Schaefer gets ideas on increasing German ties

October 02, 1993|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,Contributing Writer

BERLIN -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer dined this week with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, talked with businessmen and toured former East Berlin by motor coach. But, he said yesterday, there was always one question in the back of his mind: "I was wondering, why am I here?"

Maryland taxpayers might ask the same question, if they were footing the bill for the governor's five-day whirlwind tour of Germany. But the Federal Republic of Germany will be picking up the tab for all but Mr. Schaefer's airfare.

And Mr. Schaefer said he had found the answer to the question as he got ideas for ways Maryland corporations, universities and residents might establish greater ties with Germany.

"There are great opportunities for investment in Germany, particularly in East Germany," Mr. Schaefer said after hearing about the large effort the country is making to rebuild the East and provide incentives to attract foreign business.

After a luncheon meeting yesterday at a Berlin publishing house, Mr. Schaefer pulled a list from his coat pocket and ticked off half a dozen areas of expertise in Maryland -- including medicine, business management and the construction of roads and sewerage systems -- that could be transported across the Atlantic.

In addition, he said, he would like to promote collaboration between Maryland universities and cultural institutions and their counterparts in Germany.

Mr. Schaefer is one of six governors who traveled to Germany at the government's invitation as part of Chancellor Kohl's effort to promote greater cooperation between the two countries. The others are Terry E. Branstad of Iowa, Carroll A. Campbell Jr. of South Carolina, Ned Ray McWherter of Tennessee, Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin and L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia.

"The German-American partnership is still the crucial backbone of international and domestic stability," said Werner Weidenfeld, who organized the visit for Mr. Kohl as head of the office of German-American Cooperation. "Now we have to keep that vital."

Over the past several years, the Germans also have played host to groups of American businessmen and academics. Mr. Weidenfeld noted that top officials from Coca-Cola took part in one of the trips. The result, he said, was a $1 billion investment by the company in the former East Germany.

There was plenty of time for dialogue this week. The six governors spent five hours one evening with Mr. Kohl at his house in Bonn discussing a range of topics from trade to educational issues. But Mr. Schaefer said he was most impressed with the warmth and appreciation the Germans displayed toward Americans.

The governors, who met with legislators and members of the Foreign Ministry, also learned about a vocational apprenticeship program with business and schools to train students who do not want to go to college.

Mr. Schaefer said his most vivid memory of the trip may be his walk under the Brandenburg Gate, which became a symbol for '' the division of East and West in this city and in Europe as a whole.

The governor first visited the striking monument when he was in the military in 1945. He was back again after the Berlin Wall went up around it, isolating the structure from both East and West. In his visit yesterday, Mr. Schaefer said he walked under the gate and thought: "Now it is open and it is free."

Mr. Schaefer is scheduled to return to Maryland today.

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