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Federations Magazine Article
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One German Land’s “Embassy” to the European Union

One German Land’s “Embassy” to the European Union BY Rod Macdonell

FEDERATIONS: Did you and your family
move to Brussels when you took up
your post?
STEIN: So far I commute between North
Rhine-Westfalia and Brussels. Brussels
and our capital of Düsseldorf are only 220
kilometres apart.
FEDERATIONS: What are the main functions
of your office?
STEIN: It is our task, first of all, to report
on those issues that might be of relevance
for our state to bring our government’s
position into the decision-making process
here in Brussels and also to work as
a platform for institutions, companies and
so on, coming from North Rhine-Westfalia
who want to present themselves in
FEDERATIONS: Could you please
describe a day in the life of your office?
STEIN: Let’s say it is parliamentary week
in Brussels. First of all we discuss the
day’s schedule to screen what is happening
in the different committees in (the
European) Parliament, to check whether
on the agenda of these committees there
are political issues like structural policy
research and development policy, you
name it, that might be of interest for us
and then one of our employees attends
the committee meeting and gives a
report, and in some cases, makes a proposal
for a press release, and that is
coordinated with the chancellery (office
of the prime minister) in Düsseldorf.
Then we have several meetings with
business representatives to explain and
give them support when they approach
the European institutions so that we are
network-building. I have several meetings
with representatives of other delegations
either of the German Länder or partner
regions, in our case, in the Netherlands
or Scotland, for example, to discuss
which issues we might cooperate on.
And then at lunch time we very often
have meetings in our representation of
North Rhine-Westfalia to discuss new
developments in the field of research and
development policy or environmental
policy. Then in the evening there are
Land discussions and receptions either
by a ministry coming from Düsseldorf or
a company that is based in North Rhine-
Westfalia where we put forward further
political issues and have political debates.
FEDERATIONS: When people from
North Rhine-Westfalia with commercial
interests wish to make representations,
do you show them which doors to go to,
and how to open those doors?
STEIN: Yes. Take for example an energy
supplier. North-Rhine Westfalia is the
part of Germany where the most energy
is produced and where the biggest companies
are. When such an energy
producer organizes a political debate on
issues that are important to him – for
example climate control or energy policy
– we, together with this company, are
organizing a conference where an eu
commissioner, several Members of the
European Parliament (meps) as well as
representatives of our government and
the company are discussing these issues.
Thus, we give that company a platform,
and we are discussing issues that are of
concern to all of us, and thus we are
enhancing a debate and getting involved
in the decision-making process here.
FEDERATIONS: Is it the members of the
European Parliament that your staff is
most required to discuss with?
STEIN: It ’s both the European
Commission on one side, and Parliament
on the other. The commission because it
prepares the initiatives in European policies so you must get involved in what is
prepared as an initiative as soon as possible
so that it fits into your policy agenda.
It is also important to be in close touch
with parliament because especially those
meps who were elected in North Westfalia
have the same task as we have…. It is a
very close relationship.
FEDERATIONS: How do you relate with
the German Embassy and other Land
STEIN: Among the circle of the different
Länder offices, we directors meet regularly,
and in all political fields, there are
special working groups like in environmental
policy, interior affairs, social
affairs …. We are also cooperating with the
permanent representation of the Federal
Republic of Germany. To give you an
example, Germany has the general presidency

of the eu (until June 30, 2007). So
the permanent representation (of
Germany), as well as the Länder representation,
organized a cultural program to
support the general presidency here in
Brussels. We show German culture and
innovation through various activities such
as concerts, debates and receptions…
There are sometimes, frankly, issues for
debate because we are working more as
lobbyists for our states and thus we might
differ from the Federal Republic’s policy
or we might set different priorities that are
not the same as the federal government’s.
But that does not mean that we are working
against the federal government, rather
that we are playing our part.
FEDERATIONS: So that is how you relate
with the German Embassy?
STEIN: To give you an example, after the
enlargement, the policy of how to divide
structural funds financed by the eu,
between member states, it was in our
interest that regions with older industries
who are facing a structural development
process also have to be supported in
future. So we lobbied together with
Scotland and the British Midlands and
French regions, whereas our federal government
had also to keep in mind the
new German Länder as well as the new
member states. So we on the one hand
worked closely together with the federal
government and the permanent representation
of the federal government. But
we highlighted the aspect of these older
regions such as the Ruhr Valley, in our
case, which still need support.
FEDERATIONS: The federal government
no doubt has concerns that Germany present
a coherent voice in Brussels. Can you
give examples where there were significant
differences between the federal government
and at least some of the Länder?
STEIN: For the last while I cannot recall a
problem we had.
FEDERATIONS: In many cases, eu laws
and directives require legislation by the
Länder for implementation. Apparently,
Germany is non-compliant in certain
areas because of the lack of such implementation
at the Land level. Is this a
major problem?
STEIN: I think Germany is neither better
nor worse than other member states and
the Länder play their responsible part. I
don’t see that you can blame Länder for
not implementing legislation soon enough.
I mean if you have a look at the statistics of
all member states in all regions that in the
view of the European Commission have
problems in implementing laws and directives
but seen overall, you cannot say that
is a very serious problem, especially not a
German problem.
FEDERATIONS: The eu has developed
the concept of a “Europe of the Regions.”
Is this a priority for you? Why?
STEIN: The future of Europe lies in the
concept of a Europe of Regions because
the European regions have such a variety
that only if you take the special characteristics
of the regions into account, you
will get the support of the people, you
will create or establish the European
house… that makes it interesting and
strong, so we should focus more on the
principle of subsidiarity and we should
support the regions and their characteristics.
(Editor’s note: Subsidiarity, as
defined by the Oxford dictionary, is the
principle that a central authority should
have a subsidiary function, performing
only those tasks which cannot be performed
effectively at a more immediate
or local level.)
FEDERATIONS: Could you explain
Article 23 of the Basic Law (the German
constitution) adopted in 1992?
STEIN: This article settles the relationship
between the federal government
and the Länder governments. It means
that while more political issues went
upwards to the level of the European
Union, in our federal system, the Länder
got the right to participate through our
second chamber, the Bundesrat, in matters
concerning the eu. So we are part of
the official legislative procedure on eu
matters via the second chamber in Berlin.
FEDERATIONS: In 2003 there was an
attempt made by your federal government
to limit the Länder rights in dealing
with the eu. What was the essence of that
disagreement and how was it resolved?
STEIN: Very often it is said that it is difficult
to deal with the federal republic
because of our federal system and
because the Länder play an important
role in the decision-making process. The
federal government tried to reduce the
influence of the Länder but in the end we
came to an agreement that the Länder
play their part in the decision-making
process. So we secured our position and
right now after the first part of our reform
on federalism, in matters of cultural
affairs, broadcasting, education, it is the
Länder who are representing Germany in
the European institutions and not the
federal government. We strengthened
our impact.