Adequate at best: Germany scores poorly for environmental protection

A new study by DAAD, GIZ and the Goethe-Institut reveals what people in other countries want and expect from Germany.

How is the COVID-19 pandemic impacting Germany’s foreign relations? What do people want and expect from Germany? This topic is explored by a new joint study by the Goethe-Institut, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH entitled ‘Looking in from the outside – international perspectives on Germany during the COVID-19 pandemic’. More than 600 experts in almost 40 countries from the partner networks of the three organisations were surveyed for the study.

One of the main findings of the study was that the German Government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 was seen as exemplary by other countries. With regard to the second wave of COVID-19 infections, however, many of the respondents were bewildered by the initially sluggish pace of the vaccination roll-out and the population’s lack of willingness to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.

Top marks for democracy and business, but poor on environmental protection 

Another key finding was that Germany continues to be regarded as a leading economic power and a stable democracy. The country is also respected for its strong education system, its interdisciplinary research with a practical focus and the rich cultural landscape. However, digital infrastructures and environmental protection were viewed with criticism, with study participants noting a discrepancy between aspirations and reality.

An end to the culture of welcoming migrants: Germany perceived as being less friendly

The rise in populist and extremist tendencies is regarded as a major risk: the respondents describe their experiences of people being less friendly in Germany in recent years and how they have increasingly felt that they were not welcome.

In terms of foreign policy, Germany’s position in relation to tensions between China, Russia and the US will be important in the future. The respondents see Germany’s commitment to a strong Europe as a given. However, they feel that Germany could cooperate even more at an international level in the field of research, science and art.

‘The study contains many pointers on how to shape cooperation in concrete terms – with regard to expectations and topics. Naturally, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, global health plays an important role, but so do green recovery, social cohesion and digitalisation,’ explains Chair of GIZ’s Management Board Tanja Gönner, adding that digitalisation in particular is an area where there are inconsistent perceptions and big expectations of Germany: ‘On the one hand, people think that we are lagging behind. On the other, Germany is seen as having a special role to play in developing rules and frameworks. Digital change is playing a growing role in our work, and we are working extremely hard to contribute and extend our power to shape change,’ said Gönner, stressing the benefits for GIZ’s own work.

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