LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Sobkow on Kurt Volker's "The 'Obama effect' has been to lay bare deep transatlantic tensions"
While European and U.S. political, economic, and military interests are very cloesely aligned, Europe is no longer an automatic priority for the Obama administration
I can only agree with Kurt Volker that while European and U.S. political, economic, and military interests are very closely aligned, Europe is no longer an automatic priority for the Obama Administration. Even though we are linked by shared institutions, identities and values, the relationship between the EU and the U.S. is weakening. Co-operation is needed more than ever because shifting power balances mean we will have to deal with countries that often don’t share our values and interests.
Washington sees the EU as slow and ineffective, and believes it doesn’t react fast enough to new problems and challenges. The EU will only count for the U.S. when there is a clear EU foreign policy position and when it acts as a coherent entity in trade and environmental negotiations. Even with the Lisbon treaty in place, the EU continues to struggle to reach consensus on major foreign policy issues.
Washington is not impressed by the EU’s failure to develop a global and comprehensive foreign policy agenda and by its tendency to make foreign policy decisions on a case by case basis. The U.S. is worried about the imbalance between soft EU power and hard EU power. Though the EU is an economic giant, it is a political pygmy and a military worm – a payer not a player. We need both an economic Europe and a political Europe – economic reforms to enhance competitiveness, and political reforms to make the EU more effective, democratic and powerful. To count in Washington, we need a Union that produces results, and adapts to new circumstances. We should aim to match our priorities in the Common Foreign and Security Policy with quick decisions on which resources are important and which aren’t. The EU needs to develop a robust foreign policy agenda, while at the same time taking advantage of the change in the U.S. Administration to enhance transatlantic co-operation. The EU should play to its strengths by providing a model of global and regional governance, it should establish proper EU defence structures which deal with capabilities, intelligence, and planning. The EU should work closer with NATO, without making the latter redundant, and use its military strength, in parallel with the soft-power tools the EU knows best.
If we don’t put these measures in place, the EU will remain an economic behemoth with 27 armies and foreign policies – but not a superpower. Our common actions will have more impact if we unite to speak with one voice.