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"Berlin! You are so wonderful, Berlin!" - This was the 31st AGDM Annual Seminar

There are praises for the capital not only from musicians, but also from representatives and youth coordinators of the German minorities from 17 countries. The reason for this was the 31st annual seminar of the Working Group of German Minorities, which took place in Berlin from 7 to 9 November 2022. Representatives and youth representatives from 17 countries from Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and Central Asia had the opportunity to hold intensive discussions on the current situation and challenges in their respective countries with important decision-makers in German politics.

Among the numerous topics of this year's AGDM Annual Seminar, two in particular came into focus: the scandalous and continuing discrimination against the German minority in Poland due to the legal cutbacks in German lessons for the children of the German minority, and the difficult situation of the German minority in Ukraine, which had to stop most of its minority work and activities with the beginning of the war at the end of February this year.

After a three-year break, the representatives of the associations and federations of the German minority abroad were able to meet again in hybrid form in Berlin.

The official opening of the 31st Annual Seminar of the AGDM was opened on Monday morning by the Federal Government Commissioner for Repatriate Issues and National Minorities, Ms Natalie Pawlik (MdB). She particularly emphasised her awareness that the German minorities abroad are facing financial challenges and that participants can be sure of her full support in the future.

A technical discussion with the head of the department Dr. Alexander Schumacher and his staff of the department responsible for German minorities at the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Home Affairs offered the opportunity for an exchange between the member organisations and the funding agency on important questions of content and funding.

The day was concluded by the expert discussion in the German Bundestag with the deputy chairperson of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the German Bundestag, Andrea Lindholz (MdB), the chairperson of the parliamentary group for displaced persons, ethnic German immigrants and German minorities, Christoph de Vries (MdB) and the deputy chairperson of the CDU regional group in Schleswig-Holstein and chairperson of the committee for the environment, nature conservation, nuclear safety and consumer protection, Astrid Damerow (MdB). During a detailed discussion on the major problems and challenges for the German minorities in Europe and Central Asia, the representatives of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group assured their continued support and offered to remain a permanent contact in the German Bundestag.

Talks at the Documentation Centre: Stiftung Verbundenheit, ifa and the Federal Foreign Office culminated in an evening networking event

The second day of the 31st Annual Conference of the AGDM began with a guided tour of the permanent exhibition at the Documentation Centre Displacement, Expulsion, Reconciliation. This was followed by a very informative discussion with the director of the Documentation Centre, Dr. Gundula Bavendamm, during which she reported on the history of the museum's foundation, the concept of the permanent exhibition, and current challenges and plans. The representatives of the German minorities were able to express their praise and criticism, but also their own wishes and suggestions to the management of the Documentation Centre. Together they decided to work out the proposals for the exhibition together after the conference and to send them to the Documentation Centre.

Another important expert discussion took place with the representatives of the Foundation for Solidarity with Germans Abroad (Stiftung Verbundenheit mit den Deutschen im Ausland). In a discussion with Hartmut Koschyk (retired member of parliament) and Sebastian Machnitzke, managing director of the foundation, the participants were able to exchange views on cooperation and the role of the foundation as an intermediary organisation.

In the subsequent expert discussion with the Commissioner for Foreign Cultural and Educational Policy at the Federal Foreign Office, Anna Bartels, AGDM spokesperson Bernard Gaida emphasised that not only material support for German minorities abroad is necessary, but that clear and visible moral and political support from the Federal Government is hoped for. German minorities expect a sign of solidarity from the Federal Government. Head of Department Urban Beckmann and Head of Division Karoline Gil of the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa), who attended the talk, confirmed the speaker's words.

For the so-called "Bergfest" of the conference, the AGDM together with the two chairpersons of the parliamentary group Minorities in the German Bundestag – Stefan Seidler and Denise Loop – invited to an evening networking event, where the participants could exchange and network in depth with representatives of different parliamentary groups of the German Bundestag and staff of the Stiftung Verbundenheit and ifa.

Internal and parliamentary group "Minorities"

The last day began with the AGDM internal meeting, in which the participants presented their country reports. Both a representative and a youth representative of the German minority from the respective country reported on realised projects, the activities of the German youth organisations and current challenges. The fears of the German minorities abroad lie above all in the cuts in funding, which could become a threat to some minorities.

The afternoon expert discussion with the members of the parliamentary group Minorities, Stefan Seidler, Denise Loop and Maja Wallstein, dealt with current problems in the respective German minorities and possible solutions, as well as with the further support of the German minorities abroad by the federal government. The Bundestag members who took part in the discussion showed great interest and understanding for the current, difficult situation of the German minorities abroad and promised support in the upcoming budget discussions in the Bundestag.  

Finally, a discussion took place with the representatives of the SPD parliamentary group in the German Bundestag and the deputy parliamentary group leader Dirk Weise.  He explained that they were interested in an exchange and were contact persons in the federal government. The SPD parliamentary group has set up a working group on the topic of "German minorities" within the framework of the "Interior" working group and would thus like to offer the German minorities an exchange platform within their own parliamentary group. Natalie Pawlik, the Federal Government Commissioner for Repatriate Issues and National Minorities, emphasised that minority policy is an important part of peace policy and that the SPD parliamentary group has a historical responsibility for the German minorities.

AGDM spokesperson confirmed in office, new youth coordinator elected

On the first day of the 31st AGDM Annual Conference, Bernard Gaida was re-elected AGDM spokesperson for the next three years. He has held this role since 2016.

Hanna Klein, Youth Representative of the German Community in Croatia, was elected AGDM Youth Coordinator.

This year's AGDM meeting was once again a successful event, confirming the importance of ongoing dialogue between German minorities living abroad and German politics. Further confirmation of this statement is reflected in the fact that the budget for the German minorities for 2023 has not been cut, but has even been increased by 5.25 million euros.

These additional funds will be made available to the German minorities in Poland and Ukraine. The discussions on the current problems of the German minorities with many members of parliament in the Bundestag during the AGDM meeting left a good impression and thus decisive course was also set in the funding policy of the federal government towards the German minorities abroad.

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