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Global Ties Strategic Dialogue Highlights the Transatlantic Relationship

By Amber Ebanks

Global Ties, a DC-based nonprofit, held their third annual Strategic Dialogue entitled, “A Vision of Transatlantic Leadership Through International Dialogue.” During the event, American and European experts addressed the present and future state of the transatlantic relationship.

Policy makers gathered to discuss policy issues that will ultimately advise global and bilateral relations, and members of the public had a rare opportunity to increase their awareness of the Transatlantic Relationship. It also allowed the audience to hear different perspectives from leaders in the public and private sector on the issues that shape the Global Ties network.

The Future of the Field Panel featuring (left to right) Nina Bankova, Director, International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), International Institutue, Graduate School USA, Jorge Castro, President, AFS-USA, Joseph Mifsud, Director, London Academy of Diplomacy and Illir Zherka, Executive Director, Alliance for International Exchange. (Photos Courtesy of Global Ties US)

The event featured three panels focused on the impact of international exchange on global security. Panelists answered questions such as how can we reinforce our historic ties for a new era given the challenges on both sides of the Atlantic, and what part can international exchange programs and alumni play in strengthening our connections.

The Future of Alliances and Partnerships Panel Discussion included Gérard Araud, the ambassador of France to the United States, Esther Brimmer, executive director and CEO for NAFSA and Conrad Tribble, deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Europe and the European Union.

Dan Hamilton, the executive director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University, moderated the panel.

“We are at a critical point, we’ve seen the rise of populism based on concerns about and fear of change, but we recognize that in deed the human dimension is a crucial part to maintaining our International Ties,” said Brimmer. “An international society is not just governments, it’s also universities, it's also global foundations, it's also companies, non-governmental organizations. There are many positive and negative non-state actors that are a part of our international society.”

The Future of Alliances and Partnerships Panel featuring (left to right) Dan Hamilton, Executive Director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Gérard Araud, Ambassador of France to the United States, Esther Brimmer, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, NAFSA and Conrad Tribble, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Europe and the European Union. (Photos Courtesy of Global Ties US)

In another panel called, the “New Normal?”, moderator Amanda Sloat, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, led the discussion. Members of the panel included Allan Goodman, president and CEO of Institute for International Education, Réka Szemerkényi, ambassador of Hungary to the United States and Ian Lesser, vice president for Foreign Policy of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

“I can say that for an organization whose mission is very simply to promote transatlantic cooperation, we not surprisingly think this is our moment, but this is a very interesting time to be doing that,” said Lesser. “And you [referencing Sloat] mentioned trust, and it’s a time of tremendous mistrust within Europe and arguably here as well.”

Lesser went on to say that there is a sudden realization amongst many that they cannot be complacent and added that the revolt against the elites was also a revolt against elite projects of all kinds, such as the European Union,  NATO and trade agreements. He also described how the election and the lack of American predictability has affected people in Brussels.

“There’s tremendous interest in sort of decoding, simply decoding what is happening here in the United States,” he said. “Trying to make sense of all of this because for Europeans who know America well, and many Europeans know America well, at all levels, and frankly know America well, they are very confused. They’re very confused about how radical of change they’re actually seeing here in Washington, which of these proposals will stick, how this balance will shape and we simply don't know.”  

The Future of the Field panel, which concluded the event, featured Jorge Castro president of the AFS-USA, Joseph Mifsud Director, London Academy of Diplomacy and executive director of the Alliance for International Exchange, Ilir Zherka. The panel, which was moderated by Nina Bankova, the Director of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), discussed using exchange programs and holistic dialogue to solve issues, such as fear.

Réka Szemerkényi, Ambassador of Hungary to the United States, speaking on the The New Normal? panel.(Photos Courtesy of Global Ties US)

“I would say it’s really important for us to think about exchanges in two ways,” said Zherka. “One is the challenges and the other is the opportunities, and for us to understand them as clearly as possible.”

Zherka stated the two challenges were policy challenges, including the United States’ travel ban and vetting and also President Trump’s budget.

“I think a broader challenge for all of us is to understand what led to Brexit, Donald Trump, populist governments in Hungary, Russia, Greece and elsewhere, movement in France now and Germany . . . I’m a refugee and I remember images of the refugees pouring through …. Eastern Europe into Western Europe,” said Zherka. “For me as a refugee and I think for probably all of us in this room look at those images of those folk and we think look at those people who are really struggling and have real challenges at home, they have significant needs, how do we help them? Those images may even bring us to tears, but there are so many people who look at those images and think ‘oh my god, here’s a challenge or here’s a threat. Are these people going to come and take my job? Are they going to change my culture?’”

Zherka went on to say that over 60 million people voted for Trump, and though not all of them are anti-globalism or anti-internationalism, a significant number of them are concerned about our internationalism. He added that understanding those concerns from an individual and organizational level is going to be essential to coming together for programs, such as Global Ties.

The welcome was presented by Global Ties U.S. President Jennifer Clinton and featured opening remarks from Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH).

“For reasons that I will address in my brief remarks, your good work is more important today than at any time that I can remember, and ordinarily at this kind of an event I would be very careful about being very non-partisan and saying anything that might be in any way construed as controversial, but since these aren’t ordinary times I think it’s probably better to be very frank,” said Shaheen, “. . .Your focus today is on the value of America’s transatlantic relationships, and I can’t imagine a more timely and important topic.”

Shaheen also discussed the the importance of the Transatlantic alliance, NATO, the European Union and Europe’s challenges with Russia’s annexation of the Ukraine and the influx of migrants.

Members of Congress, Rep. Jim Himes (CT-4) and Rep. Steve Pearce (NM-2), the co-chairs of the  Congressional International Exchange and Study Caucus and Rep. John Yarmuth (KY-3), were also in attendance.   

Global Ties, is non-profit, non-partisan organization, established in 1961 to promote “excellency in citizenship diplomacy,”  hosted the event in partnership with Graduate School USA, AFS-USA, the Alliance for International Change and the Institute of International Education. The discussion was held on Wed., Feb. 8 at the Congressional Auditorium at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.

Amber Ebanks is an editorial intern for The Washington Diplomat.




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