Eleven alumni from the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) were reunited in Washington, DC yesterday for a timely discussion of the transatlantic relationship. Three members of the group sat on a panel at the Delegation of the European Union to the U.S. along with David Mark of Politix and a representative from the Atlantic Council. The alumni were Edmundas Jakilaitis of Media 3 Television Production in Lithuania, Eric Bo Axel Sundstrom of Sweden’s on-line progressive newspaper Dagens Arena and Aikaterini Sokou of Kathimerini, Greece and Cyprus’ largest daily broadsheet.
The discussion revolved around Russian aggression, combatting ISIS, Europe’s stagnant economy and on-going TTIP negotiations. The participants’ regional diversity offered a full picture of the continent’s current geopolitical climate from Baltic concerns over Russian intentions to coastal Mediterranean nations watching unrest in the Maghreb to the state of Europe’s social contract at large. Yet in spite of the sum gravity of the challenges facing Europe there was time for comic reflection. How symbolic for Russia to close the Druzhba (friendship) pipeline! Sweden only married the EU for the money and now it was locked in a marriage with children. How can America bathe its chickens in chlorine?!
David Mark drew a striking timeline describing the United States political developments from the ‘go-it-alone’ spirit of 2004 to the ‘broad coalition’ of 2014. Along with the panelists accounts of declining anti-Americanism in Europe (of course the Baltics and Poland were never anti-American Mr. Jakilaitis was quick to quip) the audience gained a real sense that the U.S. and Europe truly belong together. Mr. Mark did note a growing isolationist current in the Republican Party heralding back to its pre-WWII mindset as a trend to watch. This coupled with the American Far Right and Far Left’s occasionally overlapping interests could serve to derail the trade pact coming from the perspective of lost sovereignty and labor respectively.
In the end it seems that the transatlantic relationship is very similar to our on-going trade negotiations; it might have carve outs and exceptions and the final solution might be different than what we originally thought but it will be worked on and both sides are making that effort.