Debate hears optimism for renewed transatlantic relations

Ljubljana – There are high hopes for relaunching transatlantic relations after Joe Biden’s win in the US presidential election, a debate held by the European Parliament Information Office in Slovenia heard on Tuesday. Participants said that respect for human rights, the rule of law and liberal democracy was again becoming key on both sides of the Atlantic.

The debate featured US Democratic senator Bob Menendez, MEPs David McAllister and Danuta Hübner (both EPP), Slovenian MEPs Tanja Fajon (S&D/SD) and Klemen Grošelj (Renew/LMŠ), and former High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.

Menendez, a member of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said that Biden’s incoming administration would renew transatlantic relations, announcing a return to “basic common values”.

Mogherini welcomed this, saying that the EU would hence no longer be lonely in its efforts to guard these values.

MEP McAllister, the chair of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, said that outgoing US President Donald Trump had done a lot of damage to transatlantic relations, highlighting the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the Iran nuclear deal and the Open Skies Treaty as prime examples of such damage.

He also pointed out that there was no other country besides the US and Canada with whom the EU shared so many values. McAllister is certain that in the coming weeks cooperation will be strengthened in key areas, such as Covid-19 response, multilateralism, climate change and international security.

MEP Hübner, a member of the European Parliament Committee on International Trade, said that Biden’s arrival to the White House would not magically solve all the open issues in transatlantic relations, pointing to nationalism as a major problem on both sides of the Atlantic.

“Trumpism is still very much alive,” MEP Fajon said, adding that one needed to stay realistic, however it was promising for the relations that the Trump “nightmare has ended”.

MEP Grošelj called for building the future on shared values, such as human rights and the rule of law. He said that Europe would first need to do its homework when it came to Poland and Hungary, highlighting that a mechanism tying EU funds to respecting the rule of law should remain.

Senator Menendez said that the US planned to re-enter the Paris climate accord, but not the Iran nuclear deal in its current state, adding that the latter should be upgraded.

Mogherini thinks the EU could play a mediator role in the process of amending the deal. She said that trust would need to be re-established first, adding that would be a difficult task.

Menendez is optimistic that the EU and the US will succeed in tackling all future challenges and close ranks, particularly in their relations with China.