GLOBSEC President Robert Vass opened the discussion by stating that the Biden Administration represents an opportunity for the EU to act, and that Europe should be the one to propose initiatives instead of waiting for the U.S. to engage. EU HR/VP Josep Borrell followed by stating that Biden’s victory is a chance to revive our relationship and “make multilateralism great again”. EU HR/VP Borrell, Anne Applebaum, and Ivan Krastev agreed that Europe needs to make the most of this period in which the U.S. has a leader who believes in transatlantic relationships. However, this “opportunity” does not symbolize a total alignment of values. Borrell also urged European leaders to be prepared to offer things in this US partnership, rather than to merely bring demands, especially because the Biden administration will be tackling domestic challenges posed by political polarization.
“We have been through four rocky years, we are in need for fresh start […] Neither Europe nor America will find a major partner that is more aligned or more powerful” EU HR/VP Josep Borrell
EU High Representative Borrell stated that the American role in European security “is still indispensable” and that “we all agree on this.” At the same time, Borrell asserted, Europeans need to do more to ensure our own security autonomy and carry more of a burden, especially within our own neighborhood, which is good for our partners and for Europe. To Borrell, a relationship with the U.S. is a precondition for European strength, but Europe needs to become more resilient in the strategic domain. The HR outlined three policy priorities: 1) Including the Western Balkans in Euro-Atlantic structures, 2) Addressing China’s reshaping of the global landscape, and 3) Urging the U.S. to rejoin the JCPOA with Iran.
Anne Applebaum warned that this new era of congeniality between the U.S. and EU could cause complacency. Crucial problems that we need to tackle together persist, and these should not be glossed over now that a transatlantic friendship has reemerged merely because they seem too difficult to solve. Applebaum insisted that the U.S. and EU must focus not just on what we can say together, but what we can do together, and highlighted five policy areas in which she believes immediate cooperation can occur 1) money laundering and illegal transaction on both sides of the Atlantic; 2) a new version of Co-Com, 3) regulating online disinformation; 4) the lack of seriousness from the EU on defense; 5) the effects weakening democracies in the European neighborhood. Borrell replied to these comments by agreeing that many problems that existed before Trump could remain if we don’t address them head-on. He also noted that defense spending in Europe has increased at the member state level. Additionally, Borrell reminded listeners that the way we behave as partners in the transatlantic relationship also opens the door to more agreements, saying “there is value in the fact that Europe and the U.S. are no longer in confrontation.”
“There is a great danger that this festival of happiness and joy turns into a continuation of the present without any attempt to solve deeper problems […] We need to focus on problems we can solve together, and they aren’t always the obvious ones.” Anne Applebaum
Ivan Krastev challenged the opinion of many in the foreign policy world that Central Europe has a special role to play in the transatlantic relationship. In Krastev’s words, “there are some governments that will cry for President Trump, but this is not where the public stands.” Krastev also agreed with his fellow speakers that the new US administration poses a major opportunity for Europe, but there are still dangers ahead, stating that “if we can’t prove that the transatlantic partnership can deliver something under Biden, then this will bring in a much worse crisis than what happened under Trump.” Krastev also noted that it is going to be very difficult to align economic interests with the agendas of European institutions with regard to China, which complicates the adoption of a common US-EU policy on China. He also warned that that Trump or a similar leader may come to power after 4 years, especially if the transatlantic partnership is unable to deliver tangible foreign policy results before the next US midterm elections in 2 years. Krastev also advocated for Europe taking a more active role in Hungary, Poland, and Turkey rather than expecting the US to address these issues directly.
“The America that is going to return to the international scene with Biden is not the same country that left with Obama. We should be aware of this […] We should convince people on both sides Transatlantic relations are as important as we claim.” Ivan Krastev
Re-watch the entire debate here.