Prof. Georgios Papastamkos
The Future of the Relationship between the EU and the US
- Managing Interdependence and Global Responsibility -
The transatlantic relationship: A legacy of mutual benefit and a challenging future
The transatlantic relationship, the centre point of Western Europe’s security and defence architecture as well as of its political and economic agenda for at least five decades, is characterised by symmetry in the economic power of the US and the EU and asymmetry in their international presence.
The starting premise of this statement is that the recent crisis in the Euro-Atlantic relations is the by-product of the unresolved question of how to manage interdependence. As such it has unquestionably prejudiced the continuity of the transatlantic security balance and has created new political and security challenges for the EU. Arguably, the EU may effectively meet these challenges only by devoting considerable energy and resources in the reform of its security and defence structures.
This statement offers some scenarios and policy proposals on the future orientation of the EU security and defence policy focusing on the transatlantic relationship.
The Transatlantic Declaration of 1995, adopted by EU and US, stipulates that NATO would remain the indispensable link between North America and Europe around which the transatlantic relationship would continue to revolve. As a result, the new European Security and Defence Identity was viewed as reinforcing the European pillar of NATO. This approach was reaffirmed as the cornerstone of the transatlantic relationship in NATO’s New Strategic Concept, enunciated in the 1999 Washington Communiqué. The European Security and Defence Policy (“ESDP”), as conceived in the Treaty of Nice as well as in the post-Nice process, has, arguably, overreached the boundaries of the 1990’s Transatlantic Consensus. Thereby, for the first time, the EU asserted itself as a security and defence entity that may act unilaterally having recourse to NATO’s assets.
Three scenarios for the ESDP and the transatlantic relationship
In this section, I provide three scenarios regarding the orientation of the ESDP, indicating the projected US reaction.
a. The static scenario: responding to new global challenges with shared responsibilities
The EU and the US reach a new understanding in a number of global challenges, including all forms of security (e.g., terrorism, humanitarian intervention), trade relations, and “Millennium Goals”. This understanding may be achieved through the reaffirmation of shared principles and aims that have underpinned the model of collective action in the post-cold war era.
This scenario necessitates the reinforcement of the role of the UN and NATO as main fora used for the formulation of a common strategy, in the context of the EU-US partnership. This will enable the two sides to preserve without substantial changes the strategic balance that has prevailed during the past decade. In accordance with this scenario, the EU and the US should reach a new understanding in responding to pressing global security challenges, such as the combating of transnational terrorism and the crystallisation of the doctrine of “humanitarian intervention”, through a process of transparent dialogue and constructive consultation. These two components could contribute to the prevention of further divergence in the EU and US interests in the field of international policy, on the one hand, and the deepening of the current feeling of alienation between the two sides, on the other hand.
b. The dynamic scenario: an autonomous ESDP
This scenario may only occur if the EU Member States, after enlargement, consent to participate in a “strong ESDP”, which may act autonomously from NATO’s defence capability. This will result in either to the considerable change in the foundations of the transatlantic relationship - where the two sides will act as co-operating, but autonomous partners, thus, leading to a new division of global responsibilities and capabilities - or to the formation of two systems of action, which will alternate between co-operation and competition.
c. The fragmented ESDP scenario: enhanced co-operation of some EU Member States
The occurrence of this scenario, although provided by the EU Treaty, will mean the fragmentation of the EU common external action. A fragmented ESDP will weaken the EU’s position and its role in the framework of the transatlantic partnership. This will release the forces of disengagement, reinforcing US unilateralism both within and outside the boundaries of the transatlantic relationship. In addition, closer security and defence cooperation between a few Member States (“a minor ESDP”) should further EU political integration and be guided by the principle of “an ever closer union”, and it should not be the result of temporary overreaction to the international political meteorology.
a. Global governance: transition from declarations to regulation and implementation
The common desire for shared action in response to global challenges may be fostered and materialised only if it is transposed from the declaratory stage to a comprehensive, transparent and stable institutional framework. Any increase in the number of fields of common action will have positive spill over effects in the enhancement and deepening as well as the widening of political cooperation.
b. Merging the EU foreign action into a single constitutional framework
The EU at first should reach a political consensus enabling it to form and follow a consistent and uniform position in the management of major global challenges and international crises. Merging all forms of EU foreign action (e.g., external economic relations, security policy and cooperation for development) within a single institutional setting should be viewed as the preferred option. This emerges as one of the major tasks and visions of the current European Convention and the upcoming IGC.
c. Reforming the UN
It is suggested that the EU and the US work together to reform the UN, including its organisational structure and the composition of the Security Council; its principles concerning international crises, humanitarian relief, combating international terrorism, transnational crime and drug trafficking, prevention of communicable diseases; and its policy responses towards debt relief for developing countries, environmental protection, and support of sustainable development.
d. Building bridges across the Atlantic and beyond
Major changes should be implemented in the framework of preventive diplomacy in order to facilitate the adoption of positive and effective policy initiatives in this area. In this manner, the US and the EU will discharge properly their responsibility to be active partners in effective distribution, globally, of the product of their partnership at the level of security and economic and social welfare.