Last week, Germany’s ambassador to the United States, Peter Wittig gave a lecture at the University of Wyoming on the importance of maintaining a strong trans-Atlantic alliance.
He said the German-U.S. relationship is more important than ever as terrorism and mass migrations continue. He said Germany has taken in 1.1 million Syrian refugees in the last year, which would be equivalent to the United States taking in 4.4 million. He said each country must take its own needs and preferences into account when deciding how to respond to the refugee crisis.
“The right to asylum is an important human right, we feel,” Wittig said. “And then, of course, migration and immigration can also be, if it’s done the proper way, a source of enrichment. In our case, we need immigration. We are an aging society.”
Wyoming is the only state in the United States without a resettlement program for refugees, though a Wyoming Humanities Council program initiated by Governor Matt Mead is working to educate Wyomingites about the issue.
Wittig also talked of how Germany sympathizes with Wyoming as the state struggles with numerous bankruptcies of coal companies that have put people out of work. He said, in the 1960’s, Germany experienced a similar market collapse when its local variety of coal lost value, leaving many unemployed. Since then, he says the country has been successfully finding alternatives.
“Indeed, we have started to initiate a rather ambitious transformation of our economy from fossil fuels to renewables and that has so far created a lot of new jobs in that whole green economy segment.”
Wittig said Germany helped cushion that stalling labor market by developing programs to quickly train out-of-work coal miners in new jobs. And, he said, German cities have actively offered tax incentives and subsidies to encourage economic diversity.