The EU and US: Heirs to a Struggle for Freedom – shaping a joint future

IMG_2591How quickly the world turns, how quickly our priorities shift. A few weeks ago it seemed like the US-EU summit would be overshadowed by the dissonance the NSA affair has instilled in the transatlantic partnership. With the ghost of the Cold-War past materializing, clutching the Crimea in an icy grasp, chocking the aspirations for self-determination of many Ukrainians, the tone at the EU-US summit on 26 March was one of mutual reassurance. Dr. Stefanie Babst, Head of Strategic Analysis Capabilities, NATO; Peter Chase, Vice President Europe at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Thomas E. Reott, Economic Counselor at the U.S. Mission followed the invitation of the FNF Europe and the AJC Transatlantic Institute to discuss the outcomes of the EU-US Summit: perspectives on how the transatlantic partners should react to the crisis in the Crimea and an outlook on the next step in the TTIP negotiations.

“America’s path or Europe’s path is not the only way to reach freedom and justice. But on the fundamental principle that is at stake here – the ability of nations and peoples to make their own choices – there can be no going back,” President Obama said during his remarks at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels. His remarks, as well as the Joint Statement leave no question about the depth and importance of the transatlantic relationship, Thomas Reott ascertaines. And while the U.S. President made no explicit mention of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) during his speech, it is important to remember that its successful conclusion will not merely affect trade, foster economic growth and spur job creation. Its regulatory aspect will contribute to the standardization of the transatlantic legal relationship and by the by strengthen the underlying value systems, according to Peter Chase: “TTIP is of geostrategic importance as it strengthens the economic foundations of the NATO alliance.”

IMG_2644The crisis in Crimea has the potential of being a geo-strategic game changer with long-term implications, as well. Warning against focusing exclusively on the containment of Russia and allowing the challenges NATO has been facing in the last decade to be pushed from the agenda, Stephanie Babst points out that “the alliance has to recall the importance of Article 5 and to reassure its members that it is as unequivocal and dependable as it was during the Cold War.” The Russian annexation of Crimea has certainly reminded the allies of their common values, which now must translate into a concrete answer to the questions about the robustness of action and the future enlargement of the alliance.

The situation has also underscored once more the need for energy diversification. “While there is a pragmatic need for a comprehensive European energy policy, Germany is handcuffing itself by taking energy alternatives off the table,” Reott points out. A follow-up G7 meeting in Brussels, replacing the originally planned G8 summit in Sochi, is going to address the issue of energy. Part of the European solution could come from across the Atlantic, where the US is planning to become net-exporter of natural gas.

Energy-security, trade, economic growth, job and wealth creation, respect for the rule of law and peoples’ right to self-determination: all suggests that the importance of the transatlantic relationship will only become more existential. The EU and the US, poetically and empathetically referred to as the “heirs to a struggle for freedom” by President Obama, are inextricably intertwined and each will leave its mark on the other in the shaping of their joint future.

Susan Schneider

Foto credit: FNF Europe