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The Marshall Center Director retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Keith W. Dayton and German Marshall Fund President Karen Donfried signed a memorandum of agreement at the GMFUS Berlin Office Oct. 24. (DOD photo by Christine June/RELEASED)

By Christine June
Public Affairs Office
George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (Nov. 30, 2018)  – The George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies and the German Marshall Fund of the United States have formed a partnership for a new initiative called Balkans 360, which focuses U.S. and German attention to the Western Balkans.

“This initiative, in many ways, is a reaction to the testimony of NATO Supreme Allied Commander U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti at the U.S. Senate hearing in March where he named the Balkans as the area the he was ‘concerned about today,’” said Dr. Matt Rhodes, director of the Marshall Center’s outreach program in Central and Southeastern Europe, who facilitates this initiative for the Marshall Center.

The Marshall Center Director retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Keith W. Dayton and German Marshall Fund President Karen Donfried signed a memorandum of agreement at the GMFUS Berlin Office Oct. 24.

“I think this is a good time to do this and what a great partner to have on this because this initiative really matters,” Dayton said at the signing.

Donfried agreed, “We look forward to seeing what we can do together.”

The latest Balkans 360 event titled “Geopolitics and International Relations in Southeast Europe” was held here Nov. 29 and 30.

“I think this idea is a correct one with a very good composition of the different representatives, including government and non-government, from the different countries in the region,” said Burim Ramadani, deputy minister for the Kosovo Security Force of the Ministry of Defense, who attended this event. “The U.S. and Germany can play a role in the Western Balkans – first to keep the region safe and stable and then, to find new ideas for regional cooperation and initiatives.”

Ramadani is a Marshall Center alumnus, and the participants at this event were either Marshall Center or German Marshall Fund alumni from the region. Rhodes said that alumni from both partners in the region are an important aspect of Balkans 360. He said there are nearly 2,000 Marshall Center alumni from the region.

“We are very proud of the fact that when the U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis visited the Marshall Center in the summer of last year, he highlighted the role of our alumni as what he called practitioner thought leaders,” Rhodes said. “We think involving this pool of very talented men and women who bring a certain perspective directly in the process of discussing the challenges offers a value added addition to the broader international efforts in the region.”

Rhodes said one of the goals of this collaborative project is to support innovative and cohesive engagement by the United States and Germany on behalf of the region’s successful Euroatlantic integration.

He added that the other goals were to strengthen mutual understanding and capacity for cooperative approaches to address current and emerging challenges to regional security, and broaden and deepen constructive networks with and among regional security professionals.

For the past 50 years, the German Marshall Fund of the United States has strengthened transatlantic cooperation on regional, national, and global challenges and opportunities in the spirit of the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Center is a 25-year German-American international security and defense studies institute.

Both partners are named after statesman and soldier George C. Marshall, who advocated a significant U.S. economic and political commitment to post-war European recovery, including the Marshall Plan that bears his name. Both partners are also German-American organizations.

“I think we are natural partners in getting the dialogue going and strengthening the tie between the U.S. and Germany, and Western Balkans,” said Jan Techau, director of the Europe Program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “This memorandum of understanding leaves a lot of space for future cooperation on other topics as well so hopefully this is just a start of something bigger.”