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  • Dear Readers!

    There is good cause for celebration! 30 years of a unified Germany. Or perhaps we should say: ‘30 years of working on a unified Germany’? Seen from a historical perspective, it is certainly true to say that the reunification process has not yet been completed. In fact, looking at Germany’s history, you might well be excused for thinking that this process will never be completed. Each individual region has its own cultural peculiarities, its own dialect, its own sensibilities, its own breed of people. And, of course, their traditional dishes are worlds apart from each other. But that’s the way it should be as it is the differences that create a strong dynamic for change and enrich our culture and economy. Having said all that, we are still quite a young nation. Germany really hasn’t been around that long. Our country – as a federation of states – did not come into being until almost 100 years after the United States of America was founded. And we are all well aware that they are still working hard on unifying their nation.

    We are very grateful that our family-run business has been able to play a constructive role in shaping the reunification process from the start. While criticism continues to be directed towards the Treuhand (the agency responsible for privatising the former East German enterprises) for the way it acted – its focus was often on processing rather than developing – our aim has always been on finding robust, future-oriented solutions by working closely on the ground with the different city and regional authorities. The results speak for themselves – whether it be in the Lausitz region where our public private joint venture WAL Betrieb provides water management services and has kept fees and charges stable and jobs secure for decades now despite the region’s declining population; or in Schwerin, where the public private partnership between the city and REMONDIS has been hugely successful at delivering key services cost effectively. And these are just two examples of many. It was – and continues to be – the amazing personal dedication of the company’s employees in the regions that made it possible for REMONDIS to become a local east German family-run business in these new areas after the wall fell. What’s more, some of the family moved from the Westphalian town of Selm to make their home in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern – but this just as a side note. Unity requires active commitment, as does sustainable development. REMONDIS is dedicated to both, always working with the future in mind.

    One thing is certain: there are a lot of things still – or once again – to be done. The recession brought on by Covid-19 is having a dramatic impact on the finances of local authorities. According to the Federal Statistical Office, the cities and districts faced a shortfall of 9.7 billion euros in the first six months of this year. As a comparison: the deficit amounted to just 0.3 billion euros a year ago. The reason for this negative trend was the drastic fall in revenue received by local governments in the second quarter of 2020. The German economy nosedived by 9.7% between April and June – the first time it has ever had to face such a huge drop. Yet another reason then for thinking about how the pressure can be taken off local governments in the future. They don’t have to do everything by themselves – the private sector is happy to help. Public private partnerships are a robust solution for delivering cost-intensive essential services, such as waste management and water management tasks. I and Professor Michael Schäfer, retired professor of public sector economics at the Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, illustrate this very clearly with the help of many examples in one of the books we co-authored – and we don’t forget to mention the negative examples either. As everyone knows, people learn from their mistakes so they can do a better job in the future. And this is precisely what we are doing together with our friends and partners in the not so new states in the east of Germany, in Europe and across the world.

    We hope you enjoy reading this latest issue. Stay safe!


    Ludger Rethmann

Distinguished guests in Selm

On 26 August 2020, Norbert Rethmann, honorary chairman of the supervisory board of the REMONDIS Group, was presented with the Europamedaillie [Europe Medal] by the CDU/CSU European Parliamentary Group. Dennis Radtke, MEP, coordinator of the EPP Group’s Committee for Employment and Social Affairs, and Chair of the CDA in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, travelled to Selm, the town where Norbert Rethmann was born, to hand over the medal.

Investing in people is key to achieving success

  • The award was presented to Norbert Rethmann in recognition of his exceptional commitment to business in the European member states as well as for his outstanding achievements in setting up and shaping the European industry federation, FEAD. During his speech at the official awards ceremony, MEP Dennis Radke stressed the urgent need to strengthen Europe during this unprecedented period. Entrepreneurship, he said, was essential here and the business acumen that Norbert Rethmann had shown throughout his career so far was a perfect example of this – especially his willingness to invest in people. Radtke focused attention on the fact that the business sector must offer young people in Europe a positive vision. If it failed to do this, there could be no real vision for Europe either. In his reply, Norbert Rethmann acknowledged Dennis Radke’s words, saying that he had always invested in people in the past, for example by concluding agreements with employees and their representatives to ensure stability. He urged entrepreneurs across the country not just to call for a strong state but to take action themselves.

    • Another award for a great European: Norbert Rethmann, Honorary Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the REMONDIS Group, being presented with the Europe Medal by the CDU/CSU European Parliamentary Group

Recognising the signs of the times – very early on

Norbert Rethmann’s career has reflected this belief. Indeed, he began working at European level many years ago. By the beginning of the 1980s, it had become clear that the framework conditions governing waste management across the EU member states was being increasingly influenced by Brussels. European waste management businesses realised that they needed to have a strong body representing their interests in the European institutions and Norbert Rethmann played a key role in setting up the European Federation for Waste Management and Environmental Services (FEAD) in 1981. The founding members were the Bundesverband der Deutschen Entsorgungswirtschaft e. V. (BDE; at that time based in Cologne), the Fédération Nationale des Activités du Déchet (FAND) in Paris, and the National Association of Waste Disposal Contractors (NAWDC) in London.

Recycling an important factor

  • Right from the start, Norbert Rethmann showed his commitment towards the European federation FEAD, whose foundation came about thanks to his and Gustav-Dieter Edelhoff’s resourcefulness. He was president of FEAD from 1984 to 1990, during which time he played a decisive role in shaping the development of the European waste management sector – driving it towards becoming a genuine recycling industry focused on maximum levels of sustainability. The fact that his profoundly Europe-friendly ideas were – and still are – of visionary character is reflected today in the European Green Deal where recycling plays such an important part. Norbert Rethmann realised at a very early stage that it would not be possible to truly curb climate change and conserve resources unless there was a concerted effort across Europe to grow recycling activities. And so, in recognition of his achievements in coordinating the interests of the circular economy businesses in the different EU member states, he was presented with the CDU/CSU Europe Medal in his home town of Selm on 26 August.

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