The Aspen Institute Germany is dedicated to strengthening the transatlantic partnership and holds mutual understanding at the core of its mission. The Transatlantic Program facilitates open, values-based dialog on key challenges facing the transatlantic relationship. It covers a wide range of topics including foreign and security policy, global order and multilateralism, trade, climate and energy, and – in cooperation with the Digital Program – the rising influence of technology on the international system. The Program’s initiatives provide a platform for both public and off-the-record discussions. The Berlin Transatlantic Forum, workshops, and virtual formats bring together leading experts and decision-makers- to discuss Euro-Atlantic cooperation and common challenges. In off-the-record meetings, Aspen Germany facilitates an open exchange of ideas on innovative policy solutions and helps to create personal networks across the Atlantic.
I. Laboratories of Democracy Initiative
The Laboratories of Democracy Initiative brings together representatives from the U.S. state legislatures and German Landtage to facilitate a values-based discussion and an exchange of ideas about how to tackle current international policy challenges on a subnational level. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once wrote about the power of states as the “laboratory of democracy,” where new and innovative policy approaches can be tested. This project draws on that notion, focusing on the role of state legislators in creating policy solutions and fostering transatlantic relations in times when national governments are dominated by political polarization and crisis management.
The program consists of two off-the-record gatherings per year – one in Germany and one in the United States. At these meetings, participants identify important policy topics at sub-national level, explore ideas of values based-leadership, exchange best-practices, discuss potential cooperation and address broader issues in the transatlantic relationship. Each exchange also focuses on a core topic that is relevant on both sides of the Atlantic, including technological transformation, structural change and post-industrial transition, and climate and energy. The program offers on the ground experiences of best practices and encourages peer-learning. Ultimately, the program will help build networks beyond the capitals.
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the realization of in-person meetings was initially not possible for the first cohort. Aspen Germany therefore hosted a series of virtual meetings in 2020 and 2021 as part of the “Virtual Road to the Laboratories of Democracy Initiative” to provide participants with a first platform for exchange. The virtual series addressed subnational governance in the United States and Germany, the role of state legislators in the pandemic, values-based leadership in times of crisis, the role of technology in time of COVID, and the prospects for German-American cooperation. This gave the cohort the opportunity to work virtually and exchange ideas on the core topic of digitalization and transatlantic relations. The in-person meeting was realized in Stuttgart in October 2021.
The project is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany, funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi).
II. The ‘State-to-State: German-American State Legislator Dialogue’
The Aspen Institute Germany and the American Council on Germany have launched the „State-to-State: German-American State Legislator Dialogue” to further explore collaboration at the state-level. Together, it is our goal to provide a platform for subnational exchange and in-depth discussions amongst German and American state legislators and a broader audience . While global challenges are addressed by national governments, increasingly subnational actors such as states, communities, and cities have needed to step up to take action when traditional nation-states have been unable to make progress due to political polarization and partisan gridlock. This trend has also characterized transatlantic relations and the German-American partnership. The German-American State Legislator Dialogue draws on this notion, focusing on the role of state representatives from the United States and Germany in addressing common transatlantic challenges.
- Assessing the Rural-Urban Divide in Infrastructure (June 23, 2021)
- The Future of Jobs: Workforce Trends and Preparedness (May 20, 2021)
- Climate Change and Energy Policy at the State Level (April 21, 2021)
- Digital Democracy: The Impact of Digitalization on Politics and Governance (March 10, 2021)
III. America’s Choice Podcast
“America’s Choice – Der USA-Podcast” is a German-language podcast on U.S. politics, co-produced by the Aspen Institute Germany and the Atlantik-Brücke. The podcast addresses political developments in the United States, the Biden administration‘s domestic and foreign policy priorities, and the implications for transatlantic relations. It is co-hosted by Dr. Stormy-Annika Mildner, Executive Director of the Aspen Germany, and Dr. David Deißner, Executive Director of the Atlantik-Brücke. In each episode, they speak with select experts about the latest developments on the other side of the Atlantic. The podcast is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and other platforms. A complete list of all episodes can be found under publications.
With Ines Pohl, Washington Bureau Chief, Deutsche Welle, and Boris Vormann, Political Scientist and Professor at Bard College Berlin.
IV. Other Initiatives
Berlin Transatlantic Forum
Inaugurated in 2014 on the occasion of Aspen Germany’s 40th anniversary, the Berlin Transatlantic Forum addressed the most pressing challenges jointly facing Europe and the United States. The conference brought together renowned experts and decision-makers from both sides of the Atlantic to exchange ideas and seek answers to important questions in the fields of security, energy, technology, democracy, and trade, and also to discuss issues pertaining to our shared foundation of Western values. The annual conference was preceded by a workshop, during which experts from Germany, Europe, and the U.S. gather for an in-depth discussion of key topics of transatlantic concern.
The 2019 conference – entitled “Fit for Purpose? The Transatlantic Relationship and the World of Tomorrow” – looked at the future of the partnership thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It examined the transatlantic relationship, how it has evolved and where its greatest operational strengths can lie in a world of rising technological, political and democratic disruption. As part of the Berlin Transatlantic Forum 2019, the Aspen Institute Germany held an Aspen NEXT seminar aimed at engaging the coming generation of Atlanticists and facilitating an exchange of ideas for the future of the transatlantic relationship. Previous conferences focused on the impact of technology on politics within and between states, Germany’s role in the world and the future of the liberal order.
The Berlin Transatlantic Forum marked a continuation of the Institute’s close ties to the city of Berlin. In 1974, in the midst of the Cold War, the Institute was founded as a symbol of transatlantic solidarity. Since then, Aspen Germany has attracted high-level guests to Berlin to strengthen Euro-Atlantic cooperation.
The project was made possible by a generous grant of the foundation “Lotto Stiftung Berlin,” as well as our partners Volkswagen AG, Lockheed Martin and the Governing Mayor of Berlin, Senate Chancellery.
Bundestag and Congress Staffers Exchange Program
From 2014 to 2018, the Bundestag and Congress Staffers Exchange Program brought together legislative and committee staff from Germany and the United States to strengthen transatlantic ties on a working level and foster open dialog on current issues facing the transatlantic community. Topics discussed ranged from democracy and multilateralism to trade and security questions. During visits in Berlin and Washington, D.C., participating staffers had the opportunity to connect with their counterparts and gained deep insights into the political system and legislative processes. Site visits and expert talks offered in-depth knowledge on current issues of transatlantic importance. The Program was supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany with funds from the European Recovery Program of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).
From 2015 to 2017, the German-American Dialog brought together federal legislators and civil society representatives from both sides of the Atlantic in order to strengthen inter-parliamentary as well as civil-society dialog. During the first part of the exchange, participants met in Berlin and discussed current and future challenges to the transatlantic community, such as climate change and electric mobility, migration and integration, vocational training, startups and entrepreneurship as well as civic education and the role of the media. Following the stay in the capital, the American delegations traveled to local constituencies together with Members of the Bundestag to visit local companies and learn about projects on the municipal level. This program was made possible through the generous support from the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry for Economics and Energy (BMWi).
Trilateral Dialog with Parliamentarians from Germany, Russia, and the U.S.
In 2016 and 2019, Aspen Germany’s Trilateral Dialog brought together legislators and expert scholars from the Federal Republic of Germany, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America in a confidential, off-the-record setting. The format is intended to provide a neutral platform for an open exchange on contested issues between the three countries’ legislators and senior experts. Closely organized in cooperation with the Robert Bosch Foundation of Germany, the 2019 gathering of Members from the U.S. Congress, the Russian Duma and Federation Council, and the German Bundestag was the second of its kind after the successful launch of the format in 2016. Topics discussed ranged from arms control and the European security architecture to the Middle East and international trade. The moderated discussion between the delegations focused on exploring the scope for action and possible solutions regarding these pressing issues. A round of competent academics from the participating countries, specially selected for this purpose, helped to find appropriate entry points and to stimulate the necessary discussion between the parliamentarians.