The European Union and the United States are the world’s biggest economic and military powers that dominate global trade and play the leading roles in international political relations. As a result, what Brussels or Washington says matters a great deal not only to the other, but to much of the rest of the world. But they have also often disagreed with each other on a wide range of specific issues, as well as had often quite different political, economic, and social agendas.
The EU and U.S. are now major actors in the phenomenon of globalization, and as paper titled ‘Reshaping EU-US Relations’ recently published by Notre Europe, a leading European think-tank, argues, they “often they determine its course, sometimes they are adversely impacted and above all they are being profoundly trans-formed by its effects.”
And although, as this paper aptly points out, “in the ten years since 2000, the foundations of American power (military force, technological excellence, economic success) have been severely shaken, as have the certainties of the European project (continuous prosperity, citizen support, the attraction of the European model)”, both these long-standing allies are still bound by many common strategic interests, namely Russia, economic partnership and the threat of terrorism and Islamic extremism. EUBULLETIN has recently talked to Ambassador Norman L. Eisen about his views on challenges currently facing the EU-U.S. relationship.
EUBULLETIN: It seems that the conflict in Ukraine has unexpectedly tightened political relations across the Atlantic. Since the beginning of the conflict, both the U.S. and the EU have intensively cooperated to shape the “anti-Russia” policy. Sanctions are likely the most important part of this policy but they have had ambiguous results so far. What should be, in your opinion, the next steps Washington and Brussels should take to advance the solution to the conflict?
Eisen: You said the magic word, sanctions. We need truly tough sanctions with real unity behind them, as the West has, for example, demonstrated towards Iran. I know that will be painful for some businesses and some nations’ economies, but in the long term the price will be even higher if we do not stop Mr. Putin.
EUBULLETIN: In addition to the political challenges that both the U.S. and EU are dealing with, both parties are still in the midst of the negotiations of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). How do you personally see the future prospects of this agreement?
Eisen: In my view, TTIP is critical to the economies of both sides of the Transatlantic relationship. Together, we constitute by far the largest economic partnership in the world. I believe that the incoming Congress will look favorably upon that and I hope the European Parliament will do the same. So I am cautiously optimistic.
EUBULLETIN: Apart from the conflict in Eastern Europe, international security relations are being tested, we could perhaps even say traditionally, in the Middle East. The civil war in Syria has devastated the country, Iraq seems to be falling apart, and some sense the onset of the third intifada. How related, in your opinion, are all of these problems?
Eisen: ISIL is a unifying aspect of the Syrian and Iraqi situations, and one could certainly point to the role of ISIL style-Islamic terror in Gaza (although I agree with the Islamic mainstream that such terror is a perversion of true Islam). That said, the causes of these three problems, and of the many others roiling the region, are distinct.
EUBULLETIN: The United States is going through, what many analysts have described as, the American Shale Revolution. How will this phenomenon influence the position of the United States in international energy markets especially with respect to OPEC or China?
Eisen:The U.S. role is certainly strengthened by our energy breakthroughs of recent years. I think you will see OPEC’s influence continuing to decrease, including because of infighting among its members. China will remain a heavy consumer, and to the extent U.S. activity is driving down prices on global markets, that benefits China while reducing OPEC’s power.