Antje Hermenau, member of United Europe and founder of the Anglo-Sax initiative
Antje Hermenau, member of United Europe and founder of the Anglo-Sax initiative

The European Union is facing fundamental questions about its very existence and policies. Especially the former “Eastern bloc” is expressing serious doubts about the common currency or the migration politics of the EU. In Britain, voters opted for Brexit. Other European countries, for instance in Scandinavia, are also questioning the status quo.

With the Anglo-Sax initiative, we intend to contribute to European integration and the cooperation between European regions. It is our goal to expand trade, investment and cooperation in science and research. With Britain leaving the European Union, it is becoming all the more important to strengthen economic ties at the regional level.

Anglo-Sax focuses on a part of Eastern Central Europe that includes Saxony, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and the three bordering woiwodships (provinces) of the Republic of Poland. This region has a population of about 20 million people and an annual gross product of more than half a billion euro. This is more than Bavaria, for instance, and close to North Rhine-Westfalia.

Size is important to international investors. But this particular region in Eastern Central Europe has an extra factor to offer: here, industry accounts for 25% or more of total jobs. This is a benchmark that many European countries – including Britain – would love to be able to reach.

Eastern Central Europe is keen to build on this foundation. Its goal is to catch up, step by step, with Europe’s economically strong regions like Catalonia, Lombardy, Bourgogne or Baden-Wurttemberg.

The territory is larger but contains good infrastructure, a highly skilled labour force and stable political systems. Several languages are spoken which makes English the lingua franca.

Saxony has a particular role to play in the Anglo-Sax initiative. It is a highly innovative region marked by a high density of centres for technology transfer. The number of technical patents registered here can match any European comparison. It is ideally located to provide an economic and political bridge between Great Britain and the Eastern Central European region. Years of close  political and economic cooperation between Saxony and the Visegrad states are the basis of common trust in each other. This is why the Anglo-Sax intiative is strongly supported by the regional government  of Saxony – for instance the Minister for European Affairs and chief of the state’s chancellery, Dr. Fritz Jaeckel.

Great Britain also has good reasons to intensify cooperation with the Eastern central European region. By way of mentality, people are compatible. Both Eastern Central Europeans and the British can easily agree on the importance of the rule of law, competition and individual freedoms. This provides a sound basis for economic cooperation even after Britain leaves the European Union.

Add to that Britain’s own strategy for re-industrialisation (Innovate UK). Even after Brexit, the country is committed to maintaining high-level research. EU research funds will be replaced from the national budget.

In this situation, Britain should be keen to intensify cooperation with a region that has a tradition of technology transfer and high tech products. Not only Saxony – itself a high performer in the field of applied and industry-related research –  but the whole former Eastern bloc can contribute its expertise in re-industrialising after the fall of the communist regimes. This additional expertise complements the region’s long industrial tradition.

For this initiative, it will not be necessary to await the outcome of the Brexit negotiations in Brussels. These two European regions can immediately start to work together economically on the basis of WTO rules. The core of the Anglo-Sax economic initiative will be a network of potential partners for investors, technology firms and resources managers who are chosen and matched by trustworthy people. To facilitate the establishment of the network, there will also be an annual conference in  Dresden.

The close relationship between England and Saxony is one of perfectly matching partners: the one more successful in high-level research, the other more successful in technology transfers and engineering. England has been working on re-industrialisation since 2011, Saxony since 1990.This is a great basis for an initiative like Anglo-Sax.

This article was contributed by Antje Hermenau, former leader of the Green group in the regional parliament of Saxony and founder of the Anglo-Sax initiative.