The ongoing financial turmoil and cooperation on climate change will shape relations between the EU and the US after the 4 November presidential elections, argues Tom Spencer, the executive director of the European Centre for Public Affairs, in an interview with EURACTIV.
Unlike previous crises in Latin America and Asia, the similarities between the European and American financial systems are at the heart of the present troubles, says Spencer, meaning that “practical Atlantic cooperation in sorting out the mess will continue”.
But the current framework of transatlantic relations has become stifled, he warns, by concentrating too heavily on “business and banking links”. It lacks the “intimacy” of the Second World War generation and the “easy mutual understanding” between young people of the 1960s and 1970s.
Spencer expects EU-US relations to improve under the new president, whether Republican John McCain or Democrat Barack Obama wins the White House in the November 4 elections. “There should be major opportunities for a meeting of minds on both climate change and energy security.”
Indeed, the leaders of twenty global powers are due to gather at a G20 summit in Washington on 15 November to address the financial crisis and its effects on the world economy. The US will be represented by outgoing President George W. Bush at the talks, by which time his successor will be known.
World leaders are expected to agree upon a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change at their meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009. “The first step towards success in Copenhagen is the establishment of a level of mutual confidence between Washington and Brussels,” believes the former MEP.
Calling on the US “to understand that measures on climate change are not domestic matters to be agreed without reference to partners,” Spencer cites the Arctic as one area where joint understanding with Europe is “crucial”. But climate change and energy are “the key building blocks of power” in the new century and as such it is unsurprising that cooperation between the two sides has “stalled”, he adds.
Spencer warns that transatlantic relations are “prone to a certain staleness induced by a limited pool of people endlessly returning to the same issues”. Explaining how the wider goal of European integration drove the creation of the EU single market in the 1990s, he warns that “no such trumps exist” on a transatlantic basis, with “neither side of the pond showing any interest in unification”.
Finally, Spencer disagrees with the notion that US foreign policy will not change much after the elections. “The last two years have been a public humiliation for the Americans and much of the Bush imperial rhetoric has become an embarrassment. A new president will need to find new language for expressing America’s place in the world.”
The future of EU-US relations will be addressed at a 12 November conference at the European Parliament entitled ‘After the Vote: Implications of the US Elections for Foreign Policy, Climate Change and International Security’.