Walk around the State Department on any given day and you may meet people from Germany, Latvia, France, or a number of other European countries that are here as part of the Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellow (TDF) program. This initiative provides a tremendous opportunity for U.S. and European diplomats to learn from each other and strengthen transatlantic relations.
Established in 1995, it was once called the Fellowship of Hope, representing a response to a call by then President Bill Clinton to create a new community and thriving partnership between the United States and a Europe emerging from the divisions of the Cold War. Every year since the program’s launch, a few select diplomats from NATO and EU member states and beyond join and advance the work of the State Department.
This visionary initiative has contributed to the strengthening of transatlantic ties over the past 30 years and remains one of the largest and most established diplomatic fellowship programs in the world.
The world has deeply changed since the program’s launch, but the ambitions have not faded. Many of the hopes that inspired the program are now realities — part of a robust transatlantic partnership that has steadily expanded. The 2022-2023 TDF cohort represents every corner of the European continent: Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Türkiye, and the UK. The Department has also welcomed a Kosovo Liaison Officer under a similar program. Fellows are embedded in various bureaus at State Department, that range from the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs to the Bureau of Global Public Affairs, the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, the Bureau of Counterterrorism, the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and the Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy.
What’s more, the TDF network now has alumni in all levels of foreign affairs in European ministries, with more than 200 European former Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellows now serving for their countries, including in senior positions.
These connections are an unofficial but crucial value add: fellows know their partners and allies from within and are deeply attached to the transatlantic relationship. Similarly, many U.S. alumni who completed a year in a European foreign ministry now serve in senior positions in Washington and overseas, and have developed strong bonds with their European counterparts.
What are the Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellows’ takeaways from their experiences at the State Department? Oscar Buvalic, from Slovakia, says he “has been consistently impressed by the professionalism and dedication of our colleagues at the State Department.” And “while we may never learn to truly appreciate the U.S. affinity for drip coffee, we have grown to admire the relentless work ethic that it fuels.” Eva Buendia, from Spain, states: “I will never forget the Cities Summit of the Americas in Denver, all the collaborative effort, professionalism and hectic clearance process. It has been an incredible experience to be embedded in the summit coordination team.” Carlo Sanfilippo, from Italy, appreciated the “great teamwork and collegiality, full respect for people and their ideas, and constant drive to innovation.” He adds: “I will always be grateful for this incredibly inspiring and rewarding experience at personal and professional level.”
On May 12, the State Department honored the 2022-2023 Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellows. During the celebration, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Douglas Jones highlighted that the transatlantic partnership has never been more important than it is today. He expressed his appreciation for the major contributions made by the Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellows to American diplomacy.
In response, the TDFs thanked with one voice the bureaus of the State Department that have welcomed them so warmly. Speaking on their behalf, British Fellow Caroline Quinn underlined the great opportunity this initiative represents to “build networks, exchange ideas, understand how to exploit the huge potential of the transatlantic partnership, and build on the complementarity of our two continents.” Moreover, she spelled out their intention to “keep taking the TDF network from strength to strength in the coming years.”
In a few weeks, the 2022-2023 TDF alumni are going to make their way to new positions in their embassies in Washington, D.C., in their capitals, or all around the world, but one thing is certain: the bonds of friendship and solidarity they have established as part of the State Department family will remain throughout their careers and will be the bedrock of our shared transatlantic future.
Proof of the program’s success: we anticipate that a new cohort of up to 18 diplomatic fellows are going to take over— which would be an absolute record since the launching of the TDF partnership in 1995.
About the Author: Sébastien Fagart is a French diplomat and Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellow currently serving in the Bureau of Global Public Affairs’ Office of Digital Content. Previously, he was special assistant and chief of staff to François Delattre, Secretary General of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. To learn about his experiences in the program, read Beyond the Mirror: The State Department From a French Perspective.
The Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellow Program is coordinated by the Bureau of European and Eurasian AffairsBureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.