A New View of USEU: Lights, Camera, Action!

By Nile Johnson, Deputy Press Attaché at the U.S. Mission to the EU

Ambassador Gardner at a Charity event for Missing Children

Ambassador Gardner at a Charity event for Missing Children

As summer kicks off in Brussels, the USEU Public Affairs Social Media Team continues to engage our audience through a variety of press and social media platforms. This time around, we’re excited to have Ambassador Gardner involved in the action! We’re proud to share the first ever USEU Ambassador in Review video, a highlight reel of some of Ambassador Gardner’s most exciting and substantive public engagement events from the month of May. Ultimately, we hope to give the public a peek into the professional life of our Ambassador.

This video serves as not only an engagement platform, but also as reinforcement of the American commitment to U.S.-EU engagement. What better way to do this than through a video featuring our very own Ambassador? This time around, the video touches on the importance of the Atlantic Ocean, the transatlantic relationship, venture capital and entrepreneurship, the European University Institute’s State of the Union, and a series of other fantastic events that you’ll learn more about during the video.

The USEU Public Affairs Social Media Team successfully created the final product, thanks to the technical expertise of our colleague Laurens Vermeire under the guidance of U.S.-European Media Hub Director Mireille Zieseniss. We hope you’ll you have as much fun watching the video as our team had making it! Enjoy!

U.S. and EU Brainstorm Ways to Support Innovative, High-Growth Firms

By U.S. Ambassador to the EU Anthony Luzzatto Gardner

On May 5, I had the pleasure of hosting a U.S.-Europe Dialogue on Making Ventures Grow together with Candace Johnson, the President of EBAN, the European Business Angel Network. The event brought together public policy and private sector experts to discuss ways to expand and accelerate financing of high-growth ventures as a mechanism to spur entrepreneurship, economic growth, and job creation in Europe. U.S. Ambassador Gardner and European Commission Vice President Katainen at the U.S.-Europe Dialogue on Making Ventures Grow. Photo: USEUBruegel Senior Fellow Karen Wilson opened the dialogue, followed by two interactive discussion sessions moderated by Peter Spiegel of The Financial Times and Stephen Fidler of The Wall Street Journal.

The first discussion session on “Broadening Europe’s Capital Markets & Stimulating Alternative Financing” focused on what can be done at the EU level and by U.S. and European investors to broaden the financial instruments available to innovative, high-growth firms, facilitate the development of Europe’s debt and equity capital markets, and stimulate other forms of alternative financing. The second discussion session on “Facilitating the Growth of Ventures in Europe” centered on what can be done to support the scaling up of startups and innovative young firms, the further development of venture capital and angel investment, the role of U.S. and European corporations in facilitating the creation and scaling of startups, and what can be done to boost the flow of institutional investment into venture capital. U.S.-Europe Dialogue on Making Ventures Grow in Brussels on May 5, 2015. Photo: USEU

We discussed themes such as how to address regulatory and legal barriers to responsible risk-taking, the development of exit markets and entrepreneurial ecosystems in Europe, and the incentives needed to increase private investment, including by institutional investors. We also focused on the need to increase awareness and interest in entrepreneurship across Europe – particularly with young people – through education and mentoring.

European Commission Vice President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen made keynote remarks and received a summary of the discussion conclusions from Karen Wilson. The event included 50 participants from leading American and European venture capital and private equity firms, angel investors and accelerators, stock exchanges, corporate venture funds from leading digital firms, and related foundations and associations, along with officials from the European Commission’s DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW), DG Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union (DG FISMA), and DG Research and Innovation (DG RTD), the European Investment Fund, and the European Parliament.

I believe the event contributed positively to the broader discussion going on in the EU on how to increase jobs and growth in Europe, and provided useful input and feedback to the European Commission as it develops its proposal for a Capital Markets Union, among other efforts. The United States has an interest in a strong, prosperous Europe. It offers increased opportunities not only to build further on our robust economic relationship – the largest in the world – but also helps the United States and EU shape the character of the global economy as partners.

(Photo Album and Summary of Event)

The Oceans – Our Future

By Stephane Vrignaud, NOAA Fisheries Representative to the EU

Last week was a record-breaker for Seafood Expo Global, the world’s largest seafood trade event. The exposition, held in Brussels, featured more than 1,700 companies from over 70 countries, including three U.S. regional pavilions that hosted more than 50 exhibitors. Ambassador Gardner attended the show on April 21, and talked with U.S. seafood operators about current and future trends in seafood trade flows.

Ambassador Gardner visits Seafood Expo Global, the world’s largest seafood trade fair, in Brussels

Ambassador Gardner visits Seafood Expo Global trade fair in Brussels in 2014

Observing the large amounts of fish being traded during the show, I thought to myself: “How long will this continue?” “Do we have enough fish?” I’m not the only one wondering. On April 16, the Ambassador spoke at a two-day conference in Brussels onThe Atlantic: Our Shared Resource.Listening to the first speaker, I found myself pondering how it could be that we know more about space than we do about our oceans.

About 40 years ago, we sent 12 astronauts on six different missions to the surface of the moon, 400,000 kilometers away. (Fun fact: the current NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan was one of the first six women selected to join the NASA astronaut corps in 1978 and holds the distinction of being the first American woman to walk in space.) In 1960, two aquanauts dove below the surface in a submarine to the deepest part of the ocean in the Marianas Trench…only 11 kilometers deep.

2015_noaa_fisheries_reportThe benefits of knowing more about ocean life should be pretty obvious: the more we know, the more we will be able to effectively protect and conserve ocean life and meet challenges such as climate change, food security and blue growth. That is precisely the message that was conveyed by all speakers at the conference, including Ambassador Gardner.

Knowing more about oceans goes hand-in-hand with eliminating bad practices that threaten their ecosystem. Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing is a global phenomenon, found in coastal and deep-sea waters. I was in Boston last month when the U.S. Presidential Task Force on IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud, co-chaired by the Departments of Commerce and State, released its action plan. The plan identifies 15 recommendations that will strengthen enforcement; create and expand partnerships with state and local governments, industry, and non-governmental organizations; and create a risk-based traceability program to track seafood from harvest to entry into U.S. commerce. It also highlights ways in which the United States will work with our foreign partners to strengthen international ocean governance and enhance cooperation.

As the NOAA Fisheries Representative to the EU, I’m fully committed and excited to embark with our allies on a journey that will lead to healthier ecosystems, communities, and economies that are resilient in the face of change.

Related: Article by NOAA Administrator Sullivan on It’s High Time We Achieved JFK’s Other Moon Shot

It’s high time we achieved JFK’s other moon shot

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.