Strengthening Transatlantic Relations Under a New Democratic President

Since he has taken office, President Trump has consistently alienated our NATO allies and the EU.  As such, the next President will have a lot of work to do to repair transatlantic relations.  To that end, here are some possible ideas for rapprochement.

Speech in Berlin or Brussels
Once the Democratic nominee is official after the July 2020 convention, they should begin preparing to make a speech in Europe, preferably in Berlin or Brussels.  The speech should not just reiterate the history and importance of transatlantic relations; it should also promote new opportunities for cooperation.

Berlin is an obvious choice because of Germany’s influence in European affairs.  Barack Obama spoke there in July 2008 before he was elected, and in regards to transatlantic relations, said “Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.” Additionally, Germany takes over the presidency of the Council of the EU on July 1, 2020, and will hold it until Dec 31, 2020, and so a speech in Berlin might be a way to talk about the importance of the EU.

Brussels also makes sense since it is home to NATO and the capital of the EU.  Given the prominent role the US plays in NATO, it would be a good place to reassure our allies we stand with them.  As for the EU, the US has a long history of supporting European integration, and it is a crucial partner for the US in terms of trade and investment.

Climate Change
Ursula von der Leyen has made it quite clear that climate change is at the top of the Commission’s agenda.  The goal of the newly established European Green Deal is to make the EU climate neutral by 2050.  Additionally, Europe is home to some of the most sustainable cities and communities, e.g. Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsingborg, and Stockholm.  Denmark has even appointed a climate ambassador.  Since both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have pledged to have the US rejoin the Paris Agreement, taking action to protect the climate is an area where the US and Europe can collaborate.

Gender Equality
In addition to the European Green Deal, the Commission has also established a Gender Equality Strategy.  According to the Commission’s website, “The goal is a Union where women and men, girls and boys, in all their diversity, are free to pursue their chosen path in life, have equal opportunities to thrive, and can equally participate in and lead our European society” (bold in original).  Sweden also has the world’s first feminist foreign policy.  Finally, the Nordic countries “continually rank high among the best countries to be a woman.”  This is an area where the US could not just collaborate, but also learn from its European partners.

Sustainable Development Goals
According to the Commission’s website for the SDG’s, “The EU has committed to implement the Sustainable Development Goals both in its internal and external policies.”  This was especially evident when I was in Brussels June 2019.  Every meeting we had at an EU body mentioned or discussed at length what they were doing for the SDG’s.  It was almost a matter of pride.  Here in the US, on the other hand, we rarely, if ever, hear about the SDG’s in political discourse.  If the US is going to rejoin the Paris Agreement, then it it makes sense to also work towards the 2030 Agenda.

The EU is a global leader in development aid to countries around the world.  Looking at Official Development Assistance (ODA) alone, the five countries in 2018 that met the target of .7% of GNI towards ODA were all European.  The US, on the other hand, fell quite short of the target.  Foreign aid is important for a number of reasons: it’s the morally right thing to do; helping others helps us; and aid plays a crucial role in lifting people out of poverty and improving healthcare, among other aspects of quality of life.  Additionally, helping other countries become more stable economically helps with their political stability, which can help address issues like conflict, migration, and terrorism.

Trade is one of the pillars upon which transatlantic relations have been built.  According to the US Trade Representative, “The EU countries, together, would rank 1st as an export market for the United States in 2018.”  Under President Obama, the US and EU were in talks regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP); however, under President Trump, the US has imposed billions of dollars in tariffs on the EU, while the EU has imposed over $2 billion in tariffs on the US.  Given that the EU has trade agreements with countries including Australia, Canada, Japan, and Mexico, it is time to work on one for the US.  Besides the obvious economic benefits for both sides, an agreement will help in dealing with China.

These are but some of the many areas in which the US can cooperate with our European partners.  In addition to these issues, both sides should work together to address the problems posed by countries such as China and Russia.  Finally, while continuing to work on the two historic pillars of transatlantic relations, trade and security, collaborating on the above issues can usher in a new era of peace, prosperity, and progress.



History of US-EU Relations: 5

Document: Memorandum of a Conversation (between Sec. of State Dulles, Italian Foreign Minister Gaetano Martino, Italian Ambassador Manlio Brosio, and C. Burke Elbrick
Date: March 1, 1956

Towards the end of the conversation, Secretary of State Dulles voiced his support for European integration, saying “Such a development would create a great center of political and economic power which would stir the imagination of all peoples and create a great new force in the world. A real supranational authority can accomplish great things.” (emphasis added)

Document: Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union
Date: January 10, 1957

During his speech, President Eisenhower had this to say about European integration- “We welcome the efforts of a number of our European friends to achieve an integrated community to develop a common market.  We likewise welcome their cooperative effort in the field of atomic energy.”

Document: Joint Statement with Prime Minister Macmillan Following the Bermuda Conference
Date: March 24, 1957

The Annex of the Statement lists the following concerning European unity-
“2. Reaffirmation of common interest in the development of European unity within the Atlantic Community…
4. Agreement on the benefits likely to accrue for European and world trade from the plans for the common market and the Free Trade Area, provided they do not lead to a high tariff bloc…”

European Context: Since the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), two major events in Eastern Europe influenced European integration in Western Europe- the formation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955 and the Soviet crushing of protests in Budapest.

On March 25, 1957, the six ECSC countries expanded their cooperation into other sectors and signed the Treaties of Rome, thereby establishing the European Economic Community (EEC).  In addition to the EEC, the Treaties also created the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM).

Rome Treaties Poster
Poster publicising the signing of the Rome Treaties (1957)

History of US-EU Relations: 4

Document: Address in Independence at the Dedication of the Liberty Bell
Date: November 6, 1950

During the speech, President Truman mentions the Schuman Plan, saying, “I have been very much interested in the proposal made by the French Foreign Minister, Mr. Robert Schuman, for pooling coal and steel production in Western Europe.  I hope very much that this plan can be worked out along the bold lines proposed by that French Foreign Minister, Mr. Schuman.” (emphasis added)

Document: The Secretary of State to Certain Diplomatic Offices
Date: December 8, 1950

In this cable, Sec. Acheson discusses aspects of the Schuman Plan and the US response to it.  At one point he remarks, “There are two main trends of opinion in US on Schuman Plan.  Dominant one at present is enthusiasm for plan based on political attractiveness.  Other view, whose prevalence shld not be underrated, is skepticism as to whether project is anything more than an internatl cartel.” (emphasis added)

Acheson allays the fears of the latter, noting, “So far, it has been possible to insist in good faith that general idea of plan is a single market characterized by competition, and that real auth lies in High Auth, assembly and court, and not in producer groups.” (emphasis added)

US Context: US support for the Schuman Plan was based mainly on two concepts: 1)  strengthening the Western European economy, which was especially important in containing communism; and 2) rapprochement between France and the Federal Republic of Germany.

European Context: Six countries were involved in the negotiations to establish the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC)- Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.  In addition to the technical and economic aspects of the negotiations, countries also discussed the role of institutions, in particular a supranational body, the High Authority, as well as other institutions that might check and balance the power of that body.

The Climbers 1950
Cartoon by Illingworth on the start of the negotiations on the Schuman Plan (21 June 1950)

History of US-EU Relations: 3

Document: The Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary of State, at London
Date: May 11, 1950

“Initial reaction Dept to FR proposal re coal and steel industries is to welcome it as imaginative, useful and having considerable merit.” (emphasis added)

Document: The President’s News Conference of May 18, 1950
Date: May 18, 1950

“Mr. Schuman’s proposal…for the pooling of the French and German steel and coal industries is an act of constructive statesmanship. We welcome it.” (emphasis added)

Pres. Truman goes on to discuss the possible impact of Schuman’s proposal, stating, “I am confident, however, that the kind of imaginative thinking that went into the proposal can work out the details in ways that will benefit not only the countries directly concerned, including those who work in these industries and those who use their products, but also the whole free world.”

Document: The United States Special Representative in Europe (Harriman) to the Secretary of State
Date: May 20, 1950

In the beginning of his report, Harriman starts out with strong praise, “Believe proposal may well prove most important step towards economic progress and peace of Europe since original Marshall speech on ERP.”

At the end of the report, he reiterates the importance of the proposal, “wish emphasize overriding importance that this opportunity be not lost and that US throw full weight its support for prompt initiation and consummation of negotiations…” (emphasis added)

US Context: President Truman and the relevant stakeholders at the State Department recognized the importance of the Schuman Plan and had high hopes for its success.

Acheson 9 May 1950
Dean Acheson during his visit to Paris (9 May 1950)

European Context: Robert Schuman, the French foreign minister, proposed the integration of the coal and steel sectors during a speech on May 9, 1950. For more information on the beginning of the ECSC, I recommend the CVCE webpage, The Birth of the Community of Europewhich has four sections of background information and primary sources- 1) The Origins of the Schuman Plan; 2) The Declaration of 9 May 1950; 3) The Creation of the ECSC; and 4) The Beginnings of the ECSC.

History of US-EU Relations: 2

Document: Rear Platform Remarks in Ohio and Indiana
Date: June 4, 1948

During a speech in Fort Wayne, Indiana, President Truman remarked “there are three things necessary for peace in the world,” one of which was the “success of the European recovery program.”

Document: Letter to Premier de Gasperi on Italian Participation in the European Recovery Program
Date: September 16, 1948

The American people support this program wholeheartedly both for humanitarian and for practical reasons.  In a world growing smaller day by day, no nation can profit by isolating itself.  Mutual dependence means your welfare affects our welfare and vice versa.  Therefore, for our sake, for your sake, and for the sake of all other like-minded countries, it is our hope that the program in Italy and elsewhere will be crowned with success.”  (emphasis added)

Document: Address in Miami at the American Legion Convention
Date: October 18, 1948

After a section discussing support for the European Recovery Program, President Truman moved on to European unity, stating, “We have also been giving support and encouragement to the organization of the Western European Union.”  (emphasis added)

He went on to reason, “our interest is bound up with the peace and economic recovery of the rest of the world.”

US Context: In April 1948, President Truman signed the Foreign Assistance Act, which he said was “a measure for reconstruction, stability, and peace.”  Later that month, Pres. Truman urged Congress to appropriate $4.3 billion for the European Recovery Program.

European Context: In June 1948, as part of Germany’s post-war reconstruction, the three Western allies replaced the Reichsmark with the Deutsche Mark.