Dear Members and Friends of the ACG,
First and foremost: Let me wish you a happy and healthy new year! I hope that you were able to enjoy the holidays with family and friends – and that 2022 is off to a good start for you (despite the spread of the omicron variant).
As we start a new year – the ACG’s 70th anniversary year – I want to thank you for your engagement and support during the past two years. With the development and distribution of vaccines, last January many of us had high hopes that things would get better, but 2021 did not unfold as many of us had hoped it would. Nevertheless, it was a very productive and busy year for the American Council on Germany. In 2021, the ACG hosted more than 120 virtual policy discussions with over 200 external speakers (48 percent of whom were women) – and reached more than 12,000 unique viewers all around the world.
In addition to hosting a range of online discussions on developments and trends in Germany, Europe, and the United States, in March, we started our weekly Kaffeepause series and regularly spoke with German and American journalists about the news shaping the headlines in Germany. We also launched new initiatives designed to reach a younger and more diverse audience – for example through our German-American Sister Cities Youth Forum and a Transatlantic Working Group on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Toward the end of the year, we were even able to host some in-person gatherings in New York and some of our Warburg Chapters.
However, now the world is facing the new challenge of the omicron variant. The ACG has had to halt in-person gatherings for the time being. We will offer only online programming until we are confident that it is safe to resume in-person activities. When we reconvene in person, we will limit attendance to fully vaccinated members and guests and will follow best practices regarding masking and social distancing.
As in 2020 and 2021, the coronavirus will not stop the ACG from being a valued source of news and information regarding the German-American relationship. The ACG is well-positioned to leverage both its convening power and its extensive networks to engage and inform individuals on both sides of the Atlantic and around the world about the issues shaping the transatlantic agenda and about the importance of a strong and vibrant German-American partnership.
As we kick off our 70th anniversary year, we will continue to strive to find the balance between continuity and change – by remaining true to the vision and mission laid out by our founders to strengthen ties and build mutual understanding between Germany and the United States and by adapting to the current environment to help opinion leaders and decision-makers in both countries address the common challenges of today and tomorrow. The pandemic made us adapt and innovate and we will incorporate much of what we learned in the years to come.
2022 has already presented new challenges on the world stage. In the weeks and months ahead, there will be many issues shaping the transatlantic partnership and many developments to watch in Germany, Europe, and the United States. I, for one, will be watching how the new German government headed by Olaf Scholz (SPD) charts its course when addressing the myriad of domestic and foreign policy challenges – from climate, energy, and the environment to housing and fiscal policy to Berlin’s position vis-à-vis Beijing and Moscow. Germany has the opportunity to position itself as a global leader in its current role as the rotating president of the G7, a position it has not held since 2015. The Federal Foreign Office – now under the leadership of Annalena Baerbock (Greens) – has already set climate change as a priority for the G7.
This year, Germany will hold four state (Länder) elections which may prove to be important bellwethers for the new government in Berlin. The first election will be held in late March in the small state of Saarland. This will be a test for CDU, who have led the state government for over 20 years, but now trail the SPD in polls. In May, the most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia will hold elections along with Schleswig-Holstein. Voters in the medium-sized, but economically powerful state of Lower Saxony will take to the polls in the fall.
This year will also be an important year for elections in other European countries – including Germany’s neighbors Austria, France, Hungary, and Italy. These elections have the potential to greatly impact political discourse in Brussels and across the Continent.
Eyes will continue to focus on relations with both Russia and China. Although completed in 2021, Nord Stream 2 has not yet come online and continues to be an irritant for transatlantic relations. In addition, Russian troops remain on the borders of Ukraine. Most recently, Kazakhstan called on Russia for assistance in controlling civil unrest, proving Russia still has influence in the region. The European Commission’s Global Gateway initiative and a more hawkish position on China in Berlin may also mean a rocky relationship between Europe and Beijing in the months ahead.
Against this backdrop, my colleagues and I will be eager to identify opportunities where Germans and Americans can work together to develop policies and solutions to meet common challenges – from government officials and lawmakers in Berlin and Washington to experts and practitioners at the state and local levels.
With a new government in Berlin, important national elections in Europe, and mid-terms in November in the United States, this is an important year. There will be a lot of issues to discuss as the ACG marks an important milestone – and we look forward to having you participate in those conversations.
With your involvement and engagement, we look forward to building even more transatlantic connections in 2022 – and building a better future for the German-American partnership!
With best regards,