December 2016
Monthly Newsletter
In This Issue

• Letter from the President
• Upcoming New York Events
• Events across the U.S.

• November Highlights 

• In Memoriam: Former Board member Kurt F. Viermetz
• Support the ACG's Mission

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A Letter from the President

Dear Members and Friends of the American Council on Germany:
After last month’s election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, attention worldwide remains focused on the United States. There is a great deal of uncertainty about a Trump Administration and the kinds of domestic and foreign policies President Trump might pursue. What is certain is the level of concern on the other side of the Atlantic about what happens here. For example, the cover of a recent Spiegel magazine shows a fiery red and yellow ball shaped like Donald Trump’s head hurtling toward Earth with the caption “The end of the world” and in parenthesis “as we know it.” And, in mid-November, the FAZ released results from a survey conducted by Allensbach indicating that the Amerikabild in Germany is at a new low.

The election of Donald Trump is not the end of the world, but it will bring changes and uncertainties for the transatlantic relationship. How we respond to these changes and adapt to the uncertainties will be critical in defining the next phase of the transatlantic partnership. If anything, the relevance of the ACG in fulfilling its mission to promote a strong multifaceted relationship between the United States and Germany is more important than ever. 

In her message of congratulations, Chancellor Angela Merkel reminded the President-elect of our common values: “Germany and America are bound by their values: democracy, freedom, the respect for the law and dignity of human beings, independent of their origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or political beliefs.” Particularly in light of the Brexit decision earlier this year, it is important to remember that Germany remains a critical partner for the United States in tackling common global challenges. 

The decision by Barack Obama to visit Germany during his final international trip as President is a testament to the deep ties between our two countries. Both he and Chancellor Merkel highlighted the common commitment to promoting security in the Euro-Atlantic region, collaborating on counterterrorism and cyber-security, providing humanitarian aid, and protecting the environment. They also talked about innovation and creativity as the drivers of economic development on both sides of the Atlantic. President Trump would be well advised to appreciate the significance of this enduring partnership.

Despite the continued focus on the United States, it is important to watch developments in Europe that can shape the future of the European Union and influence transatlantic relations. This weekend, Austrians will take to the polls to elect a new President in a neck-to-neck race between a leader of the right-wing Freedom Party and the former head of the Greens, and Italians will vote on a constitutional referendum that would lead to wide-ranging government reforms. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has staked his political future on the outcome, but now there is some concern that the referendum will be rejected by voters. After the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump, the votes in Austria and Italy could be further major anti-establishment shocks of 2016.

With national elections slated to take place in Holland (in March), France (May), and Germany (September), 2017 promises to be an important year for Europe. The Dutch and French elections – as well as German state elections in Saarland in March, along with Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia in May – are likely to be important political barometers for the federal election in Germany. Having just announced late last month that she will seek a fourth term in office, Chancellor Merkel may face a difficult campaign. But by announcing her candidacy, she is almost a shoo-in to win next year’s vote, which would make her the longest-serving German leader since Helmut Kohl. Despite high approval ratings of between 55 and 59 percent, she also faces rising populism and voter fatigue. Her handling of the refugee crisis has played into the hands of the anti-establishment far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), which saw success in key local elections this year.

There are other important developments to watch as well. Next year a new Secretary-General will take over at the United Nations, and Germany will kick off a campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council. Germany will assume the presidency of the G20, and the next meeting will take place in July in Hamburg. 

2017 will also be a significant year for the American Council on Germany: Next year marks the 65th anniversary of the ACG’s founding. We will continue with our slate of programs and activities designed to inform and engage our members and friends about the critical issues impacting the German-American partnership. Among the highlights to follow: In February, the ACG will partner with the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) to host an event as part of the Munich Security Conference and in mid-May the ACG and Atlantik-Brücke will host their joint conference in Berlin. 

As we reflect on the past year and look to 2017, we hope you will continue to be engaged with the ACG and support our work. If you did not make a contribution on Giving Tuesday, we hope you will consider the ACG as you plan your year-end giving. We could not do what we do without support from people like you! 

With best regards,

Dr. Steven E. Sokol

Upcoming New York City Events

The ACG will host a Political Salon with Dr. Heidi Tworek, Fellow at the Transatlantic Academy, on December 5. She will discuss what the Trump Administration could mean for the digital economy. 

The ACG and Deutsches Haus at NYU will host a breakfast briefing with Dr. Bruce Leimsidor, an immigration expert, and Professor Christian Martin, Max Weber Chair in German and European Studies at New York University, on December 6. They will discuss the current migration situation in Europe and globalization. 

The ACG and American Friends of Bucerius will host a discussion with Ambassador Heiko Thoms, Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations, on December 8 on “The Future of Multilateralism: A View from the UN.” This event is part of the 2016 Transatlantic Global Agenda Series and will be hosted by Alston & Bird LLP.   

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff (1997 Young Leader), Member of the European Parliament, will speak about the 2017 elections in Holland, France, and Germany at a luncheon on December 16. The event will be hosted by DZ BANK AG.

Upcoming ACG Events across the United States

The American Council on Germany launched the Eric M. Warburg Chapter program in 1992 in order to promote a greater understanding of German and European affairs beyond the business community in New York and the policy community in Washington, DC. 

On December 5, Boris Ruge, Deputy Chief of Mission at the German Embassy in Washington, DC, will speak at the Nashville Warburg Chapter about German-American relations after the Presidential election. 
During the second week of December, Fabian Wendenburg, Deputy Head of the External Economic Policy Department at the Federation of German Industries (BDI), will speak at the Charlotte, Cleveland, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, and San Diego Warburg Chapters. He will cover a wide range of topics within transatlantic relations, including trade agreements, strategic partnerships, immigration, and the future of the EU.  

Also during the second week of December, Professor Dr. Naika Foroutan, Political Scientist and Professor of Social Sciences at the Humboldt University in Berlin, will speak at the Warburg Chapters in Boston, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Phoenix, and San Francisco. Dr. Foroutan will discuss migration and xenophobia in Germany.

Highlights from November

Leading up the U.S. Presidential election, Handelsblatt established an "Election Camp" in Washington, DC, and hosted a series of policy discussions. On November 1, the ACG partnered with Handelsblatt to hold a discussion with former ACG Board Member Ambassador Robert Zoellick, former President of the World Bank and 13th U.S. Trade Representative. He noted the polarization of the United States on trade agreements and gave a passionate defense of globalization. 

During the week-long Election Camp, Handelsblatt hosted dozens of policy discussions with distinguished speakers, including ACG Chairman Ambassador Robert M. Kimmitt and ACG Board members James W. Cicconi and Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.

On November 11, more than 50 friends and members of the American Council on Germany gathered at a luncheon sponsored by Noerr LLP to hear from Ambassador João Vale de Almeida, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations. Just days after the U.S. election, he stated that globalization has introduced a new complexity to global governance, domestic issues, and foreign policy, because it is becoming difficult to separate them from each other. The Ambassador sees 2017 as the start of a new era and said the West should continue to be assertive in defending its values.
Ralf Fuecks, President of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, met with more than 40 members and friends of the ACG and Cultural Vistas during a Political Salon on November 14. He focused on the impact of the U.S. election on transatlantic relations and the West, speaking candidly about his worries for the future of foreign policy, economic stability, and climate policy. He also stressed that learning from this result and reaching toward mutual understanding with other voters will avoid other surprising outcomes. 

Nearly 100 people attended a luncheon hosted by the Council, vbw, and bayme vbm with Dr. Theo Waigel, former Federal Minister of Finance, on November 21. Covering a wide range of topics, Dr. Waigel painted a positive picture of the leadership role of Germany within the EU, the importance of a strong transatlantic partnership with the United States, and the success of the European project. Dr. Waigel noted that during his time as Finance Minister, he faced great skepticism toward the EU and the euro. But he believes that without the single euro currency, the EU, in particular Germany, would not have been able to survive and recover from the recession of 2008. 
The ACG, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in New York, and Deutsches Haus at NYU hosted a Political Salon with Patrick Keller, the Coordinator for Foreign and Security Policy at the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in Berlin, on November 29. Dr. Keller discussed the future of NATO and Germany’s role on the international stage. There are two stories of change currently being told: The first is a change in relative power, where Germany has suddenly found itself in a leadership role within the EU, and the second is a change in the European security environment, perpetrated by Russian aggression and the recent refugee crisis. NATO is finding itself in a novel situation, facing Russia on the east and insecurity coming from the south. NATO must stay active and, with German support, must find new solutions to today’s complex security challenges.

In Memoriam: Kurt Viermetz

The ACG is deeply saddened by the passing of former Board member Kurt F. Viermetz, a steadfast supporter of the ACG’s work to promote transatlantic cooperation who had been called “a pillar of Germany’s banking establishment.” Shortly after he joined the Board in 1994, Mr. Viermetz wrote that he was “honored to support the Council in its critical role of maintaining a leadership position amongst German-American organizations to further all efforts to improve U.S.-German understanding at this crucial moment in time.” He continued to be highly involved in the ACG’s work until he stepped down from the Board in 2011, and also thereafter. 

Mr. Viermetz dedicated countless hours and resources to the ACG and its programs, devoting Herculean efforts to the McCloy Awards Dinners in particular. Working behind the scenes, he offered ideas and made important connections for the ACG – and this included serving as a gracious host to Young Leaders visiting Bavaria. In 2005, the American Council on Germany hosted its first “American Weekend” in Munich, which preceded the formal American-German Young Leaders Conference in Berlin. The goal of the weekend is to give the American delegates a brief look at the unique Bavarian culture and the business environment it helps to engender. When Mr. Viermetz heard ACG Young Leader delegates were going to be in the Bavarian neighborhood, he immediately invited them up to his country home outside of Rottach-Egern on Lake Tegernsee. 

On the first evening that the Young Leaders were invited, he and his lovely bride greeted the bus and escorted them down to the lakefront, where a Bavarian band, beer, and buttered pretzels awaited them. And his stories were there, as well. Not about his success in business or banking, but of a more personal nature: His growing up in challenging times for Germany. His great love for Germany and for America. On another visit, he was brought to tears speaking of the joy he felt watching his old friend, the former Archbishop of Munich and Freising, elevated to St. Peter’s Chair. His voice broke just a bit on another visit speaking to the delegates about the importance of the U.S.-German relationship both in his own life and in its place in the world. On that trip, one of the delegates, a senior staff member in the Bush White House, presented him with a pair of unique cufflinks featuring the Presidential seal that President George W. Bush presented to special guests. Instead of the traditional dark-blue background, a sky-blue background – a color favored by President Bush – was used. He put them on immediately to show them off. 

Mr. Viermetz was generous with his time and his hospitality, and took great joy in supporting the American Council on Germany and the Young Leaders program in ways large and small. Young Leaders Steering Committee Chairman and ACG Board member Edward S. McFadden, Secretary of Communications at the Archdiocese of Washington, writes: “My image of him will always be in his living room, backed by the Bavarian band, teaching the American delegates a German drinking song and how to properly toast each other … perhaps some of the most fundamental relationship building one can endeavor.” 

Mr. Viermetz had a storied career in banking and finance for nearly five decades – a career he chronicled in Magie der Märkte: Meine Geschichte als Internationale Banker (Murmann 2014). He was Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Hypo Real Estate Holding AG as well as Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Deutsche Boerse AG. He spent much of his career at J.P. Morgan & Co. in Europe and the United States, including in Frankfurt, Paris, and New York, serving in various positions. In addition, he served as Chairman of the International Capital Markets Advisory Board Committee of the New York Stock Exchange and was a member of the International Advisory Committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. 

Mr. Viermetz is greatly missed by the ACG and the many Young Leader alumni he welcomed with his signature Bavarian Gemütlichkeit. 

(Pictured above: Longtime ACG Board member Kurt F. Viermetz with Daniel Gallagher (2008 Young Leader), now President of Patomak Global Partners, LLC)

Support the ACG

Please consider making a contribution to the American Council on Germany before the end of the year. Your tax-deductible donation will support programs such as our Young Leaders Conferences, events in New York City and our 21 Warburg Chapters, and our fellowship programs. 

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