Can We Risk a ‘Fortress Europe’?
Angela Merkel spoke of divorce: “The times in which we can fully rely on others are somewhat over.” Her harsh words directed toward the current US president are in response to the aggressive policies of the new administration. Indeed, recent US policy has undermined the EU-US partnership, without taking account of the multiple consequences and risks of US isolation.
The EU and the US are leading trade partners and together account for almost half of global GDP. But the partnership extends far beyond economics and trade; it is also about values, security, and progress. Rising issues like terrorism and immigration create complex problems that require creative and collaborative thinking. Rather than opting for isolationism and protectionism, we need to encourage greater transatlantic cooperation.
The state of the EU and US partnership is worrisome. Tensions between EU member states and the US are increasing over the issue of ‘burden-sharing’ and the isolationist stand the US is taking. But can America afford to appear less credible and reliable internationally? In other terms, what would happen to the US if the EU decided to turn its back, and strengthen its unity by further protecting its market?
America should not accept actions and policies threatening its own interests: A strong and open Europe is one of them. Thus, by strengthening NATO and encouraging trade agreements, the United States can achieve substantial economic and diplomatic benefits. A withdrawal from European institutions would create a vacuum and open the way for other powers to lead whereas US engagement would reinforce US leadership.
In times of economic challenges, the US and the EU need to improve their trade ties. They need a comprehensive and environmentally-friendly accord. The TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) is an example of such cooperation as it aims at strengthening the economic partnership by boosting economic growth and setting high standards regarding health, safety, and environmental protection. Moreover, if an agreement on TTIP is reached, it would increase US GDP by around 0.4% per annum and EU GDP by 0.5%. Such economic improvement offsets continued US expenses in NATO.
Some argue that neither the TTIP nor closer ties with the EU are desirable. What can a European Union that is falling apart bring to the table? Although Euroscepticism and nationalism are sweeping the continent, we should not forget that despite the crisis, the EU remains a competitive economic giant. It shares our values and remains America’s best potential partner in these troubled times.
The consequences of an aggressive diplomacy toward the EU are already present. Facing what appears to be an isolationist and less reliable America, European leaders have stressed the importance of an integrated EU. America should never become the threatening factor that unites the EU; rather it should be the partner that plays a key role in this union. Failing in our partnership with Europe would result in unimaginable costs to the United States, both in terms of the economy and prestige.
We must reverse the current trend. We must reverse this path of fear and distrust between the US and its allies. We need to restore a path toward closer collaboration which is the only way to a more secure and promising future. America needs to reclaim its generosity, confidence, and optimism that have always defined its true identity. Strong ties with Europe strengthen America’s leadership and influence the building of a better, just and secure world.