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EU needs to redefine relationship with US on a more equal footing and strengthen its autonomy


11 Oct 2021


Global Europe

Today, the European Parliament held a debate on the future of EU-US relations. For the S&Ds, the US remains the EU’s closest and most important strategic partner, and we are ready to work with the US for a strong new transatlantic alliance, particularly to promote policies and values dear to progressive forces. But at the same time, the S&Ds insisted in the debate that the EU should seek to redefine its relationship with the US on a more equal footing, standing up for its own values and interests, and reinforcing its autonomy.

Tonino Picula MEP, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the US and the S&D spokesperson on foreign affairs, said:

“The election of President Biden last November provided much relief and optimism in the EU. But after the honeymoon, we now have to reinvent the relationship with our most important strategic partner. This debate and my report could not be timelier. I firmly believe that only with a strengthened transatlantic partnership will we be able to reinvigorate the multilateral world order and tackle common challenges like fighting climate change or resisting assertive authoritarians undermining our democracies.

“However, we must accept that the transatlantic relationship we have known for most of the post-WWII period has irrevocably changed. Biden’s mishandling of withdrawal from Afghanistan and the security agreement between US, UK and Australia (AUKUS), are just the latest manifestations of a deeper and longer process, with Washington focused primarily on its on national agenda. The EU needs to mature and seek to redefine its relationship with the US on a more equal footing. This means standing up for our own interests whenever needed, but also taking greater responsibility. We must reinforce both the EU’s autonomy of decision and its autonomy of action, from soft power to smart power.

“A strategically autonomous Union will serve its citizens best and also be better partner for the United States!”

Pedro Marques MEP, S&D vice-president responsible for foreign affairs, added:

“There can be no doubt that the US remains the closest and most important strategic partner of the EU. We also acknowledge that very important steps have been taken by Biden’s administration in regard to multilateralism, from re-joining the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization to the global agreement on corporate tax under the OECD.

“However we must not turn a blind eye to disappointing actions, from the unilateral and non-coordinated withdrawal from Afghanistan to the AUKUS agreements in the South Pacific. Our shared values with the US do not always converge or translate into common interests. The EU must stand united, speak with one voice and be able to stand up for its values and interests in the global arena.”

Bernd Lange, MEP, S&D spokesperson for EU-US trade relations and chair of the European Parliament's trade committee, said:

"It's clear that the honeymoon phase is over. As in every relationship, we need to have open and frank discussions on where we want this partnership to go. Events surrounding the AUKUS deal show that we in the EU need to take the concept of open strategic autonomy seriously. While we have a positive and forward-looking agenda with the US, of which the Trade & Technology Council is an excellent example, we also shouldn't be naïve: we still have bilateral trade irritants and we need to discuss them as equal partners with our own particular interests. In this regard, I hope a solution on the steel and aluminium tariffs can be found soon. As is the case for every relationship, there are ups and downs but it takes commitment from both partners and willingness from each one to look each other in the eye and to compromise to make it work."