The growing interest of the maximum representatives of the European Union and its member states is to strengthen European self-sufficiency in terms of defence, and to even create a European army, has caused concern in the United States, the main partner of European countries in the military and defence field for the moment. The initiative, promoted in particular by the German chancellor Angela Merkel and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, has been seen by the government presided by Donald Trump as a threat to NATO. A partly contradictory reaction bearing in mind that the current president of the United States has repeatedly reminded the countries of the European Union of its insufficient contribution to the common defence budget and its excessive dependence regarding NATO.
Faced with the American reaction, Europe has denied that the possible future army of the Union will be an alternative to NATO, as both will complement each other. In order to share opinions and initiatives regarding the reactivation of the common defence of the European Union and resolve misunderstandings with the transatlantic partner, and also to address other issues affecting global security, EU Security Studies Institute, The Dutch International Relations Institute(l’Institut Cligendael) and the Centre for New American Security organised a round table in Brussels on 3rd October. The objective was to debate and design common strategies for recent events that have an impact on global security and especially transatlantic relations, like the European Union’s role in the negotiations for denuclearisation between North Korea and the United States and Turkey’s posture in relation to NATO.
Both the speakers from the United States and those from European countries agreed on the fact that it was necessary to continue working in the same direction in order to address the questions that threaten the established and agreed international order.
During the first round table, dedicated to debating the future of transatlantic relations in terms of defence, the European speakers pointed out that the mission of the Union to be more autonomous could in no way be interpreted as a wish to be isolated and distanced from the USA. The members from the USA adopted a somewhat critical posture regarding the declarations of their president, and stressed the efforts made by the EU, although they did express certain concern about such efforts distancing it from Washington. Members from both sides of the Atlantic finally concluded that more clarification regarding the complementary roles of the European Union and NATO were necessary
In the second debate the important contribution of the European Union to the NATO budget was advocated, which is higher than 2% of the established GDP. Apart from the direct contribution, members pointed out that the sanctions imposed on the continent’s neighbouring countries involve a higher cost to the EU than to the United States. Several speakers regretted that Donald Trump’s vision of Europe as an enemy rather than an ally was impeding cooperation between the two entities, as it would appear that the president’s intention was to erode and weaken Europe.
During the lunch, the issue was the denuclearisation of North Korea and the role to be played by the European Union. From the start the point was raised that Pyongyang would agree to sit with the EU at the negotiation table due to the Asian country’s neutral vision and the fact that the EU envisaged no other mechanism than that of negotiation and peaceful measures was expressed. Moreover, the European Union could help North Korea to begin a hypothetical economic opening. Some speakers, however, were rather sceptical about the real possibility of denuclearisation in the country led by Kim Jong-un.
Finally, at the last round table the issue of the complicate relationship between the United States and Turkey was addressed. It was brought to light that the main reasons for the distancing between Trump and Erdogan were linked to the late reaction of the American government to the attempted coup d’état in 2016 and the arrest of the American pastor Andrew Brunson, and also due to the support that the United States gave to Syria for the People’s Protection Units (YPG), considered to be enemies of Turkey. The acquisition of Russian weapons by Turkey made relations even more difficult between Washington and Ankara. Nevertheless, the European speakers stated that they did not want to lose Turkey as a strategic ally for a range of geopolitical reasons.
After the meeting, it seems that neither the American experts nor those of the European countries had any interest in creating distance between the two entities when addressing threats to global security as such a scenario would weaken both Europe and the USA.