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November 18, 2008 |  6 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

Bertelsmann Foundation

A European Briefing Book for Barack Obama

Bertelsmann Foundation: Written with a distinctly European perspective, this Trans-Atlantic Briefing Book for the Obama administration is a policy blueprint that offers strategies for cooperation between Europe and the new US leadership.

The Bertelsmann Foundation, the only non-partisan pan-European think tank in Washington, DC, presented its Trans-Atlantic Briefing Book for the Obama administration on Thursday, November 13, 2008.

The Briefing Book is a policy blueprint that describes the go and no-go areas of major foreign-policy issues and offers strategies for transatlantic foreign-policy cooperation.

Among the many challenges the new administration faces, the foundation has chosen to offer suggestions for policies involving Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Russia, the Middle East, climate change and, most pressing, the international financial crisis.

Here is a quick look at the book's "First Action Items" for these focus topics:

Afghanistan:

  • Prepare immediately for the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit.
  • Consider an approach to Afghan politics for the year ahead.
  • Open trans-Atlantic working groups on the deeper challenges.
  • Look actively at regional dynamics. Commit new resources and attention to Pakistan.


Iran:

  • Reach out immediately to European capitals to discuss how to engage Iran.
  • Develop an approach on when to engage Iran, given the upcoming elections.
  • Look for additional levers: Reach out to build a broad international coalition on Iran.
  • Open the difficult conversations about developing additional leverage.


Iraq:

  • Keep Iraq on the list of talking points with Europe.
  • Discuss shared interests rather than shared burdens.
  • Use European capacity-building expertise.
  • Support the handoff of authority to the Iraqi government.


Russia:

  • Reach out to Russia early.
  • Make use of Europe's advantage in and insight into Russia.
  • Keep practical channels with Russia open.
  • Catch up with today's Russia.


Economic Challenges:

  • Find a joint trans-Atlantic approach for financial regulation on the international level.
  • Use the TEC as a forum to coordinate trade, investment and financial policies.


Climate Change:

  • Launch preparations for the Copenhagen UNFCCC conference in December 2009.
  • Deepen climate dialogue with Europe at the expert level.


Middle East:

  • Israel/Palestine:Keep the door open. Make an early public commitment to continue negotiations when the parties are ready.
  • Israel/Palestine: Use the time while awaiting leadership changes to consult with Quartet partners about picking up on Annapolis or otherwise re-opening talks. Identify quick-impact initiatives that can affect daily lives and bring them to the table.
  • Syria/Israel: Engage Europeans early in expert-level conversations to about Syria. Don't miss a window of opportunity on the peace track if one presents itself.
  • Lebanon: Make a commitment to continue support.Work closely with invested European partners.
  • Regionally: Break the ice on talking to Europeans about bilateral relationships in the Gulf.

 

You can download the Trans-Atlantic Briefing Book and also read an event report about the book launch.

 

 

 

 

 

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Tags: | Obama | Bertelsmann Foundation |
 
Comments
Marek  Swierczynski

November 18, 2008

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From what's shortly described above, it looks probably like the most paternalising Obama wish-list available. Full of empty slogans and stating the obvious at the same time, that's what the "institutionalized" Europe is best at. And frankly, it misleads the readers as to existence of a common European view on many international issues mentioned. Certainly, there is a degree of understanding and consensus in many areas, but in many there just couldn't be. But I am not surprised, as the Bertelsman's Foundation website makes it quite clear, by claiming: The Briefing Book highlights the numerous fields of trans-Atlantic cooperation and focuses on the viewpoints of Brussels, London, Paris and Berlin.
Well, there are other capitals in Europe, may I hint. And quite a few wouldn't subscribe.
 
Meredith L. Nicoll

November 19, 2008

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Yes, Marek, I quite agree. However, I do think the efforts that the Bertelsmann Foundation are making in presenting a "European perspective" are good ones. To assume that Europeans always agree is, of course, a fallacy. Americans amongst themselves, as we have seen, differ vastly on policy issues. However, I would say that it is better to try to consolidate a European viewpoint than to assume that Europeans and Americans always agree with each other or to think that these disagreements don't matter and shouldn't be discussed.
 
Francisco J. Ruiz

November 19, 2008

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No comment can be made before reading in detail the whole briefing book. But some observations can be forwarded from the context.

First, I agree with Marek: the reference to the viewpoints of (only) Brussels, London, Paris and Berlin, as that Foundation does, is just insulting for the other EU members. But maybe we disagree about the solution: probably Marek would like to see "Warsaw" in the list, but on the contrary I wouldn’t like to see "Madrid".

For me, the only option if we want to be a global actor in the 21st century is to talk about the Brussels viewpoints, reflecting the maximum consensus that could be reached in the EU framework, and based on documents as the European Security Strategy, issued in 2003 and nowadays under revision.

If Europe is not able to reach a common vision for the Security and Defense realm, it will disappear as a relevant actor in the current international environment, and it won't be in any case considered a valuable and useful partner by Mr. Obama and his new administration.

That doesn’t prevent any nation from having particular postures or bilateral agreements with the US, but is the only adequate way ahead, so it could be worth (if necessary) leaving some ballast for reaching the final goal , and unfortunately I am talking about a two-speeds Europe in Foreing and Security policies terms.
 
Member deleted

November 19, 2008

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Maybe it could be wise among European governements to elaborate a clear and final position on each of the issues mentioned above. Taking the recent summits on finacial markets as an idol they shoud present a possible European position on issues where there can be found one and declare rifts among policies between European members.

As Bertelsman is the "only non-partisan pan-European think tank in Washington, DC", the so called "empty slogans" could reflect an image as there would be no substancial position in Europe.

However we have to expect changes and continuations on the US agenda, so it would be diplomatically correct to provide Mr. President - elect with a solid base of briefings on European points of view to make him anticipate intersections with is his point of view as quick as possible. To restore sustainable unity among the Western Hemisphere, that appears truswothy also among the people, should be the first priority on the European and the US agenda.

 
Goran  Radakovic

November 21, 2008

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Hello all.

I would like to add to the debate by saying that the recent international financial crisis has shown that the European Union does not have a unified safety net which would include all member states. Before looking over the Atlantic, Brussels needs to address economic challenges accross the European continent.

Normatively, the trans-Atlantic Briefing Book seems like a good way to point to all important international issues. However, in practice the economic challenges have brought up division between Europe itself. The European Union has supervised rescue pacages in major EU countries; however, Hungary has had to ask for an IMF loan in order to protect its economy.

This showes that single European approach on burning issues needs to be met with unified and strong system, which would then allow Brussels to communicate better accross the Atlantic.

 
Phillip Denis Bruner

November 25, 2008

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The Obama Administration will continue to be vexed by the legacy of neo-liberal fundamentalism that gained speed with the Chicago School revolution of the late 60s and early 70s, regardless of how many Rubinites he manages to appoint to government or former 'so-called' foes who may ascribe to some form of neo-Keynsian thinking.

The revolving door in Washington or 'arch' of clientelism that has manifested in the wake of neo-liberal internal restucturing has allowed for the private monopolisation of public space on an unprecedented scale. The onslaught of lobbyists, coupled with their intricate and technologically sophisticated methods for applying pressure to elected officials, cannot be regulated by any newly elect administration without engangering the entire economic community - major challenges will at once be interpreted by 'investors' as 'crises.'

Before we begin to address the Middle East conflict, healthcare, financial crises and the like, we must first look at the real and actual changes that have manifested in US politics since the Reagan administration came to power. All major policy decisions that have been made in the last thirty years reflect an adherence to a type of amoral, economic orthodoxy that views weak, developing economies as gardens of wealth, fresh for harvesting. This economic orthodoxy, supported by US military covert and overt operations must be dissected and challenged with a new discourse that dispels old myths about free market self-regulation and proposes new formulas for holding globetrotting financiers accountable for their exploitative activities - for thier disregard for decency and democracy.
 

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