Ambassador Dobriansky, chair of the World Affairs Councils of America, suggested ways to improve relations between the U.S. and Europe through people-to-people programs.

Not once did the names of Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, or France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who had been defeated just days before, come up during the presentations at a luncheon celebrating Europe Day held in Atlanta on May 9.

But Paula J. Dobriansky, an American foreign policy expert who has served in key roles as a diplomat and policy maker in the administrations of five U.S. presidents, said during her luncheon address that she felt it was another “time of transition” for the transatlantic relationship similar to what happened following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

While President Obama has talked about “a pivot to Asia,” she said that this stance didn’t necessarily mean a turning away from Europe, but rather a mutual recognition of the importance of the emerging economies and the need for common initiatives to deal with a changing world.

Although much of her speech dealt in generalities and new perspectives, she reminded the 140 attendees of the strong economic bonds linking the U.S. and the European Union and cited a report of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington calling the U.S.-EU economic relationship the “biggest in the world” providing millions of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.

She also cited figures from the report showing that between 2000-10 U.S. companies had invested more than 10 times in the Netherlands than they had in China and 60 percent more in Norway than in India.

Although both the U.S. and Europe need to forge new relations around the world, it is critical that they continue to cooperate on many fronts, she added.

At the top of a long list, she mentioned the European debt crisis and financial reforms that needed to be enacted. Her list also included security and military issues as well as the common threats posed by a wide range of concerns including health, refugees, climate change, energy, trade in drugs, arms and human beings and counter terrorism.

Answering questions after her speech, Ms. Dobriansky heard from members of the local diplomatic corps. Irish Consul General Paul Gleeson appreciated her view but asked how the U.S. should foster more understanding about Europe, given that presidential candidates can face criticism simply for speaking a foreign language.

She advocated valuing the multicultural heritage of the U.S. while building programs that involve youth in global problems and beefing up international programs at universities. Additionally, she encouraged public-private partnerships that could help fund international development programs that the U.S. government neglects.

The Europe Day celebration, which was hosted by the World Affairs Council of Atlanta, also focused on the strength of the city’s ties to the continent.

In her opening remarks, Ms. Dobriansky, who currently is chair of the World Affairs Councils of America, called the city “so lucky” because of a special “esprit de corps” bringing together the members of the local council, the consular corps and the academic community.

She referred to this loosely knit coalition as a “secret weapon” in the city’s fulfillment of its aspirations as a global commercial, cultural, educational and health science center.

In his remarks, Lutz Görgens, Germany’s consul general based in Atlanta and dean of the consular corps, extolled the city’s importance as a regional center. He even compared Atlanta to Boston, where he had been posted prior to his assignment here, in terms of its educational resources and the importance of the city’s ethnic communities.

Mr. Görgens also praised the new international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for facilitating access to the region. He added that as a regional center  Atlanta would benefit from German investments throughout the Southeast such as the $1.billion investment by Munich, Germany, headquartered Wacker Chemie AG is making in Charleston, Tenn.  where Wacker is building a polysilicon plant for the solar industry.

Christopher Smith, the honorary consul of Denmark, which currently is serving as the presidency of the EU, thanked Andras Simonyi, former ambassador to the U.S. from Hungary, for attending the event along with members of the consular corps.

Additionally, he singled out the event’s partners Benoit Standaert, the consul general of Belgium representing members of the consular corps from European countries, Vicki L. Birchfield, associate professor and co-director, Center for European and Transatlantic Studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Margaret Sherman, business outreach coordinator for the Center for International Business Education and Research at Georgia State University.

Mr. Smith added that since Denmark was a shipping-oriented nation he wanted to point out that Georgia’s exports to Europe had risen from $5.5 billion in 2005 to $7.5 billion last year.

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