The winners of our policy workshop competition "Ideas with Impact" presented the Atlantic Memos on Iran, Russia and climate change to US Ambassador Philip D. Murphy, CDU/CSU Foreign Policy Spokesman Philipp Mißfelder and their respective advisers Elizabeth Rosenstock-Siller and Dr. Georg Schulze Zumkley in Berlin on May 25, 2011. The decision makers paid tribute to the engagement of this generation of future leaders and gave detailed feedback on the policy recommendations.
Among over 80 guests were diplomats, politicians, media representatives, policy advisers and students. A representative from the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung also attended with five Jordanian Parliamentarians, who came to experience liberal democracy in action.
This exchange of ideas between atlantic-community.org members and transatlantic decision makers was the culmination of our unique Web 2.0 policy formulation process. The policy workshop competition, sponsored by the U.S. Mission to Germany, challenged students with the difficult task to develop new strategies for pressing issues that have continuously seen deadlock in the international community, yet also offer new opportunities for increased transatlantic cooperation: climate change, Iran's nuclear program, and relations between Russia and the West.
In each category, six articles were shortlisted and put up for discussion for one week in our Open Think Tank. During this week, the six shortlisted authors were tasked with finding flaws in each other's articles and defending their own arguments. Atlantic-community.org's editor-in-chief Joerg Wolf then moderated interactive wikis and hosted Skype conference calls through which the participants reached consensus and refined their arguments. This online policy workshop resulted in the Atlantic Memos presented at the event in Berlin.
Engaging Tehran with Concrete Reciprocity
Our policy workshop on Iran saw the emergence of two camps. The Memo presented by Sascha Lohmann above was developed by the 'Negotiators'. Felix Haass, Sascha Lohmann, Alexander Pyka and Tobias Sauer argue that the only way to overcome the deadlock on Iran’s nuclear program is to engage constructively with the existing regime. Progress will only be made when the West and Iran admit to their past failures and make mutual incremental concessions and increase cooperation step-by-step.
Due to time constraints, we were unable to present the concurrently published Memo titled “Consistent Regime-Change Policy in Iran” written by the 'Hawks' Niklas Anzinger and Felix Seidler. They argue that the character of the Iranian State is such that rapprochement with the West is impossible. Therefore, a systematic policy of undermining the regime is the only way to stop the nuclear program and prevent a military confrontation. This strategy provides an alternative should the first memo's proposals on engagement fail.
CDU/CSU Foreign Policy Spokesman Philipp Mißfelder responded to the first Iran memo saying he was impressed with the clear steps recommended by its authors. However, he argued that while these steps would work with many countries in the Western and Arab worlds, they would not work "with this regime" in Tehran.
Ambassador Murphy said that the authors of the Iran memo should "take credit" for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's decision to liberalize the visa rules for Iranian students the week before this event. However, he went on to argue that while the "diplomatic track" was still on the table, the Obama administration's "pressure track" with the Iranian regime was designed to lead to a breakthrough in negotiations. He said "I agree with a number of observations you made, but only after this breakthrough occurs."
Sascha Lohmann responded by arguing "Our proposal is exactly designed not to wait for that breakthrough that you are waiting for." He said he and the other authors of the memo didn't believe the pressure track was working, because only a concession on uranium enrichment would lead to incremental concessions from the government in Iran.
The Reset: How Germany Can Set a New Tone for Western-Russian Engagement
The policy recommendations in the Russia memo, outlined in the video above by Philipp Große, were developed in cooperation with Guli Babadjanova, Matthias Conrad, Benjamin Hanke, Marcel Lewicki, and Alexandra Vasileva. They argue that relations between Moscow and the West suffer from a lack of trust. Berlin can play a key role in overcoming this by “resetting” foreign policy discourse and facilitating greater civil society engagement as well as economic and security cooperation.
CDU/CSU Foreign Policy Spokesman Philipp Mißfelder said that the Russia memo offered "the best" policy recommendations. His senior adviser Dr. Georg Schulze Zumkley added the caveat that the option to liberalize the visa regime was the West's "biggest carrot" and shouldn't be granted lightly.
Elizabeth Rosenstock-Siller, Political Officer at the US Embassy in Berlin, asked “Can you elaborate on how a trade relationship can cement rule of law, freedom of expression and democratic accountability?" She pointed out that this was what the West had hoped for in China "but it hasn't happened."
Philipp Große responded that China's economy had grown much faster. "Russia’s economy is still focused on delivering cheap energy." He argued that Russia's leaders know that changes to their economy are urgently needed and that "they know it cannot work within the system they have right now.”
Transatlantic Leadership by Example: Toward an Inclusive Climate Change Policy
The policy recommendations in the climate change memo, outlined in the video above by Julia Grauvogel, were developed in cooperation with Jan Schierkolk, Edson Ziso, Philip Strothmann, Dominik Hübner and Salvador Santino Regilme Jr. They argue that the United States and the EU countries need to lead by example on climate change in order to reestablish moral authority. Environmental sustainability should be made part of the criteria for diplomatic relations. An online and democratic global patent pool will enhance technology transfers.
In response to the climate change memo, Mr. Mißfelder’s senior adviser Dr. Georg Schulze Zumkley said he agreed in general, but argued “you have to answer the question whenever you talk to a policy maker: What does it cost and who can pay for it?”
Ambassador Murphy agreed that climate change policy urgently needs to be reformed. Elizabeth Rosenstock-Siller raised similar concerns to Dr. Schulze Zumkley by asking “Are we ready to pay more for everything that we purchase that is produced so inexpensively because the environmental costs aren’t delivered into our products?”
Citing the Stern Review, Julia Grauvogel responded that not only are there real economic benefits to reforming climate policy, but if we don't choose to invest around one percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) today, we will be forced to pay between 10 and 15 percent of GDP in the future. "It’s not a question of are we willing to pay, we have the obligation to pay and it will pay off.”
The goals of the competition were to engage a generation of Germans that has not experienced the Cold War on the importance of close transatlantic relations and was to encourage them to develop new solution-oriented approaches to European-American cooperation. These goals are consistent with atlantic-community.org's mission of giving a new generation of thinkers and young leaders the opportunity to debate side by side with established experts.
Our jury, Dr. Jackson Janes, the Executive Director of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, and Dr. Johannes Bohnen, Chairman of the Atlantische Initiative, decided on the three winners in each of the three categories. For more information on the winners and their respective cash awards, please see this announcement.
This competition was made possible with the generous support of the United States Diplomatic Mission to Germany.