EU-US relations shall find themselves challenged in the time to come as Europe has to face the consequences of changes in US foreign politics.
The shift from the “Obama Dogma”, in Washington that is characterized by neoliberal tendencies, to the “America First” of Donald Trump and his ad hoc, à la carte dealing with foreign policy and economic relation issues will affect Europe both directly and indirectly through a series of developments.
A US Re-Orientation (?)
The Trump administration’s vision of the US being released from its global “supervisor” role, the previous efforts to depart unconditionally from the policy of free trade and the push to leave behind Obama Era agreements, are the landmark of the last few months’ political proceedings.
The decisions to leave UNESCO and the Paris Agreement (COP 21) and Trump’s 2015 questioning of the Iran Deal set the tone for the White House’s new approach.
In the meantime, EU trade relations become a ‘hot potato’ after TTIP talks failed. While the Obama Administration triumphed over TTIP, Trump’s election put to death all further negotiations while talks regarding NAFTA have become similarly unpopular in Washington, with the future of the agreement remaining unclear.
A new EU Position
Under these changing conditions, Europe is called to assume a leading role in geopolitical issues reaching out beyond its territory. Numerous analysts argue that Angela Merkel is (if she has not already) to become neoliberalism’s global watchdog after Barack Obama. However, such a role cannot realistically be assumed immediately or automatically inherited due to the plethora of EU internal issues. As Europe finds itself amidst a pivotal crisis and at a historic turning point, Merkel and Macron continue to search for the optimal ratio of reform for both Union and Eurozone.
European Institutions have been called to serve in a time of crucial geopolitical change when internally; their vitality is challenged by the rise of far-right populism, by secessionist tendencies and lack of confidence of the European demos against the governing institutions.
The View Towards the Future
In the near EU Relations with the US are expected to be once again in turmoil as a series of key developments unfold. Adding to the EU’s own battlefronts, Trump not only threatens the inviolability of the Iran Deal-which Europe also wants to ensure-but also continues to spread insecurity through his handlings with Afghanistan, North Korea, Syria and also Moscow.
Nevertheless, Transatlantic relations have not yet been irreversibly damaged, nor to a degree that would support the existing fear of their complete annihilation. Europe continues to be America’s closest and most important ally. Co-operation with Europe (particularly Germany) remains vital to the advance of fundamental Trump administration priorities. In this vein, hope is pinned to US-German relations to benefit further co-operation when it come down to topics such as international trade relations and regulation, a matter dominated by the control (if not containment) of China’s rising global influence.
Merkel’s re-election simultaneously is a cause for relief and brings a sense of security in the US as the Chancellor is estimated- by Washington- to be a predictable and stable action-taker, especially as far as Russia is concerned. The time to follow will undoubtedly be interesting, as on one hand both Trump and Macron settle in their roles–while the world gets a better grasp of the “Trump experience”, and as a newly elected government in Berlin is being formed. These are developments that will seal the future of US-EU relations in a period that global changes are both enormous and volatile.