News Overview 2017

Europe's Future in the Face of Transatlantic Challenges

How are European countries standing up for their own interests in dealing with the USA? This was the topic of discussion among foreign policy experts at an event hosted jointly by The Brookings Institution and the Robert Bosch Stiftung as part of a wider initiative. Other issues discussed included Russian aggression, trade, immigration, and relations with the USA.
Stephan Strothe | September 2017
The reason for expanding the existing cooperation between the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the U.S. think tank was already made clear in the introductory remarks at the packed auditorium of The Brookings Institution in Washington, DC: According to the opening speakers at the second high-profile event of the Brookings – Robert Bosch Foundation Transatlantic Initiative (BBTI), Bruce Jones of The Brookings Institution and Christian Hänel of the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the transatlantic partnership was seeing one of the most challenging periods of the past decades.

Relaunch of Europe

The first part of the conference was dedicated to "The Future of Europe" and the continent’s current challenges, which were discussed by a panel of international experts. In light of the upcoming federal elections in Germany and the anticipated first-time representation of the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in parliament, the BBTI’s focus for 2017 – the "resurgence of nationalism and xenophobia in European politics" with a comparative perspective on developments in the United States – seemed especially relevant.

Constanze Stelzenmüller, Robert Bosch Senior Fellow at Brookings, expressed concern at this prospect. At the same time, the lawyer and expert in foreign and security policy and strategy expected the involvement of the AfD in parliamentary structures to "show up the inherent weaknesses of this party."

Celia Belin is a Visiting Fellow at the Center on the United States and Europe (CUSE) of The Brookings Institution and a former member of the planning committee of the French State Department. In her opinion, France’s President Emmanuel Macron would be capable of staging a "relaunch of Europe" as he was the head of government with the clearest vision for the future and autonomy of the European Union. At the same time, Macron could build a transatlantic bridge between the EU and the USA, also because France had argued since long before Donald Trump’s election that Europe needed to step up its military commitment to defend the continent. However, Ms. Belin did point out that, following initial euphoria, President Macron’s approval rating had slumped significantly over the past few weeks and the president was under heavy pressure to deliver results.

Turkey still "heading west"

William Drozdiak, Nonresident Senior Fellow at the CUSE, stated that he expected Chancellor Merkel and President Macron to step up their commitment to the Eurozone directly after the German elections. However, he expressed concern about the negative implications of a multi-speed Europe, arguing that it was vital to prevent a situation where people outside of the currency union, especially in central and eastern Europe, felt treated like "second-class Europeans."

Commenting on the tensions between Berlin and Ankara, Kemal Kirisci, Director of the Turkey Project at the CUSE, made a case for not reducing the German-Turkish relationship to a single person. Economically and as part of international organizations such as the WTO, IMF, and NATO, Turkey continued to be "heading west." It was also worth listening to the pro-European voices in Turkey, including even a few within President Erdogan’s cabinet.

Though often overlooked in current news coverage and at international conferences, the general mood in many European countries was actually decidedly pro-European, even enthusiastic, Ms. Stelzenmüller pointed out. Unfortunately, these rays of hope were overshadowed by the increasing threat to Europe’s democratic party structures and the government system of representative democracies from politicians who were trying to circumvent these with the aid of social media.

See here for the full discussion on "The Future of Europe."

„Let’s make globalization great again“

In the subsequent keynote discussion between Strobe Talbott, President of The Brookings Institution, and Victoria Nuland, Nonresident Senior Fellow at Brookings, the latter raised exactly this issue: Referring to social media, the former head of the Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia at the U.S. State Department called for a "Bretton Woods Agreement for the digital age," similar to the Geneva Convention to protect Western democracies and the privacy rights of their citizens. When it came to the protection and information of their citizens, France and Germany were clearly a step ahead of the USA, she stated.

See here for the full keynote discussion on the global role of the West.

For Strobe Talbott there was no doubt as to the most pressing transatlantic challenge and danger to the EU: "We are in the midst of a new cold war with Russia," he said, referring both to the demonstrations of military power and the massive cyberattacks, which Western intelligence services considered a key element of President Vladimir Putin’s anti-EU approach. Mocking the current US president’s campaign slogan, Talbott’s closing words were: "Let’s make globalization great again!"

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Welcoming approx.150 guests: Bruce Jones, Vice President and Director of the Foreign Policy Program at The Brookings Institution ...