EU and USA: “More realism is needed”

To analyse

Status: December 27, 2021 4:15 p.m.

Brussels’ hopes for Biden’s US presidency were high; They were only partially fulfilled in the first year: He has not completely moved away from the motto “America first” – but the EU has also made mistakes, according to experts.

By Stephan Ueberbach, ARD-Studio Brussels

“America is back, the transatlantic pact is back,” said Washington a good year ago. What a relief it was in Brussels and elsewhere: The gloomy Trump era is over, the US is back on the world stage, and in US President Joe Biden, Europe once again has a reliable partner. The hopes after the change of power in the White House were huge. Some of these have also been fulfilled, at least thinks Social Democrat Bernd Lange, who heads the Trade Committee in the EU Parliament: “Of course, the way we talk to one another has improved – or that we talk to one another again at all. And that too.” on the US side there is an interest in de-escalating conflicts. “

Stephan Ueberbach
ARD studio Brussels

It was completely different under Donald Trump’s presidency: he had threatened, harassed and blackmailed even close partners. For example with punitive tariffs on steel and aluminum to seal off the US market from competition from Europe. That’s off the table now – at least for now. Because the tariffs are not abolished, only suspended. Biden also has to and wants to keep the domestic economy happy with “America first”. For example, European companies are excluded from certain US public tenders.

It’s like being in a marriage, says trade expert Bernd Lange: After the honeymoon come the everyday problems. He warns: “Ultimately, of course, we also have to get in shape to put up a resistance if the USA really continues to take coercive measures.”

Investment treaty errors

In terms of foreign policy, the Biden government has also disappointed many European expectations. Especially with the chaotic troop withdrawal from Afghanistan or the new security partnership with Australia and Great Britain in the Indo-Pacific – behind the back of the EU. But the Europeans also went it alone.

“When this investment agreement with China was pushed through a year ago and it was proudly declared in Brussels, Paris and Berlin at the time that that would now be proof of strategic autonomy – that was not particularly wise in terms of strategy and partnership,” he recalls green USA expert Reinhard Bütikofer. “I think both sides made mistakes.”

From the EU’s point of view, some things also went well. Under Biden, the US has returned to the Paris climate agreement, the Iranian nuclear program is being discussed again and Washington is clearly committed to NATO. Nevertheless, Europe should do more for its own security, advises Annegret Bendiek from the Science and Politics Foundation. For example, carry out a joint threat analysis, actually set up the planned rapid reaction force and make majority decisions in foreign and security policy possible in order to be able to react better to crises.

“I think more realism is needed. We know that Europe of security and defense is always based on flexible membership,” she says. “Of course, this is particularly important in transatlantic relations, in relation to the EU and NATO, but also to bilateral cooperation between the EU and the USA.”

“The EU works differently”

Washington and Brussels should work closely together, especially when it comes to defending against cyberattacks or attacks on the so-called “critical infrastructure”. However, the partners are far from being in agreement everywhere – for example, on the question of whether the Chinese Huawei group may participate in setting up the new 5G networks. The USA say no, but the EU only says if a possible telecom equipment supplier from China, for example, does not meet European standards.

A categorical exclusion of Huawei for security reasons is not possible in the EU, says Bendiek: “It is not so easy here in the internal market. The EU works differently, and the US partially recognizes this, but has not yet really understood its breadth. what that means for the various subject areas – not just for the digital infrastructure, but also for cyber security or the question of key technologies. “

Despite all the disillusionment: After a year of Biden, the European Union sees more light than shadow and new opportunities for cooperation in relation to Washington. Büikofer is not the only one to consider: It is more important than complaining about the inadequacies of Biden’s policy that “we as Europeans work tirelessly and persistently to seize all opportunities for cooperation that arise or that we can develop ourselves.”

Disappointed Hopes: What’s Left of Europe’s Joe Biden Euphoria

Stephan Ueberbach, ARD Brussels, 23.12.2021 11:55 a.m.

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