With China’s emergence as an economic superpower, and the continuing upheaval in the Mideast, students of international affairs might be tempted to overlook the role of Europe in the world, and its strategic importance to the United States.
Indeed, it was China and the Mideast that provided the more combustible exchanges between President Obama and Mitt Romney during the third presidential debate of the 2012 election.
But this week Rutgers was among a select group of American colleges and universities to conduct a week of programs focusing on the U.S. partnership with Germany, and, by extension, Europe.
The event - Think Transatlantic: The United States and Germany in the 21st Century - was sponsored by the German embassy.
More than 6,000 students at 30 colleges and universities nationwide were expected to participate.
At Rutgers, undergraduates competed in an essay-writing contest and attended a roundtable discussion with a leading German diplomat and three prominent scholars of German and European politics.
“In the context of everything that is going on, it’s easy to take the relationship for granted,” said R. Daniel Kelemen, director of the Center for European Studies, which is overseeing the event at Rutgers. “This is a reminder of the centrality of that relationship.”
Kelemen, a political science professor, and holder of the Jean Monnet Chair in EU Politics, noted that the European Union and the United States retain deep connections on economic and security issues.
“In terms of trade and investment, the EU is our largest partner,” he said. “And beyond those issues, our strongest alliances are with NATO.”
Students from across the academic disciplines at Rutgers participated in Think Transatlantic events.
Undergraduates submitted essays exploring whether the US-EU relationship will suffer or be strengthened by a rising China. The winners will receive a cash prize of $400, and two runners up will receive a $200 prize.
The US-EU relationship will also fuel a student debate, pitting the Rutgers Association of International Relations against the Rutgers Debate Union. The debate, originally scheduled for Nov. 5, was postponed until later in the month.
In addition, a roundtable discussion took place that included Busso von Alvensleben, consul general of the German Consulate in New York.
The Center for European Studies oversees major and minor degree programs at Rutgers. For more information, visit the center’s website.