State of the Union: Why Biden is Europe’s only cause for optimism

A veto by Poland and Hungary this week plunged the European Union into one of its classic artificial crises.

The two countries blocked the long-term EU budget and the coronavirus bailout over concerns that the newly negotiated rule of law mechanism would be directed against them.

Efforts to keep the urgently needed rescue package on track are now moving into stoppage time after a fruitless EU video summit, while the clock is ticking mercilessly.

There was no progress on the subject of Brexit either, and the clock is ticking here too. The transition period expires on December 31, but the last session of the European Parliament, which has to sign a deal, will take place on December 16.

So wherever you look, there is little optimism – the sun is only shining again on future transatlantic relations.

After Donald Trump was voted out of office in the USA, a collective sigh of relief was heard in Europe.

It is certain that US President-elect Joe Biden will advocate the usual close transatlantic relationship.

But how close should this relationship be? French President Emmanuel Macron is campaigning for the strategic independence of Europe – and has received applause and criticism for it.

Our interview with Enrico Letta, President of the Delors Institute in Paris and former Italian Prime Minister.

Euronews: Was Trump’s tenure just a bad dream for transatlantic relations and are we returning to close ties with Washington under Joe Biden?

Letta: I think there is scope today to improve the transatlantic alliance, there is a great need for this all over the world. With the pandemic, we are going through the first crisis in which we did not have a transatlantic dialogue and joint transatlantic coordination. But that’s exactly what we need. The four Trump years were not only a nightmare, but also a reality that created a great distance between Europe and the US.

Euronews: The leading voice for strategic independence is Emmanuel Macron. Not exactly surprising, because France’s leaders since De Gaulle have always been suspicious of America’s role in Europe. What’s new about Macron’s thinking?

Letta: I think Macron’s thinking is the opposite of De Gaulle’s, because Macron mainly thinks in European dimensions, while De Gaulle primarily pursued national interests. For Macron, however, European solidarity and the European context are always important. The possibility of getting strategic European autonomy today is great and important, but not because of Trump. Let me remind you that the EU’s declaration on its new global strategy was made in June 2016 – before the election of Trump.

Euronews: The idea that Europe should act more independently relates not only to security, but also to the formation of global corporate giants that can take on rivals from the US and China. Is that realistic or just a Franco-German tool to better pursue their national interests?

Letta: It would be a mistake to accept the latter. It is crucial that Europeans work together on a global scale, especially in the fields of technology and communication. I would be very happy to create a European tech giant that could come from a merger of Nokia and Ericsson – why not? It would be a fatal thing for Europeans. And it is just as important that France and Germany work together in the interests of the European Union, as they have already done. Namely with their support for the Next Generation EU initiative in spring. They should continue on this path.

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