Sunday

25th Jun 2017

Opinion

Time for honest audit of EU-US relations

With pressure coming from every direction, the EU and the US now, more than ever, need an honest discussion about their partnership. They should figure out how best to consolidate their strengths and plan a course of action.

The electoral year in the United States poses a challenge to Europeans, but it also offers an opportunity for them to reflect upon the state of the transatlantic partnership and present their vision of it.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Obama (l) and EU commission chief Barroso: Obama's competitors in the presidential race are less EU-friendly (Photo: Lawrence Jackson/The White House)

The next presidency will not be about repairing America's image but about reaffirming US global leadership.

In this year's State of the Union address, Barack Obama argued that "the renewal of American leadership can be felt across the globe" and "anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline ... does not know what they are talking about."

His likely Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, wishes to restore American supremacy by insisting "on [a] military so powerful that no one would ever think of challenging it."

Who the Republican candidate will end up being is still up in the air as Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich continue to battle it out. Both candidates have excellent foreign policy advisors, but the amount of Europe-bashing coming from both camps is already a concern.

Regardless of who will sit in the Oval Office for the next four years, three issues will take precedence on the transatlantic agenda.

First, amidst the budgetary cuts in the US, any future global police-type military operations will be carried out more selectively.

But when the US national interest is under threat, shrewd accounting goes out the window. In any confrontation between Israel and Iran, the US will be forced to prove its "iron clad commitment to Israel's security." Although Obama remains committed to the diplomatic path to stop Iran from getting its hands on nuclear weapon, he has not taken any options off the table.

His Republican competitors speak even more openly about military intervention, accusing Obama of failing to "show Iran that [the US] ha[s] the capacity to remove them militarily from their plans to have nuclear weapons." Any military confrontation in the region will have direct implications for Europe, including military involvement if Iran retaliates.

Second, concerns about the growing importance of China - and an increasing fear of China - in the US will need to be addressed.

In Romney's words, "China has made it clear that it intends to be a military and economic superpower" but it remains to be seen whether its rulers will "lead their people to a new era of freedom and prosperity or will they go down a darker path, intimidating their neighbours." Although 58 percent of Americans support a stronger relationship between the US and China, 20 percent say China is the biggest threat to the US - an 11 percent increase since November 2009.

By strengthening the US military presence in the Asia-Pacific, which Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, announced during their last visits to the region, the US is proving its commitment to remain a Pacific power.

To act as an economic bulwark to China's regional dominance, Obama proposed an ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership and intends to create a Trade Enforcement Unit to investigate unfair trade practices. But these plans have caused uneasiness among Europeans who are afraid that similar moves will be interpreted as a direct challenge to China, in turn launching new competition in the region.

Even more worrying is the language of Republican contenders calling for a strong military capability in the Pacific and deepening cooperation with India and other regional allies.

Finally, normalising relations with Arab countries and the Muslims will remain a huge challenge.

Despite the many efforts of the Obama Administration, the US presence in Afghanistan and its clear position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict still make Muslims sceptical of the US intentions.

While Obama believes that "the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace," his Republican opponents underline Israel's growing security problems and call for increasing the level of military assistance and co-ordination (Romney) while at the same time describing the Palestinians as "an invented people" (Gingrich).

Such statements cause consternation among Europeans who tend to shun these kind of black-and-white viewpoints. This more cautious approach is particularly important considering the colossal changes taking place in the Arab world.

How Washington responds to these challenges will no doubt have serious implications for Europe. But instead of hoping for the best, Europeans should finally get their act together and focus on three major objectives: launching a comprehensive review of the European Security Strategy; adopting a credible and enforceable strategy for Asia; and consolidating policies towards the southern neighbourhood and Palestinian statehood.

What we have instead is a catalogue of half-measures. The establishment of the European External Action Service was a messy exercise but it cannot be used indefinitely as an excuse for inaction and a lack of policies.

Patryk Pawlak is a research fellow at the European Union Institute for Security Studies in Paris

Obama 'very engaged' in eurozone rescue talks

US President Barack Obama is "very engaged" in talks with EU leaders on the eurozone rescue, but is keeping his advice behind closed doors rather than adding to the "cacophony" of solutions floated publicly, Washington's envoy to Brussels has said.

US has no closer partner than Europe, says Obama

EU leaders meeting US President Barack Obama on Saturday in Lisbon chose not to discuss any contentious matters in an exercise meant to show how well the transatlantic relationship works, after Mr Obama had snubbed them earlier this year.

A positive agreement for Greece

The outcome of the Eurogroup meeting this week leaves a positive footprint, setting the basis for the Greek economy to exit the vicious circle of austerity and debt.

Britain preparing to jump off a cliff

Following the poor performance of Theresa May's Conservatives in the recent UK general election, her prospects of negotiating a good Brexit deal have gone from bad to worse.

Are MEPs too 'free' to be accountable?

The European Parliament is currently fine-tuning its negotiating position on the Commission's proposal from September 2016 for a mandatory transparency register. Sadly, so far it seems to prefer empty statements to bold action.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  2. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  3. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  4. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote
  5. Spain to command anti-smuggler Mediterranean force
  6. Estonia confirms opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline
  7. Ireland and Denmark outside EU military plan
  8. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  2. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  3. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  4. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  5. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  6. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  7. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  8. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  9. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  11. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  12. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move

Latest News

  1. Macron’s investment screening idea watered down by leaders
  2. Leaders unimpressed by May’s offer to EU citizens
  3. New Irish PM praises unscripted nature of EU summits
  4. EU extends sanctions on Russia
  5. UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'
  6. Decision on post-Brexit home for EU agencies postponed
  7. May's offer on citizens’ rights dismissed as ‘pathetic’
  8. 'Historic' defence plan gets launch date at EU summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Social Services ConferenceDriving Innovation in the Social Sector I 26-28 June
  2. Dialogue PlatformMuslims Have Unique Responsibility to Fight Terror: Opinon From Fethullah Gülen
  3. EUSEW17Check out This Useful Infographic on How to Stay Sustainable and Energy Efficient.
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Criticises the Juncker Plan's Implementation
  5. The Idealist QuarterlyDoes Europe Really Still Need Feminism? After-Work Chat on 22 June
  6. EUSEW17Create an Energy Day Event Before the End of June. Join the Call for Clean Energy
  7. UNICEF1 in 5 Children in Rich Countries Lives in Relative Income Poverty, 1 in 8 Faces Food Insecurity
  8. International Partnership for Human Rights26 NGOs Call on Interpol Not to Intervene Versus Azerbaijani Human Rights Defenders
  9. Malta EU 2017Significant Boost in Financing for SMEs and Entrepreneurs Under New Agreement
  10. World VisionYoung People Rise up as EU Signs Consensus for Development at EU Development Days
  11. ILGA-EuropeLGBTI Activists and Businesses Fighting Inequality Together
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Prime Ministers Respond to Trump on Paris Agreement