Events News


Launch of The Routledge Handbook of German Politics & Culture

January 21, 2015 – 1900 hrs


Colvin German handbook_cover_PortraitThe event is now fully booked (January 16).

In 2014 Germany looked back at a troubled hundred years since World War I; but also at the “peaceful revolution” and fall of the wall.

The Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index announced on 12 November 2014 that Germany had beaten the USA to become the top-ranked global national “brand”; Germany scored highly not only for sports prowess but for leadership in Europe, a robust economy, steady political stewardship, honest and competent government, and social equality.

The brand new Routledge Handbook of German Politics and Culture, in 28 highly accessible chapters, engages world experts on Germany’s politics, economics, society, and culture to investigate and illuminate the successes and complexities of a contemporary nation.

To mark the publication of the Handbook, a panel of expert commentators together with the book’s editor and contributors will explore questions around Germany’s global significance and international relations, its national and cultural priorities, its European leadership and its economic policies; who are “the Germans” now?

The panel includes:

  • David Marsh CBE (author of numerous books on Germany and Europe)
  • Thomas Kielinger (Die Welt)
  • Helen Pidd (The Guardian)
  • Professor Sarah Colvin (University of Cambridge)
  • Professor Mary Fulbrook (University College London)
  • Professor William Paterson OBE (University of Aston)

In conjunction with the German British Forum, an organisation established in 1995 to reinforce pivotal political and business relationships to promote education and social exchange between Germany and Britain, publisher Routledge announces the launch of this important book.

VENUE Goethe-Institut London Library

TICKETS Admission free –  Please be aware that the event is now fully booked!

CONTACT Goethe-Institut London Reception, Tel. 020 7596 4000





German material handling group LKE launches in UK

German intralogistics company LKE Group has announced plans to start a subsidiary in the UK.

LKE offers a range of more than 1,500 transport solutions in aluminium, stainless steel and galvanized steel. Here you can see some of their trolleys.

The EU35 million company, which makes a range of pallet trucks, trolleys and industry solutions for storing and moving material, already sells its equipment in the UK but will set up a subsidiary here in 2015 to exploit material handling markets across several vertical sectors.

The UK company will be a sales and marketing operation at first. Depending on the market reaction, managing director Björn Riechers said “anything is possible, including building a small assembly line.”

LKE Group is also doing a similar expansion in the United States, which has a comparable industrial base to the UK, Riechers said. With the UK this forms LKE’s internationalisation strategy for the next four years. The company already has a production partner in China, specialising in industrial solutions, mainly laundry products.

Mr Riechers, who took over the company earlier this year, said that the majority of current LKE customers are German-speaking. “After joining the firm the most common question I was asked was why don’t you have a presence in the UK, especially in the automotive assembly industries?”

The company is organised into five business segments – intralogistics, hygiene handling, industry solutions, aerospace & amp; aviation, and global mail. It will focus on three of these in the UK, especially intralogistics that covers tugger trains, line supply material delivery products and also factory planning consultancy.

Hygiene handling, another target market in the UK, covers the chemical, pharmaceuticals and food industries which need a clean room environment. The products are designed to minimise spilling and have a lot of customisation options “for industries that are hard to automate,” said Riechers.

Customisation is important, where LKE has a team of 16 design engineers that design bespoke solutions from paper to prototype in a few weeks. Its products are mainly made from steel, stainless steel or aluminium.

Mr Riechers referenced the influence of the Toyota Production System and Porsche Production System on its product design. One principle of these systems is to remove forklifts from the assembly areas to be replaced by leaner, faster material delivery systems.

LKE Group was founded in 1994 by two engineers who wanted to serve the global mail handling needs of Deutsche Post, the then name of DHL. They designed a system of pre-stacking parcels and using trolleys in lines to deliver batches of mail to delivery trucks more efficiently. Today global mail represents more than 50 per cent of LKE’s turnover.

In 2009, LKE began its international expansion with a small subsidiary in Poland. Then in 2012 it bought another German company specialising in aviation material handling using lightweight products.

Present at the Westminster launch were Louise Ellman (Labour/Co-operative MP for Liverpool Riverside), pictured above with LKE MD Björn Riechers, along with representatives from Royal Mail, the Ministry of Defence, Crown (material handling), BAC Mono, Unipart, SHD magazine and others.

Bernard Molloy, global director of Unipart aftermarket logistics, was guest speaker at the launch on Tuesday October 21 at the House of Commons. He acknowledged Toyota’s key role in designing the lean manufacturing assembly process, the Toyota Production System, from which spawned the many proprietary manufacturing systems at automotive and logistics companies today.

He also praised the late Sir Nicholas Scheele, who died in August, as the main architect of Jaguar Land Rover’s turnaround at the Halewood plant in Merseyside. Sir Nicholas’s intervention, with the adoption of Toyota’s principles at UK car plants, was the start of the revival of the British automotive industry on which many logistics and material handling companies now partly depend.

LKE managing director Björn Riechers with Louise Ellman MP at the company launch in Westminster

Germany: memories of a nation – Exhibition at the British Museum

VW Beetle
With the first prototype built in 1935, the Volkswagen Beetle, ‘Käfer’, has remained a design icon and one of VW’s most famous cars until today.

From the 16th of October 2014 until the 25th of January 2015 the British Museum invites its visitors to take a tour across 600 years of German history, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and Germany’s reunification. Whilst displaying German art by Dürer, Holbein and Richter the exhibition also presents more technological achievements ranging from Gutenberg’s printing press to Meissen porcelain, the Bauhaus movement and modern design icons such as the famous VW Beetle.

Overall Germany: memories of a nation features 200 objects selected to reflect on a number of key themes: floating frontiers; empire and nation; arts and achievement; crisis and memory. Focusing on a key period from the 15th Century to the present day the exhibition tries to examine the central moments that have defined Germany’s past, it’s great, world-changing achievements as well as its devastating tragedies, and explores the profound influence that Germany’s history, culture and inventiveness have had across Europe.

Germany: memories of a nation is an attempt to present a Germany that goes beyond WWI and WWII, an attempt that seems to have the right timing considering that German-British relations in the frame of the European Union have become as significant as ever.

‘We are a people’: Banners like this, calling for Germany’s reunification, were brought to the famous Monday Demonstrations in East Germany at the end of the 1990s.

An accompanying podcast to the British Museum exhibition, directed by British Museum director Neil MacGregor himself, can be downloaded from the BBC Radio 4 website.

The exhibition is sponsored by Betsy and Jack Ryan. With support from Salomon Oppenheimer Philanthropic Foundation.

Kira Raebel

credit to The British Museum


News Views

Scottish independence and UK leaving the EU – Both a mistake

This article by GBF chairman Bob Bischof was published in the Daily Mail, June 29 2014

—–    —–    —–

In less than three months the Scots will be voting whether to leave the Union.

They may decide to head out on their own, or they may choose to stay within the United Kingdom and be given as yet unspecified further powers to determine their own affairs.

Although the difference between those two choices might not be that great in the end, a separation following a majority Yes vote would be a significant set-back for the Union, Europe and the Scots themselves.

However, the debate could bring about some good.

As the nation states of the European Union head towards closer economic and political integration, its citizens are feeling that they are losing too much of their national identity and are therefore rebelling.

In some cases this manifests itself in protests against immigration, in others through the resurgence of regional and tribal issues, and in others again, in anger against Brussels ‘red-tape’ and the desire to win back powers for national governments.

The recent European elections gave an increasing share of the vote to the parties on the right arguing against immigration, citing the threat to jobs and criticising EU meddling in home affairs – as UKIP did in the UK.

In my view the real underlying fear is what in Germany we call Ueberfremdung, which translates as ‘foreignisation’.

That is linked not only to immigration, but also to overseas ownership of huge chunks of British industry, including ports, airports and utilities.

This is of course not just a British phenomenon. The same feelings are at the heart of the rise of populist right-wing parties in France, Austria, Greece and Spain.

The only countries that have reacted differently so far are Germany – my native country – and Italy.

Perhaps citizens in these two nations are not as easily reeled in by demagogues with simple messages because they have been there before.

Although the EU has talked much about the rule of subsidiarity – the principle by which decisions must be taken at the appropriate local level – Brussels has failed its member states by not delivering on it and by not making it clear enough.

The rising support for the ‘Yes’ campaign and ‘Scotland for the Scots’ is, I believe, an expression of similar concerns and must be taken seriously.

It is not good policy to try to scare the Scots about losing the pound and being economically worse off, or even by raising doubts about whether an independent Scotland could secure membership of the European Union, as Alex Salmond wishes.

This is much more an emotional issue and should be treated as such by the ‘No’ campaigners.

Far better, then, to concentrate of the positive aspects of the Union. There are not only economies of scale in business but also in politics. Size matters, as every business knows, when it tries to sell in global markets.

Paddling your own canoe economically and politically in a more and more globalised world is difficult, to say the least. The threat of Britain leaving the European Union is similarly counterproductive in my opinion.

Most importantly, the men in Brussels and Angela Merkel in Berlin must have a close look at the results of their actions so far. In the long run they can’t ignore the deep seated fears and mistrust of the peoples of Europe.

Britain may appear isolated following the row over the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker, but should continue to lead a push for change.

As for Scotland and the UK, the West Lothian Question – whether Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs should be able to vote on matters involving only England – is unresolved, and the relationship between Scotland and the other countries that make up the Union is not very efficiently structured.

It might be an idea to take a look at the constitution that the Allies gave Germany after the last World War, which has a clear separation of national, state and local powers. It could serve as a model for the men in Brussels.

—–   —–

You can read more articles by Bob Bischof on his website.


Final score…

Sometimes the economics profession needs to take stock and admit it got it wrong.  I went with a mere 2-1 victory to Germany against Brazil.  This was, justifiably perhaps, the result of looking  at the exports of Germany to Brazil and vice versa.  I chose the wrong lead-indicator and have to hold my hands up and say I should have looked at the world rankings. As everyone will know, Germany is the world’s third largest exporter after China and the US.  Brazil, in contrast, is 19th: so if I had gone with this ratio, I’d have gone 6-1.  But who would have believed me?

As Argentina’s Aguero said this week, “All the pressure is on Germany”.  Argentina doesn’t rank in the top 30 of global exporters and needs to find more than US $1bn by the end of July to avoid another sovereign default. Football is a distraction.  It needs a miracle – a hand of God, maybe – or, as I argued last week ( in free trade terms, an “invisible hand” of God.  Unfortunately for Argentina, the best hope it has for trade recovery is through its exports of car parts to Brazil, and since Brazil is likely to underperform in that sector this year (exports forecast to grow by just over 1.5%), this is a dangerous situation.

Translated into footballing terms, Argentina is overly reliant on Messi playing brilliantly, which he hasn’t done so far despite pulling Argentina through to this stage practically by himself.  I for one would put money on Lahm, Mertesacker and Schweinsteiger between them being able to contain him.  And with the entire Brazilian nation now cheering on Germany as the least awful alternative, the effect could be a decidedly mediocre performance.

So I, like practically everyone else, have to go for a Germany win.  However, Germany’s exports to Argentina are forecast to grow at 6.5% this year while Argentina’s imports into Germany will grow by 6%.  This suggests that it won’t be an easily-won victory: 0-0 after extra time and Germany to win on penalties?

Post script: Paul the Octopus died just four months after the end of the 2010 World Cup.  While I hope this will not happen to me of course, I am bound to point out that Germany’s imports of Live Molluscs (including Octopus) are set to increase in 2014 by nearly 4%.  Might the German-British Forum be looking for a replacement pundit, I wonder?

Rebecca Harding


2-1 Germany – Germany’s exports to Brazil growing at twice the rate of Brazil’s exports to Germany!!!

This should have been the final….

In my family we have a league table of football punditry.  For every tournament we predict who will be in the final, who will be the surprise team in a good way, who will be the most disappointing team, who will be the leading goal scorer and, in the case of the English Premier League, who will be the first manager to be sacked.  I predicted a Brazil-Germany final for the World Cup (which just shows how closely I looked at who was on which side of the draw).

My excuse of course is that I am far too busy looking at trade data to worry about football. But, hot off the presses of last week’s successful predictions (Germany to reach the semi-finals and 2-1 Brazil-Colombia based on coffee exports),  I now appear to be the German British Forum’s official football pundit.

I am flattered of course, but slightly nervous as this one is difficult to call.  To what extent does football matter here?  Brazil have home advantage – the 12th man – which is just as well because Neymar is injured and Thiago Silva suspended.  Germany are sticking to the playing ugly and do not appear to have been affected by virus that swept through their camp last week (man-flu for media purposes maybe?).

On balance, the game is too hard to call on footballing grounds but on trade grounds really easy.  Germany’s exports to Brazil are forecast to grow at twice the rate of Brazil’s exports to Germany. 2-1 to Germany seems the inevitable conclusion and supported by the fact that two of Brazil’s fastest growing imports from Germany are medicines and medical equipment – a legacy of injuries sustained in the World Cup perhaps?

Rebecca Harding

News Views

What Paul the Octopus could never predict

The German British Forum would find it hard to be neutral about the outcome of the World Cup quarter final this afternoon.

One of us has already predicted Germany for the final on the basis of trade patterns (  For a Brit, it’s a bit like supporting a League 2 team to demonstrate that you are a “real” football supporter but supporting Chelsea or Manchester City in the Premier League to make sure that you get some of the upside of liking football…. After England’s parlous performance, what Brit wouldn’t secretly be hoping that Germany will win tonight?

And who needs an octopus when trade data will do to predict scores?

Delta Economics Q2 forecast is that the UK’s trade will decline by 1.3% in 2014 so why are we surprised that the English teams in cricket and football have under performed and Andy Murray is out of Wimbledon?  By the same token, Brazil’s coffee exports are forecast to grow by 8% this year and Colombia’s by 4% so 2-1 is the obvious result for that quarter final.So what does this tell us about the game that kicks off in just one and a half hours from now.

Well, Germany’s export trade is forecast to grow by 1.2% while France’s will decline by 1.4%.  Germany’s car exports will grow by nearly 1% this year while French car exports are likely to contract this year by over 10%.  We’ve tried desperately to find an area where France might excel, but even here, German wine exports could grow by as much as 4% this year; we are forecasting that French wine exports will shrink by nearly 1%.Whichever way you look at it, things don’t look good for France this evening.

Score prediction – Germany to win 3-0 and France to have a player sent off in the first half.  This will ruin the game as a spectacle of course, but then so far this World Cup, although Germany have won, they have still not achieved Joachim Low’s goal of winning pretty as well as winning ugly.  But we are all used to that.

News Views

Keeping up with the Schmidts – response to apprentice article in The Economist

Westminster is trying to replicate aspects of Germany’s apprentice system but it is not working. Should it even try? Will Stirling looks at the recent evidence.

This article in The Economist published April 26 illustrates the difficulties with copying systems that work in other countries.

Before the 2008 financial crisis, apprenticeships, while popular with large companies, were not championed. Culturally, society tended to see an apprenticeship as ‘what you do if you can’t get the grades’ at GCSE. Many still think like this.

While the number of apprenticeships in Britain has climbed from 280,000, when the coalition government came into office in 2010, to over 500,000 today, the article criticises David Cameron and Co for two main shortcomings.

Firstly, most of these apprenticeships are Level 2, broadly equivalent to GCSEs. This is not equitable to an apprenticeship in Germany, where there is one standard across the country and all sectors, with a minimum duration of three years. Some, but not many, UK apprenticeships are Level 3 (on par with A Levels) and very few are Level 4 plus (degree level).

Secondly, too many companies and organisations have taken advantage of a system that was flawed. The government has doubled funding provision for apprenticeships = good. Training providers take the money and offer training to employers as prescribed courses and subjects. But quite often the training course is too narrow and not employer-focused enough. Organisations have been accused of becoming training providers just to qualify for the funding, and industry claims the money has been wasted. This explains the why the Employer Ownership of Skills pilot was launched – now in Round 4 – that gives employers funding to tailor-make their own training.

Morrisons, one company, is responsible for one in 10 apprentice starts in the whole UK, and these people are not being trained in hard, ‘value adding’ skills.

Partly due to the disillusionment of industry in this training funding, between 2011 and 2013 investment in training by employers fell by £2.4 billion, and the number of job vacancies without qualified applicants rose from 91,000 to 146,000.

The author rightly highlights the strengths of Germany’s vocational training. A simpler hierarchy of stages to reach the top grade, be it “Ingenieur” or the equivalent in banking or insurance, the pathways and stages are clear. The mighty Handelskammer – an organisation with a budget that dwarfs that of the British business support organs – has a specific mandate to deliver and monitor vocational training. Through compulsory membership of the DIHK – unpalatable to some, but effective – German companies find it difficult to fail to maintain standards – the Handelskammer will find them out. Britain does not have such a robust policing authority.

It is a shame the author did not acknowledge the excellent University Technical Colleges, established by the Baker Dearing Education Trust several years ago.

There are 16 UTCs now, and 47 will have launched by 2016. These engineering schools cover the secondary school map of ages 13 to 18 and follow the national curriculum for GCSEs, but with a strong bent for STEM, engineering-based and IT courses. Each has a speciality: the Silverstone UTC for example, specialises in high performance engineering and business and technical events management – no rpizes for guessing in which industry these youngsters may end up working.

Languages and the main swathe of subjects are covered, not there is less art, more science.

The first one, actually initiated by Lord Anthony Bamford, the JCB Academy in Rocester, posted extraordinary GCSE results in its first academic year – 99% of students achieved grades A* to C in maths and English.

This is the British answer to the successful German Berufsschule, one of the mainstays of Germany’s five school education system, that directs children with practical engineering aptitude into a route to industry and manufacturing.

In Germany it seems – although I may be wrong – parents and kids do not place the Berufsschule on a lower rung than a conventional secondary school education (the Gymnasium). People understand its role and its parity.

With UTCS, far from being perceived as playing second fiddle to the normal secondaries, colleges like the JCB Academy and Black Country UTC are heavily oversubscribed. Indeed, the JCB Academy was criticised by several schools in its catchment area for poaching the brightest 13-year old pupils when it launched. Students come from up to 50-miles away to study here, leaving home at 0700 in some cases. It proves a vocational path to industry not only exists but is proving really popular.

The Economist article says that Britain should play to her strengths.

“Its strong services sector tends to reward people with general skills, lowering the perceived value of specific, technical ones. And its flexible labour market enables employees to move around more freely, making it harder to pin them down for extended periods of training. The Germany-fanciers of Whitehall—perhaps without noticing it—are running up against their country’s own strengths.”

You can have labour market flexibility and a strong services sector and an engineering- or vocational-led education. They are not mutually exclusive.

Will Stirling

—   —   —   —

A conference planned by the German British Forum in autumn 2014 on the power of mid-sized companies in Britain and Germany, as a force for jobs and growth in the European Union, will examine the differences of the German-British education systems, and what each can learn from the other.


Trip to Brussels to strengthen Euro

Nick Clegg had been despatched to Brussels to work his polyglot, Euro-expert “Heineken” act – reaching the diplomatic parts other ministers cannot reach.

Euro Banknotes

An important part of that process, I gather, is trying to steer the UK’s EU partners away from radical treaty change in response to the single currency crisis.

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