Rewiring the trans-Atlantic relationship

Following Barack Obama’s election, the intellectual market has filled up with policy papers about how the U.S and Europe can cooperate on substantive issues like China, Russia, CT, climate change etc. But little time has been devoted to the way in which the EU and the U.S cooperate, that is, the institutions of the trans-Atlantic relationship.

NATO will continue to have an important role in the Euro-Atlantic community, but the North Atlantic Alliance is no longer the place where Americans or Europeans go to talk about big strategic questions. This is true not only for non-military topics such as the global financial crisis or climate change, but also for classic foreign policy problems.

In this paper I — and two other colleagues — have tried to lay out what kind of new institutions could boost U.S-EU cooperation. Recommendations include:

  • That the President of the United States be invited once a year to the European Council
  • Back-to-back EU and NATO summits
  • That the US Secretary of State join the GAERC twice a year
  • That American Cabinet officials be invited to European Commission meetings from time to time
  • That US/PSC discussions be held alternately in Brussels and Washington.
  • “Double-hatting” the EU Head of Delegation in Washington as an EU Special Representative
  • Establishing a small European Legislatures Liaison Office in Congress, comprising representatives from the EP and national legislatures, as well as setting up Congress/EP task forces on key issues like Afghanistan/Pakistan and climate change.
  • Setting-up a US-EU Conflict Prevention Task Force, with a permanent secretariat housed in Brussels.
  • Establishing a NATO/EU School for Conflict, Post-Conflict and Stabilisation to provide training for deploying personnel

New transatlantic institutions cannot in themselves help the EU develop policies or come up with a better way of thinking strategically about foreign policy issues; but at a time of considerable transatlantic policy convergence, the absence of a solid framework for US-EU discussion will see both sides miss out on a valuable opportunity for cooperation on shared challenges.