Summary of the breakout conversation “U.S.-EU Strategic Dialogue” at the 2009 Annual Members’ Conference.


Mr. James Elles, Member of European Parliament; Atlantic Council Individual Member
Hon. Marc Grossman,* Vice Chairman, The Cohen Group; Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
Hon. Robert Hutchings,* Diplomat in Residence, Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs, Princeton University; Member, Atlantic Council Strategic Advisors Group
Moderated by Dr. Frances Burwell, Vice President and Director, Transatlantic Relations Program, Atlantic Council


This session was held under Atlantic Council Rules, defined by President and CEO Frederick Kempe as “Chatham House Rules with military enforcement.”  Below is a general summary of the topics discussed.

The European Parliament recently declared that the United States is the European Union’s most important global partner.  Yet this fact is not represented in existing mechanisms for transatlantic cooperation.  The Cold War cemented the United States and the European Union in a strategic relationship.  However, since the downfall of the Soviet Union, the transatlantic relationship has been put on the back burner and as a result the ability for the U.S. and EU to work together to address global challenges has suffered. 

With the evolution of the international system, the changing nature of the European Union itself, and the rise of a host of new challenges, the U.S. and EU must work to create new mechanisms and structures to codify our common values and strategic operations. The Transatlantic Economic Council, which was founded in 2007 to foster U.S.-EU economic integration, is a good start.  Yet we now need to press forward to create what will amount to a new transatlantic strategic concept.  

The National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2025 report tells us that the geopolitical balance of world power is drifting to the East, and the world is becoming more multipolar than at any point since the 19th century. North America and Europe are not only declining relative to the global population, they are also losing their role as chief engines of the global economy.  Other challenges such as climate change, nuclear proliferation, energy security and humanitarian catastrophes will only grow more severe in the coming years. 

Yet had there been a transatlantic framework for combating genocide, the Darfur crisis might have been averted. With no common strategy for addressing energy issues, it will be difficult to use the combined weight of the U.S. and EU to push for a speedy and successful completion of the Nabucco pipeline. With no common environmental policy, we are in danger of another wasted opportunity on climate change in the upcoming Copenhagen climate conference. 

There are both challenges and opportunities facing us in creating a new transatlantic strategic concept.  Comprehensive NATO-EU cooperation is lacking, and policymakers in Washington have been wary of the ESDP. However, with France’s return to NATO Washington no longer fears an ESDP-NATO turf war, and the NATO-EU gridlock over Cyprus should be easier to thaw.  Also, if the Lisbon Reform Treaty passes an Irish referendum on 2 October, the EU will come into its own as a comprehensive transatlantic partner and a relevant global power.  The EU will need time to consolidate and adapt to the Lisbon changes, but in the buildup to the U.S.-EU summit in May 2010, both sides must work to prepare the groundwork for renewed strategic cooperation. 

Is the solution a transatlantic council, a treaty, or some other document?  That will require intensive discussions by policymakers from both sides of the ocean. What is clear is that the transatlantic alliance contains over 800 million people with similar values who face similar challenges.  With the need and will for cooperation apparent, we must now only seize the initiative.

Summary by Nicholas Siegel, Assistant Director, Transatlantic Relations Program