A German-American Dialogue of the Next Generation

Foreign & Domestic Policy Virtual Meeting

With radical unpredictability being a factor on both sides of the Atlantic—in Germany, uncertainty regarding coalition formation and in the U.S., incoherence coming not only from the White House, but also from Congress—anticipating some of the key obstacles as well as areas of common interest facing the transatlantic partnership is a core task for participants in the AICGS Project: A German-American Dialogue of the Next Generation. The members of the project’s Foreign and Domestic Policy group have a variety of expertise, including energy and climate policy, international security, foreign policy, and populism. During the first virtual meeting, the group identified several critical issues:

Mass Migration

How can Germany and the United States craft the policies and tools to deal with this global challenge?

  • How do the changing demographics in Europe and the U.S. impact the future of the transatlantic relationship? Changing demographics will necessarily change the issues that are important in the relationship.
  • There are similarities in how migration is debated in both societies.
  • There is an EU-level discussion on how to stop migration (colonial history in the region), but not really a transatlantic discussion on how to deal with migration.
  • How does Germany expect to integrate migrants if there are no laws against discrimination? Currently, there is no legal protection when a company rejects applicants for racist reasons.
  • If the situation is mishandled, there is a risk of Germany turning into France, i.e., lack of integration and separation as in France’s banlieues.
  • Historically, the United States has done a better job of integrating immigrants. What lessons can Germany learn from the U.S.?

Populism

What are the solutions to reforming and refreshing political systems to make them more responsive to citizens’ needs and fears and more responsible in our current contentious atmosphere?

  • German-American issues are discussed in think tanks by white men; we need new perspectives (e.g., people with migrant background).
  • How do we reach and communicate with audiences outside the DC or Brussels bubble?
  • In both Germany and the S., the government´s assessment of the importance of transatlantic relations differs from the public’s assessment. We must find ways to convey why the relationship is still relevant (common goals, etc.)
  • Let’s not forget the work of NGO. They show that we still have a lot in common even if we pursue different approaches.
  • The problem is that people who want to tear the relationship apart appear more convincing.
  • Populism is an issue that is shared by both Germany and the United States. The populist wave is a chance to engage with people who have little or no connection to transatlantic relations.

Global Governance

Will the United States and Germany jointly sustain their engagements on the global stage, or will centrifugal forces pull them apart in the future?

  • What happened to the Munich consensus of 2014 of Germany taking on more responsibility?
  • Arguably, Germany does have a more proactive foreign policy when compared with just a few years ago. However, there is still quite a gap between what partners expect, what Germans talk about, and what the German government actually does (e.g., the 2% issue).
  • At the country level there are disagreements, but at the policy level, there is cooperation. For example, in Tunisia there is substantial German-American cooperation on counter-terrorism.
  • EU NGOs are often afraid of cooperating with U.S. NGOs in order to avoid being associated with U.S. policies, which is hampering cooperation.

Takeaways

  • The focus should be broadened beyond just foreign policy. The group could also look into specific issues relating to defense and security or EU-U.S. relations.
  • Target audience: Decision-makers and their advisors
  • The group won’t change policy dramatically, but we must point out possible ways to move forward. Even if there is no immediate impact, we can influence the thinking of decision-makers.
  • We must avoid being bogged down in the rhetoric on both sides of the Atlantic: “Let’s not lose the forest for the tweets.”
  • The analysis is not an end in itself but must be focused on delivering workable recommendations.
  • We should seek to provide solutions at the NGO or local level rather than at the top level.
  • We must look at specific measures that are working and see if they can be transferred.
  • “Deutschlandjahr” is an opportunity to reach out to a larger group of stakeholders.
September 21, 2018