Shaping New Politics in Europe: GMF Alumni Lead the Way

June 07, 2019
Lora Berg
Kevin Cottrell
3 min read
Photo Credit: RossHelen / Shutterstock

Last month’s elections across Europe have brought many new leaders into the European Parliament—including more than ten alumni of the German Marshall Fund’s Leadership Programs. This news underscores the ways that individuals who have participated in these programs are stepping into roles that allow them to move European politics in a direction that reflects transatlantic values.

A growing share of new and re-elected members of the European Parliament are alumni of GMF’s Leadership Programs: the Marshall Memorial Fellowship (MMF) and the Transatlantic Inclusion Leaders Network (TILN). These new leaders bring to the legislature their commitment to transatlantic relations, inclusive leadership, and democratic values. GMF alumni David McAllister (MMF 2000, Germany) and Morten Helveg Petersen (MMF 2000, Denmark) first travelled together as fellows in the United States, only to find themselves years later serving on the EU delegation for relations with the United States.

GMF alumni with a strong transatlantic orientation are likewise at the heart of the creation of new parties and new politics in Europe; for example, President Emanuel Macron (MMF 2006) in France with the party En Marche and Robert Biedroń (MMF 2016) in Poland with the Wiosna party. In France the average relevance  of a political party is around 34 years, which is also typical in many parts of Europe, so party creation is an essential part of refreshing political systems.

European Marshall Memorial Fellows consistently report that the fellowship offers not only insight into the United States, but also the opportunity to develop a truly European identity by traveling in the country with other leaders from across Europe. This program hones leadership skills and sets the fellows on the path to positions of still greater responsibility, including in public service.

Inclusivity is a pillar of GMF’s leadership programs. The Transatlantic Inclusion Leaders Network fellowship convenes young, diverse elected and aspiring elected leaders who collaborate, mentor peers, and educate each other in the work of advancing inclusive policies and increasing social cohesion. We are proud to see dynamic and powerful women leaders from the TILN cohorts of 2016 and 2014 win seats in the European Parliament: Samira Rafaela of the Netherlands, Assita Kanko of Belgium, and Arba Kokalari of Sweden, each of whom come from immigrant backgrounds. The European Parliament is becoming incrementally more reflective of the changing demography in Europe. GMF continues to prepare such young leaders to rise to these influential roles.

From growing their ranks in the European Parliament to creating new political parties, German Marshall Fund alumni are contributing to a new period in European politics and ensuring that this period will continue to be grounded in the transatlantic relationship. Their leadership is representative of a broad spectrum of political orientations in Europe today, yet they share a commitment to the fundamentals of the transatlantic bond.

The following GMF Leadership Programs alumni were elected to the European Parliament last month:

Hildegard Bentele (MMF 2008, Germany)

Arnaud Danjean (MMF 2007, France)

Cristian Ghinea (MMF 2006, Romania)

Assita Kanko (TILN 2014, Belgium)

Jeppe Kofod (MMF 2004, Denmark)

Arba Kokalari (TILN 2014, Sweden)

Morten Løkkegaard (MMF 1995, Denmark)

David McAllister (MMF 2000, Germany)

Morten Helveg Petersen (MMF 2000, Denmark)

Samira Rafaela (TILN 2016, Netherlands)

Editor’s Note: This list will be updated as election results are finalized.