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U.S. Department of State

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New Transatlantic Agenda Conference

Bridging the Atlantic: People-to-People Links

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Conference Report

Released jointly by the U.S. and the European Union,
Washington, DC, May 6, 1997

At the dawn of a new century Americans and Europeans together face challenges as critical and opportunities as great as those faced half a century ago. The New Transatlantic Agenda, signed in Madrid in December 1995, confirms the joint commitment of the U.S. and the EU to shape this new environment.

Fifty years ago, U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall set forth a vision of a democratic Europe whole, free and at peace that could act as a full and equal partner of the United States. Much of Europe responded, laying the groundwork for the European Union. Since then, our transatlantic partnership has been the leading force for peace, democracy, prosperity, and development for ourselves and for the world.

The New Transatlantic Agenda recognizes that our ability to seize these opportunities and meet coming challenges depends on deepening the commercial, social, cultural, scientific and educational ties among our people. Together with business, labor, educational, cultural, philanthropic and civic leaders, the United States, the European Union and its Member States are working to strengthen transatlantic people-to-people ties, expand their scope and nurture a new generation of transatlantic leadership through electronic, civic, academic and professional links.

There are many examples of successful practice in this area on which to build. We need to draw on their experience and introduce or further strengthen the transatlantic dimension. The Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) has set a standard for encouraging business involvement with government in building our New Transatlantic Marketplace. We are also encouraged by the efforts of the AFL-CIO and the ETUC to establish a Transatlantic Labor Dialogue.

This Transatlantic Conference has drawn together over 300 prominent Europeans and Americans to recognize best practices, identify barriers to further exchanges that require elimination, open exchanges to those who have not been able to participate, and propose new initiatives. Specialized working groups largely composed of personalities from non-governmental sectors have taken a fresh look at four areas: electronic exchange; civil society; education, culture and youth; and building partnerships in the global economy. Here are their recommendations.

Electronic Exchange

New technologies can be powerful tools to promote the sharing of knowledge and experience between our societies and to strengthen public awareness and commitment to a transatlantic community. To realize the benefits of these revolutionary technologies, we must encourage greater exchange among experts in the field and harness their expertise to link our citizens; tie together our classrooms, cities, and regions; foster transatlantic discussion of common challenges; and share our cultures, languages and history.

There is much good work already being done upon which we can build. Initiatives, such as AEGEE-Europe, the Digital City, PrometheU.S.-Europe, the European University Institute, AARP Net, and AccessAmerica have done pioneering work in enhancing dialogue among our citizens. Examples of progress on digitalization of U.S. and European collections include the National Digital Library Federation, the Library of Congress American Memory, the USIA Digital Library CD-ROM, the National Library of the Netherlands and the British Library. The education field has seen particularly noteworthy advances by such organizations as Pegasus Web for Schools, the Transatlantic Classroom, and the Georgetown University Center for Communication, Culture and Technology.

The greatest obstacles to the use of new technologies in exchanges are the lack of awareness and understanding of their potential and the still limited access of many of our citizens to these innovations. Other needs include language diversity, clearer copyright and intellectual property rights, more effective training of teachers and students, identification of potential partners and funding.

Key Proposals

Transatlantic Information Exchange Service (TIES): Establish a multilingual forum to connect the spectrum of institutions, projects and initiatives involved with U.S.-EU affairs. A pilot project should be launched by January 1998 with the cooperation of CIESIN, the European University Institute, PrometheU.S.-Europe, the Society for Old and New Media, and Georgetown University.

Transatlantic Digital Library Project: Convene one or more transatlantic task forces to expand cooperation between U.S. and European libraries in the area of digitization; explore establishment of a transatlantic digital library with content linked to U.S.-European relations. The Commission on Preservation and Access, the Library of Congress, the National Library of the Netherlands among others have expressed interest in participating.

The initial task force report and pilot digitization projects should be completed by the end of 1997.

Electronic Links between Legislators: Establish electronic links to facilitate legislative contacts between participating legislatures on issues of current interest on both sides of the Atlantic, perhaps in the form of a web site with a catalogue of available legislative resources on the relevant topics.

Electronic Links between Cities, Counties and Regions: Develop a system for sharing visions, expertise and "best practices" among European and U.S. cities, counties and regions, using electronic means to meet citizens' needs at the local level. Telecities on the European side and Public Technology Inc. in the U.S. have offered to lead the project.

On-line Publishing: Convene workshops on electronic publishing in science, with a focus on the impact of intellectual property regimes on electronic publishing. They will examine the normative, technological and intellectual property issues related to the establishment of transatlantic scientific on-line journals. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), working with European partners, proposes to take the lead in organizing these workshops. Final reports could be circulated widely.

Virtual Transatlantic Classrooms: Create a transatlantic integrated electronic workspace; launch U.S.-EU student web sites for discussion of common interests and cooperative projects; expand point-to-point and multi-point video conferences among students; extend networks among primary and secondary school teachers and students; and develop content (linked to TIES) for parallel use in European and U.S. schools. Participating organizations could include AEGEE Europe, the Georgetown University Center for Communications, Culture and Technology; and the Transatlantic Classroom.

Democratic Values and the Information Society: Connect public interest organizations concerned with such issues as democracy promotion, personal privacy, freedom of expression, intellectual property, universal access to advanced information infrastructure (GII) and telecommunications regulation. Establish a data base of information on initiatives in the U.S. and the EU, including such best practices as WebVote, Democracy Net, and SeniorWeb.

Civil Society

We are no longer threatened by global ideological divisions. But our societies face an array of new challenges, including crime, corruption, alienation and exclusion, which can only effectively be addressed by cooperation among the people of the U.S. and the EU. We note that the care of democracy is a joint responsibility. The U.S. and the EU share the conviction that the mechanisms of democracy cannot function unless they are grounded in a civic culture which is continually renewed. Practical initiatives are required to support and extend the reach of citizen associations, foundations, business, labor and other non-governmental organizations in strengthening democracy.

Much is already being done. Examples of best practices in this area include CIVICUS (the World Alliance for Citizen Participation); Town-twinning/Sister Cities; CIVITAS (an International Consortium for Civic Education) and its programs such as the joint U.S.-Council of Europe civic education project in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the CIVITAS@Prague conference; ARIES (European Social Economy Electronic Information Service); the German Marshall Fund's Program for European leaders; U.S.-European Parliament Parliamentary exchange program; Transparency International (anti-corruption); locally-based philanthropy and community foundations; social inclusion projects, e.g. sponsorship by Spanish and British firms on accessibility of information technology to the excluded; the health-promoting schools network and the Paul Newman camps for sick children now extended to Europe; and Sustainable Cities.

There are various barriers to joint efforts to strengthen and sustain civil society. These include the need for better cooperation between government, business and non-profit organizations and among non-profit organizations themselves; funding limitations for programs; and underrepresentation or exclusion of important segments of society, including women, ethnic minorities, the elderly, the unemployed and those of low income.

Key Proposals

Transatlantic Civil Society Dialogue (TACD): Establish a working group, including business, trade union, foundation, citizens' association and government representatives, to monitor progress on key initiatives.

Linking Key Actors: Use the proposed Transatlantic Information Exchange Service (TIES) and other means to improve information on the key organizations in civil society in the U.S. and the EU and as a catalyst for enhanced cooperation and coordination on civil society issues.

Supporting the Work of NGOs: Assist those working to develop civic education, civil society and institution-building initiatives and programs throughout the world. Such cooperation could include support and facilitation for NGOs, foundations and citizens' associations promoting citizen action in the fields of environment, overseas aid, consumer affairs, social exclusion, youth and minority rights, including building an alliance of citizen actions and influence through CIVICUS and strengthening civic education through enhancing the outreach of CIVITAS.

Civic Education Exchanges: Create a jointly funded program to promote civic education exchanges with the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe, focusing on development of a basic framework for creating and evaluating programs for education for democracy and respect for human rights.

Brokering New Dialogue: Work with TABD members to develop a U.S.-EU database on successful corporate efforts to strengthen civil society; strengthen the transatlantic dialogue between the Economic and Social Committee (ECOSOC) of the EU and its U.S. counterparts; establish an NGO reciprocal staff/leadership and intern exchange; link ARIES to CIVNET, the Internet site that facilitates communication and research among those engaged in civic education and in strengthening civil society.

Involving Ordinary Citizens: Extend existing exchanges to include ordinary citizens and use electronic communications to reach out to a large number of minorities and excluded citizens.

Supporting Local Linkages: Develop and strengthen local initiatives such as existing town-twinning/sister city and similar ties between U.S. and EU towns by instituting an annual prize for the "Best Transatlantic Partnership Project" between sister cities; expand collaboration among U.S. and EU organizations responsible for supporting partnerships between cities, regions and states through intern exchange; encourage trilateral town-twinning between U.S. and EU sister cities and new partners in Central and Eastern Europe.

Special Projects: Establish joint U.S.-EU consumer organization projects on sustainable development and on food standards; set up a joint U.S.-EU project on social exclusion in cooperation with community foundations and town twinning/sister city links.

Education, Culture, and Youth

Cooperation among our societies can reinforce our shared values of democracy, liberty, and human rights. Academic and other exchanges have benefited millions of individuals and improved the quality and relevance of education in our societies. Actions we take together today will be critical to the achievement of our shared goals.

Renewed efforts can build on the diverse and successful network of NGOs engaged in transatlantic exchange. The binational Fulbright program, which has facilitated the exchange of students, scholars, and secondary school teachers over its 50- year history, is perhaps the preeminent exchange program of its kind. The more recent and spectacular success of the European Union's ERASMUS and SOCRATES programs, fueled by the shared political will to foster a new European identity, offers examples of remarkable growth in student and faculty mobility. The U.S.-EC Joint Consortia Program in Higher Education and Vocational Education and Training has been a cost-effective way of building partnerships among a broad array of institutions.

Youth exchange programs also have been extremely effective in building closer people-to-people ties. The Congress-Bundestag program between the U.S. and Germany is perhaps the best known of these programs. Corporate support, such as the Daimler Benz Award of Excellence and Youth for Understanding's Corporate Scholarship Program, is critical.

Obstacles remain, however. There is no broadly based political motivation for transatlantic exchange comparable to that driving greater intra-European exchange. Work-based exchanges, an extremely effective tool for broadening participation by those who otherwise could not afford an exchange experience, have been limited by regulatory restrictions on both sides of the Atlantic. Mutual credential and degree recognition remains problematic despite recent progress. Awareness on both sides of the Atlantic of exchange opportunities needs to be broadened, and information needs to be available on a more convenient and systematic basis. Public and political support for exchange needs to be increased, to varying degrees in varying national circumstances. Both the U.S. and European countries must do a better job of including serious study of the history, language, and culture of partner nations in their schools.

Key Proposals

Establish a New Transatlantic Forum: Organize a Transatlantic Education and Training Dialogue to increase mutual knowledge and understanding and to develop new initiatives such as thematic networks for curriculum development.

Youth Exchange: Increase opportunities for dialogue and interaction among young people and youth organizations on both sides of the Atlantic on issues of common concern. This effort should be as inclusive as possible to encourage broad participation.

Teacher Exchange: Expand teacher exchanges through existing programs to take advantage of the natural multiplier effect. This will enhance the perspectives and skills of teachers, make them more aware of the benefits of exchange for their students, and serve to improve curricula on both sides of the Atlantic.

Work Exchange: Encourage exchanges based on short-term work and internships and work together to eliminate obstacles to such exchanges -- e.g., visa issues, work permits, taxation -- in the EU and the U.S.

Exchanges as Good Business: Encourage the business community to actively support transatlantic exchange, not only through funding and internships, but also through business practices such as recognizing the value of international experience for their employees.

Utilizing New Technologies: Establish an Internet web site to disseminate comprehensive information on transatlantic exchange opportunities and existing best practices to the widest possible audience

Joint Consortia: Press for additional funding to the U.S.-EC Joint Consortia Program in Higher Education and Vocational Education and Training.

Partners in a Global Economy

We live in an information-rich environment and work in an information-based global economy. New democracies and newly market-oriented economies are joining us. This transformation of the international economy is forcing firms to adopt new competitive strategies, new organizational models, and emphasize the qualifications of their workforce. Governments too are obliged to adapt their economic, training and social welfare programs. The closer collaboration of public and private players is essential to meeting these challenges in a way that benefits employers, employees and the common good. Expanded transatlantic exchange can promote the sharing of best practices among companies and union leaders as well as among public leaders in education, training and economic development.

There are many examples of successful practice in this area on which to build. We need to draw on their experience and introduce or further strengthen the transatlantic dimension. The Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) has set a standard for encouraging business involvement with government in building our Transatlantic Marketplace. The AFL-CIO and the ETUC are also moving to deepen their ties through initiating a Transatlantic Labor Dialogue. In the U.S., a number of private sector groups, such as ACHIEVE, the Talent Alliance and the Council on Basic Education, have been at the forefront of defining these issues and developing strategies to address them. In Europe, the Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft (CDG) and the American European Community Association (AECA) are playing different but nonetheless catalytic roles in stimulating partnerships within the EU and across the Atlantic. The U.S.-EC Higher Education and Vocational Education and Training Agreement is funding transatlantic university consortia focusing on workforce training issues and automotive engineering.

Concerted action in this area, however has been hampered by a number of factors. While there is a great deal of individual exchange on these issues, institutional linkages are weak. This makes the development of a coherent strategy and follow-up on key concerns difficult. Also lacking are a clear definition of the issues, e.g. in the area of benchmarking standards, and a clearinghouse where ongoing activities can be tracked and built upon. Education organizations recognize the benefits of benchmarking international best practices to foster successful educational reform, but they have yet to exploit the full potential of it. Funding is an important obstacle. Much is being done at the company level, but the scope is limited and the results not diffused across the rest of the community. This problem is particularly acute for small and medium-sized businesses as they attempt to play a more active role in the New Transatlantic Marketplace.

Key Proposals

Working Group on Workforce Development Issues: Establish a U.S.-EU working group on workforce development concerns, giving particular emphasis to education and training issues. The working group would involve business, labor, and NGO representatives. Government officials would also be invited to participate.

Agenda Setting: Draft and circulate a paper summarizing the menu of ideas discussed at the Conference, including the radical ongoing transformation of work and work organization and new strategies within firms and educational institutions for continuous learning and workforce development.

Evaluating Current Exchange Models: Develop criteria for evaluating existing exchanges in terms of their relevance to the new competitive challenges facing firms and their workers and the contribution they can make to enhanced sharing of experience on workforce training and educational reform issues.

Developing New Approaches to Exchange: Explore new models of exchange, focusing on: business to business exchanges between small and medium-sized businesses, multinationals and business associations, on issues of competitiveness, workforce training and development; union to union exchanges, including local and regional labor leaders; and mixed exchanges involving educators, business, labor and government representatives and examining such key education reform issues as high expectations/ student performance and life-long learning

Workforce Development Conference: Support a U.S.-EU funded conference on workforce development in the fall.

Building New Linkages: Cooperate with the Council of Europe in the areas of education reform, particularly benchmarking and setting international standards.

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