ROME: What does the future hold for transatlantic relations? That question arises with every new American administration. Because worries about a “widening Atlantic” gap have existed since the early 1970s, it is tempting to proceed as if transatlantic relations will remain on roughly the same wavelength as before. The truth is, however, that the US and the EU are rapidly evolving along their own paths: both sides of the Atlantic thus face the challenge of managing an ever more complex relationship.
Two other temptations must also be resisted. On the European side is the temptation to speed the emergence of the Union as an international actor by constantly claiming autonomy or independence from the US. Lingering anti-American undertones, of course, will invariably surface for, as in any long unbalanced relationship, the junior partner will tend to make declaratory statements that generate misperceptions.
Europeans should not succumb to this temptation, for the move from dependency to equal partnership is not measured by rhetoric. Instead, Europeans must assume a fairer share of the transatlantic burden, putting in place a truly common European foreign policy, and think and act as a regional power with a global outreach. If the Euro succeeds as a global currency, which I believe it will, and if Europe’s rapid reaction force becomes a reality soon, as I also think it will, the EU will have secured the preconditions for a more equal partnership – literally by putting its money (and soldiers) where its mouth is.
On the American side, the temptation is to overplay its “sole superpower” role by acting unilaterally. But this is loneliness disguised as leadership and is not in America’s interest. National interests can no longer be effectively pursued unilaterally; US global interests are served best by multilateral action and bodies.