Reshape Europe Hackathon
Friedrich Naumann Foundation North America held its Reshape Europe Hackathon in Washington, DC, from May 13-17, 2023, with the theme “How can we make the EU more visible in the US?” The hackathon offered four teams of two students the opportunity to conceptualize and propose methods of achieving the above-mentioned goal. In order to actively foster transatlantic dialogue during this process, the teams of two consisted of one German and one American student. The teams looked as follows:
Team 1: Ashton Bliss (US) & Liza-Sophie Lauer (DE)
Team 2: Mats-Ole Maretzke (DE) & Adithcharan Thyagarajan (US)
Team 3: Sophie Holtzman (US) & Cristina Turbatu (DE)
Team 4: Julius Graack (DE) & Sarina Oshiro (US)
They were given three days to work on their proposals, after which they presented their finished product for the jury, which consisted of Claus Gramckow, head of the regional office North America, Emma Lengel, communications officer at the regional office North America, and Vassilis Coutifaris, Senior Public Diplomacy Officer at the Delegation of the European Union to the United States.
The hackathon was kicked off on Saturday evening with a welcome dinner shortly after the German students had arrived in Washington, DC.
At a joint lunch with hackathon participants and participants of the World Order Globalization Hub’s study trip, who happened to be in DC at the same time, Claus Gramckow gave a formal introduction of the hackathon, the purpose of the study trip, after which everyone introduced themselves. Following the lunch, the hackathon participants and the study trip participants were given a national mall tour together. The participants were free for the rest of the day to work on their proposals.
Monday started with a session on what the EU’s activities in DC. Participants had the opportunity to talk with Anna Prisco, Press and Public Diplomacy Officer at the Delegation of the European Union in the U.S and ask her questions.
She explained that the Delegation is structured like an embassy, and represents the E.U.’s interests. It engages with Congress, the media, and civil society. Their main objectives are to raise awareness about E.U. issues, and promote the E.U./U.S. relationship. The major focus for now, Ms. Prisco pointed out, is Ukraine. She also mentioned that the E.U. has recently opened a new office in San Francisco, because of the economic activity in Silicon Valley. There are 145 EU delegations around the world, which aim to build networks and partnerships. They facilitate regular high-level dialogues with experts and member states on many topics including but not limited to tech issues, China, relations with Russia, trade and technology, tech competition, and have justice and home affairs meetings with the U.S. administration. She explained that the policy objectives in the US focus on cooperation to promote economic growth, fight climate change, address democratic backsliding, and support for Ukraine, and expressed optimism in the partnership with the current US administration, which has shown appreciation of the cooperation. Not only does the delegation promote high-level dialogue, but it also hosts public diplomacy events to engage civil society.
Ms. Prisco then illustrated the importance of the transatlantic partnership, by explaining that the EU is the US largest trading partner, and that about 50% of the world’s GDP is made up of America and Europe together. She pointed out that more than 6 million jobs rely on the transatlantic relationship and that the relationship between the US and the EU is mutually beneficial. She also praised the relationship and communication between President Biden and Ursula van der Leyen and their staff, which is made possible through shared values.
The second session featured Marty Reiser, Principal of Government Relations at the S-3 Group in Washington, DC. He gave the group insight on how Congress works and how to be effective in the environment. To start things off, he gave his perspective on Trump-supporters’ motivation for vote for Trump. He argued that his supporters believe that globalization has failed them, and they no longer believe in the established institutions, which is a phenomenon he also attributed to Bernie Sanders voter base. He argued that there is a need to adapt to a changing world, and pointed towards a trend of Republican candidates that are nominated, which have less experience in their local communities.
Mr. Reiser advocated for the importance of overseas trips for members of Congress in getting them interested in transatlantic issues. He emphasized how crucial grassroots work is in reaching voters outside of metropolitan areas, and suggested building relationships with local German-American foundations can be instrumental. Moreover, he proposed working more closely with Republicans on issues related to China and trade, as they represent the greatest opportunity for cooperation.
Contrasting the American mindset to the European one when thinking about the structure of the E.U., Mr. Reiser pointed out how difficult it is for Americans to understand why European countries would give up their sovereignty to a supranational entity.
He also made a point to distinguish between the way urban elites vs individuals working low-wage jobs in rural areas experience the perceived gains in the economy under Biden. While there may be low unemployment and improving numbers, those in rural areas are not feeling these positive trends.
For the final session, Jacob Heilbrunn, Editor of the National Interest, Nonresident Senior Fellow at The Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, and Columnist for the Spectator Magazine, in Washington, DC, made himself available to answer the group’s questions regarding important issues facing the transatlantic partners. In line with Anna Prisco’s presentation, he noted that the focal point of foreign policy currently is the Ukraine. He acknowledged Biden’s recognition of the importance of NATO and the EU, and explained that Putin underestimated the power of the West and NATO, arguing that Putin’s war has strengthened NATO and the transatlantic alliance. Taking an optimistic stance, Mr. Heibrunn predicted a possible end to the war within 3-6 months, and that transatlantic relationships will continue to be strengthened.
Looking towards trade, he contended that tariffs on Chinese products hurt the American economy. Moreover, he argued, the Biden administration and the Democratic party have kept certain Trump-era economic policies to appease voters in Pennsylvania and Midwestern states. Finally, he posited that it is unlikely that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle took trade with Europe into consideration when drafting the Inflation Reduction Act – the focus was on China
In the evening the FNF North America office hosted its second young professionals networking event by the name “Pizza and Politics”. Individuals included in the network of young professionals were invited along with the hackathon participants, providing them with a possibility to learn more about what other aspirational young motivated professionals are doing; a physical manifestation of transatlantic dialogue.
On Tuesday, participants were given a tour of the Capitol, after which they had the opportunity to meet and have a conversation with Kelvin Yu from the House Science and Technology Committee. They discussed issues pertaining to technology, competition and policy.
In the evening, the hackathon participants were invited to join the bi-monthly Stammtisch, which included both established members of the FNF network as well as the above-mentioned participants of the World Order and Globalization Hub study trip.
On Wednesday, the final day of the Hackathon, the teams presented their proposals after which the winning team was chosen. After deliberating, the Jury decided to grant Sophie Holtzman and Cristina Turbatu the win.
Their proposal focused on building awareness and support for the EU through communications and public diplomacy campaigns which engage civil society “beyond Washington and Brussels”.
All four teams presented great proposals and the decision was not an easy one. However, we are excited for our winners to participate in the upcoming Reshape Europe Conference in October. Congratulations Sophie Holtzman and Cristina Turbatu!