Interview with U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE Daniel B. Baer: “We will continue to push for all the aspects of the Minsk agreement to be honored”

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Ambassador Baer at GMF (Source: GMF)

On April 18th 2016, the United States Ambassador to the Organization for Security and  Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Daniel B. Baer, led a discussion with diplomats, journalists and civil society members at the German Marshall Fund in Brussels (GMF), in cooperation with the U.S. Mission to the European Union (USEU), on the OSCE’s role in the Russia/Ukraine crisis.

The OSCE, founded in Helsinki in 1975, offers a comprehensive approach to security that encompasses politico-military, economic and environmental, and human aspects. It therefore addresses a wide range of security-related concerns, including arms control, confidence- and security-building measures, human rights, national minorities, democratization, policing strategies, counter-terrorism and economic and environmental activities. All 57 participating States (including the United States) enjoy equal status, and decisions are taken by consensus on a politically, but not legally binding basis. The OSCE currently has a Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in Ukraine, observes the Russian-Ukrainian borders in and Gukovo and Donetsk, and co-ordinates OSCE sponsored projects in Ukraine in areas such as media freedom, good governance, and elections. The EU is not an official independent member of the OSCE, but still works very closely with the organization. All EU member states are also OSCE members, and since 2006, the EU has received a seat next to the country holding the rotating EU presidency.

 

 

Ambassador Baer’s talk at GMF, presented the USEU press team with the opportunity to ask him a number of questions on the OSCE, its role in managing the Ukraine crisis, and its relationship with the United States. Ambassador Baer’s responses can be found below.

How effective do you think the OSCE is in engaging in World and European Affairs?

I think the OSCE is a lot like the UN or any other international organization; it’s only as effective as its members want it to be. And in the last couple of years I think the OSCE has been impressively effective in rallying both the political will and the resources to be the largest sustained international presence…to be the eyes and ears of the international community in Ukraine after Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. So, in that respect, I think it has demonstrated its ability to be very effective, and it continues to be an effective platform for the United States and our partners to engage with all 57 countries that are participating States in the OSCE, including Russia.

How important do you believe the OSCE contributions are in managing the Ukraine crisis?

I think the OSCE’s contributions have been important in a number of dimensions, operationally it’s the eyes and ears of the international community on the ground through the Special Monitoring Mission.

 

 

I think also politically it has been useful in that the Special Representative of the Chairperson in Office (ed. Martin Sajdik) has been leading the Trilateral Contact Group with Russia and Ukraine to try to develop diplomatic solutions that can resolve the conflict peacefully. Also, at a higher level of international politics the commitments that we have all taken independently and freely in the OSCE apply to all of us: the commitment to not move borders by force, the commitment to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other participating States, and so on. Those commitments remain the backdrop for our engagement with Russia to try to get Russia to come back to the table and to respect the rules of the international order, rather than undermine them.

What does the United States try to achieve through the OSCE concerning the Ukraine crisis?

The United States tries to achieve several things. First, and foremost, we want to see an end to the conflict that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We have used the OSCE to express our strong support for the Ukrainian reform agenda, for Ukrainian journalists and civil society, and for Ukraine’s European choice. That choice is not only the policy of the Ukrainian government, but that was validated by tens of millions of voters across Ukraine in several elections since the former President Yanukovych fled the country. I think we also use the OSCE with respect to Ukraine to reinforce our commitment to a Europe that is whole, free and at peace, and that is respecting the rules of the international order.

Besides Russia/Ukraine, in which other areas can the OSCE have an important impact? Why/how?

The concept behind the OSCE—that we should address security in a comprehensive way, that we should pay attention to human rights, to the openness of our economies and protection and security of environmental resources as well as to traditional conceptions of so-called “hard” security or politico-military security—remains as valid today as it was forty-one years ago when leaders met in Helsinki and signed the Helsinki Final Act. The OSCE can work across all three of these dimensions — it has not only operational capacity on the ground in many places across the OSCE but it also has independent institutions, as well as the political platform here in Vienna to exchange views about how we can best advance security in all three dimensions. And that is a real resource for collective problem-solving, and we live in an era that more and more of the problems that we have are the problems that don’t affect only one country, and problems that one country acting alone can’t solve. So platforms for collective problem-solving are only growing more valuable.

What issues does the U.S. consider the OSCE to have been particularly effective in advancing/solving?

The US sees the OSCE as having served a valuable role across a number of issues. Obviously, for many people the OSCE is associated with arms control and confidence and security building measures that have been fundamental to maintaining and helping to reinforce trust and build transparency in the politico-military dimension. But I think many people around the world know the OSCE brand because of the unique aspect of the OSCE as a security organization which adds the incorporation of human rights and fundamental freedoms as a security issue into the agenda of the organization. And so I would say that the work in particular of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in setting the gold standard for international elections observation; the work of the Representative on Freedom of the Media for being not only an expert support to states who are in good faith working to try to develop the legislation and protection for media freedom in their countries, but also being a watchdog and calling out where we as governments are falling short on our commitments, has been crucial and has made the OSCE area more safe. Similarly, the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) has been an important early warning mechanism, because one of the bellwethers of whether our human dimension commitments are being met is whether they are being met for individuals that are part of national minority groups; that is true across the OSCE region. The HCNM has been an invaluable diplomatic institution for engaging with participating States and with members of minority communities in trying to find ways to make sure that their rights are protected which as a result makes the state and the neighborhood more stable.

Additional resources:
OSCE: www.osce.org
U.S. Mission to the OSCE: https://osce.usmission.gov
EU Delegation to the OSCE: http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/vienna/eu_osce/index_en.htm

 

The USEU Press section would like to thank Ambassador Baer for his contribution. 

USEU Highlights Women Important to the Transatlantic Relationship

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On March 29, 2016, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented 14 women with the “International Women of Courage” Award. According to the State Department, this accolade “recognizes women around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk.” This year, there were three Europeans among the recipients.

  • Zhanna Nemtsova is a Russian journalist and activist and the daughter of the murdered opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. After being forced into exile to Germany for accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin as responsible for her father’s death, she established  the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom to support research on Russian economics, politics, and propaganda.
  • Zuzana Števulová, is the director of the Slovakian branch of the Human Rights League (HRL), an NGO that offers legal and other assistance to foreigners. Števulová emerged as Slovakia’s most prominent advocate for refugee and migrant rights and won numerous cases at Slovakia’s Supreme Court on behalf of clients in expulsion and asylum proceedings.
  • Latifa Ibn Ziaten, is an Interfaith Activist from France. After having lost her son Imad in a terrorist attack, she devoted her life to combatting radicalization with tolerance and interfaith understanding. She is the founder of the Imad Association for Youth and Peace.

Since the inception of this award in 2007, the Department of State has honored nearly 100 women from 60 different countries.

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Secretary of State John Kerry with the 2016 recipients of the International Women of Courage Award (Flickr)

 

The International Women of Courage Award is presented annually in March, the month in which the United States celebrates “National Women’s History Month” (NWHM). It is very fitting that this award is presented during this period as the recipients all fit the NWHM’s objective: “During Women’s History Month, we remember the trailblazers of the past, including the women who are not recorded in our history books, and we honor their legacies by carrying forward the valuable lessons learned from the powerful examples they set.” (President Barack Obama, 2016 National Women’s History Month Proclamation).

The good news is that over the last years, enormous progress has been made in people coming together and breaking down barriers. And I think everybody here knows that too many of those barriers have existed for too long in too many communities. This breaking down of barriers has not happened by accident. It’s happened because leading governments, including that of the United States, have made justice for women and girls a core part of our foreign policy. Even more, it is because individual voices around the globe have come together to form a mighty chorus in support of positive change. (Secretary of State Kerry, Remarks during the International Women of Courage Award Ceremony, March 29, 2016)

 

This year’s NWHM theme is: “Working to Form a more perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.”

We at the United States Mission to the European Union (USEU) decided to use the opportunity presented by Women’s History Month, and more specifically this year’s theme, to highlight a small selection of the many women in public service who have made an important contribution to the U.S.-EU transatlantic relationship in the last year. We asked our colleagues throughout the Mission to suggest four women out of the many worth of mentioning for the presentation of short profiles.

This is far from being an objective, exhaustive, or fully representative list. It was selected to highlight some of the diversity of issues in the U.S.-EU relationship, rather than to suggest that those profiled are necessarily more deserving than their peers. The list could have included many more women who might be equally deserving, including other Commissioners, other senior U.S. officials, Members of the European Parliament or U.S. Congress etcetera. Please feel free to mention other women who deserve special praise in the comments section adding why you believe they deserve a special mention.  

Penny Pritzker (United States)

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U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker (Commerce.gov)

U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Penny Prtizker played an important role in the negotiation and agreement on the new EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. Secretary Pritzker’s leadership made evident her belief in the importance of the EU-U.S. relationship. In addition to her determination and commitment to achieve a lasting and mutually beneficial agreement with the EU on data privacy, she has made the development of a thriving, innovation-friendly transatlantic digital ecosystem a priority. From her promotion of entrepreneurship and her personal address to CS Europe events throughout Europe on the need for greater participation of women in tech to her championing of free and open data flows, Secretary Pritzker has invested significant time and energy to ensuring that the long economic partnership between the United States and Europe remains strong and vibrant and continues to produce growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.

Věra Jourová (Czech Republic)

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European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers, and Gender Equality Vera Jourova (EU Commission Website)

Věra Jourová, the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers, and Gender Equality, played a leading role in bringing the Safe Harbor/Privacy Shield negotiations between the U.S. and the EU to a successful conclusion. Following the agreement, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker thanked Commissioner Jourová and her team for their “incredible, persistent work” and “her leadership during the process“. Next to her work on data privacy, Commissioner Jourová has been an outspoken advocate of women’s rights in specific areas such as: women’s equality and breaking the glass ceiling to political and corporate leadership positions. She has also resuscitated the negotiations on the proposed Anti-Discrimination Directive, which would ban discrimination in all areas where the EU has jurisdiction. This legislation, which was passed by the European Parliament in 2009, is currently being blocked by eight countries in the European Council, who believe it should remain a national competency.

Federica Mogherini (Italy)

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EU High Representative Federica Mogherini (EU Commission Website)

The EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini distinguished herself in the last year on various fronts. She made significant contributions to keeping the EU and the U.S. on a common line on dealing with the Ukraine crisis and the related sanctions against Russia. The former Italian Foreign Minister also demonstrated the strength of the transatlantic relationship by closely coordinating with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the Iran nuclear agreement.  As Secretary Kerry said: “there is no end to the need for major EU-U.S. and other country coordination, and we’re very grateful to Federica for her leadership and for her willingness to be a key partner in helping to provide some solutions to these very thorny, tricky, complicated issues (ed. such as Yemen, Libya, Ukraine, Syria, and Iran). (Secretary Kerry, April 29, 2015)

Dara Corrigan (United States)

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Associate Commissioner for Global Regulatory Policy Dara Corrigan (FDA.gov)

Dara Corrigan, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Associate Commissioner for Global Regulatory policy played a leading role in the Mutual Reliance initiative, a strategic Agency program designed to deepen the U.S. reliance on the European Union (EU), specifically for the oversight of good manufacturing practice (GMP) inspections of human drugs, and continues to do so in her current capacity. The FDA says: “this is a high profile initiative between the U.S. and the EU and its success has been touted as sending a strong message that the U.S. and the EU can find ways to work together that will benefit consumers and industry on both sides of the Atlantic.” Prior to being appointed this position in July 2015, she served as the Director of the FDA’s Europe Office in Brussels.

 

 

These four women are only a small sample of the numerous women who work tirelessly every day to further the U.S.-EU Transatlantic relationship in diverse policy fields. USEU would like to hereby thank all of them for their efforts. 

“And that is why we celebrate Women’s History Month — not to get complacent, but to take a moment each year and celebrate the achievements that women have fought so hard to achieve, and to rededicate ourselves to tackling the challenges that remain.” (President Barack Obama, Remarks at the Reception for National Women’s History Month, March 16, 2016)

 


 

The U.S. Elections, with a twist: Whiskey, Bagels, and “House of Cards”

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By Tobias Van Assche, Information Specialist at the United States Mission to the European Union.

Every four years, U.S. diplomatic personnel around the globe delve into their high school American Civics 101 textbooks and start honing up for the unavoidable questions on the U.S. elections process. What is a Superdelegate? Why the Electoral College? What is the difference between a Caucus and a Primary? This election year, European interest in the U.S. Presidential Elections seems stronger than ever, and the United States Mission to the European Union (USEU) is supporting a number of activities throughout the year to engage EU officials and publics on the process, through expert speakers, exchange programs, and dissemination of information via social media.

USEU Public Affairs decided to take a new approach to the elections this March, partnering with the German Marshall Fund of the United States’ Young Transatlantic Network (YTN), to screen the first two episodes of the newly released fourth season of the popular Netflix series “House of Cards” as a fun way of delving into the perceptions (and reality) of U.S. elections. This award winning series tells the fictitious story of U.S. Congressman Frank Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey), who together with his wife Claire (Robin Wright) fights and manipulates his way up the U.S. political ladder to eventually become President. With Season Four focused on Underwood’s fight through the primaries and convention, it seemed a perfect opportunity to blend a little entertainment with discussion of the reality behind the U.S. political process.

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U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Anthony Gardner welcoming the GMF Young Transnational Network to the election event

The U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Anthony Gardner opened the event for approximately 60 YTN members, noting that the U.S. Mission has to remain non-partisan during elections. While joking that the elections provide “high quality entertainment, 24/7” for Europeans and foreign publics, Gardner also stressed how both Europeans and Americans are facing difficult challenges and that the elections provide an opportunity for candidates to set forth their vision for the direction of the country. He stressed the importance of young people in the political party, not only as voters but as actors. Ambassador Gardner called on the attendees not to give into cynicism, fear, and division, but instead take up their rights and responsibility as citizens. “You are the future and the present of Europe, of the transatlantic relationship,” Gardner finished.

 

After the audience enjoyed Episode 1, Politico Europe’s Managing-Editor Carry Budoff Brown provided her take on the current U.S. elections. In 2008, Budoff Brown covered Barack Obama’s bid for the White House from the early stages for the U.S. edition of “Politico,” followed by a stint as Politico’s White House Correspondent from 2009-2014. She has now been with Politico’s European edition for nearly a year.

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Politico Europe Managing-Editor Carry Budoff Brown Speaking on the U.S. Elections (source: Flickr)

In her presentation, Budoff Brown emphasized how different this campaign has been from previous elections, particularly due to social media, which was just taking off as a political tool in 2008. “I am as surprised as everybody else about where this is heading”, said Budoff Brown. She went on to assess the candidates and how she believed the campaign would progress, but added that her views are the “conventional wisdom”, and that this campaign has been everything but conventional. Budoff Brown for example emphasized that traditionally candidates tend to move to the left or right of the political spectrum in order to mobilize their electoral base during the primaries, to then move back to the center during the general election. The question is whether this will also happen this year.

Budoff Brown said that being a White House reporter tends to be less action packed than depicted in “House of Cards” and is generally not filled with the intrigue, manipulation and scandals presented in the series. She adds that the character Zoe Barns, who often resorts to these means to get her stories, is widely loathed by young female journalists in Washington. “I don’t know anybody like her”, Budoff Brown said, adding “and that’s a good thing.”

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Whiskey and Burbon offered by the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service (source: Flickr)

Intermission was a time to network over bagels and drinks, including Frank Underwood’s drinks of choice: American whisky and bourbon. The drinks, provided by USEU’s Foreign Agricultural Service, showcased some craft distilleries lesser known in Europe but booming in the United States.

For USEU, the night’s event was a great way to engage young Europeans on an important time in American politics, and it encouraged us to keep thinking of innovative ways to provide insights to U.S. policy, politics, and culture. We were grateful to Netflix and their agreement with the U.S. Department of State for allowing us to share their content with this audience. The YTN members in attendance praised the creative way in which the German Marshall Fund and the U.S. Mission to the EU used popular culture to promote a discussion on the U.S. elections and inspire people to become or remain politically active.

EP Delegation Receives a Hands On Introduction to the U.S. Electoral System

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By Dion Wierts, Cultural Affairs Assistant at the United States Mission to the European Union

What better time for a group of Members of the European Parliament and the EU40 network to travel to the U.S. then when the primary debates are all over the media. In fact, the first three states that hold their primaries generally get as much media attention as all the other states together. By July, both political camps will have identified their respective candidate who will run for President on November 8. During the past couple months, there has been a significant ramp up of political campaigning, presidential candidate debates, media coverage, and voter registration drives.

On Saturday February 6, I joined MEPs Victor Negrescu (S&D, Romania), Claudia Monteiro de Aguiar (EPP, Portugal), Pablo Zalba Bidegain (EPP, Spain), and Camelia Vasile of the EU40 network on a one-week fact finding mission to the United States to study the country’s electoral system.  The program allowed participants to assess first-hand the various methods used by the campaigns, grassroots activists, and others to actively engage U.S. citizens in the electoral process, increase their understanding of the American political system, and strengthen and establish relations between their European and American counterparts. The State Department frequently arranges these types of programs on U.S. policy, society, or culture in order to introduce policy makers and civil society actors to diverse aspects of the United States so that they can relate these perspectives to their peers and constituencies. Having been tasked with organizing the visit during the previous months, I could not wait to see how it all played out.

The tour’s two main locations were selected to optimally immerse the participants in the U.S. electoral system. We spent the first four days in the nation’s capital and political epicenter, Washington D.C., after which we travelled to Florida. This state is especially known for the cutthroat Bush vs. Gore battle during the 2000 Presidential election, as well as for the diversity of its voters, including a large Hispanic population.

 

After doing some sightseeing on Sunday, Monday marked the official start of the program. We immediately immersed ourselves into the U.S.’s multilevel governance system by attending a fascinating briefing on federalism that outlined the U.S. institutions, their competencies, and the checks and balances between them. This meeting set the stage for what we were to see live at the state level a few days later, when visiting Florida.

The highlight of the afternoon was a meeting with a private digital communications consultancy. During this briefing, the participants exchanged ideas and practices on how to use digital communication technologies to interact with constituents. We all left the meeting feeling inspired by how we could incorporate these digital engagement tools in our work of engaging the public. As we learned, an increasing part of the electorate can be reached with modern communication means. We also learned that having access to these tools has in recent years fundamentally changed the way in which political campaigns are conducted in the United States and abroad.

On Tuesday, the group gathered bright and early for a promising day of briefings on election rules and enforcement mechanisms to ensure fair elections on the federal, state, district, and county level. In some aspects, the American system differs from European elections, and the participants were genuinely fascinated and eager to learn more. Commissioner Ellen Weintraub of the Federal Election Commission discovered that the participants were particularly intrigued by the system of campaign financing, which is very different from how campaigns are generally funded in Europe.

 

The afternoon meeting with a large labor union was equally interesting. The U.S. interlocutors—who had obviously done their research on how each MEP had voted on TTIP—engaged in a lively discussion not only on the role of unions in American politics, but also on a very specific U.S.-EU policy area.

By Wednesday, everyone had adjusted to the local time zone. After a meeting at the CATO Institute, a think tank known for a libertarian approach to policy, we packed our bags and stepped on the plane to Jacksonville, Florida. None of the program participants had travelled to the region so we did not know what to expect from the environment, the places we would visit, and the people we would meet. Our first day in Jacksonville started with a three-hour drive to Florida’s State capital, Tallahassee. Here we learned about local campaign activists’ strategies to mobilize voters and get them to the polls. For example, we were told that churches often rent busses to transport people to the polling station after Sunday mass.

After a quick lunch—fried chicken and French fries—in a restaurant packed with school children visiting from all over Florida, we attended a session of the Florida State Senate. The Senate voting process was also notably different from the European process. Senators busily mingling with their teams and other Senators, navigating the floor while the bills up for voting were read-out in record speed. The whole scene looked quite different from a European Parliament plenary session where Members are expected to be in their seat and to remain there during the meeting. Each visitor received an individual shout-out from the floor by Senator Aaron Bean, which was a very nice gesture.

On Friday, the last day of the tour we met with local volunteer representatives from of the Clinton, Rubio and Sanders campaigns. We quickly learned how campaigns create voter outreach strategies based on information such as demographics and information provided by voters on their preferences. The volunteers spoke in detail about how they approach voters, encouraging them to register and cast their vote for their candidate. While these individuals are attached to one particular candidate’s campaign, they are also key in informing citizens of the election process and the voter registration requirements in general, thereby playing an important role in the democratic process. That same day, we met with Duval County Election Supervisor Mike Hogan. The tour of the county’s facilities was fascinating. We were shown the automated machines, the storage space, the arrangements put in place for elderly and disabled etc. In short: the entire electoral infrastructure seemed extremely well thought through and prepared up to perfection.

After the meeting, we continued discussing what we had seen during a spontaneous stop at a local coffee place; our last one as a group together. I believe that this week has provided the participants with a behind the scene look at U.S. elections and politics by allowing them to interact with a wide range of U.S. interlocutors who are active on different levels and components of the democratic process, and in different campaigns. The objective of this tour was to give participants the opportunity to see multiple aspects, viewpoints, processes, and organizations related to the U.S. electoral system. The participants and I have gained a better understanding of the similarities and differences between our electoral systems. I am confident that they gained important insights on how the vast American electoral system works at the different levels and how to engage citizens. This program gave me and others an objective understanding of the United States electoral process is shaped and formed by its society, culture, and political system.

Interview: Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer weighs in on the European Security Order After Crimea

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On Thursday, February 25th, 2016 The European Policy Center (EPC) hosted a prestigious panel discussion in Brussels titled: “EU-U.S. Security Forum – The European Security Order After Crimea.” The panel, moderated by EPC’s Senior Policy Analyst Paul Ivan, consisted of:

  • Robert Bell, Senior Civilian Representative of the Secretary of Defense in Europe; Defense Advisor to the U.S. Ambassador to NATO
  • Steven Pifer, Director, Brookings Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative, The Brookings Institution; former US Ambassador to Ukraine
  • Stefan Lehne, Visiting Scholar, Carnegie Europe
  • Joëlle Jenny, Director for Security Policy and Conflict Prevention, European External Action Service (EEAS)
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Steven Pifer, FormerAmbassador to Ukraine (1998-2000)

The U.S. Mission to the EU’s press team had the opportunity to ask  Ambassador Steven Pifer some questions about the effects of the Russian invasion and illegal annexation of Crimea on the European Security order. Steven Pifer was the  U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine from  1998-2000 and has had a long career with the U.S. Foreign Service. He is currently the Director of the Brookings Institution’s Arms and Non-Proliferation Initiative in Washington DC, which addresses global arms control and proliferation challenges, as well as the central negotiations between the United States and Russia.

(The Views Ambassador Pifer expresses in this interview are his own and do not necessarily reflect the policy of the Government of the United States)

 

Ambassador Steven Pifer’s Past Positions

  • Senior Adviser, Center for Strategic & International Studies (2006-2009)
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (2001-2004)
  • Visiting Scholar, Institute for International Studies, Stanford University (2000-2001)
    Ambassador to Ukraine (1998-2000)
  • Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, National Security Council (1996-1997)
  • Prior assignments as a Foreign Service officer (1978-1995) included postings to the U.S. embassies in London, Moscow and Warsaw as well as with the U.S. delegation to the negotiation on intermediate-range nuclear forces in Geneva.

Interview:

Do you believe the Security order in Europe has changed significantly because of the illegal annexation of Crimea? If so, in what way?

Ambassador Pifer: Russia’s illegal seizure and annexation of Crimea followed by its support for armed separatism in eastern Ukraine have seriously damaged the European security order. The cardinal rule of that order—dating back to the 1975 Helsinki Final Act—was that states should not use force to change borders or take territory. The Kremlin seems to want to play by different rules, including its insistence on a sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space. Given concerns about Russia’s behavior and the security challenge it poses, it is not clear how soon trust could be restored or the rules for a new security order agreed.

How significant would you rate the Russian threat to the European Union and its neighbors?

Ambassador Pifer: Russia has shown that it poses a real threat to the European Union’s neighbors, having used military force against Ukraine and Georgia in the past eight years while continuing to support a separatist regime in Transnistria. The probability of Russian use of force against one or more European Union member states, for example, in the Baltic region, is not high. The probability, however, is not zero—which we would have said four or five years ago. The European Union and NATO cannot ignore Moscow’s recent actions or the more bellicose posture that it has adopted toward the West.

How successful would you judge US and European efforts to counter Russia following Crimea?

Ambassador Pifer: The United States and Europe have not achieved their stated policy goals, which would require that Russia give up Crimea, withdraw its soldiers from eastern Ukraine, and end support to the separatists there. But the United States and Europe have surprised the Kremlin with their unity, their political and economic support for Ukraine, their sustained sanctions on Russia and their initial steps to bolster NATO’s conventional deterrence and defense capabilities in the Baltic region and Central Europe. The West needs to build on these steps if it wishes to change the policy calculations in Moscow and bring Russia back to a more cooperative approach on European security.

What more should the U.S. and its allies do to counter Russia?

Ambassador Pifer: First, the West should press Kyiv to make faster progress on reform and be prepared to offer additional financial assistance if it does so. Building a more resilient Ukraine will reduce the opportunities for Russia to destabilize the country. Second, NATO should take further steps to strengthen its conventional force posture, including in the Baltic region. Third, the United States and European Union should hold to their policy that there will be no easing of economic sanctions until the Minsk agreements are fully implemented. In this regard, it would send a useful signal to Moscow if the European Union would apply the sanctions on an indefinite basis instead of renewing them for just six months at a time. Finally, the West should signal that it would like to return to a more cooperative relationship with Russia, but that will depend on Russian actions.

What effect would a successful implementation of the Minsk protocols have on the security order in Europe after Crimea?

Ambassador Pifer: Successful implementation of the Minsk agreements—which, unfortunately, does not appear likely—would have a positive impact on the European security order. It would allow Kyiv to reassert full political sovereignty over the Donbas region and make it more likely that Ukraine would progress to become a stronger and more stable state. Full implementation of Minsk presumably would also mean that Russia had adopted a policy more conducive to better relations between Moscow and Kyiv, and between Moscow and the West. While Crimea would remain a problem, a settlement in eastern Ukraine could help move West-Russia relations back to a more normal pattern.

To what extent has the Russian intervention in Syria influenced your perception of the security order in Europe?

Ambassador Pifer: Russia’s intervention in Syria is another manifestation of Moscow’s desire to reassert its power and of its readiness to use military force. To the extent that the Kremlin’s policy in Syria is motivated by a desire to aggravate the refugee crisis in Turkey and the European Union, it reflects a Russian effort to further divide and weaken Europe.

Do you believe Crimea will ever be returned to Ukraine?

Ambassador Pifer: Realistically speaking, it is difficult to see how Kyiv can muster the leverage in the near term to secure Crimea’s return, which likely explains why the Ukrainian government has said it will deal with this issue in the longer term. That will still be a tough challenge. The United States and Europe should continue their policy of non-recognition of Crimea’s illegal incorporation into Russia, and they should maintain those sanctions linked to Crimea until such time as it is returned or Kyiv otherwise reaches a settlement with Moscow regarding the peninsula’s status.

The United States Mission to the European Union thanks Ambassador Pifer for appearing as our special guest in this blog.

 

African American History Month: Celebrating African Americans’ Important Contribution to the U.S. Diplomatic Service

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Each year since 1976 the United States celebrates African American History Month during the month of February. This month was chosen because it includes the birthdays of both President Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 65), who passed the 13th amendment abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States, and the famous abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass (1818 – 95).  Each February, the United States recognizes the achievements, successes, and contributions of African Americans throughout history and the present day.

“Our responsibility as citizens is to address the inequalities and injustices that linger, and we must secure our birthright freedoms for all people. As we mark the 40th year of National African American History Month, let us reflect on the sacrifices and contributions made by generations of African Americans, and let us resolve to continue our march toward a day when every person knows the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (President Barack Obama in his African American History Month Proclamation, 01/26/2016)

 

As representatives of the United States Mission to the European Union (USEU), we would like to take the opportunity presented by African American History Month to highlight the important contributions that African American men and women have made to the U.S. Foreign Service. According to a 2008 State Department Bureau of Resource Management report, African Americans compose 5.6% of the approximately 11,471 members of the U.S. Foreign Service. This percentage falls short of the number of African Americans in the civilian workforce and the general American population. It is however already a significant improvement compared to prior years, partially due to efforts made by Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright, Colin L. Powell, and Condoleezza Rice to increase diversity in the Department.

“We must inspire young Americans from diverse backgrounds to see themselves as the face of America to the world”. United States Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield

 

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Ebenezer D. Bassett, Minister Resident and Consul General to Haiti

While there is still progress to be made, the State Department has had many African American diplomats within its ranks who have made notable contributions to advancing United States foreign policy abroad. The first African American to hold a major foreign policy portfolio was Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett, who was appointed Minister Resident and Consul General to Haiti in 1869 (the term Ambassador was not used before 1893). Since then, African Americans have served as Ambassadors in nearly 100 countries and international organizations, and numerous others have held senior positions within the foreign service. The first African American to officially carry the title of Ambassador was Edward Richard Dudley (1949-53), who served as Ambassador to Liberia. The first female black Ambassador was Patricia Roberts Harris who served in Luxembourg (1965-67). In recent years, two African Americans have served as Secretary of State: Colin Powell (2000-2004) and Condoleezza Rice (2005-2009). There have also been four black U.S. Ambassadors to the United Nations, including Edith S. Sampson in 1950 and most recently Susan Rice (2009-2013).

Related: African American U.S. Envoys, Diplomatic Ministers, and Ambassadors Since 1869 

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Ambassador Betty King U.S. Mission to Geneva (2010 -2013)

One more recent example of a senior African American member of the U.S. Diplomatic Service is Ambassador Betty King who led the U.S. Representative to the Office of the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva from 2010 to 2013.   Ambassador King has had an extensive career in public service, having been the United States Representative to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, where she worked on human rights, development, children, aging, and population issues. She was also the principal U.S. negotiator of the Millennium Development Goals.

Related: Profile of Ambassador Betty King at www.Blackpast.org

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Ambassador William E. Kennard U.S. Mission to the EU (2009-2013)

At the United States Mission to the European Union (USEU), Ambassador William E. Kennard led our organization from 2009 – 2013. Besides having been an outstanding U.S. Ambassador to the EU, Ambassador Kennard is also known for being a tireless advocate to reduce inequalities within societies. With his background as a leader in the telecommunications sector, he continues helping people bridge the digital divide in the United States as well as in developing nations. As Ambassador Kennard said in 2013 when introducing the Academy Award winning film Lincoln that demonstrates how President Lincoln fought to pass the 13th amendment to abolish slavery: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I stand here before you tonight myself a great grandson of slaves and I am here today because Lincoln did what he did. Thank you for coming here tonight to share in honoring an important chapter in our American history.”

 

The contributions made by African American men and women to the State Department are only a small example of the signifiant contributions that African Americans have made to the U.S. government, society, economy, and culture.

The USEU Press Team

U.S. Mission to the EU briefs Fulbright Grantees during their EU and NATO Seminar

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Every year, U.S. recipients of a Fulbright grant who are studying across Europe are eligible to attend a four-day seminar on the EU and NATO in Luxembourg and Belgium, hosted by the Fulbright Commission in Belgium and Luxembourg. During this seminar—which this year took place from February 16-20, 2016—the 43 American participants learned more about the structure and functioning of European institutions and how these institutions affect their respective academic, professional, and personal daily lives. The 2015-2016 group was composed of students, teachers, lecturers, and researchers, who are currently conducting research or studying at universities all over Europe in diverse fields such as journalism, biology, theater studies, and linguistics.

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The participants of the 2016 Schuman EU and NATO Seminar at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg

The American researchers and students who are participating in this seminar have all received a Fulbright grant, which is the flagship educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Eight of the participants are recipients of a Fulbright-Schuman grant, which is co-funded by the U.S. State Department and the European Commission. This grant supports graduate students, pre- and post-doctoral researchers, as well as teachers who research topics related to U.S.-EU relations. One of the participants, Letitia Zwichert (Naperville, IL) is the first high school teacher to receive a Fulbright Schuman grant. She is studying minority education and the existing achievement gap in Brussels, Luxembourg, and Strasbourg.

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The 2015-2016 Fulbright-Schuman grantees together with Fulbright Commission director in Belgium and Luxembourg Erica Lutes

While in Brussels, the seminar participants spent Thursday afternoon (February 18) at the United States Mission to the European Union (USEU) after having visited the European Commission in the morning. At USEU, Cultural Affairs Officer Elizabeth Martin of the Public Affairs section introduced the participants to the structure and workings of the Mission and its public diplomacy activities. She also described what it is like to work in the U.S. Foreign Service.

“Fulbright-Schuman is an amazing opportunity as it lets me have this year after finishing my Ph.D. to really dedicate myself to my research, which is very rare in that most people move right into a teaching position…It has been a real luxury to have this time.” Muriam Davis (Boston, MA), post doctoral researcher in History at the European University Institute, Florence, Italy. 

 

Subsequently, Economic Counselor Tom Reott and Political YS1_1680Counselor Michael DeTar briefed the participants on their respective portfolios. Mr. Reott focused on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the free trade agreement that is currently being negotiated between the U.S. and the EU, and energy security. He underlined USEU’s coordinating role. The Mission is not responsible for negotiating treaties itself, but instead briefs them on the political situation in the institutions and the member states and presents the U.S. position to the key European audiences.

Mr. DeTar stated that some of the key political issues the mission deals with is following the negotiations to keep the United Kingdom in the European Union (Brexit), the coordination between the U.S. and EU on sanctions against Russia because of its actions in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, and the threat to the Schengen zone posed by the immigration crisis. The two senior officers also left plenty of time for questions from the Fulbrighters. The participants ended their visit to USEU with a reception, hosted by the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Anthony Gardner.

Fulbright-Schuman has opened a lot of doors for me in terms of my research. It has provided me with an extensive network and very high levels of opportunities for interviews and participant observation.” –  Joel Colony (Harrisville, NH), MA Global Politics at the London School of Economics.  

 

USEU wishes all Fulbright grantees great success with their current research projects.

The USEU Press Team

USEU Engages on Privacy and Intelligence Reform at the 2016 Computers, Privacy and Data Protection Conference

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By Matteo Quattrocchi,Programs and Exchange Assistant at the U.S. Mission to the EU

A colleague here at United States Mission to the European Union (USEU) once described the annual Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection conference, (CPDP) as “the funkiest conference in Brussels.” While I first laughed at that description, after my first CPDP experience this year I’ve come to agree. In a sea of “Brussels Bubble” conferences too often characterized by grey suits and bland policy statements, CPDP, held this year from January 27-29, offers a refreshing mix of points of view on diverse topics. CPDP has steadily grown into the main European venue for discussions among civil society activists, policymakers, academics, and business on the critical issues of privacy and data protection—and American voices are an important part of those discussions.

Data privacy has been a contentious issue in the transatlantic relationship between the U.S. and the European Union (EU) recently. CPDP provides a perfect platform for Europeans and Americans to engage in discussions on complex issues-both from the government and non-governmental perspectives. For the past several years, USEU has provided funds for CPDP to invite American experts from academia and civil society discussing topics as distinct as the NSA revelations, revenge porn, and LGBT rights. While many of these experts may not agree with U.S. policy, they do represent the diversity of viewpoints that exist in the United States on the topic of privacy, similar to the diversity of perspectives in Europe. Healthy debate and exchange of ideas are at the cornerstone of American society, just as they are in Europe. This is especially the case on controversial issues such as privacy, surveillance and data protection. The balance between national security and individual privacy is constantly moving, similar to a pendulum swinging back and forth. Depending on the specific time in history, society will demand more privacy at the expense of surveillance capabilities, or more security at the expense of privacy. As the design and enactment of policy seems to be far removed from the public, it is exactly on these issues that there needs to be a public and global discussion.

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This year, in addition to USEU’s general support for CPDP, an unprecedented number of U.S. officials took part in discussions throughout the conference. USEU even took a unique step, for the first time organizing a panel that brought together American and European experts on Intelligence Law reform from government and civil society. U.S. officials from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Department of Commerce (DOC), and Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) all participated in discussions throughout CPDP’s three days. Those who got to experience these debates first hand, as I did, or who followed the social media discussion virtually, can attest to the intensity of the questions from panelists and audience alike. These were not occasions for bland talking points-this was real transatlantic debate between diverse point of views; a true exchange among government, civil society, activists, and the private sector.

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Twitter discussion during CPDP panel on transatlantic surveillance reform

The negotiations for a revised approach to Safe Harbor – a process for U.S. companies to comply with the EU Directive on the protection of personal data, which the EU Court of Justice ruled that the principle was invalid in October 2015 (Schrems Decision) – were still ongoing during CPDP, and several of the key U.S. negotiators from the Department of Commerce and ODNI themselves took part in panels discussing Safe Harbor and the Schrems decision. This allowed for a rarely available interaction with data protection authorities and activists, going beyond government-to-government discussions. Even in the world of new technologies, of digital connections and social media, in-person meetings and old-styled panel discussions can still provide a fundamental contribution to the public debate. Just days after CPDP closed, the U.S. and EU reached a deal to amend the Safe Harbor in what will now be known as “Privacy Shield.”

Statement from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker on EU-U.S. Privacy Shield

Related: Fact Sheet on EU-U.S. Privacy Shield

Why does USEU continue to support CPDP and ensure top-level officials participate? Even with the Privacy Shield in place, transatlantic exchanges including a variety of government and non-government actors will be necessary to build citizen and consumer trust in the ability of companies and governments to protect their data. Inclusiveness and diversity of ideas continue to constitute a fundamental part of policy-making on both sides of the Atlantic. And besides, where but at the funkiest conference in Brussels can you get a prescription for invisibility pills to safeguard your privacy?

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The Super Bowl and the Transatlantic Relationship

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On Sunday, February 7th, life in the Unites States will briefly come to a halt. Streets will be vacated as people will gather in front of the television screens in homes, restaurants, and bars to watch the final of the 2015 National Football League (NFL) season, more commonly known as “The Super Bowl”. Of the more than 110 million people who generally watch the game in the U.S., many tune in for the actual game. But many are more interested in the spectacular half-time show while some are mainly interested in the new commercial campaigns during the breaks. This year, the two teams fighting for the title in the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California (near San Francisco) are the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos.

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The Super Bowl is a prime example of a truly American event with seemingly very little external influences. In the United States, football is the most popular professional sport, boasting the highest attendance of any sporting league in the world and is also the most popular sport in high school and college. The contrast between the popularity of football in the United States and the rest of the world is striking. In Europe, football is hardly played and watched at all. The NFL has attempted to become more international by, for example, sponsoring a European development league (NFL Europe (1991-2007)) and planning an occasional NFL game abroad as part of the NFL International Series, but with very little direct results.

related Article: The NFL’s Future in Europe 

Given that football is such a “typically American” sport, practiced and watched by Americans, it is striking to observe that European companies play such a major role in sponsoring and organizing the event off the field. This becomes obvious during the extremely popular commercial breaks where a 30 second advertisement can cost up to 5 million dollars. European automotive companies, such as BMW, Audi, Mini, and Mercedes, use this valuable airtime to persuade Americans to buy their products. Moreover, many of the companies that traditionally advertise during the Super Bowl – and which may seem as American as apple pie – have strong European ties. Some are even owned by European companies. Two examples are the Anheuser-Busch brewery known for beers such as Budweiser and Bud light, which was purchased by the Belgian-Brazilian brewery AB-InBev in 2008, and Weight Watchers that an investment fund representing European families purchased from Heinz in 1999.

A less obvious example of European presence during the Super Bowl is the half-time show: the British band Coldplay will headline this year. Last year, American viewers were mesmerized by a video projection during pop star Katy Perry’s performance. Eighty projectors changed the playing field into a virtual bending chessboard or a tropical island paradise. The technology that made this possible comes from the Belgian company Barco, which is active in more than 90 countries and employs more than 3,300 people worldwide.

 

Another example of a European involvement is German-based SAP, which will provide entertainment outside the stadium in “Super Bowl City”. The company has created an interactive game, in which a fan wearing a virtual reality headset becomes a quarterback in simulated game situations like avoiding getting sacked or throwing a game-winning touchdown pass. Fans can see how they fare against other competitors on a scoreboard.

Although the Super Bowl is typically American, it clearly demonstrates how a major event provides unique opportunities for companies on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean (and the rest of the world) to promote their assets in a variety of areas such as culture, technology, and trade. The same opportunities will present themselves later in 2016 on the European continent during the Champions’ League final on May 28 in Milan, where the Ford Motor Company had been the main sponsor for 21 years, and the UEFA European Cup Soccer in June and July in France. Some of UEFA’s official U.S. based sponsors are the hamburger restaurant MacDonalds and the soft drink company Coca Cola.

As opposed to the Super Bowl, where there has to be a winner, the opportunities created by these events can generate a “win” for all participants.

The USEU Press Team

U.S. Mission to the EU hosts a “Women in Tech” roundtable as part of the U.S. Commercial Service’s pan-European series of events honoring International Women’s Day

(Source Featured image: www.pexels.com)

By Pamela Ward, Deputy Senior Commercial Officer, United States Commercial Service Europe

In honor of International Women’s Day, the U.S. Commercial Service, a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is organizing a series of “Women in Tech” events across Europe. In twenty-seven locations, women leaders and emerging entrepreneurs in the

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U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Prizker (Source dept. of Commerce)

digital and technology sectors will gather to discuss the challenges they have faced, how they have overcome them, and how they and policy-makers can encourage current and future generations of women in the sector. They will share best practices on topics ranging from encouraging girls to participate in STEM activities to how to recruit, retain and promote women in order to ensure that the digital economy is fully engaging over half of the world’s work force. In each location, the events will feature a virtual welcoming address by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

The first International Women’s Day (IWD) was held in 1911 and thousands of events occur annually to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. The United Nations has officially recognized IWD since 1975 and while it has used this day to highlight women’s achievements, it also uses it to address the discrimination that women face in different societies.

Related: History of International Women’s Day (United Nations).

This year’s theme for IWD is #PledgeForParity. In 2015, the World Economic Forum predicted that gender parity would only be reached by 2133. The United Nations wants to close the gender gap more quickly: “Everyone – men and women – can pledge to take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly – whether to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures or root out workplace bias. Each of us can be a leader within our own spheres of influence and commit to take pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity”.

“This gap between women’s inherent value and how many of them are treated every day is one of the great injustices of our time. On this International Women’s Day, we recommit ourselves to closing that gap.” (President Barack Obama, March 8, 2015)

 

On this International Women’s Day, the goal of the “Women in Tech” series is not only to honor the achievements of women, but to continue to move the agenda forward and to be a part of the development of women leaders and success stories in the economy of the future. We believe that entrepreneurship, innovation and the importance of women’s leadership in commerce and trade are each foundational issues for the growth of the global economy particularly in the rapidly advancing IT sector. Tech startups are flourishing in both the United States and Europe and the environment is prepared for even greater expansion. Most of tomorrow’s jobs on both sides of the Atlantic will be found in companies that are being conceived and established right now. In order to foster the belief, focus the energy and nurture the creativity of the today’s and tomorrow’s entrepreneurial leaders, especially women, we should not only ensure that the knowledge and tools that are necessary for success are available to them, but we should also create opportunities for successful women to address and share their stories and expertise with them.

We must open the doors for women to fully participate in society – as farmers, entrepreneurs, engineers, executives, and leaders of their countries. (U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry March 8, 2015)

 

In line with these goals and to promote trade and investment, economic growth, entrepreneurship and diversity, Commercial Service Europe developed the “Women in Tech”-themed events to be held throughout Europe. The events have a branded region-wide umbrella structure that allows for a coordinated dialog focused on the impact of female entrepreneurs and tech leaders on job creation, growth and the transatlantic relationship as well encouraging women entering the field.

In Brussels, there will be three organized events. The United States Ambassador to the European Union, Anthony Gardner, will host a roundtable on “Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in the Tech Sector” and U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium Denise Bauer will host a discussion on building an inclusive tech eco-system. The discussions will involve more than 30 high-level guests from the private and public sector. The culminating event will be a networking reception bringing the two groups together along with a select group of local leaders and digital entrepreneurs with a common interest in the issue.

The Commercial Service is confident that this series of events across Europe will not only lead to interesting discussions, but will also stimulate action on this vital issue. Check out our Twitter feed at #WomenInTech and #E2EWomenTech to follow the discussions and hear some of the ideas and stories that emerge from the events.

U.S. Commercial Service Europe website: http://export.gov/europe/
U.S. Commercial Service Europe on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/4885181
U.S. Commercial Service Europe on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Export2Europe