Transatlantic Cooperation

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The Transatlantic Community

The "Transatlantic Community" is a term that describes the complex set of institutions, forms of cooperation, shared values, and strategic views that shape the relationship between the United States and Europe.

The Transatlantic Community's best known institutional expression is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but it also includes the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the "Group of Eight" (G-8), the US-EU consultative structures, and New Transatlantic Agenda institutions. At the community's foundation lie deep commonalities in the history and societal structures of Europe and the US. Such commonalities make possible not only shared values and interests, but also shared perspectives and collaborative strategies for promoting those values and realizing those interests.

To follow recent developments in transatlantic community issues, see Transatlantic Community News.

Is the Transatlantic Community still relevant after the Cold War?

The Transatlantic Community's most prominent institution, NATO, has proven itself capable of outliving what most saw as its primary mission -- deterring the Soviet Union. Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has undergone a dramatic internal and external transformation. Eastern European countries from the former Soviet bloc have joined the Alliance, which has also acquired new roles such as peacekeeping and disaster relief.

Most recently in March 2011, NATO engaged in a military intervention in Libya. Seventeen nations in total committed forces led by France and the United Kingdom with additional leadership from the United States. By initiating airstrikes, a naval blockade, and a no-fly zone over the country, NATO forces helped stabilize Libya in response to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's use of his military forces to shoot down civilians protesting his rule across the country. He was forced out of power months after NATO began its intervention.

The economy is one of the major areas in which we can see the transatlantic community at work. The transatlantic economy, indeed, represents the most significant bilateral economic relationship in the world, and it is a defining feature of the global economy. In spite of the rise of large, third-party economic players, the US and the EU account for by far the bulk of world trade and investment. Trade between the two amounts to over $2.2 billion (€1.47 billion) per day. The EU and the US each account for over one-fifth of the other’s bilateral trade, and foreign direct investment between the two makes up almost 60% of the global total. In 2007, European investment represented 42% of global investment in the US, and over half of all private US direct investment went to the EU.

The special nature and importance of the transatlantic relationship also allows the US and Europe to act as the driving force in key multilateral institutions. Whether the subject is politics, security, economics, or academic debate, the US and Europe often set the agenda of such diverse organizations as the UN, the World Trade Organization, the OSCE, and the OECD. Agreement or disagreement between the US and Europe largely determines the effectiveness and success of these organizations.

It is impossible to say that there is always agreement in the transatlantic community. Strategic divergences over the Middle East, the rise of new global players like China and India, disputes over climate change and the International Criminal Court, and the disagreement over the war in Iraq have all caused some commentators to discount the transatlantic relationship. Nevertheless, in the long run most disagreements are resolved, and the strengths of the transatlantic community far outweigh its weaknesses. The continuing desire for cooperation reveals the depth and persistence of the transatlantic community's ties. As Edouard Balladur, former French Prime Minister and author of For A Union of the West, affirms:

Even if differences of position of interest exist between the United States and Europe ... a basic solidarity remains between them. This solidarity is marked by the struggle for peace, for the defense of a specific political and moral civilization, and a struggle against poverty, nuclear proliferation and terrorism. Everything that weakens one weakens the other.”

The US and the EU have displayed a notable ability to evolve and adapt to new challenges. Remarkable achievements of economic and security cooperation have taken place over the past several years, even during times when the transatlantic partnership was being questioned. Not only did the Transatlantic Community survive the end of the Cold War era, it has expanded and increased in importance by undertaking new commitments and initiatives.

Continued Development in the Transatlantic Community

The 1990s saw an extensive, ambitious institutionalization of transatlantic relations across all levels of government as well as civil society. In 1990 the Transatlantic Declaration formalized the relations between the EU and the US and introduced annual US-EU presidential summits.

An important milestone was the launch of the New Transatlantic Agenda (NTA) in December 1995. The NTA aimed at unprecedented heights of institutional integration at every level of transatlantic cooperation. The New Transatlantic Agenda remains a major institutional framework of transatlantic relations today. The Agenda’s introduction says it best:

"Today we face new challenges at home and abroad. To meet them, we must further strengthen and adapt the partnership that has served us so well. Domestic challenges are not an excuse to turn inward; we can learn from each other's experiences and build new transatlantic bridges. We must first of all seize the opportunity presented by Europe's historic transformation to consolidate democracy and free-market economies throughout the continent."

The NTA established four major goals: 1) promoting democracy and development around the world; 2) responding to global challenges; 3) contributing to the expansion of world trade and closer economic relations; 4) building bridges across the Atlantic. As the time has passed active cooperation between the EU and the US has expanded. It now includes economic and trade relations, counterterrorism, crisis management, energy and energy security, the environment, research and development, and education and training.

The main outcome of the New Transatlantic Agenda was the establishment of regular US-EU Summits. However, the NTA also created important Transatlantic Dialogues that connected various communities in the US and Europe to promote effective policies on both sides of the Atlantic.

The US and the EU face many economic and security challenges, yet such difficulties often represent a powerful motive behind the evolution of the Transatlantic Community and its institutions. The increased terrorist threat has revealed differences in European and American approaches to combating terrorism, but it has also brought about enhanced security cooperation between the US and the EU. Concrete, institutional steps have been taken to establish Transatlantic Homeland Security. Similarly, economic globalization has sparked investment and new opportunities in areas other than the transatlantic regions. At the same time, however, world trade and capital liberalization have provided opportunities to deepen transatlantic economic integration. New initiatives, such as the New Transatlantic Marketplace, established in 1998, have opened up the possibility of the eventual creation of a unified transatlantic market

Moreover, the global threat of climate change will be discussed in December at the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark. Environmental issues have created a lot of tension in the past, but now high commitment to solve the problem can be seen from both sides of the Atlantic.

A new opportunity to strengthen the transatlantic community has also arisen this year with the further evolution of the EU. After eight years of internal disputes and complex negotiations, all 27 member states of the EU have finally adopted the Lisbon Treaty. The treaty is scheduled to go into effect in December 2009 and will bring institutional reforms aimed at making the EU more efficient and effective. Many hope that the reforms will also enable the EU to speak with a unified voice and form a more coherent foreign policy. This would greatly facilitate cooperation with the US as well as other nations.

Transatlantic relations also warmed this year with the inauguration of US President Barack Obama, who has placed an emphasis on restoring goodwill and cooperation between the US and Europe. The European Parliament responded to his overtures by adopting a resolution on The State of Transatlantic Relations in the Aftermath of the US Elections in March 2009 (full text of the resolution). The resolution described the EU-US relationship as “the most important strategic partnership” for the EU and proposed that the New Transatlantic Agenda be replaced by a new transatlantic partnership with a better institutional architecture. In order to further strengthen ties between the US and the EU, the report proposes the establishment of a Transatlantic Political Council, continued progress towards creating a unified transatlantic market by 2015, closer coordination between EU and US monetary institutions, and a new transatlantic assembly to replace the Transatlantic Legislators’ Dialogue.

In conclusion, not only did the Transatlantic Community remain relevant after the end of the Cold War, it is becoming increasingly important in today’s globalized world. With the EU’s Lisbon Treaty soon to be in effect and the Obama administration placing greater emphasis on transatlantic relations, the future looks bright for the Transatlantic Community. It remains to be seen what new institutions will be devised to facilitate transatlantic cooperation, and if there will ever be a true transatlantic market or common foreign policy between the US and the EU. Nevertheless, it is certain that the US and the EU will continue to engage in discussion, cooperation, and collaboration in many areas.