Written by Tania Latici (lead author).
The transatlantic relationship has been witnessing a significant injection of renewed enthusiasm and policy activity since Joe Biden became President of the United States in January 2021. This paper focuses on three important issues on the rapidly evolving transatlantic policy agenda, exploring their potential for generating, in effect, new ‘common global goods’ during the Biden presidency. First, it looks at pathways towards developing some kind of ‘transatlantic green deal’, taking climate action, trade and climate diplomacy in the round. Second, it analyses the comparative fabrics of US and European societies through the triple lens of violent extremism, the rule of law and technological disruption. Third, the prospects for ‘crisis-proofing’ the transatlantic space for the future are examined by looking at defence, health security and multilateralism. The paper also explores some potential avenues for closer transatlantic parliamentary cooperation, building on the already strong relationship between the European Parliament and the US Congress.
Momentum for restoring transatlantic relations
Like-minded strategic partners, natural and historical allies or an Atlantic bridge are among the terms used to describe the complex relationship between the European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA). The evolution of EU-US relations has been subject to innumerable analyses, not least since the election of former US President Donald Trump in 2016. The arrival of a new, pro-transatlantic US administration, with Joe Biden displacing Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, has injected significant new enthusiasm into the relationship – matched only by pressure to deliver lasting change amid the deep geopolitical uncertainty left in President Trump’s wake.
Polling data from late 2020 show that across 11 EU countries, 57 % of respondents consider that President Joe Biden’s administration is a positive development for the EU. The same poll however reveals a significant ‘trust deficit’ among European countries towards the USA while another one from June 2021 illustrates that almost half of Europeans (from the eight countries polled) no longer think that the USA is the most influential global leader. About two-thirds of Americans believe that alliances with Europe are beneficial to them, while some 70 % believe that the USA should cooperate more with allies to tackle global problems. Although the transatlantic relationship has travelled several bumpy roads over the years, it has endured. Recent economic and geopolitical shifts led to a focus on resilience ‘at home’ and to a reshuffle of strategic priorities – the Indo-Pacific on the US side, beginning during the Obama administrations, and boosting strategic autonomy on the European side – which will influence the terms of a renewed relationship.
The EU and USA ‘share more with each other politically, socially, legally and culturally’ than either share with almost any other power. Nevertheless, as polling data indicate, this should not be taken for granted. Instead, shared transatlantic values should be channelled through concrete policy action to generate alignment where interests converge and functional diplomacy where they diverge. The expectation is not a return to a status quo ante, but rather of a fresh start through a recalibrated relationship that can respond to the challenges of this decade and the next. The coronavirus crisis has underlined our interdependence and potential as a global force for good. This is the aim of an agenda to revitalise the transatlantic alliance.
Read this complete in-depth analysis on ‘Harnessing the new momentum in transatlantic relations: Potential areas for common action during the Biden presidency‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.