20th of May, 15h00 CET/9h00 EST- 16h00 CET/10h00 EST

In partnership with the Atlantic Council

The state of our transatlantic relationship and the capacity of our democracies to show leadership in times of coronavirus are under global scrutiny. The pandemic showed our vulnerabilities in bright light, as countries on both sides of the Atlantic adopted unilateral and uncoordinated measures in response to the virus. The real and long-term damages of the COVID19 global outbreak are yet to be known, but for now, we must cope with the critical economic and social consequences.

This crisis brings a renewed opportunity to both the United States and the European Union to reconsider current cooperation, foster dialogue and response coordination, align on priorities, prevent economic protectionism, and boost multilateral cooperation efforts.

What are the areas of an urgent need for coordination in the transatlantic sphere? How will we restart our economies and prevent further protectionism and isolationism? Is deglobalization an effective alternative approach to building economic resiliency and diminish global supply chain dependencies? How will existing trade wars influence a joint recovery response? How will the pandemic reconfigure the great power competition?

Panelists: 

– Kinga Brudzinska, Head, Future of Europe Programme, GLOBSEC (Poland)
– Maithreyi Seetharaman, Founder Facultas Media (UK)
– Nicolae Stefanuta, Member of European Parliament, Vice-Chair Delegation for the relations with United States (Romania)
– Torrey Taussig, Research Director, Transatlantic Relations 2021, Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (United States) 

Moderated by:

– Ben Haddad, Director, Future Europe Initiative, Atlantic Council (France) 

Watch the video below to follow the full discussion

Background

The state of our transatlantic relationship and the capacity of our democracies to show leadership in times of coronavirus are under global scrutiny. The pandemic has exposed our vulnerabilities in bright light, as countries on both sides of the Atlantic have adopted unilateral and uncoordinated measures in response to the virus. The real and long-term damages of the COVID19 global outbreak are yet to be known, but for now, we must cope with the critical economic and social consequences. This crisis brings a renewed opportunity to both the United States and the European Union to reconsider current cooperation, foster dialogue and response coordination, align on priorities, prevent economic protectionism, and boost multilateral cooperation efforts.

Main Messages 

  • Because members of the Trans-Atlantic community all faced this crisis without a common strategy, it has become clear that changes are needed to better prepare us for unexpected emergencies.
  • The EU-US relationship has cooled significantly in recent years, not least because there is a Eurosceptic American President for the first time.
  • The crisis has highlighted the importance of the EU developing its strategic autonomy, not to undermine the EU-US relationship but to strengthen it.
  • As Europe navigates a changing global order, it will re-evaluate its interaction with other global leaders, such as China or Russia, with caution independently from the US.
  • Economies on both sides of the Atlantic will be transformed as businesses move supply chain back from overseas and automize production and society deals with massive unemployment.
  • New digital technologies will be critical tools on the path forward. The EU has an opportunity to flex its regulatory muscle by embedding democratic standards in technology such as AI and offering an alternative to China’s digital authoritarianism.
  • If the EU falls behind in developing new technology such as AI, it will not be able to compete with China or the US.
  • Although the 2020 Presidential election will no doubt have a significant impact on the Trans-Atlantic relationship, collaboration must be done on all levels. Legislators in Europe and the United States already work directly with each other and this should be encouraged and expanded to strengthen the relationship.

Nicolae Stefanuta 

  • This pandemic is a health, economic, and strategic geopolitical crisis. We should see this crisis as an unfortunate ‘dress rehearsal’ which has taught us that our response capabilities must be reformed and upgraded. We must maintain and strengthen defence capabilities while preparing ourselves for low probability, high impact events such as the one we now find ourselves in. As the pandemic has demonstrated, everything geopolitical is interconnected. NATO and European security strategy must be thought of in this context and maintained as an utmost priority. The challenges we face cannot be addressed in isolation. The relationship between the EU and the US must be capitalized upon to fight common threats ranging from climate change to medical response and recovery of our economies. 
  • Beyond this crisis, the transatlantic relationship will always be of great value, regardless of the results that come from the 2020 election or the European public opinion regarding the US utility. The choice by the EU to pursue strategic autonomy and diversify its relations in this time should not be perceived as abandonment or betrayal of EU-US relations, but a feature of the current political landscape. The EU and its member states should not blindly slash security budgets, especially not the EDF’s, as a response to this economic pressure. The EU, US, and NATO must remain strong and cooperative throughout the times to come.

Maithreyi Seetharaman 

  • The economic outcomes of this crisis will not be solely based on government response. We see organizations like the “B-Team” or companies that can take the lead to pressure governments to create the conditions their survival depends on. The breakdown in the supply chain from China during the crisis was a signal that supply chains and partnerships must be diversified and localized to create economic resilience. These same terms apply to our perspectives on the other aspects of this crisis, health, and climate. These issues will require cooperation among government-backed by strong corporate and civil society initiatives. 
  • In the upcoming election in the US, the Trump rhetoric is not indicative of the political direction or the only challenges to be faced. In recovery we must look at a long-term projection and the US ability to lead will not be based primarily on who is in office, but by their positioning to lead. If the US faces high levels of unemployment and chooses to prioritize the domestic economy, the US will not be interested or even in a position to provide as much support to the transatlantic relationship as they previously have.

Kinga Brudzinska 

  • The crisis was unexpected and has revealed the shortcomings of integration in response. Two months later the voices of experts on what this crisis means going forward are still divided. In recovery, regions will pay less attention to building relations. The future could go in many ways, whether that is general autonomy of the EU, closer ties to Russia and China, or the resurgence of EU-US relations. 
  • In response to the realignment of geopolitical relations by the EU, the weakness of European planning has been exposed during this pandemic. While the EU expresses disappointment about Chinese action, some countries such as Slovakia have polled under the impression that China today is of more value in crisis response than the EU has been to its member stats. A crisis is an opportunity and the EU future will depend on integration.

Torrey Tausig 

  • While the transatlantic relationship has suffered weaknesses before, President Trump has been the first president to condemn and promote a hostile relationship with the EU. This rhetoric has accelerated integration and promoted a perception of instability. This crisis has accelerated the recent nationalist and inward focus of politics. Regardless of the outcome of the November election, changes will need to be made to shape the EU-US relationship moving forward.
  • The European Union has already been pursuing strategic autonomy and seeking to become a more geopolitical actor, the crisis has only accelerated this. A second term for President Trump could push the EU into hedging away from the transatlantic relationship. As we see public polling showing individual European citizens with depreciating value for American leadership, cooperation in the coming economic recovery measures will be impacted. China is still viewed as a bully and raises concerns about governance and human rights, but if the US continues to fail and abandon the EU, cooperating with other world leaders such as Russia or China will become more necessary. 
  • One opportunity for cooperation in the digital sector would be cooperation on the emerging standards of AI and technology to partner on promoting civil liberties. Furthermore, actors outside of government are increasingly important in managing and strengthening the relationship. Non-governmental organizations will play a key role in addressing the health, climate, and democratic backsliding challenges that are emerging. The move of the European Union to develop greater strategic autonomy should not be seen as a challenge to the EU-US relationship, but rather means to strengthen the relationship by making it more symmetrical.