The Transatlantic Foundation (TF) is the European and EU-registered arm of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) based in its Brussels office. The purpose of the Foundation is to independently promote better cooperation and understanding between the United States and Europe on transatlantic issues and the world, to help Americans and Europeans to learn from each other, and from other industrialized societies, in order to best serve their economic, social, cultural and political development.
TF looks back at GMF’s three decades of comprehensive support for civil society, democracy, independent media and Euro-Atlantic integration in the countries east of the former Iron Curtain. Starting in 1990, programming initially focused on Central Europe before expanding, in the 2000s, to the Western Balkans, the Eastern Partnership countries, Turkey and Russia. Throughout this period, and as a result of a continuous learning process, TF refined its toolkit to include direct grantmaking, targeted capacity-building, leadership development, networking opportunities, and analytical and policy initiatives. TF also built innovative assistance mechanisms in the form of civil society trusts: the Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD), the Fund for Belarus Democracy (FBD), Engaging Central Europe (ECE), Ukraine: Relief, Resilence, Recovery (U3R), and the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation (BST). These programs are multi-donor arrangements pooling public and private, European and U.S. funding that provide for a robust infrastructure to service and support a vast network of civil society organizations, initiatives, and individuals across all of the EU’s Eastern Member States and direct neighbors to the East and Southeast.
Learn more about core-TF projects, Protecting EU Values and Fundamental Rights through Public Participation and Civil Society in Central Europe (PROTEUS) and Neo-authoritarianism in Europe and the Liberal Democractic Response (AUTHLIB).
Duration: March 2023–February 2027
The NAVIGATOR project addresses the challenges of rising nationalism and anti-EU populism by offering a strategic approach to navigating the complex landscape of global governance. The project aims to identify institutions that should be strengthened, reformed, or bypassed when revitalizing multilateralism. Its central objective is to provide a practical “search mechanism” and actionable pathways for the EU and its member states to enhance the rules-based international order. NAVIGATOR brings together an interdisciplinary team of researchers who analyze institutional diversity across six policy areas: climate change, digitalization, finance/taxation, health, migration, and security. By examining variations in formality, accessibility, and normativity within these institutions, the project seeks to determine the most effective institutional configurations for achieving EU objectives. Drawing on extensive data from content analysis, social network analysis, interviews, and surveys, it enables stakeholders to assess the strengths and weaknesses of existing multilateral organizations, to identify reformable institutions, to evaluate alternatives, and to formulate action strategies for multilateral reform. The project not only contributes to assessing multilateral effectiveness but also offers valuable insights for EU engagement strategies in addressing challenges such as the war in Ukraine, the surge of nationalism, and anti-EU populism within the context of global governance.
Duration: March 2023–February 2024
The EU-funded JOINT project, comprised of 14 partners from 12 countries, aims to analyze the impact of multipolar competition, regional fragmentation, and intra-EU contestation on the EU’s foreign and security objectives. The project examines the influence that these factors have on the EU’s capacity to shape its foreign and security goals, to manage conflicts and crises adeptly, and to handle international relations effectively. This encompasses the formulation of assessment criteria, examination of public perceptions, and the facilitation of collaborative learning between researchers and policymakers. Furthermore, JOINT facilitates collaboration between scholars and policymakers through secondments to foreign ministries and the European External Action Service. The project seeks to deepen comprehension of how the EU could construct sustainable foreign and security policies in a global landscape that had become increasingly intricate and contentious.
Duration: January 2023 – December 2025
The overall aim of the EU Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values (CERV) project consortium PROTEUS—led by the Transatlantic Foundation, GMF’s European arm—is to strengthen civil society organizations (CSOs) and civic initiatives, as well as to empower civil activists, so that they are able to protect, promote, and raise awareness of European values and fundamental rights—above all democracy, the rule of law, human rights, equality of men and women, and non-discrimination against persons belonging to minorities—and the rights of EU citizens as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The project does so by providing targeted grants and tailor-made capacity-building to Central European CSOs and increasing their fundraising, management, and advocacy capacities, with a strong focus on civic actors in peripheral and rural areas in Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
Duration: October 2022 – September 2025
In order to protect the future of liberal democracy in Europe, one must first understand its challengers. The Horizon project AUTHLIB investigates the sources and implications of the normative divergence from the model of liberal democracy in Europe. It is based on the premise is that liberal democracy faces not one ideological challenge but many. Against that background, it carefully and systematically explores the varieties of illiberalism and their appeal. Illiberalism has diverse ways of appealing to elites, citizens, and specific social groups. These include narratives, programs and policies, emotional triggers, institutional innovations, and sophisticated methods of diffusion, each of which needs to be understood and mapped.
As well as shedding light on the diversity of the illiberal challenge, the project’s main aim is to provide a toolkit for policymakers to defend and enhance liberal democracy against its challengers by understanding and explaining the nature of illiberal ideologies, processes, and policies. The toolkit—consisting of case-specific sets of tools—will consist of theoretically, normatively, and empirically grounded ways of responding to the specifics of illiberal claims against liberal democracy.
Duration: June 1, 2022 – May 31, 2024
The Russian war against Ukraine risks reversing the democratic development and Western orientation that had taken place over the last twenty years in Ukraine. Besides inflicting unspeakable suffering on Ukrainians at large, the Kremlin has also made it unmistakably clear that it is determined to eliminate the democratically elected leadership of Ukraine, erase the diverse and independent media landscape, liquidate the organizations and initiatives of Ukraine’s vibrant civil society, and persecute individual civic leaders and activists. This presents a direct threat to numerous individuals and organizations that have been the backbone of democratic reform in Ukraine to date and are essential to the post-war democratic reconstruction and development of the country. In the course of the project, TF/BST will focus its grantmaking support on local and regional media, grassroots CSOs and think tanks to allow them to relocate from the war zone and continue their activities for as long as possible whilst adapting them to the impact of the war, and serve their communities, build community resilience, and provide services for IDPs. Additionally, assists them in getting involved in the reconstruction processes and fighting disinformation, Russian propaganda, and fake news.
Duration: January 2019 - December 2023
In Eastern Europe as elsewhere, civil society plays a critical role for establishing, improving, and defending democracy. For this reason, the Transatlantic Foundation (TF) and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) joined forced in a strategic framework partnership aimed at increasing the capacity and efficiency of civil society to promote an open, transparent, and inclusive system of governance in the Eastern Partnership countries and Russia. Within this partnership, TF works to improve the financial and resource base of civil society; to provide targeted capacity-building; to enable civil society to effectively embed with citizens, communities, and constituencies; to enhance local, regional, and international cooperation; and to advance the contribution of civil society to policy analysis and discourse at the local, regional, European, and international levels. Since 2019, TF has partnered with DG NEAR to implement both regionwide programs spanning the entire Eastern Partnership and focused in-country programs to support civil society in Belarus and Ukraine.
Duration: June 2021–June 2023
Under the EU4Belarus project, civil society organizations (CSOs), initiative groups, independent activists, local initiatives, and cultural actors across Belarus benefited from emergency resilience and core support, networking opportunities, capacity-building training and grants. These activities enhanced their operational and organizational capacity; increased their outreach, communication, and advocacy skills; and improved their working environment and their resilience to continue their work. This project was envisaged and approved before the outbreak of Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine; however, it adapted to the challenges of the new regional context and ensured that supported groups had enough flexibility to conduct effective work benefiting Belarusian society. The project underwent an audit and is believed to be one of the most successful of its kind in terms of partnership.
Duration: January 2019–June 2023
The wider Black Sea region has seen key challenges over the past years, from active or frozen conflicts to disinformation, democratic erosion, and the COVID-19 pandemic. It is within this context that the Transatlantic Foundation (TF), through the Black Sea Trust (BST), supported civil society organizations civic and media actors. Throughout the project, BST awarded 80 grants to facilitate cross-border civil society initiatives within the region as well as exchanges between civil society groups in the region, and peers in the newer EU member states. From February 2022, a key priority of the project, funded by the EU through the Directorate-General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, was support for Ukrainian civil society actors as well as Ukrainian refugees.
Duration: January 2019 - March 2020
Civic landscapes in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries have evolved rapidly. Two dimensions have been particularly challenging. First, civic landscapes are increasingly populated by non-traditional civic actors, while traditional civil society organizations risk losing their connection to and standing with many citizens. Second, ‘shrinking space’ legal and administrative measures by governments – as well as different forms of pressure by some political actors – repress civil society freedoms. The aim of the project was to understand the rapidly evolving societal dynamics shaping the civic landscapes in the EaP countries that help or hurt the development and resilience of democratic civil society, and the efficacy of external support to its development, focusing on new civic actors and societal attitudes. In the course of the project, conducted comprehensive and systemic desk and field research in the two thematic strands (new civic actors and societal attitudes) was carried out by Transatlantic Foundation experts and contracted local experts in each of the EaP countries. The contracted researchers produced input country papers that provided the basis for the discussion at a regional workshop held in Kyiv, Ukraine. The desk and field research and the regional workshop process were then used by Transatlantic Foundation experts to produce two policy papers, one on each of the thematic strands of the project.
Duration: February 2018–February 2021
The overall objective of the EU Cyber Direct project was to contribute to the development of a secure, stable, and rules-based international order in cyberspace in dialogue with strategic partners and regions: Brazil, China, India, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Latin America, and the Asia-Pacific. Through engagement with civil society, academia, government, the private sector, and research institutes, the project supported EU official cyber dialogues on the main issues surrounding the application of international law in cyberspace, norms of responsible state behavior, state and societal resilience in cyberspace, and confidence-building measures. A wide variety of activities were conducted, such as mapping and assessment the positions of various stakeholders, provision of policy analysis of key issues and opportunities for EU engagement, organization of expert workshops, consultations, outreach events, and research on cyber-related policies and relevant legal developments. Ultimately, the EU Cyber Direct project enabled civil society to counter illiberal tendencies and to push for effective and durable democratic and economic development. In addition, it facilitated the emergence of next-generation democratic leaders and fostered cooperation and knowledge transfer among the countries involved.
Duration: December 2017–November 2019
The project Energy Allies: Transatlantic Multi-Stakeholder Dialogues for the Local Energy Transition aimed to promote strategic partnerships and collaboration between local civil society and government leaders, and to embed them as a constant pillar in the policy planning and implementation that support cities’ energy transition.
In its activities, the project outlined best practices for successful partnership models in the energy transition, created a network of four cities in Europe and the United States, and carried out innovative expert interventions and group dialogues on key challenges that emanate from energy transition policy planning and action. The challenges identified were related to city visioning and planning for low-carbon systems, as well as local energy ownership and energy access. The project successfully connected the expertise of EU and US civil society and local government leaders in driving democratic and inclusive processes to accelerate cities’ climate and energy actions.
Duration: September 2016-June 2020
The GEM-STONES project's goal was to determine if the increasing complexity brought on by the proliferation of international organizations helped or impeded the externalization of European governance and the internalization of global imperatives. GEM-STONES produced interdisciplinary research rooted in a central concept that bridged different social science disciplines. The project successfully periodized regional and transnational institutional proliferation, typologized different institutional interactions, compared and analyzed mechanisms developed by the EU to deal with increased competition, and described the impact of institutional complexity in key policy fields of the EU’s external action. The project allowed for constructive and innovative interactions between disciplines, thus overcoming silos that impede better understanding of complex multi-varied institutional setups.
Link: Globalisation, Europe and Multilateralism - Sophistication of the Transnational Order, Networks and European Strategies | GEM-STONES | Project | Fact sheet | H2020 | CORDIS | European Commission (europa.eu)
Duration: January 2016-December 2019
State fragility on the European Union’s southern doorstep is a key challenge for its foreign policy. War and fragility in the Middle East allowed the proliferation of violent non-state actors and triggered the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War. The FLAME project was a partnership that connected a fellow and the Brussels branch of one of the most renowned institutions on transatlantic cooperation. The fellow carried out research on Euro-Mediterranean relations while also heading the Middle East department at a Spanish think-tank. The project aimed to expand the fellow’s global network and broaden her expertise in security, US policy, and non-state actors It also aimed to strengthen the Transatlantic Foundation's academic profile and European presence on Middle Eastern affairs. To achieve its objectives, the project mapped the political, security, and socioeconomic drivers of fragility across the Middle East and North Africa, and it assessed how these are reinforced by state and non-state actors’ pursuit of geopolitical interests.