Public Diplomacy and the New Transatlantic Agenda

Kristin M. Lord
Kristin Lord
Kristin M. Lord President and CEO - IREX, Former Brookings Expert

August 15, 2008


Terrorism, climate change and the need to sustain a vibrant international trading system will challenge the United States and Europe for many years to come. At times, these issues may test the cohesion of the transatlantic partnership itself. Nonetheless, U.S. and European leaders recognize that confronting transnational challenges effectively means confronting them together. But they must also recognize an important fact: cooperation between governments alone will not be enough.

Addressing these challenges successfully means engaging publics on both sides of the Atlantic. The three issues mentioned above, and many others, are not just technical matters that can be solved by secluded bureaucrats. They are issues of national importance, with implications for citizens’ daily lives. In the United States and Europe, leaders should lay the groundwork for policy success by engaging public opinion not just in their own countries, but internationally and in partnership with allies. Such engagement will not guarantee success, but it will make success more likely and enhance the legitimacy of policies. Inadequate attention to public opinion, in contrast, puts the most carefully crafted policies at risk.

Recognizing the importance of public attitudes in achieving transatlantic goals, the Center for the United States and Europe at Brookings and the British embassy in Washington DC collaborated to examine public opinion about terrorism, climate change, and trade and assess its impact on future policies. Following a major address by Mr. Jim Murphy, the British Minister for Europe and a leading thinker on public diplomacy, experts from the U.S. and Europe gathered to offer their views.

This paper summarizes highlights of that discussion.1 It examines:

  • public opinion relevant to the broader transatlantic partnership;
  • transatlantic opinion regarding terrorism, climate change, and international trade;
  • public diplomacy and how it might advance the transatlantic agenda.

Discussion participants are listed at the end of the attached document.