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The U.S. Secretary of State and the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement indicating that they are willing to hold direct talks with Tehran over how to bring the United States and Iran into compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (or JCPOA, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal) – and then strengthen the agreement and address broader security concerns.

For the United States, this is a major step toward restoring the Iran nuclear deal – which was abandoned by the Trump administration – but the clock is ticking. Tehran may only be months away from amassing enough fissile material to build an atomic bomb. On February 26, the ACG hosted a virtual discussion with Iran expert Dr. Cornelius Adebahr and nuclear proliferation expert Kelsey Davenport about the U.S., Europe, and Iran at this critical juncture.

Starting with a street vendor in Tunisia, the “Arab Spring” protests took over much of the Middle East and Northern Africa ten years ago as people fought against oppressive governments. Although many observers and analysts believed that this would be a turning point for the region, high hopes turned to despair. A decade after citizens throughout the region rose up against its dictators, authoritarianism still has a tight grip and people are exhausted and drained. Poverty has deepened, and the pandemic and falling oil prices have exacerbated the situation.

On February 23, the ACG hosted a discussion about the legacy of the “Arab Spring” and its impact across the region today with former U.S. diplomat Ambassador James F. Jeffrey and award-winning journalist Souad Mekhennet. She was on the ground during the uprisings and has spent the past decade researching the long-term strategies of terrorist organizations after the “Arab Spring.”

The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating the development of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) as it has prompted millions of people to turn to cashless payments. But, efforts to create CBDCs is nothing new. Central banks have been exploring how CBDCs could become a reality since Facebook’s efforts to launch its own cryptocurrency Libra raised the prospect of a private company competing with traditional currencies.

On February 10, the American Council on Germany hosted a discussion with Burkhard Balz, Member of the Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank, on CBDC trends in Europe.

As countries around the world struggle to roll out vaccines to combat the coronavirus crisis, the pandemic is not the only global challenge on the international agenda. The common issues facing Europe and the United States are daunting. They include climate change, migration, democracy and multilateralism, international trade, as well as security and defense.

On February 9, the ACG and 1014 hosted a discussion on the impact of COVID-19 on international affairs with Sharon Burke, Senior Advisor to the International Security Program and Resource Security Program at New America, and Dr. Stefan Mair, Director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, SWP).

On February 2, the ACG, Deutsches Haus at NYU, and NYU’s Center for European and Mediterranean Studies presented “What’s Behind Germany’s Querdenker Movement?” The intensity and scope of protests against the government measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in Germany has surprised many observers. Self-stylized “lateral thinkers” have forged a coalition that encompasses far-right extremists but also anti-vaxxers who historically have aligned with the left. At both ends of the political spectrum, protesters seem to share a deep-seated distrust in government. This event featured Pia LambertyNatascha Strobl, and Konstantin von Notz, and moderated by Christian Martin. The panel discussed the Querdenker, their origins, and the likely future developments in an historic election year.

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