Tuesday

19th Jun 2018

Brzezinski: EU-US trade pact can halt West's decline

  • Brzezinski: believes the new EU-US trade zone could also transform Russia, leaving it no alternative but to reform (Photo: globsec.org)

US academic and former statesman, Zbigniew Brzezinski, has said Western democracies should create a trans-Atlantic trade bloc to counterbalance Chinese power.

The 85-year-old, who was a US national security advisor at the height of the Cold War, spoke at the Globsec conference in Bratislava on Thursday (18 April) to an audience of central European VIPs.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

He recalled drinking a beer in the Slovak capital with Czech artist-politician Vaclav Havel shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain and having "a kind of exuberant feeling" about the future of Europe and the emergence of the US as a benign superpower.

But he said Europe failed to fulfil its promise, while the US damaged itself by invading Iraq.

"Europe's main problem is that today's European Union is a Europe more of banks than of people, more of commercial convenience than an emotional commitment of the European peoples," he said.

He criticised the UK for putting the interests of The City above all else.

He said some eastern countries treat the EU as "a piggy bank" of subsidies, while "complacent ... self-indulgent" southern countries' top priority is to get bailouts from the north.

"In Western Europe today, there is a dearth of historical imagination and of global ambition. There is no Churchill, no De Gaulle, no Adenauer. Current political discourse is dominated by narrow perspectives," he noted, referring to Europe's post-WWII political giants.

"Europe's lack of global ambition makes for excessive reliance on America [as a security provider] and makes the American public more sceptical of Europe," he added.

On the US side, he said the $3 trillion Iraq war hobbled its economy and delegitimised its authority.

"Just think of the recent UN vote on Palestine's status … The Americans organised a worldwide diplomatic effort to prevent it from happening and out of 190 countries, it gained seven supporters," he said.

In the context of China's growing power, he said the creation of an EU-US free trade zone could revive trans-Atlantic relations and create a new geopolitical balance.

"There is enormous promise in that concept," he said.

"It can create additional trans-Atlantic bonds … It can shape a new balance between the Pacific and the Atlantic oceanic regions, while at the same time generating in the West a new vitality, more security and greater cohesion," he added.

For his part, Estonian President Toomas Ilves, speaking at the same event on Friday, shared Brzezinski's concerns.

"If the US is becoming less interested in Europe [in terms of providing security] … it means we have to slap our faces, to wake up and say 'What are we going to do?' It's still a Hobbesian world out there," he said, referring to the 17th century British philosopher Thomas Hobbes and his vision of a dog-eat-dog world.

The EU commissioner for administrative affairs, Maros Sefcovic, also placed hope in the potential EU-US trade deal.

He noted it would give the two sides de facto control of global industrial standards.

"If the Americans and the Europeans agree that this is the standard [for a given product] then that automatically becomes the world standard," he said.

He urged EU countries to adopt a negotiating mandate for the treaty before July and said parts of the pact could be "initialled" before mid-2014.

Looking inwardly into the Union, he echoed Brzezinski's worry that EU institutions, national governments and average Europeans lack joint political will.

Noting that the European Commission will in future be able to veto member states' national budgets under the so-called European Semester laws, he said: "The commission in its history never had more power than it has now."

But he wondered what will happen when Brussels tries to wield its new instruments.

"In September or October, the commission will send letters to Estonia or to France saying: 'Show us your budgets. We want to see them first to see if they're sustainable.' Then we will have to have a conversation on how to combine this deeper integration with democratic scrutiny," he said.

"When I present this to the Bundestag … people might say: 'Who is this man from Brussels telling us what to do?'," he added.

France threatens US trade veto over culture

The French government has dismissed as "naive" suggestions that a transatlantic trade deal with the US could substantially benefit the EU economy and take it out of crisis.

Greek bailout exit takes shape

At a meeting next week, eurozone finance ministers and the IMF are expected to agree on new cash, debt relief measures, and a monitoring mechanism to ensure that Greece can live without international aid for the first time since 2010.

Opinion

Eurozone needs institutional reform

Both the examples of Greece and Italy test the limits of a system with inherent weaknesses that feeds internal gaps, strengthens deficits and debts in the European South, and surpluses in the European North respectively.

Opinion

Europe could lose out in North Korean bonanza

South Korean businesses including Hyundai and Samsung are already scoping investment opportunities. Will North Korea become a 'new Vietnam' opportunity - or more like Myanmar, where slow Brussels policy-making meant EU exporters lost out.

News in Brief

  1. Report: EU to look at outsourcing asylum
  2. EU court orders Le Pen to repay EU parliament
  3. Commission needs time to assess German Dieselgate fine
  4. Merkel and Macron meet over migration and eurozone
  5. Salvini plans census of Roma communities
  6. Slovenia to take Croatia to court in border row
  7. Parliamentary setback over corruption in Romania
  8. Lords force new vote for UK parliament to influence Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  3. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  4. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  6. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  10. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  11. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  2. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  4. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  7. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  9. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  10. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  12. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us