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 gridlocks. This trend has also characterized transatlantic relations and the German-American partnership. The German-American State Legislator Dialogue was initiated to focus on the role of state representatives from the United States and Germany in addressing common challenges.
The decline of certain industrial sectors poses particular challenges at the state level in both Germany and the United States. The effects of structural transformation – brought on by geopolitical and geo-economic developments, digitalization, and the increasing focus on decarbonization – are notable in regions such as the Ruhr area (Ruhrgebiet) in Germany and the Rust Belt in the United States. As entire industries have folded, a lack of labor opportunities has led to an exodus of skilled workers and young people. This has accelerated an overall decline in public infrastructure and threatens social cohesion. Policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic have taken varied approaches to an overarching economic restructuring, offering an instructive comparative learning opportunity. In this panel discussion with state legislators from both countries, we will discuss the myriad consequences for affected regions, highlight various measures being taken to sustain regions hit hard by post-industrialization, and explore ways to ensure that such transformations can be successfully managed in the future.
Join the American Council on Germany and the Aspen Institute Germany for our next State-to-State: German-American State Legislator Dialogue for a discussion with German and American state legislators, including Senator Dave Argall (R), Pennsylvania State Senate; Wibke Brems (Alliance 90/Die Grünen), Member of the State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia; and Romina Plonsker (CDU), Member of the State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Senator Dave Argall represents the 29th District, which includes 102 municipalities in northeastern Pennsylvania. As a member of the Senate’s majority leadership team and the proud grandson of Cornish, Welsh, and German farmers, coal miners, and factory workers, Senator Argall’s top legislative priority is revitalizing our downtowns and older industrial neighborhoods. In the Senate, he chairs the Education Committee, one of the most active legislative committees at the Capitol. Senator Argall earned a bachelor’s degree from Lycoming College and a Ph.D. in public administration from Penn State. His studies included an Eisenhower Fellowship to review the economic and political transformations in Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. His doctoral dissertation reviewed the benefits and drawbacks of Pennsylvania’s tax-free “Keystone Opportunity Zones” for economic development. Senator Argall has served as a part-time public policy instructor for more than 30 years at Lycoming College, Penn State, and at Lehigh Carbon Community College.
Wibke Brems is the Chair of the Green Party in the State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia. She is a qualified electrical engineer specializing in renewable energies. She has been a Member of the State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia since 2010 and was the Spokesperson for Energy Policy and Climate Protection, Mining Safety, and Anti-nuclear Policy of the parliamentary group until her election as Chair of the Green Party. Wibke Brems has been a member of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen since 1998. Between 1999 and 2021, she was active in various functions at the municipal level, for example, as a council member in Gütersloh. As an engineer, she worked in the photovoltaic industry until her entry into the state parliament, first independently and later as head of technical support at a medium-sized solar company. Wibke Brems was born in Bremerhaven in 1981 and has lived in Gütersloh since the age of 7.
Romina Plonsker has been a Member of the State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia since 2017 and has been the CDU Spokesperson for Europe and International Affairs since 2022. Additionally, she has been a member of the State Executive Committee of the CDU North Rhine-Westphalia since 2016 and the district Chairwoman of the CDU Rhein-Erft since 2021. In 2020, she was elected to the council of the Rhein-Erft district as well as Deputy Chairwoman of the CDU distict council faction. Romina Plonsker’s work on the Committee for Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Protection and Energy is shaped by the guiding principle of making North Rhine-Westphalia a climate and environmentally-friendly industrial location. Additionally, she serves on the Supervisory Boards of RWE Power AG, Wirtschaftsförderung Rhein-Erft GmbH, and the Zukunftsagentur Rheinisches Revier GmbH. Romina Plonsker completed both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Business Administration at the University of Cologne.