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2017 Young Leaders Conference

2017 Young Leaders Build Transatlantic Agenda and New Connections

The XXXIX American-German Young Leaders Conference brought together almost 50 German and American rising stars from a cross-section of fields for the first week of August in Berlin to discuss “Walls or Bridges? The Transatlantic Relationship in Turbulent Times.” The 2017 Young Leaders represented a range of backgrounds, including the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, the media, as well as government – including the German Chancellery, the Ministry of Defense, the Foreign Office, and a state Senate. The group exchanged ideas and perspectives, met with numerous officials and analysts to hear their behind-the-scenes insights, set an agenda for top priorities on the transatlantic agenda, brainstormed policy solutions, and, importantly, forged lasting bonds.

The Young Leaders had discussions with a range of people, including Dr. Joachim Bertele, Deputy National Security Advisor at the Federal Chancellery; Dr. Emily Haber, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of the Interior; Dr. Volker Helmert of the Coordination Staff for Refugee Policy at the Federal Chancellery; Steffen Kampeter, Director General and Member of the Presidential Board of the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA); Martin Kelleners, Deputy Director General of the Directorate-General of the Federal Budget; Kent Logsdon, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin; Vice Admiral Joachim Rühle, Deputy Chief of Defense at the Federal Ministry of Defense; Dr. Georg Schütte, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research; Philipp Steinberg, Director-General for Economic Policy at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy; Johannes Vogel, General Secretary of FDP-North Rhine-Westphalia; Bundestag member Dirk Wiese, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy; and journalists Ali Aslan (2010 Young Leader), Matthias Deiss (2008 YL), and Anton Troianovski (2015 YL).

The group toured the Reichstag – complete with photo opportunities outside its famous transparent dome – as well as the Chancellery, and they discussed startups and innovation with Ludwig Preller (2014 YL), CEO and Co-Founder of GERMANTECH DIGITAL; Benjamin Rohé (2011 YL), Managing Director of the German Tech Entrepreneurship Center (GTEC); and Dennis Wetzig (2016 YL), CEO of PIXRAY GmbH.

Beginning with a daylong intensive session at the Bundestag, the Young Leaders met in plenary sessions and working groups to analyze a host of issues in transatlantic relations, from the meaning of nationality and the changing faces of society to the spread of populism. They role-played U.S. and German positions on Brexit, climate change following the U.S. exit from the Paris accord, the future of NATO, and the Syrian conflict. And they got a primer on the upcoming German elections, as well as possible constellations of coalition partners. The Young Leaders did not shy from deep philosophical questions, either, looking at what common values, principles, and/or interests characterize the transatlantic relationship – and whether current disagreements could jeopardize future relations. Participants also crafted a list of top political, economic, and security priorities for the transatlantic relationship.

The ACG is very grateful to the following hosts and sponsors for their support of the conference: AT&T, the Anna-Maria and Stephen M. Kellen Foundation, Daimler AG, Deutsche Bank AG, the German Tech Entrepreneurship Center (GTEC), Noerr LLP, Pfizer Deutschland, and Steelhead Partners, LLC. Special thanks also go to Michael Dzeba (2015 YL), Ludwig Preller of GERMANTECH DIGITAL, and Dominik Stühler (2012 YL) of DLA Piper for their support of the Munich program before the conference.

The ACG is also grateful to the Steering Committee for all of the time and effort devoted to the success of the conference. The committee members are: ACG Board member Edward S. McFadden (2002 YL) (Committee Chairman), Secretary of Communications at the Archdiocese of Washington; Antonin Finkelnburg (2008 YL), Head of Public Policy at Arbeitgeberverband Gesamtmetall; Ron Granieri (2000 YL), Senior Fellow and Executive Director of the Center for the Study of America and the West at the Foreign Policy Research Institute; and Sarmad Hussain (2005 YL), Senior Expert in Public Affairs at Deekeling Arndt Advisors in Communications GmbH.

The Young Leaders Conference, launched by the American Council on Germany in 1973, is designed to enhance up-and-coming professionals’ understanding of domestic, bilateral, and global issues affecting the United States and Germany while deepening mutual understanding among the next generation of thought leaders and decision-makers from both countries. The weeklong conference is only the beginning; Young Leaders will continue to meet over time to exchange ideas and reinforce the bonds forged during the conference.