by Lindsey DePasse, Katharina Dolezalek, Erick Marin Müller, Maria Alejandra Moscoso
The following memo provides an overview of new actors that should become involved and included in a modern transatlantic cooperation. Classic stakeholders, including federal governments and international corporations, have influenced transatlantic relations for the past decades. However, as these relationships suffer, bottom-up/grassroots approaches are becoming more and more important to bypass inefficiencies and to give everyone a voice. New stakeholders can enhance the dialogue across the Atlantic by creating new alliances. These new alliances have the power to improve relations, stimulating engagement and belief in Atlanticism for the future.
Transatlantic relations have traditionally included political and governmental stakeholders at national government levels. Amid a rising trend in nationalism and isolationism, quality leadership and relationships between the United States and the European Union are diminishing.
While relationships between these traditional actors erode, the inclusion of new players grows necessary to tackle shared challenges. New actors can form new alliances, advancing cooperation between the US and the EU. From local government leaders to academia to civil society, new actors taking ownership in transatlantic relations can provide innovative and bold ideas, while broadening cooperation across the Atlantic.
WHO ARE THE NEW ACTORS?
New actors include those that have been impacted by transatlantic relations, but have neither been given a primary role nor voice within the relationship. According to a survey among the second Atlantic Expedition Fellows, the following actors are considered new in the transatlantic context: local government and political actors; domestic and civil society organizations; local companies, startups, and online platforms; individuals including immigrants, visionaries, and celebrities; as well as academic institutions. To improve current relations, these actors should realize their potential and important roles. They can then transform into allies to collaborate, innovate and work together towards new approaches in addressing transatlantic issues.
Local Government/Political Actors
Although policies regarding transatlantic relations often occur at the multinational level, engaging traditional alliances such as federal governments and politicians, the outcomes also affect those at the local level. Local government actors, such as mayors, city council members, or local congressional representatives, among others, should play a key role in these relations. For example, city administrators could form direct relations with foreign cities via partnerships, expanding the opportunity of smaller and particularly isolated Midwestern cities. Fellows of the City-to-City Partnership team elaborate further on this in their subsequent memo. Furthermore, disseminating the transatlantic narrative from the bottom-up expands the range of engaged people, enables the message to reach rural and disconnected parts of Europe and the United States, and creates dialogue on a grassroots level. A thorough analysis of such inclusive and diverse engagement can be found in the Diversity & Inclusion Memo.
Domestic Civil Society Organizations (DCSOs)
Although domestic civil society organizations (DCSOs) may have a smaller scope than international organizations (IOs), they have the power to impact transatlantic relations. With missions to help citizens, rather than to profit, DCSOs reach hundreds of thousands of people through educational programs, scholarly research, and local public engagement.
DCSOs not only disseminate their own message, but can inadvertently shape political and social debate as an intermediary between politicians and the public. Domestic organizations can also serve as an avenue to address minority-related issues that are not often prioritized by government representatives or the media, expanding the voices of people. Finally, the decentralized nature of DCSOs entails numerous advantages, including proximity with constituencies and understanding issues at the local level, which can develop more effective and targeted policies.
For instance, ONE Northside, a Chicago-based non-profit organization that we met with during our Expedition to Chicago, promotes community engagement and equality in neighborhoods while assisting individuals displaced from their homes. Because homelessness is a global epidemic, ONE Northside cooperated with an international representative to share ideas on best practices and community organizing models.
The intertwining nature of political and economic interests make economic actors a driving force in transatlantic relations. Small and medium-sized local companies provide jobs and development, which give them the power to influence politics through their engagement. They could collaborate with one another, strengthening local and international economic relations.
Innovative start-ups, like Tesla, drive domestic and international research and development, and could create strategies for a transatlantic economic agenda. Businesses have visions that may differ from political ones, but they have the power to shape issues, such as climate change, through pledges of mutual commitment.
Stakeholders within the Tech Industry also have the potential to become new allies. Online platforms, such as Facebook or Google, allow for immediate sources of information, which can be instrumentalized. They can influence transatlantic relations by influencing people’s points of view through advertisement and shared content. Due to that impact, the reliability and accuracy of shared messages is more important now than ever. When used positively, social networks have the ability to build audiences’ trust and faith in the relationship between Europe and the US, and are thus vital in the connection and cooperation between both sides of the Atlantic.
Individuals can mold entire communities and shape new transatlantic relations. Activists bring education, awareness, and new perspectives to communities, positively impacting former bystanders to explore and get involved in transatlantic issues. For example, the leaders of the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the US influenced organizers around the world, including German activist Josephine Apraku, who helped to spread the political movement in Germany and among other European countries.
Visionaries, like Johannes Bohnen, founder of the Atlantische Initiative e.V., lead and inspire relations through innovative interpretations and perceptions of the future. Through their visions, projects like the Atlantic Expedition, the Salzburg Global Seminar, and the Young Transatlantic Initiative have been created to cultivate leaders, strengthen cooperation, and solve issues of global concern.
Finally, celebrities can excite social conversations and influence people’s points of views through their networks (media/press, social media and their own content including television and film). Celebrities like Bono, Angelina Jolie, and George Clooney have all used their popularity and the media to foster pressure on the international community and advocate for global causes.
Together, these individual actors can reach millions, regardless of their interest in international affairs. Through the use of social media and strategic messaging, they have the power of amplifying their voices on a global scale.
Academic exchanges, such as the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange or the German US American Partnership Program, start at high school and have long been a part of transatlantic relations. However, recently, these programs have declined due to factors including high costs of travel and living expenses, increased scrutiny in international travel and visas, and an increased security risk across many European cities. Secondly, German Hauptschulen and Realschulen (specific types of secondary education) are excluded from the exchange experience. Students from these schools typically progress into Berufsschule, focusing on hands-on apprentice work, rather than academic or language exchanges.
Classrooms can be revamped into a new actor through today’s technology. The use of multimedia and online platforms through online language courses and virtual classrooms, allows for an increased number of academic and cultural exchanges without travel requirements. These tools are at our fingertips and should be given a higher priority in terms of access and funding, so that any student can experience an educational exchange from home. For a specific project proposal on how to organize such an educational exchange, please consult the contribution International Tandems in this memo.
NEW ACTORS FORM NEW ALLIANCES
Local governments, DCSOs, schools, individuals and social media reach people. They take grassroots approaches to educate and can form new alliances for transatlantic relations. With the power to reach many diverse spheres in society, these groups are the new contributors in those relations that experience political stagnation. By increasing awareness and bringing new perspectives to the table, these new actors can influence former bystanders to explore and become involved in transatlantic affairs.
Local governments, mayors and companies can impact political agendas by lobbying for their interests. If they have a positive perspective towards transatlantic relations, they can be strong allies, advocating for improved transatlantic relationships.
Actors within social, political, cultural, and economic sectors can create new alliances through building networks across the Atlantic. When official government relations struggle, new actors can informally take part in transatlantic relations and make the region continue to stay connected.
Both sides of the Atlantic share long-term vital interests and face many common challenges requiring enduring cooperation. Reinvention and innovation in all spheres of our daily lives make it necessary for classic stakeholders to adapt to new situations and to look out for new actors and allies that could and should be a part of future transatlantic exchanges. Instead of relying on traditional nation-state politics, transatlantic actors have to reorganize and consider the potential that new allies provide.
Transatlantic relations involve numerous stakeholders. The new actors stated above are not the only ones that have a role to play, yet are some of the most important today. Positive shifts in these relations will happen through active participation, communication, and exchange between new actors, which in turn will lead to modernized, inclusive and stable transatlantic relations.
Appendix – Survey of the Atlantic Expedition II Members
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