Global Europe Brief: Europe’s Biden lessons

Your weekly update on the EU from a global perspective.

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Joe Biden’s marathon of European summits has ticked quite a few boxes on European checklists.

Although one single trip cannot erase four years of Donald Trump’s stranglehold on US foreign policy, Biden scored sympathy points across the board.

He showed he was taking multilateralism and global governance seriously (G7). He reassured allies of America’s commitment to Europe’s security (NATO) and rallied and profiled his image of containing and combating the authoritarian powers in the near and far neighbourhood (China and Russia).

He reversed Trump’s notion of treating the EU as a rival bloc and took EU institutions seriously enough to start several joint initiatives on a number of topics.

Plus, he had a long talk with Russia’s increasingly rogue Vladimir Putin without looking too weak.

Although none of this means we’re living in a happy transatlantic marriage again, there is justified relief about a revival of the transatlantic partnership.

But sticking points remain.

For EU officials, beyond well-meaning rhetoric, Biden’s visit hasn’t left many traces, except for the breakthrough in the Airbus-Boeing dispute, which has been branded as the lowest hanging fruit of all the other outstanding issues in trade and agriculture – from steel, beef hormones and GMO’s to digital’s data transfers and antitrust matters.

For NATO allies, the final summit communiquè signalled a geographical shift of focus, expanding the concept of security beyond the North Atlantic area towards the Indo-Pacific. Will this stretch fly? The new Strategic Concept, planned for 2022 will show how to address all the new and emerging threats as well as how to reconcile the different threat theatres.

But what is clear is that the basic assumptions of security policy have to be revised.

In this sense, Biden’s tour has marked the beginning rather than the finalisation of Washington’s aims to revive transatlantic ties.

In case you lived under a rock the past week, we have you covered. Here’s some post-summit coverage read-up for you:


RUSSIA REPORT. Close cooperation with Russia is a “distant prospect” and the EU should prepare for a further deterioration of relations with Moscow, the EU’s chief diplomat Joseph Borrell said while presenting the Commission’s proposal for a new strategy on EU-Russia relations this week. One of the main irritants, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, remains unaddressed.

In the aftermath of the meeting between US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Green MEPs and political parties from countries around the Baltic Sea expressed their “firm disapproval” of and “opposition” to the project.

DELEGATIONS MIA? The EU has some 140 delegations and offices around the world, implementing external action policies and funding while representing Brussels politically. Now, the European Commission is looking into a number of European outposts with a central role in programming EU external aid which remain “passive” despite receiving instructions to actively engage with a wide variety of local actors, the Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen said.

REFUGEE HOSTS. Turkey continues to be the largest refugee-hosting country in the world, accounting for nearly 3.7 million refugees, or 15% of all people displaced across borders globally, according to a new report by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Germany remains the largest hosting country inside the EU.


‘STRATEGIC STABILITY’. US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have agreed to engage in a bilateral dialogue on “strategic stability” aimed at reducing the risks of unintentional conflict and restrain nuclear weapons.

Both confirmed Moscow and Washington shared the responsibility for nuclear stability and would hold talks on possible changes to their recently extended New START arms limitation treaty, which was renewed in January for another five years.

“We’ve seen this extremely negative development in the last 10 years with the unravelling of bilateral agreements, nuclear programmes and increased the role of nuclear weapons and the security doctrine,” Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) told EURACTIV around the Geneva summit.

According to her, the summit presented “an opportunity to start talking about how to come back from a state” but also raised “expectations from the rest of the world are increasing” for both sides to act.

No agreement is expected quickly, but at least they talk.


SOFIA-SKOPJE. North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is visiting Sofia with specific proposals for ending the deadlock over his country’s EU integration process, which his Bulgarian counterpart Stefan Yanev announced would be discussed intensively in the coming days.

However, the meeting of the General Affairs Council, scheduled for 22 June in Luxembourg, is expected to see Bulgaria maintain its current position on the negotiating framework for the accession of North Macedonia to the EU, meaning no accession talks just yet.

STUMBLING BLOCK. The Russian-Belarusian-Serbian military exercise is “not helpful” for Serbia’s EU path, said the European Parliament’s Serbia rapporteur, Vladimir Bilčik, adding that clear “foreign policy choices” would instead help the country advance toward EU membership.


BORDER TACTICS? Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said she believes Belarus is behind a recent spike of irregular immigration into Lithuania, following a threat by its president that it will no longer prevent migrants from crossing its western border. Vilnius confirmed, that the number of undocumented migrants detained in Lithuania after crossing from Belarus has increased.

POST-WAR VOTE. Armenians vote on Sunday in snap parliamentary elections called by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to end a political crisis ignited by his country’s humiliating military defeat to Azerbaijan last year. But a venomous campaign has been marred by aggressive rhetoric and fears the election could further polarise the country.



Europe’s everyday business is still stuck in lockdown reality, until further notice. We’ll keep you updated on all relevant EU foreign affairs news, as Europe is slowly moving towards summer break.

  • Armenia parliamentary elections
    | Sunday, 20 June 2021 | Yerevan, Armenia
  • Foreign Affairs Council on Russia, Belarus sanctions
    | Monday, 21 June 2021 | Luxembourg
  • New round of Libya peace talks
    | Wednesday, 23 June 2021 | Berlin, Germany
  • Joint AFET and SEDE Committee meeting on EU-US relations
    | Thursday, 24 June 2021 | Brussels, Belgium
  • European Council
    | Thu-Fri, 24-25 June 2021 | Brussels, Belgium

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