- LATIN AMERICA
- MIDDLE EAST
- United Kingdom
- United States
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- Oil & Gas
- Real Estate
- 3M (MMM)
- AT&T (T)
- AIG (AIG)
- Alcoa (AA)
- Altria (MO)
- American Express (AXP)
- Apple (AAPL)
- Bank of America (BAC)
- Boeing (BA)
- Caterpillar (CAT)
- Chevron (CVX)
- Cisco (CSCO)
- Citigroup (C)
- Coca Cola (KO)
- Dell (DELL)
- DuPont (DD)
- Eastman Kodak (EK)
- ExxonMobil (XOM)
- FedEx (FDX)
- General Electric (GE)
- General Motors (GM)
- Google (GOOG)
- Hewlett-Packard (HPQ)
- Home Depot (HD)
- Honeywell (HON)
- IBM (IBM)
- Intel (INTC)
- Int'l Paper (IP)
- JP Morgan Chase (JPM)
- J & J (JNJ)
- McDonalds (MCD)
- Merck (MRK)
- Microsoft (MSFT)
- P & G (PG)
- United Tech (UTX)
- Wal-Mart (WMT)
- Walt Disney (DIS)
- iHaveNet.com: Europe
Conflict Resolution and German Reunification
by John Feffer
East and West Germany were like a couple that had rushed into marriage with very little understanding of what it would be like to live together
If any country were in need of a national program of conflict resolution at every level of society, it would have been Germany after it reunified in 1990. East and West Germany were like a couple that had rushed into marriage with very little understanding of what it would be like to live together, merge finances, come to joint decisions, and make all the little adjustments that are necessary when two people with very different backgrounds are suddenly thrown together. Marriage counselors can help a new couple sort through all these challenges.
But Germany didn't have a national agency of marriage counselors to mediate the conflicts that arose after reunification. It took a rather traditional approach. West Germany acted in many ways like the husband in a patriarchal family. West Germany was the primary breadwinner, the one that brought the lion's share of the wealth to the union. And so West Germany made most of the decisions.
When I met Jamie Walker in 1990, she was a specialist in mediation and conflict resolution. She worked in this capacity from her home in West Berlin, becoming involved in the peace movement, doing violence-prevention work in the school system, and eventually pioneering efforts in mediating cross-border family conflicts.
As German reunification proceeded, she became involved in inter-German conflict resolution. But it was not a systematic program. "Mediation was hardly used in those days," she told me in an interview at at a Kreuzberg restaurant in May 2013. "I can't remember a special program for solving the conflicts. People from the East especially felt at a certain point that they were just being told, ‘Okay, this is the way it is now. You have our system now, so forget the old system and just get used to this.' There wasn't a lot of give and take. And people felt threatened because of losing their jobs. The whole system changed. I had friends who worked in the health system — family centers, psychological counseling centers, stuff like that — but they belonged to the Ministry of Health in the East. Then, all of a sudden it was the Ministry for Social Issues or something like that. But I don't think there was any systematic way of handling conflict, although in the different organizations they must have had mechanisms."
She conducted some trainings in the East, but it was often as part of workshops just for former East Germans, such as teachers who had to go through retraining to be recertified. "When we did them in the East a couple of times when it was all very fresh, they were not used to the informality," she remembered. "They were used to the frontal approach. The teacher stands at the front, and the students address her as "Frau Doktor," and they sit, and they're the ones who are learning. Maybe they ask a question. But the teacher is the one who knows it all, and they are learning. And then we came in and said, ‘Oh no, let's put the chairs in the circle. Of course we have something to say, otherwise we wouldn't be here, but what you have to say is important too. We don't know what it's like to work in the schools everyday, you're the experts on that.'"
It was a novel approach. But it also ran up against certain structural problems. "There was a lot of resentment from the teachers," Walker added. "They had been working as teachers for 10 or 15 years. They'd been qualified under their system. And now they had to go get additional training. They really resented that."
These sessions revealed something of what was happening under the surface in former East Germany, such as the growing rebelliousness of young people.
"From what the teachers told us in the East, things started to get more difficult because everything was changing in their society, and the kids stopped doing everything they were told," Walker explained. "I'm sure they didn't do everything they were asked before, but it kind of changed. And then the teachers didn't know how to deal with it. The reason I became an adult educator is so that people would come to me voluntarily and wouldn't be forced to. But after the Wall fell, people would be sent to some kind of training to add on to their hours of education. I'd want them to talk about their conflicts, and they would sit there and say, ‘I don't have any conflicts. I've never had a conflict in my life.'"
She continued, "That was a little frustrating. I thought, ‘Okay, so now I see why the kids don't have conflicts either.' I'm not saying they were totally repressed before, but they did have a different level of behavior. And later they started acting out, which is normal. And the teachers didn't think it was their problem, just the kids' problem, of course. I just remember being totally shocked that anybody could claim they'd never had a conflict in their life. But, of course, they weren't there voluntarily, so there's a good explanation for it."
Do you remember where you were and what you were thinking when you heard about the fall of the Berlin Wall?
I was in Berlin, very close to the wall. I was watching the news. They were talking about it like it couldn't really be possible and yet it seemed to be happening. Then my boyfriend came home, and I said, "Keep your shoes on, we're going down." And that's what we did. We stood there for hours.
We went to Checkpoint Charlie. There were more and more people gathered on the West side. We couldn't see the East side. Then some people were taking the hats of the police. And there was a couple of times when I thought, "I don't know what's going to happen here." It could've become violent. But at a certain point they started letting people from the East over, and then there were all these hurrahs. We ran into a friend of ours from West Berlin and into a friend of theirs from East Berlin. We went back to our apartment and stayed up all night. Yes, it was a party.
Did you have any expectations that that would happen?
In Berlin there were a lot of signs that things were really changing, starting maybe in 1987 or 1988. Things were starting to slowly open up. It was getting a little bit easier for people from the East to come over. They would have to have a relative in the West. At first it needed to be a very close relative, and then it could be a relative a little further away, and then you could invent a relative. I know someone who invented their relative. Then there was a huge demonstration in East Berlin on November 4 right before the Wall opened. Friends of mine said, "You should come over to the demonstration."
I said, "I'm afraid." But things were happening that had been unthinkable with all the protests. But you still didn't dare think, "Oh, so, when is the Wall going to finally open?" So it was a surprise, and it wasn't totally a surprise.
Why were you afraid to go over to the demonstration? What did you think might happen?
I thought it might get violent and that the East German police might try to prevent it from happening. I thought I might have problems getting back over the border. You know what, I was really afraid in those days. I had friends in the East, and I thought that they would stop giving me a visa to go to the East. That's why I was careful.
Did you go over to Quaker meetings in the East?
A couple of times, not regularly. I knew the office in East Berlin: I had been to it.
What brought you to Germany in the first place?
I came to Germany in 1977 after I finished college. I stayed to learn German and to discover the world and be somewhere else. I had been to Germany once for two months on study abroad the year before, and I just fell in love with everything because it was so different. I thought that it was great. I needed to get away from my mother who was breathing down my neck. We didn't have all these magical ways of communicating at that time.
And you stayed?
I went back after three years. I went back to Philadelphia for a year. And then after that year I decided to return to Berlin and stay.
When did you start doing the conflict resolution work you're doing now?
When I was in Germany, the first three years I was doing youth work in a church, so that's what politicized me. And then an American friend of mine in the same program wanted to do conflict resolution training for the kids in her church where she was working. So I did that, and that got me interested. Then I went to Philadelphia and worked in the Life Center at the Movement for New Society from 1980-1981. I took part in a training course, and then I became a trainer all within that year. I came back to Berlin in 1981, and that's when I started to get really involved in the peace movement and doing conflict resolution training.
Tell me a little bit about the trainings and the peace movement. Was that exclusively with West Germans?
We did a couple of seminars in the East without calling it that. One time was with some friends who were involved in the church, and we basically did a non-violence training in someone's apartment over the weekend. The other time was with some families who were most of them involved in the church. That was a training on non-violence that included children. We were there for Easter or some kind of vacation. I knew people in the peace movement in the East. In 1983, the peace movement got really very popular. I was in a group called Non-Violent Action Berlin, in the training group. All of a sudden what we did was super popular. We did all kinds of weekend trainings for people to go to demonstrations and civil disobedience. I was training people to do this, but I wasn't doing the civil disobedience itself because I didn't want to get run out of the country. Then, after the Pershings and Cruise missiles were stationed in West Germany, it went way downhill.
What would you say were the major differences between doing trainings in the East and the West? Obviously you couldn't advertise the ones in the East. But just in terms of the interactions or how people dealt with issues?
I only did a couple of trainings in the East. But you always knew there was probably the Stasi listening in. And it was newer to people, especially when we did the family training with a friend of mine who came from Amsterdam.
Obviously the peace movement in East Germany was non-violent up through 1989. What do you think that came from? As you said, you were afraid that there might have been violence…
Yes, but from the state not from the protestors. I think the commitment to non-violence came from their hearts. It may sound really stupid. They knew that if they became violent they would have been slaughtered in absolutely no time. Nobody knew what would happen then. Probably the West would protest, but big deal. The West certainly wasn't going to invade just because they beat up or even slaughtered some protesters. They probably felt like that was the only choice they had. There wasn't a big discussion about "should we become violent?" And there wasn't the tradition we always had in West Berlin of the "Black Block," the demonstrators who at the end of the demonstration would often become violent. They have them in the East now, but that didn't exist in the East back then.
You said that after the cruise missile issue faded, the peace movement in the West declined.
The peace movement declined and the need for the non-violence training dropped.
So you shifted to different kinds of training.
That's when I got involved with non-violence training and teaching social skills to children. In the mid-1980s, I did my Master's thesis about that. I was studying adult education. That was a totally new thing in Germany. The problem of violence in schools -- and the approach of violence prevention — was just beginning. I thought, "Okay, if they don't want to be trained in the peace movement anymore, I'll look for somebody else who does want to be trained." Because there was also a Quaker program of trainings in prisons, I thought: either schools or prisons. But the schools were easier to get into.
Do you still do those programs today?
Not those kind. I was involved in violence-prevention work in schools for about 17 years. It was one of the main things I did. I taught at a university later, but it continued to grow. I did school mediation for a long time, and I did tons of seminars. I wrote books about it, I wrote brochures about it. But I like to do the pioneering work. So when it's really going, and there are lots of books already, I say, "Okay, this is getting boring." So I look for the next thing. From 1999-2008, I had a mediation practice with a colleague. Teaching those 200-hour mediation courses was pioneering. This wasn't what I was doing in the peace movement. It was more for professionals who wanted to learn mediation in different fields. We also did community mediation programs. That didn't catch on as well as the school stuff did. The school stuff became really established — not in all schools, of course, but in most schools. The community mediation I found more difficult because when you work with teachers in schools, social workers, and psychologists, they're all professional. And when you work with neighborhoods, it's not.
It's not their job.
Yes. People just didn't come to the mediation. We ran out of funding. So now I'm specialized in cross-border family mediation training for cross-border family conflicts, including parental child abduction. I've got a leaflet with me if you're interested. It's a very specialized area. But to me it's all part of the continuum since I was active in the peace movement. It's just refined for different people. And what I like to do the most is trainings in other countries. I like working with people from different countries, the more the merrier. That's why I gave up the mediation center in 2008, so I could do more stuff abroad. It's just hard to earn a living that way because it's a very small niche. But it's extremely interesting. We did a new project that trained people from 26 of the 27 EU countries.
And it was a training of cross-border mediation within families? Or specifically around questions of abduction?
Not only abduction but including abduction because as soon as you have an abduction the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction comes into force. People often go to courts, the judge recommends mediation, and that's how they end up in mediation. But we're getting more and more cases of people who don't go to court first, they go to mediation first, which is, of course, an excellent idea because then it doesn't escalate.
I'm familiar with these cases because they're big around Japan.
Right, and Japan is right now joining the Hague Convention. One of the groups I work with is called Mediation in International Conflicts Concerning Parents and Children, and one of my colleagues was invited to Japan just in January to talk about this subject. They're signing the papers now to join the Convention.
There are a lot of cases where the husband or the wife just takes the child and goes to Japan, and they basically disappear.
Yes, they disappear, exactly. What I like about mediating in these cases is that they're extremely challenging. They almost always involve really high conflict. But it's not the peace movement.
I want to go back to 1989 for a moment. The Berlin Wall falls. Tell me what it was like in those first few months for you, in terms of contacts in former East Germany, in terms of how life changed.
Maybe the city got fuller. And we saw a lot of Trabis driving around. My friends from the East could visit me, and I didn't have to go and visit them. And we didn't have to pay money when we crossed the border. We could go on vacations in the East because we didn't have to apply for a visa anymore.
For a couple of months it was a great deal when they still had East German money. They had their Marks and we had our Marks, and you could take a taxi in the East anywhere for their Marks, and that was a great deal. It was a super exciting time. It was like waking up. Aufbruch, we say in German.
Yes. It was just wonderful. A lot of things were happening, and it was exciting because you never knew what the next thing was going to be. Obviously there were all these political things going on. When Reagan came and said, "Gorbachev, tear this wall down," I thought, "Oh, what a naive idiot." But here we were. Things were happening so fast, and here was a great place to be experiencing it.
In summer 1990, after the Wall had fallen, we started a group called the Network for Conflict Resolution. It was actually what later became the Bundesverband Mediation, which is one of the established mediation associations in Germany. Of course, it was possible then to have people from the East and the West. We were sitting at this meeting and talking about mediation, and one of my friends from the East said, "If somebody doesn't tell me right this minute what ‘mediation' is, I'm leaving." It was a coming together of ideas.
There were obviously some conflicts between East and West. How were those handled? You mentioned the creation of this network. But was there an initiative, for instance, by the government to handle these in an organized way: conflicts in the workplace, between the new governmental organizations? Or did people just deal with it informally?
Mediation was hardly used in those days. I can't remember a special program for solving the conflicts. People from the East especially felt at a certain point that they were just being told, "Okay, this is the way it is now. You have our system now, so forget the old system and just get used to this." There wasn't a lot of give and take. And people felt threatened because of losing their jobs. The whole system changed. I had friends who worked in the health system — family centers, psychological counseling centers, stuff like that — but they belonged to the Ministry of Health in the East. Then, all of a sudden it was the Ministry for Social Issues or something like that. But I don't think there was any systematic way of handling conflict, although in the different organizations they must have had mechanisms. I mean, how long did it take for the German Quakers, East and West, to join up together? At least three years? It was really kind of funny.
Why did it take so long?
Because the Quakers take their time with these processes. They wait until everything is right, and then they do it. There was still a yearly meeting of the German Democratic Republic a couple of years after the GDR didn't exist anymore.
Were you involved in any trainings in educational settings in former East Germany?
In 1991, we did the first training in school mediation. And in the early 1990s we were doing some trainings in the East. And they were super surprised. There was one training center for the further education of teachers, so it was a mixed group of teachers. But when we did them in the East a couple of times when it was all very fresh, they were not used to the informality. They were used to the frontal approach. The teacher stands at the front, and the students address her as "Frau Doktor," and they sit, and they're the ones who are learning. Maybe they ask a question. But the teacher is the one who knows it all, and they are learning. And then we came in and said, "Oh no, let's put the chairs in the circle. Of course we have something to say, otherwise we wouldn't be here, but what you have to say is important too. We don't know what it's like to work in the schools everyday, you're the experts on that." It didn't always have something to do with East or West. You'd have people in a seminar who only looked at me when I was doing the seminar. They didn't look at the other participants. I'd do all kinds of tricks to try to get them to look at everybody else.
There was a lot of resentment from the teachers. They had been working as teachers for 10 or 15 years. They'd been qualified under their system. And now they had to go get additional training. They really resented that.
And the additional training was on a variety of things?
Of course, certainly not just my seminars.
Was violence a serious problem either in the classroom or the school setting?
In the East? No. In fact, I remember these friends of mine who were psychologists and family counselors in the East asking me, when we still had the Wall, "Why do all the children in the West have so much self-confidence?" That's what struck them. And what struck me and maybe other people was that the children in the East were so well behaved. Not in a repressed kind of way. But they would go up to you and shake your hand every time.
I'm only familiar with kind of the trainings that take place in the United States, which often are around prevention of violence, peer mediation in the schools, encouraging students to resolve the problems and such.
We did that, too.
Were the East German kids open to doing that?
Yes, but actually I worked a lot with the teachers, and they were setting up the programs, so I didn't do the peer mediation training much myself. From what the teachers told us in the East, things started to get more difficult because everything was changing in their society, and the kids stopped doing everything they were told. I'm sure they didn't do everything they were asked before, but it kind of changed. And then the teachers didn't know how to deal with it. The reason I became an adult educator is so that people would come to me voluntarily and wouldn't be forced to. But after the Wall fell, people would be sent to some kind of training to add on to their hours of education. I'd want them to talk about their conflicts, and they would sit there and say, "I don't have any conflicts. I've never had a conflict in my life." That was a little frustrating. I thought, "Okay, so now I see why the kids don't have conflicts either." I'm not saying they were totally repressed before, but they did have a different level of behavior. And later they started acting out, which is normal. And the teachers didn't think it was their problem, just the kids' problem, of course. I just remember being totally shocked that anybody could claim they'd never had a conflict in their life. But, of course, they weren't there voluntarily, so there's a good explanation for it.
What other kind of experience did you have during those kind of trainings and mediations in former East Germany?
I didn't do that many trainings. They weren't used to an egalitarian learning context. But they were extremely curious, really open to new things. I guess it just took some getting used to, this different way of working. They kept saying, "But not everything was bad." They really needed to be recognized for all the good work they had been doing all those years. They didn't expect that everything would have to change.
In your opinion, have things changed tremendously?
East Germany has changed a lot. But I wouldn't say that everything has changed. In those days you could look at people and tell by their clothing where they were from. You can't do that anymore, of course. And you know that thing about the way the people from the East greeted each other? In the West if you come to this big table, and everybody's sitting around, and you come to a party or something, then you say "hi" to everybody. In the East, they went and shook everybody's hand. Things like that have changed.
But sometimes you still see things that are the same. You know Berlinerisch, the Berlin dialect? People from the East are more likely to speak with a dialect, even if they're educated. At least that was the case years ago. The East it was the workers' state, and they wanted the workers to go to university and get educated. They weren't ashamed of speaking in dialect, and they didn't feel like they had to speak High German all the time. And in the West, if you were educated you were expected to speak High German.
So this was a dialect that previously everyone in Berlin had spoken?
Yes, and then when it was divided, more the lower class in the West spoke it, and in the East, not everybody obviously, but a lot more people than in the West. And, of course, those people who were talking with that dialect 20 years ago have not usually changed the way they talk now.
What else is different? Sometimes something will happen to you and you think, "Oh, typical East." Like people being unfriendly sometimes. I hate to say it, but…
Then there's people's attitudes towards women. Women were always very independent and always worked in the East. The attitude was that it's normal for a woman to have children and keep working. That's still there, to a certain extent. To tell you the truth, that's much better than in the West. But of course, it all depends on the region, at least in the West. For a while I used to spend time out in Mecklenburg, between here and the Baltic Sea in East Germany. And there were a lot of people in the villages who never left these villages. If they came to Berlin, they'd say, "Ah, yes, I went to Berlin once. I went to IKEA." But there are people in the West who live like that, too. It has to do with level of education.
I was told that a surprisingly large number of people in West Berlin and East Berlin don't actually go to the other side of the city. They've always been in West Berlin, and they stay in West Berlin.
I live in Zehlendorf. Kleinmachnow is just down the street in Brandenburg, close to Potsdam. It was cut off by the Wall, and we couldn't go through. It was an enclave where a lot of artists and writers lived. It's a beautiful suburb. And now tons of people from the West have moved in. There's still animosity between people from the East and people from the West because the people from the East got kicked out. Maybe they were living in a house that belonged to somebody in the West who was never there, and they were living there for practically nothing. Then, all of a sudden, they had to leave because that person decided to sell it or move into it themselves or whatever.
If you go to some place like Thuringia, a lot of people there went to the West only once or twice. They went to look, and that was good enough. With the young people, they go wherever -- to university, to get a job. Young people are moving around.
You've talked a little bit about how things have changed for folks in the East. Have folks in the West changed at all as a result of 1989?
Not much. Everybody from the West went over to the East a couple of times. A lot of people go on short vacations. If you live in Berlin, it's much closer to go to Spreewald or the Baltic Sea. Some places like Weimar and Erfurt have really been fixed up. They're really beautiful cities, and people tend to go there. But they maybe go there once and that's it.
What about their attitudes?
People from the West have a reputation for being arrogant and know-it-alls. And maybe some people still think they do know better. In the West, the system we're living under is the system that people here were brought up in. But if you're from the East, it's not the system you were brought up in. There's a different attitude toward job security. There are a lot of people in the West who would not want to go free-lance. But in general people in the West can deal with insecurity better than some people in the east — because they were used to things being taken care of. If people grew up with these attitudes and lived 40 years of their lives this way, then not everything changes. And sometimes you can even tell in the second generation.
Someone told me that what they think ultimately will happen is already happening: that the notion of "East" and "West" will basically disappear. People will still be interested in where you came from, but it will be more regional -- such as Bavaria, Saarland, or Thuringia.
Maybe now we're at the point when we say, "Ah, you're from Thuringia 'in the east.'" But to tell you the truth, I feel much closer to the east than I do to the west. If you lived in Berlin, even with the Wall, you were in the East. And once the Wall opened up you went to all these places. They're just plain closer.
It sounded like you meant more than just geography, though.
Yes, I think so, too. But that's all regional, too. I mean, I'm sorry to say it, but I'm not big on Bavarians. And when I go to a lot of places in the east or in the west, it seems like the provinces to me. Okay, Munich is not the provinces. But even Bonn feels provincial.
I would think that the reunification of Germany would have a kind of cosmopolitan effect so that these parts of west Germany that previously had been somewhat provincial became more worldly.
I don't think they really change. I don't live there, but I don't really think so. People go where the jobs are, and there are more jobs in the west. It's less and less a matter of principle. It's going to take a while.
Did you notice any difference in attitudes towards you, as an American, before 1989 and after 1989?
Well, not everybody I talk to knows that I'm American. But in old West Berlin people never asked me for a work permit or anything. They just assumed that we were the allies and we were still occupying and we had all the rights. People don't need to ask anymore — that's all gone. Otherwise, I don't think they care. Maybe when I used to go to the east when it was still the East, people were certainly fascinated because they probably had never met any Americans before, and of course that's worn off. The West was much more oriented toward other countries, and they had much more exposure to other countries. The East wasn't. I know people in the east now who also send their kids off to England for high school, but it's not as ingrained in them as maybe in the west.
You've been to Eastern Europe before and after 1989….
Yes. I went to a conference in Bulgaria last year. And I thought, "Oh my god, they've gotten stuck in Eastern times." Because it was still just listening, listening, listening. It was a solid day in which every ten minutes a new person spoke. It was in a big university theater. There were about 150-200 people listening. And there was no small groups, no even talking to your neighbor. There was nothing interactive. Nothing. I said to the people, "Why are you organizing like this?" They said that audience was all from Bulgaria and didn't have a chance to get out of the country much to be exposed to what's going on in other places. That's just the traditional way of doing it, and it just drives me crazy. That's not how people learn, not really.
Tell me a little bit about your cross-border work, especially within Europe.
There are now 87 countries in this 1980 Hague Convention, and that includes all of the EU and most of the Western world. If your child has been abducted, if the child is under 16 and both parents have custody, then you can apply to have the child returned. The idea is have the child returned and then let the court decide what's going to happen. Young people are moving around the world a lot more than when I was a young adult. They fall in love; they're of marrying age; so there's more and more potential for children born to parents from different countries. According to the law, the parents have joint custody. One parent can't just go back to their home country and decide to change the status. The court will only decide return or no return. It's all very dramatic. People are terrified of losing their children. You can guess who usually abducts the children.
In the Japanese situation, it turned out to be mostly the women.
But in the European case?
It's 70% women. Because it's usually small children, and it's usually the primary care giver. A lot of times the couple got married, and the wife moved to the husband's country because of him. They had a crisis, they split up, or she wants to split up. She goes back home on vacation and thinks, "Oh, isn't it great, here I can get my old job back!" Or she finds an old boyfriend. And she concludes that it's much better for the child there anyway. The husband goes into a panic, even if he doesn't want the kid back. He goes to court because he thinks, "Maybe I'll never see the child again." If it's within Europe, it's a lot easier to organize visits. With mediation, which even the judges support, you can decide a lot more things such as where is the child going to live and where are the parents going to live and what are the visiting arrangements going to be? Sometimes the wife agrees to return to the husband's country but doesn't want to live with him any more. Perhaps he even agrees to pay for a new apartment. So you can get way more settled through mediation.
Has there been any resistance or challenges or difficulties for any of the new EU member states with these regulations?
In some countries, like in Germany, there are specialized courts that do the Hague Convention cases. So the judges know how to deal with the cases. In other countries, for instance in the United States, there are no specialized courts. According to the Hague Convention, they have to deal with the case within a year. And it's supposed to be decided within six weeks. But there are countries that don't keep to the six-week deadline. They drag it out and out and out. That's not only new countries to the Convention. Italy, for instance, has a bad record. Every country has to have a central authority to help the left-behind parent to find the child. Sometimes in Germany they even fly the father, if he can't afford it, to the States or Australia or wherever. So it's a challenge to new countries to the Convention -- and that includes new EU countries — because they have to create all this stuff. And that's what they're doing right now in Japan and in Russia. Russia is joining too. But there are controversial decisions, even in Germany. Of course, you can go one step higher up if the judge doesn't decide the way you think they should.
One last question: when you think back to how you looked at the world in 1990 and everything that has changed, has there been a change in your perspective, your Weltanschauung?
I changed a lot, of course, because I got older and raised a child. I'm still idealistic. But even in 1990 I decided that once I finished my degree here I had to go out there and start earning money at some point. My goal was to combine my ideals with earning money. I would say that it has worked out 100%. But I don't go to demonstrations anymore. I was very proud when my son -- I shouldn't say "went through that phase" -- was a lot more radical. That's when I noticed that I was getting a little bit not as radical. I'm more pragmatic. I don't vote, not yet, but I'm applying for German citizenship. If I could vote I'd vote for the Greens. But the Greens have really changed, of course. They've become a lot more assimilated.
So, I'm more pragmatic. I voted for Obama, of course. He's certainly a lot better than what we had before. For eight years I was only embarrassed. But my son said he couldn't vote for Obama because of the drones. And that's a responsible thing to do, to stick to his principles. I don't do it as much as I used to. Because I think I'd rather have Obama than some person who's worse.
If anything I've become more interested in international matters. My international perspective used to be U.S.-Germany and then a little bit in the East. I worked in Brussels for the Quakers also for a year in the 1980s. And now it's all opened up. We've done mediation in child protection conflicts in Australia. I've seen more of other countries, and I keep thinking it's not enough. I want to do more trainings in other countries. That has widened my perspective.
Available at Amazon.com:
Article: Courtesy of Foreign Policy In Focus
"Conflict Resolution and German Reunification"