Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Interacting with politicians? It's possible

Germany is just struggling with a question of German-Polish relations. It's about the appointment for a cultural foundation that works on remembering European reconciliation after the second World War. The Chancellor wants a Polish-hostile CDU politician to sit in the commission; our Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is against her appointment.

Inspired by a discussion on the news portal tagesschau.de and by Conor Slowey, I wrote an email to the minister, trying to give support. What was I thinking? Maybe my email is one of tens of thousands that arrive in these days. Maybe not. Maybe the foreign minister does not get a lot of popular feedback, apart from newspaper comments and articles. And these, as we all know, come from journalists in the high political echelons that are remote from the common people. So I thought a little popular feedback might be a good think. Never expected to get a reply. But today it came, certainly written by his deputy staff rather than himself.

Dear Mr Feldhof,

thank you for your email on 6 December 2009 and for the support that you expressed. I was very happy to receive it.

As the German Foreign Minister, I have to represent the interests of our country. One of them is to increase relations with our neighbors. To me personally, it is an important point to project the profound relation that Germany has with its western neighbors to Poland as well. ... I will continue to support this direction.

Again, thank you for your email and your support. Personally, all the best to you.

Guido Westerwelle

(my translation)

It doesn't sound like a standard answer they send to all their respondents, does it?

I believe that everybody with the courage to voice his opinion can reach someone in political life. We just have to start writing emails.


  1. Great! But now you've discovered that politicians write back, you cannot stop now. Who will you write to next? And you should ask questions this time.

    Do you think written letters would be more effective than e-mails? Hmm... time for some experiments, I think.

  2. The style is a little informal, it is true, and it is great that the Foreign Office answers to such kind of emails, but the main in answer still is the standard line he says in all interviews when asked about the question.

  3. that's true. I was happy that they/he wrote back in the first place. It shows that you're being heard - even though it doesn't say if he takes it into account.
    I don't know if a letter would be better than a mail. Maybe yes...it's still more serious to receive a letter than to receive a mail.

    On the other hand, in Germany they recently did a political campaign to abolish the duty of military service (on www.zentralstelle-kdv.de/z.php?ID=332). Their approach was to send mass mails with a standard text to selected MPs and ministers. Everybody who signed the petition would spam them with the text. I think that can be quite effective as well.