by Jennifer Jun, Assistant Director, Visiting Fellowships
I recently participated in the European Union Visitors Programme, a five-day study tour in Brussels organized by the European Commission and the European Parliament. The program was established over 40 years ago to address misunderstandings about Europe’s burgeoning institutions. The military tanks and heavily armed soldiers I saw patrolling the European Union premises suggest that Europe now faces wholly different challenges than it did 40 years ago.
My itinerary consisted of bilateral meetings at the External Action Service, the European Commission, and with members of the European Parliament representing a wide political spectrum -- from Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union to the Italian populist leader Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement.
These conversations revealed a deeply fragmented European Union. However, irrespective of nationality or political representation, my interlocutors agreed with me on the following: there are significant demographic shifts underway in both Europe and the United States. As Europe continues to age, it has seen unprecedented levels of young migrants from North Africa and the Middle East in 2015, especially those seeking asylum from Syria, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Iraq. The 2015 Eurostat figures indicate more than 80 percent of the asylum seekers were 35 years of age or younger. As the migrants are predominantly Muslim, they will be part of a wider trend of the doubling of Europe’s Muslim population by 2050. Stateside, the US Census Bureau projects that by 2044, more than half the American population will belong to a minority group, and by 2060, the Asian population will have increased by 128 percent and the Hispanic population by 115 percent. By then, nearly one in five Americans will be foreign born.
These figures leave little doubt that the changing demography on both sides of the Atlantic will affect how new generations of Americans and Europeans view one another in the future. Without important historical memories such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, and more importantly, without the familial ties that have anchored European-Americans’ ties to the Old Continent, the cultural affinity and proximity between the United States and Europe will grow wider. While New Americans become increasingly estranged from Europe, disaffection with US policy in the Middle East will continue to motivate anti-American sentiments among the European Muslim youth. The most troubling scenario is that Generations Y and beyond may reject the proposition that United States and Europe share a set of common values based on democracy, human rights, and a liberal world order and therefore must remain the most important allies in an increasingly multipolar world.
The future of transatlantic relations for countries that will look and relate to one another very differently may not be the most pressing issue on the minds of American and European leaders at this moment. This is where think tanks become important. They can lead the way in thinking about and influencing how the next generation engages with the wider world.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, together with the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, and two German partner organizations – the BMW Foundation and the Robert Bosch Foundation – are exploring this concept of building trust, from the bottom up, among rising leaders in the United States and Germany. Our initiative, the Transatlantic Core Group, is a unique participant-driven process of action-oriented dialogue whereby young leaders from across the United States, who do not necessarily have existing ties to Europe, can engage in candid discussions with young leaders from various German cities. Participants can openly question and debate the shared values that brought previous generations together. This forum provides a platform for reimagining the concept of transatlantic cooperation, one that need not be restricted to traditional security issues but can extend to tackling socioeconomic challenges in their respective countries.
One of these forward-looking outcomes of the inaugural meeting of the Transatlantic Core Group in July 2015 was the birth of a working group around exchanging best practices on vocational education and mobilizing key private sector actors in both the United States and Germany to lead the way for training the 21st-century workforce. A second group, recognizing the central role of local communities in the integration of refugees and immigrants, will organize a meeting in April in Berlin to connect local stakeholders between the United States and Germany and exchange experiences and ideas – a transatlantic approach to integration.
The prescience and creativity of the Transatlantic Core Group members in seeing opportunity amidst complex challenges point to an evolution of how next generation leaders approach the future of US-Europe relations. The loss of trust and natural affinity among the next generation of Americans and Europeans will not break transatlantic ties. Therein lies a great opportunity to build and define anew a relationship that can no longer be taken for granted.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. We convene leading global voices and conduct independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is an independent, nonpartisan organization. All statements of fact and expressions of opinion in blog posts are the sole responsibility of the individual author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council.
China announced its slowest annual growth rate since 1990. At the same time, Beijing and Washington remain locked in a trade war.
Britain’s holiday from history was supposed to end this week. However, Parliament voted 2-to-1 against Theresa May's Brexit deal.
China is investing billions of dollars in Africa each year. But is Beijing’s largesse made with the best of intentions? See Council President Ivo Daalder's response in the latest installment of #AskIvo.
It is not possible for the president to make well-considered decisions without the detail and knowledge of seasoned officials, including unpopular and dissenting views revealed in the memoranda that emerge from the Sit Room.
President Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from Syria will have wide-ranging consequences for US policy in Syria.
A president's ability to enact a vision is constrained by international laws and by the willingness of allies and partners to go along with what the White House wants.
President Donald Trump's recent decisions have added new urgency to an old debate: Should the European Union have its own army?
Three reports in the WPS space released in late-2018 underscore the need to rethink gender and conflict by challenging dominant understandings of genocide, jihadist groups, and gang violence.
The second largest Ebola outbreak in history is raging on in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and international response has been comparatively quiet. Given the DRC’s recent historical similarities to Sierra Leone, the country that suffered the most cases and deaths during the 2014 outbreak, it is imperative that the world take notice and provide a rapid and holistic response.
German Marshall Fund president and former member of the National Security Council, Karen Donfried answers questions on a post-Merkel Germany, if Russia can be contained without the United States, and why Americans should care about European affairs.
Lost amid the fallout from President Trump’s Syria decision were reports that the commander in chief had also decided to withdraw half of the 14,000 US troops deployed in Afghanistan.
Against the advice of his entire national security team, President Donald Trump has ordered the full withdrawal of 2,000 US ground troops from Syria within 30 days.
The massive Marriott records breach was the latest in a series of economic espionage cases attributed to China. Top cybersecurity experts Lesley Carhart and Adam Segal join this week's Deep Dish podcast to discuss the evolving tactical and policy challenges involved in managing international cyber space.
David Sanger, national security correspondent and senior writer for the New York Times, answers questions on cyberattacks: why they've become the new weapon of choice for foreign adversaries, the most likely suspects behind the next cyberattack, and who he'd most like to interview on the subject.
Test your 2018 Council program knowledge!