Build back better: Critical steps towards improving transatlantic relations

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

US-EU economic relations are poised to bounce back from the Covid pandemic and the tensions caused by the Trump administration, according to a report by the American Chambers of Commerce. [Shutterstock]

Two legislators from both sides of the Atlantic, MEP Victor Negrescu and Maryland State Senator Will Smith, set out their plans for the rebirth of transatlantic relations after the inauguration of President, Joe Biden.

Will Smith is a Maryland State Senator; Victor Negrescu is a Member of the European Parliament.

The new U.S. administration offers Europe and the United States the chance to “build back better” with regard to transatlantic relations. This new political landscape will enable the two most significant democratic blocs in the world to reengage and reimagine a once vibrant partnership, and to converge around key ideas needed to rebuild after the disastrous effects of the pandemic.

The impact of COVID-19 has left the two partners stranded and the loss of thousands of Americans and Europeans represent uncovered wounds that will take time to heal. In front of such severe challenges could we test the strength of our cooperation.

United by common values, the United States and Europe must start building back what was lost during the Trump Administration.

As Joe Biden often said during his campaign for president, building unity requires trust, and reestablishing that trust will require the new administration and the European leaders to act immediately to deliver upon the results expected by the majority of American and European citizens.

The expectations coming from the American and European elections are high and this will represent a major task requiring an active dialogue and consultation of the people. Showing and convincing citizens that together we are stronger requires efforts and an active commitment from the political leadership.

As with any transatlantic relationship, the most significant challenge in the years ahead will be to identify common ground regarding the social and progressive policies required to build a greener, safer and more equitable international community.

From the new Green Deal to the future of NATO, from a potential Transatlantic Trade Investment and Partnership Agreement to the protection of our social standards, these ideas represent policies that can now be subject of legitimate debate.

Over the past four years, Western democratic institutions and the efficacy of transatlantic relations have faced significant challenges resulting from resurgent and radical populist politics.

Donald Trump’s presidency and the growing popularity of several populists European leaders are all examples of how politics has changed and how populist ideas have gained support, weakening our democracies.

Populist leaders at all levels of government threaten to significantly weaken multinational organizations such as the EU and NATO and imperil vital transatlantic agreements with the United States.

The entire international community benefits when global leaders collaborate. Past interconnectivity and interdependency have allowed the international community to create higher social and economic standards and has ultimately resulted in a more secure world.

The scale and severity of problems facing the global community will require the international community to embrace the concept of global cooperation. An international community interested in sustained peace and prosperity will need to realize the necessity of strong transatlantic relations.

As said by President Biden in his inauguration speech, the United States, and this stands also for Europe, we have to “lead not merely by the example of our power but the power of our example.”

It is without any doubts that the US-EU partnership will face severe challenges in the period to come and it will depend a lot on the personality and character of leaders and legislators on both sides of the Atlantic to identify the common grounds for a strong and effective action.

The election of Joe Biden has been widely praised by political leaders in Europe indicating once more his positive results in building the transatlantic relation and the strong ties he has managed to develop with many of the European leaders.

As European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said, “the United States is back and Europe stands ready to reconnect with an old and trusted partner”.

Elections in the United States and Europe have ushered in leaders who understand the importance of the global stage.  The elections have also shown us the promise and potential of young people. Youth not only played a decisive role in the outcome of election; they are also poised to take a leading role in the policy-making process.

We need to identify actions “For the People”, like the newly elected vice-president Kamala Harris has put forward in her campaign, that can enable us to rebuild confidence. Understanding our differences and the mistakes of our past have been some of the most difficult tasks in rebuilding a united Europe.

In a democratic society, there is no place for hatred, intolerance or racism. The recent events in the U.S. are showing that there are still a lot of things to learn from each other while in the same time building together a better future.

Both of us call upon decision makers from both sides of the Atlantic to launch the idea of a new Transatlantic Erasmus designed to enable young people to travel, study, work and develop private, cultural and non-governmental initiatives together.

This can become a powerful tool on which legislators can build upon in the future to reinforce our cooperation and protect our democratic way of life. Creating active networks between young people, legislators, creators, entrepreneurs or farmers can only help us understand each other and learn how to answer together better upcoming challenges.

Re-building intangible bridges between people could only strengthen our ties.

Education should play a key role in fostering cooperation and prepare American and European citizens for the digital and green transformations that are currently happening.

Having an educator at the White House, by having Jill Biden as First Lady, will certainly represent an advantage in promoting citizenship education and better access to quality education across the world. The current pandemic has shown both partners how unequipped we have been for the digitalization of education and ensure equitable access for all.

The time is now to be bold and to recover the soul of the transatlantic dialogue. The best days of our cooperation lie ahead. As said by the new U.S. president, this is a story of hope, not fear. We are certain that the momentum is now and stand ready to work actively in achieving that.

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