The History of CEPI

Johanna Hasting (left) and Diana Gierstorfer began working on a project in 2009 that eventually became the Congressional European Parliament Initiative (CEPI).

In spring 2009, two political advisors of members the European Parliament (MEPs) in Brussels began working on a project that eventually became the Congressional European Parliament Initiative (CEPI). Diana Gierstorfer and Johanna Hasting kept noticing in their daily work that EU policy often could have profited from the inclusion of the transatlantic partners' perspective. When drafting legislation for their MEPs they became increasingly convinced that a direct working level link to the respective US legislator could have crucial benefits for policies that reflect the need of an integrated and sustainable world economy.

Diana and Johanna began discussing the idea with the transatlantic community in Brussels. The Transatlantic Policy Network (TPN) was an early supporter of the project and facilitated a visit to Washington, D.C. in July 2009 to present the idea to U.S. stakeholders. The idea was welcomed by all interlocutors as extremely timely, especially in the light of the powers granted to the European Parliament under the Lisbon Treaty.

Given the Bertelsmann Foundation’s growing program work in strengthening ties between Congress and the European Parliament at the staff level, the idea of a staff-exchange was a natural fit within its trans-Atlantic project. With the support from the European Union Delegation to the United States, The Bertelsmann Foundation developed a three-pillar approach to strengthening functional ties between staffers in Congress and the EP, with the staff-exchange program at its core.

The CEPI launched in January 2010 and the Bertelsmann Foundation was delighted to have includeed Diana and Johanna as members of the inaugural class of CEPI fellows.