Analysis

Boris Johnson will now take his turn at trying deliver the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union (EU), as he was elected on July 23 to replace British Prime Minister Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party. Johnson, who previously served as UK foreign secretary and mayor of London, will be named prime minister on July 24, replacing May who resigned on May 24 after being unable to get parliamentary support for her Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union.

Johnson, an outspoken supporter of Brexit, campaigned for Conservative leader on his ability to deliver Brexit by the October 31 deadline agreed to by the UK and the EU in April. “We are going to get Brexit done on October 31 and take advantage of all the opportunities it will bring with a new spirit of can do,” Johnson said on July 23.

The approval of a new digital service tax by the French Senate which takes aim at US tech firms may open a new digital front in a brewing trade war between the United States and its European allies. On the eve of the July 11 decision, the US administration announced it would launch an investigation into the French legislation and its treatment of US firms under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, which could allow US President Donald J. Trump to levy retaliatory tariffs and other measures against France. As the United States weighs its options and France digs in its heels, here are some key issues to keep in mind: 

French President Emmanuel Macron visited Serbia on July 15, the first such visit of a sitting French head of state since former President Jacques Chirac in 2001, only months after the fall of the regime of former Serbian President Slobodan Milošević. While the international landscape has seen dramatic shifts in the two decades since, including a return of great power politics, the European Union’s attitude toward the Balkans has changed less than many might think. While Serbia and Montenegro have opened EU accession talks with Brussels, the region seems as distant from the EU as ever.

While many European leaders have pushed back against US President Donald J. Trump’s criticism of multilateral organizations such as the United Nations (UN), World Trade Organization (WTO), and even the European Union itself, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte wants his colleagues to look at Trump’s rhetoric as an opportunity. “We have to make use of Trump’s criticism of these organizations to start to improve them. It is a much more constructive [approach],” he advised.

As Europe and the United States face off over trade, defense spending, and other high-profile disagreements, the foreign ministers of Central Europe signaled that they are ready to take the lead in repairing the vital transatlantic relationship.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council’s conference “The United States and Central Europe: Celebrating Europe Whole and Free” on July 17, ministers from the Visegrád countries—the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia—celebrated the deep relationship their countries have with the United States and stressed the importance of a strong transatlantic bond.

After years of disinterest and occasional disagreements, the United States has re-engaged with its allies in Central Europe at a time when their help is critical in confronting a revisionist Russia and a resurgent China, Ambassador Philip T. Reeker, the US acting assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said on July 17.

The anniversaries we mark this year represent great achievement, mixed with tragedy. 100 years of US relations with the newly-independent nations of Central Europe; eighty years from the start of the Second World War, in part the terrible consequence of US strategic withdrawal from Europe; thirty years since Central Europeans overthrew communism, which led to the end of “Yalta Europe”; twenty years since NATO’s first enlargement beyond the Iron Curtain, in which the United States played a leading role; and fifteen years since the European Union’s enlargement beyond that same line, led by Europeans and supported by the United States. 

Amidst rising discord between the United States and Europe over trade, financial contributions to NATO, and the threat from Iran, US policy makers should stop viewing Europe as a competitor, but rather as a friend whose prosperity and unity helps the United States, Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš said on July 10.

“The [European Union] is the United States’ most natural ally,” Kariņš said at an Atlantic Council event on July 10 in Washington. “It is a friend that you don’t have to gain…[but] it is a friend that you can lose,” he warned. “Europe without the United States and the United States without Europe are only half [powers]. Combined, [they are] the leading power in the world to protect these three fundamental [principles] that too many people take for granted: freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.”

London’s top representative in Washington has resigned his post after unprecedented pressure from the White House against a top US ally, the latest sign of an increasingly rocky special relationship.

Sir Kim Darroch, the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the United States since 2016, announced his resignation on July 10 after days of pressure over comments he made about US President Donald J. Trump in a series of secret diplomatic cables—leaked to The Daily Mail and published on July 6—that described the US president as “incompetent,” and his administration as “uniquely dysfunctional.”

Snap parliamentary elections in Greece on July 7 produced a victory for the political center, bucking a growing trend of populist victories across Europe. The triumph of the center-right New Democracy party and poor showing of extremist parties demonstrates that “Greece is now reinforcing the strength of the center in European politics, rather than fueling a move toward the fringes,” Atlantic Council Executive Vice President Damon Wilson said.



    

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