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Finding Common Ground: Confronting Challenges and Setting Priorities for Europe and the United States

Continuing the partnership between the American Council on Germany and Atlantik-Brücke, the two organizations hosted the fifth annual German-American Conference in Berlin on May 16 and 17. The conference, “Finding Common Ground: Confronting Challenges and Setting Priorities for Europe and the United States,” covered a wide range of topics, from foreign policy to trade agreements, to national security and the rise of populism.

German Federal Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel opened the conference with an address on the long-lasting importance of the Marshall Plan and the future of transatlantic relations. He noted that he is optimistic for a German-American partnership; however, there are many issues that are disconcerting with the new administration in Washington. Minister Gabriel stated that “we should do everything we can to renew our partnership and deepen it with new strength,” remaining committed to the partnership between the two countries.

Following Minister Gabriel’s address, the Auswärtiges Amt (Foreign Office) organized a panel discussion on the current state of foreign policy with John Gilbert, member of the Board of Management of Deutsche Post DHL Group; Ambassador Douglas Lute, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University and former U.S. Ambassador to NATO; Georg Mascolo, Director of the Joint Investigative Research Group of Süddeutsche Zeitung, NDR, and WDR German TV and Radio; and Ambassador Janusz Reiter, Chairman of the Board of the Centre for International Relations in Warsaw and former Polish Ambassador to Germany. The discussion was moderated by Alison Smale, Berlin Bureau Chief for the New York Times.

During a small dinner, Donna Brazile, former Chair of the Democratic National Committee, discussed the successes and failures of the Democratic Party during the 2016 election and its preparations for the midterm elections in 2018. Ms. Brazile said the DNC is still finding its voice and lacks true leadership at the moment, but she is optimistic about 2018.

The conference continued the following day with panel discussions and addresses from speakers such as Bundestag member Marieluise Beck (Alliance 90/The Greens); Susan Glasser, Chief International Affairs Columnist at Politico; Bundestag member Dr. Norbert Röttgen (CDU/CSU); Parliamentary State Secretary Jens Spahn (CDU/CSU) of the Finance Ministry; Ambassador Kurt Volker, Executive Director of the McCain Institute and former U.S. Ambassador to NATO; and Dr. Michael Werz, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Director of National Intelligence Senator Dan Coats, who was in Berlin for meetings, spoke about the Trump administration’s policy on national security. Director Coats, who previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Germany, reflected on his time in Germany and the continued importance of a strong transatlantic partnership to fight terror.

Special thanks go to the Auswärtiges Amt for hosting the conference.