancellor believes that it is necessary to help Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and she is joined by Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who repeatedly has praised Spain, although he has made it clear that the European Central Bank will not solve the problem. But, for now, everyone seems to be aware that there must be a strong message of support and respect for the efforts made by the government in Madrid. For the sake of Spain, but also for the euro.
A diplomatic success
From this point of view, the meeting on Thursday between Merkel and Rajoy is without doubt a diplomatic success by the Spanish prime minister and the Spanish diplomacy. This is not only a bilateral meeting, similar to those that take place every week with other European leaders, given that parallel to the meeting, a high-level Spanish-German business encounter will take place.
Executives from some of the leading companies in both countries will participate, including Volkswagen, Bayer, Siemens, Daimler, Deutche Telekom, T-Systems, Repsol, Santander, BBVA, Telefónica and Abengoa. It will be opened by Spain’s Finance Minister Luis de Guindos and closed by Merkel and Rajoy. The president of the German Federation of Trade Unions, Michael Sommer, will also participate, together with his Spanish counterparts, who were received by the German chancellor in Berlin in July.
It is worth pointing out that Merkel, who has not visited neither Greece, Portugal nor Ireland, three already rescued countries in Europe, and who has met several times with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, has not before done what she is about to do in Madrid: she will not only give strong, public support to Rajoy’s government but also bring the elite from the German business sector to give a boost to bilateral cooperation, to discuss possible joint projects in third countries, as well as to discuss something as important as how to progressively establish German professional training programs in our country.
The chambers of commerce and the professional training
On Wednesday, a bilateral agreement was signed in Madrid to promote this model between the Spanish and German chambers of commerce, which is an extension of the Memorandum of Understanding that Education Minister José Ignacio Wert signed with his German counterpart, Anette Schavan, in Stuttgart in July.
They want to launch a pilot project, probably in Palma de Mallorca, which aims at convincing Spanish companies of the advantages of professional education programs in which the companies, through practice, educate trainees (who they pay a limited salary during the traineeship) who are later on hired as employees. The program is advantageous for the trainees, for whom this provides a possibility of achieving a job, and the employer, who can keep the best from the trainee programs.
The German chambers of commerce will advice its Spanish counterparts, providing know how and expertise on professional education, while the Spanish chambers undertake to give support to the collaboration between the educational centers and the companies to offer alternatives to young people who already haven’t given up, but whose parents may not be able to provide for them during an educational program in Germany. The initiative should count on full support from the two governments and the trade unions in both countries.
At the same time, there are ongoing efforts to construct a web site with offers for those who want to participate in traineeships in Germany, which will provide updated information with offers of azubis, traineeships. The demand for workforce in some parts of Germany, especially in the land Baden Württemberg, continues to be high. In the lead-up to the next European Councils, Merkel and Rajoy could look into the possibility of directing part of the European Social Fund to this kind of projects, in which the chambers of commerce are asked to play an important role.
This would be a truly effective way of constructing Europe, the Europe of the Young, who want jobs and an independent and decent life.
This article was translated and edited by Stina Lunden.
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