What does Europe want from the United States?

What does Europe want from the United States?

Brussels Forum 2013 (German Marshall Fund) 

For the last decade, much of the transatlantic discourse has been driven by the question of what European partners can do to support U.S. strategy in key regions, and on critical issues. Successive U.S. administrations have pressed European governments to increase their defense spending, enlarge and extend their commitments in Afghanistan, and uphold a common front on the Iranian nuclear challenge. 

In the Balkans and North Africa, the United States has grown increasingly comfortable with the idea ofEurope taking the lead. Absorbed with its own economic challenges since 2008, the United States has taken an arms-length approach to Europe’s financial and political travails, but with a clear preference for stimulus over austerity. 

On a range of global issues, including climate policy, Washington has been reluctant to embrace an ambitious approach. The growing U.S. attention to Asia in strategic terms has only reinforced Washington’s interest in seeing Europe emerge as a more active and capable global actor. It has also spurred European anxiety about changing U.S. priorities.

The Hon. Franco Frattini, Justice and Chamber President, Italian Supreme Administrative CourtDr. Charles Kupchan, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign RelationsThe Hon. Artis Pabriks, Minister of Defence, LatviaMr. Pierre Vimont, Executive Secretary General, European External Action ServiceModerator: Mr. Peter Spiegel, Brussels Bureau Chief, Financial Times

In the session on what Europe wants from the United States, Franco Frattini, justice and chamber president of the Italian Supreme Administrative Court, said “a stronger Europe is in the interest of the U.S.” He explained that there “are some areas where Europe should lead” such as the Balkans, Mediterranean, and North Africa. “Now more than ever, American involvement is needed in North Africa, but Europe should take the lead.” 

Pierre Vimont, executive secretary general of the European External Action Service, said there is a disconnect between the two sides of the Atlantic. “Europe complains that the U.S. leadership is missing,” he said. “And the Americans strike back to say that Europe should be more forthcoming.” 

Latvian Minister of Defence Artis Pabriks echoed these statements, saying that the United States should not take Europe for granted. “The European interest is to remind from time to time the ‘old husband’ that the ‘old wife’ is still here,” he said.


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