Annette Heuser, Bertelsmann Foundation
Annette Heuser is executive director of the Bertelsmann Foundation Washington DC, a private, nonpartisan operating foundation, working to promote and strengthen transatlantic cooperation.
Before launching the Bertelsman Foundation in Washington DC, Ms. Heuser served in the corporate sector as Vice President of International Relations at Bertelsmann AG in Guetersloh, Germany, and as the founding Director of the Bertelsmann Foundation's Brussels office from 2000 to 2006.
Annette Heuser studied political science, law and sociology. Before joining the Bertelsmann Foundation, she was editor of the "Jahrbuch der Europäischen Integration", an annual publication that covers the year's institutional and political developments within the process of European integration. She has published a number of articles in international newspapers, on transatlantic relations and European affairs.
Here she talks to us about the Bertelsmann Foundation's aims in the US, the need for more transatlantic burden sharing, and the challenges facing the American-European alliance.
What are your current priorities in your work at the Bertelsmann Foundation Washington DC office?
We want to position the Bertelsmann Foundation in the highly competitive and fast-moving market of think tanks and foundations in DC by defining ourselves as a "Center of European Excellence." By this, we mean to showcase European best practices for confronting challenges that afflict all our societies. And we want to present American ideas and experiences to Europeans. We believe that Americans and Europeans have much to learn from one another in this regard, and this exchange of ideas and policies can help prevent one side from "re-inventing the wheel."
The Bertelsmann Foundation helps by providing in-depth analyses and concrete strategic advice for political decision makers and their advisors on core issues that are crucial to social progress on both sides of the Atlantic. Our projects touch on topics ranging from foreign and security policy to the impact of demographic change on the future of health care and education. We don't view these issues separately. We believe that solutions with real impact require an interdisciplinary approach. In today's world, you can't discuss the rise of China as a potential economic and military superpower without also discussing it s demographic development and the challenges facing its educational system.
What can the EU do to enhance the transatlantic alliance?
The only way to convince US policy makers that the EU can be an effective political partner is for it to deliver. The EU must demonstrate that it can make bold choices and act decisively even though the passage of the Lisbon Treaty has been put on hold and some major EU countries, such as Germany, face elections. During the crisis in Georgia, the EU showed that it has an effective and highly diversified diplomatic toolbox with a wide range of carrots and sticks. But these diplomatic efforts can be effective only if they are backed up by military power. Unfortunately, the EU is still years away from becoming a full-fledged military actor, but that doesn't mean that it should always be this way. Right now, Americans shoulder a greater portion of the military responsibility in the alliance. For Europe, the true recipe for successful transatlantic burden sharing requires comprehensive, pragmatic diplomacy enforced by European military power, if needed, in a conflict. Europeans also must demonstrate more convincingly that they share the ultimate objectives of the Americans even in cases, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, in which both sides want different approaches.
What is the single greatest challenge facing the transatlantic alliance today?
There are many important challenges facing the alliance. These vary from engagement with Russia to formulating a mid-term exit strategy from Afghanistan. But on the macro-level, the greatest challenge for Europe and the US is demonstrating that democracies can deliver in today's world. We must demonstrate that democracies have the power to guarantee their citizens equal access to health care and education, and provide security on a local, national and even international scale. While our democracies have shortcomings, there are no real alternatives in the world to systems that are based on the will of the people. Countries such as China are in the process of developing a "third way" of governing, based on mixing authoritarian capitalism on the national level with local elements of democracy. This is a system that has been able to satisfy the basic needs of the Chinese recently. Such new forms of governance will challenge our democratic systems. But we can and must make the case that democracy is still the best system of government for countries in transition. The Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI) 2008 report shows that only 14 of 125 developing and transition countries can be characterized as consolidated democracies under the rule of law, with a socially responsible market economy. This confirms that we have our work cut out for us.