Joe Biden: will he bring a fresh transatlantic wind?

Joe Biden seems likely to represent a return to a better and more harmonious transatlantic relationship; we should now stand together to champion global democracy and fairness, argues Nicolae Ştefănuță.
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By Nicolae Stefanuta

Nicolae Stefanuta (RO, RE) is a member of Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer

24 Dec 2020

For we Europeans, the election of Joe Biden as US president is about the future of democracy. Basically, the way in which the US conducts itself from now on will be crucial for the credibility of democracy throughout the world. During the election campaign, the Democrats tried to show America that Joe Biden is a decent human being.

On 3 November, the US chose humane liberalism over stone cold wins, insularism, and alternative ‘truths’ shouted at the top of one’s lungs in the face of facts. This is good news. We know what Trump brought to the table; a transactional model based on barter and negotiation, which he applied across the board, internally and externally.

he core of the NATO alliance was called into question, Europe was no longer seen as a strategic ally, the Paris Agreement was abandoned, and doubt was cast over climate change itself. The World Trade Organization is in chaos, and lots of other international bodies have been weakened.

“It is only through such a global alliance of the US and the EU will the rise of authoritarianism in the world be stemmed”

The transatlantic partnership, as deep and strong as it was, changed during the Trump era. Cooperation has become more transactional, and the trust between allies was at its lowest at times when both the EU and the US faced challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change or the reform of the global trading system.

Biden, fortunately, seems to understand the importance of both the US and the EU working together to counter these challenges. He offers a political programme with renewed impetus for the multilateral world. Biden also appears committed to safeguarding and strengthening the WTO, the WHO and reforming NATO, to become leaner and better suited to the present challenges. He will continue the policy of strengthening the Eastern Flank, as well as the plans for military investment projects in Romania, Poland and the neighbouring region.

Those who know Anthony J. Blinken, Joe Biden’s choice for the position of Secretary of State, know that he has deep roots in Europe and is in favour of maintaining stronger ties with the EU. Biden will, however, expect the European Union to bear greater responsibility for its own security and that of its neighbourhood.

And even if the EU is currently split between those who think we need the US and those who think we should rapidly develop our own defence capacities; I believe it is time to do both; a stronger European Union will only reinforce the Transatlantic Alliance.

Furthermore, Biden has declared that he’s going to organise a much needed “summit of democracies” meant to re-energise human rights and strengthen democratic institutions throughout the world. It is only through such a global alliance of the US and the EU will the rise of authoritarianism in the world be stemmed. Democracy will only be true if we choose to cultivate it, if we work on it - there can be no democracy without (lowercase) democrats.

President-elect Biden has also announced that, on his first day in office, he will act to see that the US re-joins the Paris Agreement. It is clear that a stronger transatlantic partnership will also depend on the willingness of the US administration to actively engage in efforts to reach carbon neutrality.

Biden will have help; he seems likely to nominate one of the leading architects of the Paris Agreement, John Kerry, as his climate envoy. However, we must not expect a return to Obamaera policies. Biden is a different and, in many ways, a more conservative than Obama. Some US policies (including those on trade, protectionism, China, domestic investment, etc.) may not differ much from those of the former administration.

“The future of the transatlantic partnership depends both on how the Biden administration will choose to treat its allies and on how its allies choose to engage in reforming the international order”

It was said that Trump’s biggest foreign policy mistake was how he treated his allies. I agree. Common challenges will continue to exist and so will disagreements and divergences. The future of the transatlantic partnership depends both on how the Biden administration will choose to treat its allies and on how its allies choose to engage in reforming the international order, and in promoting and protecting democratic fundamental values.

Whether we like it or not, we Europeans lack the strength and the moral authority on our own to fight and advance around the world a system based on the rule of law, parliamentary democracy and a free society and economy. We need, by our side, the very symbol of these values: the United States, along with their President.

Now it seems that we have that, let us remember one thing: friends tell each other the truth - under any circumstances. As the world struggles to emerge from recession, let there not be a recession in values, which are the base of our economic and democratic success. The transatlantic partnership stands exactly for that.

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