Rebuilding EU-US relations

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

“There is a new window of opportunity to rebuild relations between the US and the EU as the Bush era draws to a close,” according to Ronald D. Asmus, executive director of the Brussels-based Transatlantic Centre, a think tank.

To do this, the United States and Europe need to define a common strategic agenda, argues Asmus’s November paper. Deepening their economic integration ranks highly among the issues on which they must cooperate more, believes Asmus. 

Rather than lowering tariffs or trade barriers, the aim here should be to create more common regulatory frameworks that eliminate barriers to trade and investment altogether, the author argues. Not only would leadership on this issue boost the GDP of both countries, it would also “assure the stability and openness of the global economy in this new era,” he argues.

Asmus also calls on the “United States and Europe to define cooperation in homeland security to defend their societies and borders against the risk of terrorist and bio-weapon attacks”. Furthermore, the two continents should aim to create fully liberalised visa regimes and travel between the United States and Europe because “such openness has tremendous potential to touch the lives of average citizens and bring both sides of the Atlantic back together”.

In Asmus’s view, the transatlantic alliance should also promote democracy and freedom beyond its own borders and embrace those who seek to join the democratic community. Indeed, he states: “Keeping our doors open and anchoring young democracies while confronting a more nationalistic and assertive Russia is again at the top of the transatlantic agenda.”

Nevertheless, he says that the United States and Europe are not yet able to pursue a new and broader transatlantic agenda. He believes “we need to get the plumbing – the day-to-day processes of working together – of a new transatlantic relationship right” first. 

In today’s world, the US does not only need to cooperate with Europe on military and defence issues, but other policy domains such as energy, health and the environment, Asmus argues, all of which are within the competence of the EU. Thus, the United States cannot afford to have strong relations with NATO alone. “It needs strategic engagement with both organisations,” he claims.

To ensure that the transatlantic alliance works in practice, Asmus suggests that pragmatism should be the guiding principle, stating: “Washington and Brussels should embrace the well-known lesson of past transatlantic disputes: first work it out in practice; then rewrite the theory.”

To conclude, Asmus hopes that the next US president will have “the vision and the will to make the right kind of difference”. 

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