The Aspen Idea
The Aspen Institute Germany promotes values-based leadership, constructive dialog among conflicting parties, and Euro-Atlantic cooperation to support and enhance a strong open society.
To do so, Aspen Germany convenes decision-makers and experts from the fields of politics, business, academia, media, culture, and civil society in five programs:
- The Transatlantic Program is dedicated to strengthening the transatlantic partnership and facilitates an open, values-based dialogue on key challenges facing transatlantic relations.
- The Europa Program covers the future of Europe with a spotlight on the Western Balkans, regional cooperation, and the necessary transformation processes on the road to Euro-Atlantic integration.
- The Digital Program deals with the far-reaching social transformation processes of digitalization, covering topics such as the geopolitical aspects of new technologies and cyber security, as well as the influence of digital platforms and disinformation campaigns on democratic self-determination.
These three Programs offer a confidential, non-partisan platform for exchange and analysis to address regional and global challenges and to develop mutually acceptable solutions.
- The Public Program, on the other hand, provides a forum for open and constructive dialogue between decision-makers and a broader audience on a wide range of current issues. It is aimed at promoting political literacy and communication.
- The Leadership Program and its flagship event, the Aspen Leadership Seminar, are committed to broadening the perspectives and deepening the knowledge of people in leadership positions.
The Aspen Institute Germany was founded in Berlin in 1974 and has since then actively promoted the idea of transatlantic community and of a free and open society. It serves as a non-partisan, non-profit convening platform and is part of the global Aspen network, with partners in the United States, Central Europe (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia), Columbia, France, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Romania, Spain, UK and Ukraine. Together, the Institutes are committed to addressing the challenges of the 21st century.
In a time, when the Wall was still up an Berlin was a divided city, the Aspen Institute Germany became the place to present, debate and intellectually challenge German and U.S. politics.
Die Geschichte des Aspen Institute Deutschland
1974-1988 Prof. Dr. Shepard A. Stone
The Aspen Institute Germany was founded by Shepard Stone in 1974 as the first Aspen Institute outside the U.S. In accordance with Aspen’s mission, it promotes international dialog about values, competencies and ideals that are necessary to successfully meet the challenges of a globalized world. In particular, the U.S.-German dialog with the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War played an important role. Due to the political circumstances, the Institute under Shepard Stone focused on German-American relations, the development of Berlin, the dialog between East and West, and arms control. The influential role played by the Aspen Institute was made possible by Stone’s outstanding contacts with leading figures in Germany and Europe. He attracted luminaries such as Willy Brandt, Lord Alan Bullock, Dr. Marion Gräfin Dönhoff, and Dr. Richard von Weizsäcker to serve on the Institute’s board.
1989-1997 Ambassador (ret.) David Anderson
The Aspen Institute Germany gradually altered course under David Anderson’s leadership. The focus shifted to transatlantic relations, security and foreign affairs, and the role of international institutions following the fall of the Iron Curtain. The search for a solution to the Balkan conflicts became an additional priority. Working with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Anderson created the International Commission on the Balkans under the leadership of former Belgian Prime Minister Leo Tindemans. Another of Anderson’s goals was a broader outreach within Germany. He opened more events to the public and invited representatives of the media.
1997-2001 Dr. Catherine McArdle Kelleher
Under the leadership of Catherine McArdle Kelleher, the geographic areas of focus of the Aspen Institute Germany were the Balkans, Russia, and the European Union. Particular attention was paid to foreign and security policy. Events were increasingly open to the public and leadership programs were expanded. During this period, the number of events in cooperation with the U.S. government and the German Federal Foreign Office increased.
2001-2006 Dr. Jeffrey Gedmin
As Director, Jeffrey Gedmin focused on transatlantic relations and security policy. His aim was to make the Aspen Institute a “marketplace of ideas,” a place where German and American decision makers and opinion leaders could come together to exchange ideas and develop policy recommendations. Priority was given to transatlantic security policy and to the strengthening of democracy in Eastern Europe, Russia, and Turkey. The situation in the Middle East developed into another important area of focus. Many White House decision makers participated in events organized by the Aspen Institute. At the same time, Gedmin intensified the cooperation between the Institute and American foundations and think tanks.
2007-2013 Charles King Mallory IV
Charles King Mallory IV repositioned the Aspen Institute Germany in line with its original mission of providing a global and non-partisan platform for leaders from the fields of business, science, and the arts to discuss values-based solutions to the problems facing modern society. Against this background, the Aspen Seminar was introduced in Germany. At the same time, conferences and closed meetings on current challenges in international politics were held. Key aspects were the European Strategy Forum, which was dedicated to European security issues, the Southeast Europe program, and dialogs brokered by Aspen Germany between the U.S. and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
2013-2020 Rüdiger Lentz
With Rüdiger Lentz as the Executive Director of the Aspen Institute Germany, the Institute’s public activities have been increased and new formats have been introduced. The Institute continued its work in line with its tradition of focusing on values-based leadership, European-American cooperation, and European and global security issues. In addition, new areas of interest included Germany’s role as a foreign policy actor, the further integration and future of Europe, including the economic and financial challenges that come with it. In 2014 Aspen Germany celebrated its 40th anniversary by launching a new annual Transatlantic Conference in Berlin, which brought together Germans and Americans to seek answers to the challenges facing both sides of the Atlantic.
Since 2021 Dr. Stormy-Annika Mildner
In January 2021, Stormy-Annika Mildner became the new Executive Director of the Aspen Institute Germany. As head of the department external economic policy, she was previously responsible for international trade and financial policy at the Federation of German Industries. Prior to that, she was a member of the Executive Board of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). As an Adjunct Lecturer, she teaches courses on international political economy at the Hertie School. She plans to continue the Aspen Institute’s classic focus areas – values-based leadership, German-American and transatlantic relations, the EU, and the Western Balkans – and to strengthen the new thematic areas, most notably the digitization program. The triangular relationship between the United States, the EU, and China together with global geopolitical changes are to become an important additional focus area. In addition to promoting dialogue at the state level between the United States and Germany, she also wants to draw the Institute’s attention more to the city level. The topic of global health is also to be part of the Institute’s portfolio in the future. Promoting young talent is particularly close to her heart. She would like to do more to promote the networks of young transatlanticists and the next generation of friends of the Aspen Institute Germany.
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