China, multilateralism and NATO dominate European Parliament’s lively debate on EU-US relations
Tuesday morning’s key plenary debate in the European Parliament on “the future of EU-US relations” made it clear that there is still hope and, indeed, hope that the transatlantic partnership can continue to develop, despite recent upheavals in Afghanistan and concerns about Asia / Pacific policies.
However, the chaotic withdrawal from Kabul and the secret AUKUS alliance have not been forgotten, in particular in the remark of the rapporteur of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) Tonino Picula (S&D, CR) that “we must strengthen both : the decision-making autonomy of the European Union and its autonomy of action.
Renew group shadow reporter Dragoș Tudorache (RO) had this message for “our American friends”: “In light of recent events, [they] need to understand that partners and allies consult with each other before making strategic decisions. The world is no longer united or bipolar and acting alone is no longer the recipe for success.
Her center-right EPP colleague Željana Zovko (CR) announced that her group had tabled an amendment to the report proposing the creation of a “transatlantic political council as a platform to improve communication channels and avoid unnecessary tensions “.
But the latest upheavals were perhaps most vividly described by ECR Vice President Assita Kanko (BE), who commented: “’The United States is back,’ President Biden said after the election (…). Some believed that the EU would romantically fall back into America’s arms after Trump’s defeat. But they were so wrong. I would describe it as a terrible, terrible evening shot.
But while there were predictable examples of “denigration of America,” as a Renew MEP put it, by the left, and outright declarations of cultural warfare on “climate and climate ideology. Gender ”from nationalist and far-right MPs, the three groups on the Fringes also featured prominent members who engaged constructively.
“In light of recent events, [they] need to understand that partners and allies consult with each other before making strategic decisions. The world is no longer united or bipolar and acting alone is no longer the recipe for success ”Dragoș Tudorache, shadow rapporteur of the Renew Group.
Left Group Vice-President Marisa Matías (PT) argued that transatlantic relations “should be based on equality, therefore the EU must have capacities for autonomy and strategic resources”, adding “We need to be allies and not just be an arm of the United States.
Marco Zanni, chairman of the ID group, called EU-US cooperation a “pillar of democratic balance in the world”, but warned that a “chronic misunderstanding” on the part of EU leaders in terms of political dynamics had hampered relations. “Trump wasn’t the problem, and neither was Biden.”
Zanni went on to say that “for Americans, regardless of their political leanings, there are clear red lines. The national interest comes first. We have to be aware of this and we cannot base our policies on the policy of the administration we prefer.
And Roberts Zīle (LV), vice-chairman of the ECR group, said: “NATO works and any attempt to destroy it is dangerous. Strategic autonomy will take decades. We have no other major partner who shares our values than the United States. We need to get rid of the obstacles in our relationship.
The most cited obstacle, and a source of disappointment for the current US administration as well as the foreign policy obstacles mentioned above, concerned trade.
The aspect of transatlantic trade is present in the report through the opinion of the Committee on International Trade (INTA) and its chairman Bernd Lange.
The German Social Democrat was talking about former President Trump’s punitive tariffs on EU steel and aluminum exports that President Biden has so far kept in place, when he warned that “if we do not manage to find a solution, we will double our countermeasures at the end of November ”, adding“ this is why I can only say that to the American side, please, find a compromise similar to the one that we found in the Airbus / Boeing case.
“For Americans, whatever their political leanings, there are clear red lines. The national interest comes first. We have to be aware of this and we cannot base our policies on the policy of the administration we prefer. »Marco Zanni, President of the ID Group of the European Parliament
But trade has also offered the brightest hope for many MEPs, in the form of the new Transatlantic Trade and Technology Council (TTC) which held its inaugural session in Pittsburgh, PA, last week.
The Vice-Chair of the Delegation for Relations with the United States (D-US), Miapetra Kumpula-Natri (S&D, FI) expressed her hope that the TTC would be able to establish “good rules on the Human-centered AI ”, and contribute to concerted climate action through common green standards.
She also welcomed the report’s suggestion to “create a parliamentary subcommittee on technology and trade with the delegation to complement the executive part of the TTC and exercise democratic control in the European Parliament”.
Identifying other challenges that should be addressed in the context of the TTC, the head of the German CSU delegation in the EPP, Angelika Niebler, commented:
“It would be particularly necessary, for example, to find common solutions to shortcomings in semiconductor supply chains and to accelerate semiconductor production.” Speaking from home, she added that “at BMW, Opel and VW, production is already slowing down due to the lack of chips and entire conveyor belts are at a standstill. We must act urgently here.
But the main foreign policy lesson for majority groups was that the EU must now put its money where its mouth is on strategic autonomy.
D-US delegation chairman Radosław Sikorski (PPE) told the House: “I was in Washington in July, and I have to tell you that Americans are obsessed with their rivalry with China. It’s the only thing Republicans and Democrats agree on.
“I was in Washington in July, and I have to tell you that the Americans are obsessed with their rivalry with China … if it was something kinetic there, our ally might not be in. able to protect us. As a former Minister of Defense, I must tell you that defense systems take decades to develop. Therefore, I beg you, ladies and gentlemen, we must take European defense seriously now. »Chairman of the delegation D-US Radosław Sikorski
As tensions in the Far East increase and China pledges to take Taiwan by force “if need be,” Sikorski warned that “if it was something kinetic there, our ally might not be able to protect us ”.
He concluded: “As a former Minister of Defense, I must tell you that defense systems take decades to develop. Therefore, I beg you, ladies and gentlemen, we must take European defense seriously now. “
Hilde Vautmans (BE), from Renew Group, who wrote the recent INI report on a new EU-China strategy put it even more bluntly:
“It’s time to pull ourselves together. The United States will not continue to pay NATO’s lion share. We must play our part and launch our own European army ”. Not to weaken NATO, she suggested, but to strengthen it: “We have had enough wake-up calls.
Perhaps the veteran of the Greens / EFA and chairman of the EU-China delegation Reinhard Bütikofer had a good forecast of the way forward for EU-US relations when he remarked that “building a new transatlantic relationship is not going to be a sprint but rather a long and arduous cross-country race with ups and downs.
One of the obstacles in the road could come on Thursday, when MPs debate and then vote on a resolution on “state law on abortion in Texas, United States.”