Monday

23rd Jul 2018

Opinion

Kerry's first trip gives clues on EU-US relations

So, US secretary of state John Kerry's first trip in his new job will be next week - to Europe and the Middle East.

One of the key issues on his agenda, even for the European leg of his tour, will be Syria. 

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

  • No Brussels. But Europe features heavily on Kerry's symbolic first trip (Photo: state.gov)

Though the Middle East Peace Process will be the weather vane topic in terms of how Obama II engages in the region, Kerry will not be going to Israel and the Palestinian territories because the Israeli government is still putting itself back together after elections.

Foreign policy geeks are all trying to work out what his itinerary signals for what to expect from Washington on the international front.

Comparisons aplenty are being made with Kerry's predecessor, Hillary Clinton's equivalent inaugural trip, which took in China, Japan, Indonesia and South Korea.

Does Kerry’s choice of destinations mean that last year’s US pivot to Asia is over?

Had the US hoped to hand responsibility for ensuring stability in the Middle East and north Africa (Mena) to Europe, but was then disappointed that it did not step up to the plate?

Does Kerry’s trip mean that Europe is back in favour and the transatlantic partnership is safe and sound?

When US leader Barack Obama first announced, in autumn 2011, that he was to intensify the US' role in the Asia-Pacific region, it prompted much hand-wringing in Europe.

But it is unclear whether EU-US relations suffered as a result.

The European Council on Foreign Relations' (ECFR) latest "scorecard," which tracks the effectiveness of European foreign policy year on year, found that in 2012 EU-US ties were resilient.

We cited as evidence the success of the G8 summit at Camp David and the Nato summit in Chicago in May 2012, compared with the G20 summit in Los Cabos a month later, which delivered little and drew precious little attention.

Whatever the intention may have been with regard to continuing or reducing US resources in MENA, throughout 2012, American attention kept being drawn to the region.

From supporting Arab transitions, most notably in Egypt, to the ongoing conflict in Syria, to the Iranian nuclear programme and Israel's Operation Pillar of Defence in Gaza in autumn, the US remained watchful.

In the majority of these dossiers co-ordination with the EU has remained close, on the E3+3 process on Iran, through the Friends of Syria Group and at the UN.

As a result, the European External Action Service (EEAS) delegation in Washington is one of a select few EEAS missions which has begun to play a serious negotiation and co-ordination role in advancing EU policy.

And yet … the EU capital, Brussels, is notable by its absence in Kerry's agenda next week.

Critics might argue that what at first glance looked like EU-US co-ordination was, on closer inspection, the EU simply following a US lead on crunch issues.

Either way, had the US seriously withdrawn its attentions from the EU’s southern neighbourhood in 2012, Europe would have struggled.

The EU continues to focus on the technical aspects of its co-operation with the MENA region, without bringing to bear its significant potential influence in other ways, through political, diplomatic and security engagement.

Europeans have failed to find a way round Chinese and Russian intransigence on the conflict in Syria, at the UN or outside of this forum.

Insufficient resources have been put into supporting state-building in Libya after the intervention in 2011.

Efforts on security-to-security engagement have been largely absent, with only isolated, small scale bilateral programmes from certain EU countries on security sector reform.

Meanwhile, just south of MENA, and with significant implications for it, when the Mali conflict escalated in January, France was forced to rely on US intelligence, reconnaissance and technical support to stop jihadists from overrunning Bamako.

Whichever way you read them, Kerry’s travel plans mean that Europe needs to up its game in MENA, which has huge strategic significance for EU countries.

Continuing to just get by in its near-neighbourhood, with or without full-blooded US support, is not the way to plan for the coming year.

There is perhaps a subtle reminder in the runes of Kerry's travel choices - Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar – that the EU's immediate neighbours on the Mediterranean Sea fringe are for Europe to deal with.

Given the uncertain future of Tunisia, the lack of security in Libya, dim prospects for reform in Morocco and complex relations with Algeria, it is probably more than enough.

Susi Dennison is a fellow at the London-based think tank, the ECFR

2015 target date for EU-US trade deal

EU and US negotiators want to have a transatlantic trade and investment deal in place by 2015, but French politicians are wary of the pact.

Obama presses EU leaders on growth

A weekend summit of G8 leaders stressed the need for the eurozone to focus on keeping Greece inside the euro. But plans are reportedly being drafted to deal with its potential exit.

EU must create safe, legal pathways to Europe

As the rapporteur for the European Parliament on an EU regulation on resettlement, my colleagues and I have outlined an effective plan based on solidarity and humanitarian principles.

How the World Cup exposed Russian chauvinism

The suggestion that Russians themselves play a role in the condition of their state today is often dismissed as "xenophobic" or "Russophobic". But if not addressed, the evils of nationalism, chauvinism, and imperialism will continue even after Putin is gone.

News in Brief

  1. Greece FM warns of Russian interference in Balkans
  2. Minister: No Franco-German disagreement on US tariffs
  3. UK Brexit minister warns of 'no-deal' preparations
  4. Munich: large protest against CSU's anti-migration line
  5. Libyan PM rejects EU migrant camps idea
  6. Italy's Salvini to sue critical anti-mafia writer
  7. EU countries send aircraft to Sweden to help with wildfires
  8. British ex-commissioner's jobs called into question

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Latest News

  1. Far-right Bannon to open EU campaign group
  2. Russia sanctions: test of EU commitment to international law
  3. Malta's PM cleared of Panama Paper wrongdoing
  4. EU wants answers to de-dramatise Brexit talks
  5. Juncker White House trip trumps the agenda This WEEK
  6. Italian populists try to sink EU migrant mission
  7. EU urges no-deal Brexit preparation
  8. Turkey ends state of emergency but continues crackdown

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us