Beyond the Beltways: Tour Highlights Regional Views on T-TIP for EP Staffers

By Elizabeth Martin-Shukrun, Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Mission to the EU

What does Carolina barbecue have to do with T-TIP? It’s a juicy question. This week, a group of European Parliament staffers rounds off a U.S. Mission-organized visit to the United States focused on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), with stops in North and South Carolina. Between meetings with European businesses such as BMW and Michelin investing in South Carolina, visits to tech centers and agricultural producers, and discussions with state and local officials and business associations on how trade benefits them, they have found time to savor the legendary barbecue for which the Carolinas are known.

EP staffers tweet

Most EU representatives visit Washington regularly, meeting with Members of Congress and Administration officials, yet they seldom venture beyond the Beltway on those trips. If U.S. policies are made in Washington, is it important for EU officials to understand South Carolina or Pennsylvania?

The State Department thinks it is. Through the multiple exchange programs USEU organizes each year, we seek to expose young EU policymakers, civil society leaders, and opinion shapers to a wide spectrum of views in the United States. At the heart of these exchanges is the belief that a better understanding of the many voices that inform U.S. policies will strengthen the transatlantic relationship.

For this exchange, the diverse delegation of ten staffers, working for a variety of political groups, EP committees, MEPs, or in the General Secretariat, has spent the past ten days on a whirlwind tour of Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Columbia and Greenville, South Carolina; and Raleigh, North Carolina.

EP staffer tweet“The trip has been an eye-opener and surprising in many ways,” writes EP staffer and self-described “digital wonk” Sabina Ciofu, who has been documenting the group’s trip via Twitter and Facebook. “It was particularly astonishing to discover that trade agreements are not only a topic of interest in Washington D.C., but that the debate reaches many local communities and businesses in the country. With very few exceptions, trade and the implicit reduction of tariffs for exports seems to have a good vibe of economic development and prosperity among the local communities we had a chance to meet. And it made me think that this is something we should be doing more of in Europe, by driving the T-TIP debate from an inter-institutional discussion in Brussels also into the Member States and local municipalities. That way, you can always have that necessary honest exchange on the opportunities and challenges a trade agreement of this magnitude will bring.”

2015-04-15_ep_staffers_ttip_tour3The EP group not only met T-TIP supporters but also exchanged views with trade skeptics such as labor organizations, even visiting an organization working to re-train American workers whose jobs were displaced due to global trade. Understanding the internal American debate on T-TIP is crucial for understanding the Administration’s goals.

Just as Commission and Parliament officials must solicit views from beyond the Brussels Ring when creating policies affecting EU citizens, we believe getting a view from outside the Washington Beltway can provide perspectives leading to more informed policies affecting the U.S.-EU relationship.  And maybe, just maybe, we’ll see an increase in EU imports of Carolina barbecue sauce.

An Occasion to Hail U.S.-EU Cooperation on Galileo

By Brian Hardesty, Political-Military Officer at the U.S. Mission to the EU

Hologram of Galileo satellite. Photo by author

Hologram of Galileo satellite. Photo by author

The successful launch of the seventh and eighth Galileo satellites is cause for a toast – on both sides of the Atlantic. For me personally, watching the constellation take shape is something to marvel at. I was pursuing EU studies when the Galileo program was nascent; now I am in Brussels and more and more satellites are in orbit! There have been bumps along the way, but now Brussels and Washington recognize the Galileo program speaks to a vision of the Union that can deliver for its citizens and achieve great things.

Indeed, the U.S. and Europe share a common vision. We both see the need for compatible and interoperable global and regional navigation satellite systems. By working together on this goal, we are paving the way for the development of new technologies and innovations that will keep our people safer, create more jobs, and improve the quality of life for our citizens.

GPS-Galileo cooperation is the centerpiece of this vision. The U.S. and EU signed a GPS-Galileo Cooperation Agreement in 2004. Ever since, we have been working together to develop compatible and interoperable civil signals providing complementary civil services in an open and transparent manner that maximizes the potential for innovation in the commercial sector.

European Space Expo. Photo by author

European Space Expo. Photo by author

Satellite navigation applications reduce use of pesticides and fertilizers in agriculture, improving our environment while reducing farming costs. Remote health monitors allow people to lead more full and productive lives while improving the speed with which emergency health care can be provided. If you’ve done any financial transfer using a mobile phone, you’ve used this technology.  In the United States, we now estimate sales of GPS-related products and services to be over $40 billion annually.

As a result of our GPS-Galileo cooperation, the U.S. and EU jointly developed a new common civil signal that is becoming the de facto future world standard. That signal, known as L1C, is now being adopted by the global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) of other countries and by the Japanese regional navigation system. This modern signal design will produce better performance in challenging reception environments including indoors, and enhance technology applications.

The U.S. and EU are also discussing how to develop receivers that could simultaneously use the signals from GPS and Galileo, along with other satellite constellations. These multi-system receivers and the further innovations they spur will improve the overall resiliency of both the U.S. and EU based satellite systems and make their service more reliable for both government and commercial applications.

These facts and figures may seem dry, but there are more ways to learn about what the EU is doing in space that help bring the topic to life. This past weekend visiting Athens, I stumbled on the European Space Expo in Syntagma Square. Clearly, the EU is doing its part to get the word out about the benefits of space activities. If I could add just one point to the displays there, it would be that the future is better together, as in so many areas of U.S.-EU cooperation.

Fighting Corruption is About Control, Not Eradication

By Bridget Premont, Political Officer at the U.S. Mission to the EU

Any good gardener will tell you that you’ll never be able to get rid of all your weeds and pests. But a steady effort to limit their effects can bring positive results.

State Department European Bureau’s Senior Anti-Corruption Coordinator George Kent and Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Anti-Crime Division Director Robert Leventhal  speak at EED event in Brussels. Photo: USEU

EED anti-corruption event in Brussels. Photo: USEU

Last week, the State Department European Bureau’s Senior Anti-Corruption Coordinator George Kent and Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Anti-Crime Division Director Robert Leventhal came to Brussels for consultations with the European Commission. At a public event hosted by the U.S. Mission to the EU and the European Endowment for Democracy on March 25, they spoke alongside Valentina Rigamonti from Transparency International about how fighting corruption requires a long-term commitment.

U.S. Report on Federal Prosecution of Election Offences. Photo: U.S. Department of Justice

U.S. Report on the Prosecution of Election Offences. Photo: U.S. Department of Justice

Kent called corruption a cancer, noting that it erodes the quality of democratic governance and undermines economic prosperity. This matters to the United States not only at home— but also across the globe. Corruption contributes to regional instability and individual governments’ abilities to defend their own borders, such as we currently see in Ukraine.

The U.S. strategic vision for Europe, Kent said, remains “a continent whole, free, and at peace.” But this project remains unfinished, in no small part due to the instability caused by corruption. Ms. Rigamonti agreed that general corruption trends in Eastern and Southeastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States are worryingly high at the moment. In response, the United States is working with the European Union and redoubling its policies to support rule of law and good governance.

George Kent: U.S. policies are not focused on eradicating corruption, but controlling it and limiting its effects. Photo: USEU

George Kent (left): U.S. policies are not focused on eradicating corruption, but controlling it and limiting its effects. Photo: USEU

Kent emphasized that all human beings have the capacity to commit corrupt acts. As a result, U.S. policies are not focused on eradicating corruption, but controlling it and limiting its effects. Kent said many countries have codes of conduct or anti-corruption legislation already in place, but some governments choose to ignore them. One of the most effective ways to counter this is to empower civil society and support media freedom so citizens can hold governments to account for their actions. Transparency, he said, leads to accountability. Fighting petty corruption can lead to transparent changes at the local level that citizens will appreciate, since this affects their daily lives.

Leventhal discussed ways the United States is working toward broader anti-corruption goals in global multilateral fora, including by pushing for transparency of political finance; development of peer review mechanisms; implementation of the OECD Convention on Anti-Bribery; legislative reform; open data rules; and membership in the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI). The U.S. is also trying to lead by example. Kent noted that the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, set up in the wake of the Watergate scandal, has successfully prosecuted more than 25,000 U.S. elected and appointed officials. The U.S.’s experience with its Foreign Corruption Practices Act can also be useful for other countries seeking to crack down on illegal payments to government officials.

The fight against corruption—just like the fight against this spring’s hardy perennial weeds—has never been more relevant in Europe.

Videos from European Endowment for Democracy Anti-Corruption Event:

The International Police Effort to Rescue a Young Girl Named “Demetria”

By Erik Barnett

The sexually abusive images produced horror among even veteran law enforcement officers. A girl, about age 3, stood on a bed wearing only red, fairy-like wings on her shoulders, as if participating in a dress-up game with a very sick twist. These images, discovered during the search of a pedophile’s computer by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI) after an arrest in Boston, set off an international effort to save a little girl whose whereabouts were completely unknown.

Finding victims such as these is a tremendous challenge.

Finding victims such as these is a tremendous challenge. Photo: ICE HSI

Finding victims such as these is a tremendous challenge. Child sexual abuse images are transmitted thousands of miles instantly across national borders, while police often remain isolated within legal jurisdictions, unable to make arrests or easily further investigations outside of their own geographic boundaries. But not this time.

The illegal images themselves provided clues the ICE HSI agents could follow: common every-day items such as furniture, clothing, food, and even children’s toys. To make sense of them, however, an international team of criminal investigators would be required, with a sophisticated networking tool to quickly share information.

This tool was the Interpol Child Sexual Enforcement (ICSE) database – funded in part by the EU – which allows dedicated police officers from over 40 countries to pool their collective judgment, experience, and cultural backgrounds to identify, locate, and rescue online child sexual abuse victims. As the first step in the international effort to rescue her, the girl was referenced as “Demetria.”

An investigator from Eastern Europe determined that one image of Demetria standing on a bed, revealed a mattress label, possibly from a Russian furniture company. Also visible was an electrical outlet consistent with wiring in former Eastern Bloc countries. Perhaps Demetria lived in Russia or Eastern Europe, at least when the photos were taken.

Police investigators found other images of Demetria on various pedophile websites, including one in a car posed only in a t-shirt, with a crucifix and medallion around her neck. Here she appeared older, indicating that she had likely been sexually exploited for several years. Around this time, investigators from Denmark learned Demetria was possibly from Romania or Moldova. But a Moldovan investigator on ICSE swiftly reported that the way she wore her crucifix and medallion was not typical in Moldova, saving potentially hundreds of police hours wasted searching there.

Meanwhile, French investigators determined the car had been exclusively manufactured for sale on the Russian market. But a Canadian investigator thought a plastic drink bottle in the car might be Spanish. Law enforcement officers in Spain immediately contacted the parent company of the brand in the photo. A long shot, clearly, but investigators hoped that this multinational corporation, which sold over $66 billion worth of food and beverage products in 2013, could help them find a young victim through a mere photo of one bottle.

It paid off.  Within 24 hours, the company provided significant and detailed information that the bottle in the photo was produced in Hungary, but also sold in Romania. With the incredible help of this multinational corporation, the focus returned to Eastern Europe.

As investigators continued their collaborative efforts, Demetria’s abuser uploaded new images on pedophile “chat rooms.”  Among law enforcement, newly discovered images of child sexual abuse lead to two very different conclusions.  One is the dismal truth that the sexual abuse may be ongoing.  But, it also means there is a genuine opportunity for police to locate and rescue the victim from further abuse.  Such knowledge caused the investigators to work even more intensely.

In one photo, Russian women’s magazines are on a bookshelf and other background items are definitively Russian. But where, in a country with 6.5 million square miles, should the investigators look?

Fortunately, in one image, there was a shop window with a sign. A store in a suburb outside Moscow.  To narrow the search, Russian investigators pored over photos of the car.  Find the car owner, find Demetria.

And they did.  Russian investigators arrested the abuser – the little girl’s uncle – within eight months of the photos being found on a computer in the United States.

“Demetria” may never realize how efforts of law enforcement from at least eight countries rescued her from sexual abuse or that a multinational soft drink company helped find her. And she need not know that an international law enforcement information-sharing database broke down borders, allowing investigators to transfer intelligence and evidence in real time so she could be found. She need only know that she is safe.

Erik Barnett is Attaché to the European Union for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, the largest investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Fulbright-Schuman Grantee Looks Back on Experience Studying Data Flows, Privacy

Ambassador Gardner with the 2014-15 Fulbright-Schuman grantees. Photo: USEU

Ambassador Gardner with the 2014-15 Fulbright-Schuman grantees. Photo: USEU

Earlier this week, USEU welcomed 40 American Fulbright-Schuman and Fulbright scholars spending this academic year in EU Member States for the annual Fulbright EU Seminar. USEU representatives introduced the group to U.S.-EU policy priorities, and current Fulbright-Schuman scholars Scott Titshaw and Melissa Powers presented their research on areas of environmental and migration law. At a reception for current and former Fulbrighters, Ambassador Gardner noted how the Fulbright program has strengthened transatlantic relations for nearly 70 years. “The special nature of the Fulbright-Schuman program is a testament to the importance the United States places on our relationship with the European Union,” he said.

In this blog, Dr. Michelle Frasher writes about her experience as a former Fulbright-Schuman grantee:

USEU Public Affairs Officer Fitzgerald speaks to Fulbrighters. Photo: USEU

USEU Public Affairs Officer Fitzgerald speaks to Fulbrighters. Photo: USEU

In 2014, I received a Fulbright-Schuman award to examine cross-border financial data sharing for U.S.-EU counter-terrorism operations. With the support of the Belgian Fulbright office and my hosts at the University of Gent, Belgium, and the University of Malta, I met with EU and U.S. officials regarding the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP), the EU’s proposed data protection Regulation, Safe Harbor, and other initiatives. I attended conferences and seminars with policy wonks, practitioners, and academics. I spoke with financial institutions about governmental demands on their data and how they balance compliance with profit. I heard from technology experts and nonprofits working to reconcile the strains among privacy, civil and human rights, information flows, and national security in the digital age.

Ambassador Gardner speaks at reception for Fulbrighters. Photo: USEU

Ambassador Gardner speaks at reception for Fulbrighters. Photo: USEU

I’ve been examining financial data flows since 2008, but the Fulbright-Schuman grant gave me unparalleled access to views from across the data privacy spectrum. I learned that the divide between U.S.-EU privacy and data protection views is not limited to interstate relations; these differences extend to all data stakeholders. Presently, there are informational and educational silos among financial institutions, technologists, and politicians, and few fully comprehend the interests and operations of these groups or understand how they fit together. In a world where data flows are the lifeblood of security and commerce, this is problematic.

Fortunately, the Fulbright-Schuman experience gave me the opportunity to help address these issues. In September, I was awarded a SWIFT Institute grant to identify how multinational banks cope with conflicts between anti-money laundering (AML) compliance and privacy laws and suggest opportunities for industry cooperation. Now I liaise with corporate privacy, technology, and legal professionals in the hope that the results will overcome some of those operational barriers.

The timing of my award revealed the foresight of the Fulbright-Schuman grant’s mandate to proactively sponsor emerging and salient research that investigates “a common concern from a comparative perspective.” Shortly after I received my acceptance letter, the headlines erupted with scandal about government surveillance. My interests had taken center-stage. Long before the controversy, the Fulbright-Schuman process endorsed this research, and I am grateful for it.

The international community needs individuals and views that stimulate cooperation and innovation across sectors and sovereignties. Regional awards like the Fulbright-Schuman play a valuable role in this effort by recognizing that contemporary issues are not confined within boundaries.

Dr. Michelle Frasher, Ph.D. is a non-resident visiting scholar at the European Union Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  She is the author of Transatlantic Politics and the Transformation of the International Monetary System.  You can read more about her research at www.frasher.cc and follow her on twitter @michellefrasher. She resides in New York City.

Looking Back at the 50th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau

By James Wolfe, Deputy Public Affairs Officer at USEU

Today in Oświęcim, Brzezinka, and Kraków, Poland, world leaders have gathered to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps located in the former two towns, internationally known by the infamous name Auschwitz-Birkenau (the German versions of the villages’ names). Throughout the world, people are likewise commemorating the tenth International Holocaust Remembrance Day, remembering the six million victims of the Shoah – and celebrating the survivors.

Polish President Lech Walesa, Head of U.S. Delegation Elie Wiesel, and other dignitaries at the 50th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau 27 January 1995. Photo courtesy of www.Auschwitz.org

Polish President Lech Walesa, Head of U.S. Delegation Elie Wiesel, and other dignitaries at the 50th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau 27 January 1995. Photo courtesy of http://www.Auschwitz.org

Many great men and women will be making profound statements on the significance of this anniversary and the lessons to be drawn from it. For myself, I only wish to share some of my memories of a day twenty years ago when, as a young American diplomat working in the political section of the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, it was my privilege to be the “control officer” for the official U.S. Delegation to the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Taking place less than five years after the first semi-free parliamentary elections in Poland that started the wave of freedom that peacefully swept Soviet-imposed Communism from Central and Eastern Europe, this was still a period of liberation from propaganda for Poland, where one of the official Party lines held that Poles, Jews, Roma and others suffered in roughly equal numbers in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Hosting the commemoration helped raise awareness of the fact that, of the 1.1 million (or more) people killed in the two camps, about 960,000 were Jews (from around Europe – fewer than one third resided in Poland), while the other 12.7 percent were non-Jewish Poles (up to 75,000), Roma and Sinti (21,000), Soviet POWs (15,000), and others.

Auschwitz concentration camp. AP Photo

Auschwitz concentration camp. AP Photo

The commemoration (seen here in an AP video report) in 1995 was eye-opening for others as well, including me. Like most Americans (and other Westerners) with a university education, and having spent years studying German history and language in particular, I was already familiar with the overall history of World War II, the Holocaust, and the Nazi death camps. I had even visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the original camp in Oświęcim before.

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau with Holocaust survivors (particularly survivors of the camp itself) was both eye-opening and an incredibly moving experience, like truly seeing the place for the first time. When U.S. delegation member Christine Lerman pointed to the location of the barracks where she had lived with her two sisters (who also both survived the camp and the death march with those the Nazis took with them when they evacuated before the approaching Red Army), the horror of the camp crossed a line from theory to reality that no books or collections of victims’ personal effects had ever done. During the visit Christine reunited for the first time since the War with her Catholic Polish friend, who had lived through Auschwitz-Birkenau with her. Mrs. Lerman was on the delegation with her husband Miles Lerman (then president of the U.S. Holocaust Museum Foundation), who had fought with the anti-Nazi Polish partisans during the war and touted the heroism of many Poles in saving Jews from the Nazis.

Female survivors trudge through the snow immediately after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Mark Chrzanowski

Female survivors trudge through the snow immediately after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Mark Chrzanowski

Other members of the official delegation were U.S. Ambassador to Poland Nicholas Rey, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Richard Holbrooke, retired Ambassador John Kordek (then serving on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council), Hadassah Freilich Lieberman (wife of Senator Joseph Lieberman), and Jan Nowak-Jezioranski (then director of the Polish American Congress, but most famous as “the Courier from Warsaw” for his role in alerting the U.S. and UK governments to the existence of the Nazi death camps).

This was truly inspirational company to be in, but the most notable was the head of the official U.S. delegation: Nobel laureate, author, and Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel. Being in close proximity to him showed me quickly why he has been so long revered for his wisdom and eloquence. His speech at the event is recorded for posterity, but my first opportunity to hear him speak was an impromptu toast at a lunch the delegation had with other American Jewish leaders at the café Ariel in Krakow’s old Jewish quarter, Kazimierz. I was in awe of his ability spontaneously to be so profound and moving.

To this day, I count myself lucky to have been present at this historic commemoration in the presence of such people, not to mention the countless world leaders there. I also consider myself fortunate to have had as my political counselor someone who trusted me as a young officer to take responsibility for such a delegation at such an event. He was in attendance as well, and is part of the leadership of our delegation to the seventieth anniversary today along with Secretary of the Treasury Jacob “Jack” Lew. My old boss is the current U.S. Ambassador to Poland, Stephen Mull.

More:
Photos of the 50th Anniversary Event
Holocaust Memorial Museum Online Exhibit on the 70th Anniversary 

 

 

Strengthening Global Rule of Law, Together

By John Sammis, USEU Deputy Chief of Mission

U.S. Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, Dr. Sarah Sewall visited Brussels on January 20 to meet with EU officials on questions of security and development. She also gave a speech on corruption’s cost to our shared human development, economies, and security, and how it can fuel conditions that give rise to violent extremism. Under Secretary Sewall told the audience that the key to ensuring U.S. and European citizen security lies in applying a “preventive lens” to both anti-corruption efforts and to more effectively address the underlying grievances and conflicts that feed violent extremism.

Under Secretary Sewall Speaks on Partners in Prevention: Addressing Threats to Civilian Security at the EPC in Brussels on January 20, 2015. Photo: USEU

Under Secretary Sewall Speaks on Partners in Prevention: Addressing Threats to Civilian Security at the EPC in Brussels on January 20, 2015. Photo: USEU

We’ve seen in the United States and around the world that corruption furthers economic inequality and organized crime. The EU Commission, through its first Anti-Corruption Report published in 2014, found that corruption costs the European economy around €120 billion each year.

Last fall, President Obama spoke in New York about how fighting global corruption saves billions of dollars that can instead be used to build infrastructure and promote development. He highlighted how corruption weakens official budgets, alienates citizens, who can lose faith in the state, and can even fuel insurgencies. He made his remarks at a meeting of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a successful initiative to spur government transparency that now has 65 participating countries, 20 of which are EU memGraphic: U.S. Anti-Corruption Agenda Fact Sheet (White House)bers.  Inside of government and out, transparency unmasks potential corrupt actors, building trust along the way. And we believe that governments should earn the trust of their people.

Through the U.S. Global Anti-Corruption agenda, we’re making changes to increase government transparency. The U.S. government is working to share more data with entrepreneurs so they can pursue the new innovations and businesses that create jobs. We’re also working through more traditional law enforcement approaches, tracking down the proceeds of corruption to prevent our legal and financial systems from becoming safe havens for money gained through fraud.

Under Secretary Sewall: Focusing on corruption once it has occurred is only half the battle. The new frontier is about trying to prevent corruption. Photo: USEU

Under Secretary Sewall: Focusing on corruption once it has occurred is only half the battle. The new frontier is about trying to prevent corruption. Photo: USEU

We want to partner with private sector and civil society on this issue.  In November, I spoke to U.S. and EU industry representatives, EU officials, and NGOs at the International Forum on Business Ethical Conduct (IFBEC) about U.S. efforts to combat corruption and the strength of the U.S.-EU transatlantic relationship. IFBEC’s voluntary industry standards to fight corruption are an example of the kind of cooperation it will take for all of us to meet the long-term challenge of strengthening our democracies to ensure civilian security.

Here at the U.S. Mission to the EU, we’re directly engaging EU partners to promote global rule of law. As we expand our joint efforts, Under Secretary Sewall’s remarks are particularly timely.

More information from the U.S. Mission to the OECD on Combatting Corruption