Solidarity at the Time of COVID-19: A Conversation with Nicole Menzenbach, Consul General of Germany to New England

May 5th, 2020 in News

This conversation between Nicole Menzenbach, Consul General of Germany to New England, and Joe Wippl, Professor of the Practice of International Relations at the Pardee School of Global Studies, was recorded last Thursday, April 30. It is the seventh in a series of interviews we have been conducting with European Consuls General in Boston on the theme of Solidarity at the Time of COVID-19. Our interest has been to explore the various approaches to material solidarity taken by different European countries in response to the coronavirus pandemic from our unique vantage point in Boston.

In this conversation, Prof. Wippl asked Consul General Menzenbach about Germany’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. In particular, he asked about the reasons why Germany has fared somewhat better than other European countries. To begin with, Menzenbach discussed Germany’s advantage in being hit later than Italy and having therefore more time to implement the necessary measures. She then emphasized the importance of a strong welfare state, in particular as regards education and healthcare. Germany’s culture of solidarity, she noted, is exemplified by the “Kurzarbeit,” a state-regulated system of unemployment insurance which distributes the losses from the economic downturn between employers, employees, and government. Menzenbach touched on the problem for democracy posed by social distancing. She concluded her remarks by emphasizing Germany’s commitment to Europe, stating that the stability of the European economy is in Germany’s own interest. The coronavirus, she said, has made it clearer than ever that the nations of Europe, Germany included, need each other.