The Ripon Forum

Volume 43, No. 3

Summer 2009 Issue

Securing Our Future

By on December 3, 2015

The EU-U.S. Partnership


Ambassador John Bruton

This year marks an important anniversary for the European Union. Twenty years ago, the Berlin Wall fell, opening the door to freedom for countries previously smothered beneath the Iron Curtain, and marking the beginning of the end of both the Cold War and the post-World War II division of Europe.

Much has changed in the EU since then. We have enlarged dramatically – from 12 to 27 Member State. The enlargement of the Union has been a hugely ambitious project, but it makes the European Union an ever more effective partner to the United States as we defend and extend our common values and interests. Like the U.S., the EU believes that democracy, freedom, respect for human rights, and the rule of law are necessary to ensure peace, security, and stability around the globe.

In my five years as European Commission Ambassador to the United States, we have witnessed great change for the better in EU-U.S. relations. We have removed significant trade barriers and partially liberalized the aviation sector. We have found ourselves increasingly working in tandem to tackle global security challenges, ranging from counterterrorism to climate change and the economic crisis.

Like the U.S., the EU believes that democracy, freedom, respect for human rights, and the rule of law are necessary to ensure peace, security, and stability around the globe.

The problem of nuclear weaponry on the south Asian sub-continent and the growing pace of nuclear enrichment by Iran pose a grave threat to the international nuclear non-proliferation system. The EU has already joined with the United States in putting pressure on Iran to abandon its present course, while recognizing that ways have to be found to meet Iran’s legitimate security concerns, integrate it into the global economy, and move toward a general reduction in nuclear weapons in South Asia and the Middle East.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty obligates current nuclear states to secure, reduce and eventually eliminate their arsenals. This is in accordance with the wishes of the world community and ought to be heeded by NPT signatories and non-signatory states alike. Without an effective NPT and robust controls, the risk of terrorists getting their hands on nuclear materials increases dramatically. Reinvigorating the NPT is the key to deploying nuclear power more widely for civilian purposes and addressing some of our energy security needs.

Science tells us that our time to reach a global agreement on climate change is very short, and the EU welcomes the current debate taking place in Congress about the best way to reduce emissions and foster renewable energy. Only if the U.S. makes clear commitments at the Copenhagen talks later this year will we be able to convince countries like India and China to limit their own CO2 emissions.

Actions taken to address climate change and energy security have the potential to not only contribute greatly to the health of our planet, but also to play a role in overcoming the current economic crisis by promoting new technology and new jobs. According to a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, “The clean energy economy, still in its infancy, is emerging as a vital component of America’s new economic landscape.”

But we cannot use climate change and clean energy to justify protectionist measures. The provision in the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which directs the Department of Energy to provide financial assistance to U.S. car manufacturers involved in the development and production of electric vehicles, but limits that financial assistance to American producers rather than leaving it open to the best and most competitive manufacturers, is both protectionist and wasteful.

In our highly interdependent global economy, protectionism by one country could bring down the whole WTO-based global trading system, so the EU and the U.S. must together lead the drive for open trade and investment. Protectionist measures that introduce one-sided restrictions on trade in the name of security would be equally dangerous; so too are restrictions on exports.

Increasing the cost of travel across the Atlantic, as proposed in the so-called “tourist tax” pending before Congress as part of the Travel Promotion Act of 2009, would not help build stronger economies, but would simply mean erecting a barrier between us. With the establishment of this entrance tax by the Congress, there could also be a demand for Americans to pay the same fees for travel to Europe, which could further depress transatlantic travel.

The WTO’s rule-based system must be strengthened to deal with threats to free trade, and economic stimulus should be applied where it creates capacity for sustainable future growth. Once we’ve got our economies back on a sound footing, we must prevent such a crisis in the future by designing a new regulatory system, and ensuring that the assets of the banking system are valued transparently.

Finally, we must prioritize the Middle East peace process. The two-state solution is the only viable way to proceed, and the time to put it in place is now. Palestinians have a right to a viable homeland, as Israelis do. Israel must have security, but that comes from building good relations with their Palestinian neighbors. Palestinians must strengthen their security institutions and suppress terrorism, and Israel’s other Arab neighbors must show that they accept Israel’s existence. The EU wants to work with the United States and the other Quartet partners to give this project the urgency it needs.

Nuclear proliferation, energy security, climate change, the global economic crisis, and the Middle East are challenges that can only be dealt with successfully through vigorous and cooperative EU-U.S. leadership. However, they will not be solved quickly or easily, and the generations that follow us must be prepared to work together to come to grips with such problems – and new challenges we can’t even imagine – as well.

Keeping the transatlantic relationship strong is vital, because whatever our minor differences, where the EU and the U.S. lead, others follow.

Activities like tourism, exchange programs, and the various dialogues in which the EU and U.S. engage are the keystone of long-term transatlantic relationship-building. Such ties can be further strengthened by secure, visa-free travel between the U.S. and all EU Member States. Currently, U.S. citizens can travel to all 27 EU Member States without a visa, but EU citizens from Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania still need a visa when traveling here.

Keeping the transatlantic relationship strong is vital, because whatever our minor differences, where the EU and the U.S. lead, others follow. We must continue to foster this indispensible partnership to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. RF

John Bruton is the European Union’s Ambassador to the United States.

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