Dr. Markus Söder, MdL: Homeland and internationality – Ingredients for success, not contradiction

Hardly any German region is as associated and appreciated for its local cultural heritage on an international level as Bavaria. Tradition and innovation do not contradict one another; in Bavaria they go hand in hand.

 

Bavaria is a strong location. The Free State and individual Bavarian regions have ranked among the best in international comparisons, as documented in a recent study by the Bavarian Industry Association (vbw). Bavaria is not only home to a strong economy and an outstanding infrastructure; it also features a very high quality of life. A satisfaction survey conducted by the ARD (consortium of public broadcasters in Germany) confirmed that the happiest people in Germany live in Bavaria. More than 90,000 people moved to Bavaria in 2012, and this figure is increasing. This is further evidence of the attractiveness and strength of our homeland. Bavaria is truly unique. It is an island of stability, yet a key driver of progress. Ba­­varia stands for freedom and safety, homeland and inter­­nationality. Characteristics that together define Bavaria’s success.

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The affirmation and love for the homeland are fundamen­­tal and indispensable – and are thus firmly anchored in the policies of the Bavarian state government. Home­­land is the distinct contrast to globalisation; homeland is the place to be. We draw the strength to master the future from our heritage and roots. This shapes Bavaria‘s image: the combination of love for the homeland and cosmopol­­itanism, from tradition and, of course, progress.

The Bavarian state government has created the Minis­­try of Regional Identity to ensure that corresponding conditions can be secured and further developed. This ministry developed from the expansion of the Bavarian Ministry of Finance, to include responsibility for regional and state development and homeland, and in its capacity as a “future ministry” is unique in Germany. It has – also due to its responsibility for digitalisation – a comprehen­sive coordination competence across a range of divisions and specialisms.

The Ministry of Finance and homeland have always been closely intertwined, for example, the Ministry is responsible for Bavaria’s castles and fortresses. They are the symbol of homeland and world renowned monuments. More than 4.8 million people visited Bavaria’s castles, fortresses and residences last year. The core duty of the new Ministry of Regional Identity is the consistent implementation of equal living and working conditions in all parts of the state as anchored in the Bavarian constitution. This means that we want to ensure that all parts and regions in Bavaria participate equally in the successful journey by the Free State. In particular, we want to further strength­en the rural regions and promote equal op­­portunities in cities and the country. Those residing in rural regions should, in particular, have the same opportunities in life, for example, the possibility of attending higher education institutions and finding a job. What we do not want is a Bavarian state with two different celerities. This specifically means, above all, driving the digital development, providing the necessary infrastructure, particularly providing services of general interest and ensuring that “work comes to the people”. Roads and information superhighways are the lifeblood for rural regions. The state government is investing 1.5 billion euros in devel­­oping high-­­speed Internet – by far the largest investment of its kind by any German state.

We want to provide even greater support for economically underdeveloped municipalities in rural regions. Every community must be able to fulfil its responsibilities in a future-oriented manner. The communal finan­cial compensation in the record amount of over eight billion euros provided by Bavaria in 2014 stands out in Germany.

Additionally, the state government launched the “Action Plan for Demographic Change” already in 2011 especially for the regions featuring a special demand for action as defined in the state development programme for Bavaria 2013. These regions, particularly in northern and eastern Bavaria, amount to about one-third of the area in Bavaria; every fifth inhabitant in Bavaria lives here. Every year, Bavaria invests an additional 1.5 billion euros alone in the “Action Plan for Demographic Change” to strengthen the state’s rural areas.

The state also promotes equal living conditions through­out Bavaria by a targeted employment policy. Trans­­ferring government agencies and institutions in a decen­­tralised manner to economically underdeveloped areas strengthens regions requiring support. The Bavarian state government stands behind its cities and municipalities. They are our partners, the home to our values and strengths. They shape our image of a homeland.

In Bavaria, homeland means diversity comprised of city – country – region. We want to uphold this diversity and make sure the respective strengths shine even brighter and connect to one another.

The European Metropolitan Regions of Munich and Nurem­berg embody these roots and international flair, the interaction between traditional and modernity, the co­­operation between cities and countryside; precisely as the “home of creativity” (Nuremberg Metropolitan Region) and home to “high-tech, crafts, hidden champions” (Munich Metropolitan Region). This is where an outstanding in­­frastructure, cultural offerings and the Bavarian way of life coalesce with an international focus and many inter­­national enterprises.

However, global players in Bavaria can also be found where one at first glance might not suspect them. For example, Grafenau in Lower Bavaria is inseparably tied to the production of building materials; Rehau in the north-east of Upper Franconia is home to global players in the automobile supplier sector. Attractive location factors such as low property costs and living costs combined with Bavarian lifestyle and unique landscapes are incentives for international companies to relocate here and represent the foundation for motivated and loyal employees.

 

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Rural regions offer a high quality of life with their re­­gional distinctions and represent the backbone of the Bavarian economic strength with their wide range of small and medium-sized enterprises. A high level of innovative strength and excellent export quotas underscore their business success.

But homeland in Bavaria also stands for openness and tolerance. It is not only the borders of the Czech Republic and Austria that serve as direct contact with this interna­tional platform. We consider boundless cooperation as a tremendous opportunity; it houses even broader potential.

This open-mindedness can also be found within Bavaria. We are keenly aware of the advantages provided by a func­tioning network between metropolises and surround­ing regions, between densely populated and rural regions. They mutually unify and strengthen the respective advan­­tages. They have become an important location factor in Bavaria. They make our diversity shine even brighter.

The Ministry of Regional Identity supports the initiative of the municipalities to develop a regional identity and regional strengths from within in order to then communicate them to the outside world. Regional management represents a flexible, implementation-oriented instrument for state development which supports the muni­cipalities; activate regional networks and circuits, iden­tifie responses to mutual issues concerning the future, further develop opportunities and strengths and eliminate deficits through innovative approaches. Regional management on 75 per cent of the area in Bavaria has been promoted with approximately 18.5 million euros since 2007. Regional management teams have primarily been established in rural regions or as a partnership between rural areas and agglomerations or even cross-border.

Homeland is somewhere I can enjoy myself, where I like to be and where I am at ease. Homeland and internation­ality – this is clearly a model for success for Bavaria, which we will further develop in a targeted manner in the future by joining forces.

 

30000201_10_soeder_1Born in 1967 in Nuremberg, the author holds a law degree and obtained his doctorate at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen/Nürnberg. Dr. Söder has been a member of the Bavarian state parliament since 1994 and a member of the state government since 2007. He has been the Minister of Finance, Regional Development and Regional Identity since 2013.