Europe wants to bring America back to the common table and, with the new US President Joe Biden, the EU wants to revive the spirit of the transatlantic partnership. But there is no seamless path back to the good, old times.
Contacts between the EU Commission and the designated new US President Joe Biden still remain at a small talk level. „Hallo, How's it going, what ideas do you have??“ – this is how EU foreign policy officer Josep Borrell describes the current discussions. But as soon as Biden sits in the White House, the EU wants to discuss big things with him, nothing less than a complete new start in mutual relations. Here’s to a “Return of the United States”, The Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament is pleased about their renewed “leadership in international organizations”., David McAllister (CDU).
There is a lot to make up for there. The outgoing US President Donald Trump left the Paris Climate Agreement and the World Health Organization, said goodbye to 2015 concluded agreement on the Iranian Nuclear program. Borrell has now presented a “new transatlantic agenda” for the USA’s return to international relations. In it, the EU offers the USA a revitalized partnership on a large scale.
Commercial disputes, The disagreement over how to properly deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions and competition in the race for a corona vaccine should be a thing of the past. Instead, This is the Brussels vision, The partners on both sides of the Atlantic should work together to ensure this, that corona antidotes are distributed fairly, the climate crisis finds a common response, the whole world becomes safer and more democratic.
According to Borrell, the EU is sending “strong messages” to Washington, doesn't want to dwell on anger at the Trump era by looking back, but look forward resolutely. According to the commission, Biden's victory offers an opportunity to reshape the transatlantic relationship, that only comes along once in a generation. According to USA expert Constanze Stelzenmüller from the Brookings Institution, this restart requires urgency: “There is a time window for this 18 bis 24 months, I would say."
Already at an EU-US summit in the first half of the year 2021 The EU Commission wants to drive in the first stakes. With its proposals, it follows a similar initiative by EU Council President Charles Michel. A summit meeting of EU states is scheduled to take place next week with both concepts- and heads of government. Evil tongues in Brussels want to know, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen felt pressured by Michel, to score points with your own initiative. After all, the Germans came to Brussels a year ago with a promise, to want to lead a “geopolitical” commission with strong foreign policy claims.
Brussels lures Washington with shared strength. Together, This is how the EU officials calculate, The EU and the USA have almost a billion inhabitants and are responsible for a third of the global economic strength and flow of goods. “Our combined global power and influence remains unrivaled”, says the position paper of the Commission for a New Beginning with Washington. There is “no more important strategic partner of the European Union than the United States”, Borrell says. But he also confesses: “There is no way back there, where we were five years ago.” Borrell’s predecessor, Federica Mogherini, sees “high expectations” on this issue in Brussels, but also a lot of realism”.
The European chief diplomat Borrell knows, that a US President Biden will also represent strong national interests, should particularly insist on this, that the Europeans spend more on their own security and no longer just remain free riders for the Americans in NATO. More European sovereignty, own strength and ability to act, is “not an option, but a necessity”, says Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, Transatlantik-Expertin des German Marshall Funds. Anyone who didn't understand that, could forget all geopolitical ambitions.
But you can also get ahead of yourself. Borrell hopes for a new transatlantic alliance, “to protect our planet and prosperity”.. Walter Russel Mead, US foreign policy specialist at the Hudson Institute, warns against it, This means a distribution of tasks, in which the militarily powerful USA has the strict father, the EU with its “soft powers” played the understanding mother “and the rest of the world played the children”.. Rather, this is what the United States and the Europeans are primarily concerned with now, to answer the question, "what it means, to be the West".
This is echoed in the European Commission's communication on the desired new transatlantic agenda, when there is talk of shared values on both sides of the Atlantic in “open democratic societies and market economies”.. It addresses a future common attitude towards China, that the USA and the EU see as a systemic rival.
Greater attention, That's the hope in Brussels, also home to NATO headquarters, In the future, the power games of the... Russian Presidents Wladimir Putin find. “Russia challenges us”, said the former German interior- and Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière in the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”, where he presented proposals for NATO reform. These are likely to attract greater interest from Joe Biden, than Donald Trump could ever have mustered.