Question fire for ambassadors Germany and France during debate
Europe lives! This became clear last Friday when students debated with the French ambassador to the Netherlands, H.E. Luis Vassy, and his German colleague, H.E. Dirk Brengelmann, on a range of topics relating to Franco-German relations and the European Union.
Led by Professor Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Emeritus Professor of International Relations and Diplomatic Practice, many questions were asked from Wijnhaven and online, and the two ambassadors proved to be candid speakers about working in the Netherlands, the importance of European unity and reaching 'the ordinary man in the street'.
Act more as ambassadors
The afternoon began with an introduction of both ambassadors. One, Vassy (41), has been ambassador since 2019, the other, Brengelmann, is on his farewell tour. The German will return to Germany in the autumn, after five years as ambassador. He will teach at the university in Bonn, 'inspired by my good friend Jaap de Hoop Scheffer', laughs Brengelmann. The two emphasise that they consider it important to be in Wijnhaven in order to act more as ambassadors. We shouldn't just sit in our offices,' says Brengelmann. 'The fact that we are here and there are also students in the room also shows that we are hopefully on the way to a return of normal life after covid19,' adds Vassy. 'I am happy to be here.
The two Excellencies made the news last year with an open letter at the beginning of the coronation crisis. In that letter, they called on us Dutch to have a more positive debate about the shortcomings of Europe. They said the Dutch should be proud of the EU, celebrate European unity and have faith in the European Union. More than a year later, they still stand by that message. Brengelmann: 'We need to work together to move forward and find answers to the questions that are alive.'
Time for questions from home and students in the audience. There are many, for example: 'What will change in the diplomatic relationship between your countries when elections are held?' 'How does Germany view more cooperation in Europe when it comes to Defence?' 'How do you see the future of your countries when it comes to their position towards NATO and the EU?' 'How do you make sure that the ordinary man in the street gets involved in Europe?' 'What is it like to work in the Netherlands?' You can watch and listen to all the questions and answers here.
Learn the language
Both ambassadors speak frankly about the various themes. What is striking is that both plead for a deeper understanding of each other's politics. According to the two ambassadors, we know too little about the political climate in our neighbouring countries and this has to do with language and deepening. Learning another language is not just about the language itself, but about so much more, such as the culture or the literature in a country,' says Brengelmann. Vassy adds: 'I am also taking Dutch lessons, it is so important. That you can read Dutch newspapers and articles to understand things about the country and to immerse yourself in politics.'
The relations between France and Germany are good, but also in the Netherlands they notice, especially after Brexit, that the ties are tightened. Not only on an economic level. One of the highlights of Brengelmann's ambassadorship was the May 5 lecture that Angela Merkel gave this year. 'It was a unique event that a German Chancellor was asked to give this lecture. It reflects the good relations between our countries'.