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Future generations need German
26 Nov 2012 Beata Balogová Foreigners in Slovakia
AXEL Hartmann sees a demand for German language education in Slovakia. However, the German ambassador to Slovakia is concerned about the impact the legislative change that made English language mandatory for elementary school children here might have on the ability of the next generation to speak German over the long-term. He notes that small and medium-sized companies operating in Slovakia will always need people who speak at least some German. Ambassador Hartmann, however, sees a positive new trend of German companies in Slovakia investing in research and development facilities here, which he says will increase the competitiveness of the Slovak economy.
The Slovak Spectator spoke to Hartmann about a programme helping young people from Europe to obtain work or enrol in a training course in Germany, changes in Germany’s energy policies as well as Slovak-German cooperation in the field of archaeology.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): Berlin is launching a €40-million programme to help young unemployed Europeans learn German and find jobs in Germany. What is the motivation behind this programme, and will Slovakia be part of its focus?
Under this programme, applicants can, for example, obtain vouchers for language courses in their home countries or in Germany. Reimbursement of the costs of recognition procedures and courses shall also be possible. Slovakia is of course included in the focus.
Young people, employers in Germany as well as the home countries themselves can benefit from this programme. The young applicants will be able to develop career prospects; the employers can cushion shortages of skilled labour and the home countries will regain qualified and experienced professionals after a certain period of time. Aside from that, it has been difficult for young people from other EU countries to gain access to the dual education system in Germany. This programme will make things much easier for young people interested in this kind of training.
Germany is also very active in sharing its experiences with the dual education system with other countries. On December 10 there will be a conference on the issue of vocational training in Europe. Federal Minister of Education and Research Annette Schavan has invited her counterparts from Greece, Italy, Portugal, Latvia, Finland and Slovakia to exchange their experiences and expertise on the issue. Minister [Dušan] Čaplovič has already confirmed that he will accept the invitation. For 2013, the Slovak Ministry of Education is currently planning a conference on dual education in Slovakia, too. Both the Federal government as well as German investors in Slovakia will support these efforts.
TSS: Germany is changing its energy policy, shifting its focus to renewable sources of energy, while Slovakia remains strongly committed to nuclear energy. What challenges will Germany face with its shift in energy policy? What are the possibilities of cooperation between Slovakia and Germany in the energy sector?
But switching from one source of energy to another will not be enough. Energy consumption has to be reduced and it is here that we have a wide field of cooperation with Slovakia, like the isolation of buildings, the development of more energy-efficient technologies, etc. At the EU-level, there are additional fields of cooperation: safety of nuclear energy, a European energy policy, the security of energy supplies and the completion of an internal European energy market.
TSS: German investors are well established in Slovakia, for example in the automotive and information and communication technology (ICT) sectors. Where do you see further opportunities for German investments in Slovakia?
TSS: What are, in your opinion, the main challenges for the Slovak business environment in terms of remaining attractive to German investors? Has the financial crisis changed Germany’s appetite for investing abroad?
TSS: Do you have any information about German investors departing from Slovakia?
TSS: One potential field of cooperation is e-mobility, i.e. the production of electric cars and their infrastructure. What is behind Germany’s strong interest in e-mobility?
TSS: Last year, English language became mandatory in Slovakia for elementary school children. Do you expect this change to impact the study of German in Slovakia?
We have also seen a rising demand for German in the private sector. Both the Goethe Institut and the Österreich Institut have already seen rising numbers in course participants over the past few years. Since 2007, enrolment in the Goethe Institut has increased by 50 percent. Germany is very active in the support of the German language in Slovak grammar schools (gymnasiums), and the German language diploma (Deutsches Sprachdiplom) is offered at 25 schools across Slovakia. We fear that due to the changes in German-language education in primary schools this offer will, in the medium and long term, become very difficult to maintain.
Slovakia is very much interconnected with Germany in the fields of the economy and culture, and thus it is not enough to have a single German school here. If you look at small and medium-sized companies operating here in Slovakia, they need people who speak at least some German and if after a certain point they will not find such people, it will also affect the economy.
TSS: Slovakia and Germany are cooperating in the field of archaeology through a Slovak-German team, which has been excavating the Vráble-Fidvár site (in Nitra Region) since 2007. The project is financed by the Bonn-based German research institution. Moreover, Slovakia is cooperating with the town of Schleswig in the preservation of precious excavations in Poprad. What has led to this cooperation and what is the outcome so far? Are there any similar examples of such cooperation?
Concerning Poprad, already in 2005 a wooden tomb of a noble man from the migration period in the 3rd or 4th century AD was discovered from an excavation. Since then, the wooden construction of the grave as well as the furniture found at the site are being reconstructed and preserved by archaeologists in Schleswig-Holstein. Both Germany and Slovakia are very active in the preservation of their heritage. Slovakia already has 8 UNESCO world heritage sites, among which are Banská Štiavnica and Spiš Castle. Germany currently has 37 world cultural heritage sites.
TSS: Ondrej Pöss, the director of the Museum of Culture of the Carpathian Germans, was recently awarded a high German state prize. What prompted Germany to recognise Mr Pöss, and what significance do the activities of this museum hold for Germany?
TSS: Have trends in tourism between Slovakia and Germany changed over the past couple of years and if yes, how so? In your opinion is the tourism potential between the countries being fully explored?
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