December 10, 2018
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MEPs and the World

What's left in common

 US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson (4l) at a meeting in NATO's headquarters in Brussels on December 5, 2017. (Photo: Virginia Mayo EPA/AP POOL)

US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson (4l) at a meeting in NATO's headquarters in Brussels on December 5, 2017. (Photo: Virginia Mayo EPA/AP POOL)

Washington DC, Dec 7 (efe-epa).- Almost a year after Donald Trump's arrival in the White House, lawmakers of the United States and the European Union reviewed what is left in common, concluding that "our relationship is strong, strategic and unique. A strong transatlantic bond is crucial for us and for the world."

Washington hosted the EU-US Inter-Parliamentary Meeting of the Transatlantic Legislators' Dialogue at a time the Europeans considered important because the Republican-majority US Congress was capable of legislating hand-in-hand with a president from the same party.

In addition, Congress "is well placed to appreciate the strategic importance of the transatlantic relationship, which is being called into question by the new president," a source from the European Parliament told EFE.

Better together

"US and Europe are at their greatest when our partnership and those with others around the world are strong," says the final statement of the 81st meeting of the legislators from both sides of the Atlantic.

The joint statement reviews mutual ties and challenges, the situation in the world, the future of work and the digital economy, and cooperation in foreign affairs and security with a focus on Venezuela, Iran and North Korea.

The EU and US "remain fully committed to European security and to our strategic partnership," the legislators say.

Tehy welcomed the European Union's efforts to "boost" its defense spending and "the renewed commitment of NATO allies towards achieving the 2 percent goal of GDP defense spending," they add.

This expenditure, which has not yet been carried out by many European countries, has been one of the reasons for the complaint by Trump, who has warned that the US is not willing to shoulder the burden of Europe's security.

Cooperation within the NATO, the nuclear pact between the US, China, Russia and European Union with Iran, climate change, the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel...in less than 11 months, Trump has disrupted the international policy lines drawn up by Barack Obama and disconcerted most of the US allies around the world.

While the European Parliament's Delegation for relations with the United States of America was on a trip to Washington, the US' top diplomat, Rex Tillerson, visited Brussels and reiterated Trump's plans for Iran and North Korea.

Tillerson was silent when the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini asked the US to avoid "any action that would undermine" a two-state solution in the Middle East and seek a way to "resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states."

The following day, Mogherini was to forced to reiterate the EU's support of the two-state solution and reaffirm that the EU's position "remains unchanged" and expressed concern regarding Trump's announcement acknowledging Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and "the repercussions this may have on the prospect of peace."

The world "is not black or white"

The European lawmakers, led by German Christian Ehler of the European People's Party, tried to explain to their American counterparts that "this is not a black and white world as it had been described by the White House recently."

And they concluded that, despite everything, "what's important to see is the checks and balances in the United States are working," Ehler told EFE in an interview.

"It might be that the president from time to time comes up with relatively exotic tweets. But then, in institutional terms, the Congress is serving as a balancing instrument," he stressed.

An example of that, according to Ehler, was the decision announced by Trump in October to pull out the nuclear pact with Iran if that country did not correct its "defects" and controls over the government in Tehran were not tightened.

In reality, the European legislator said, the Administration has tossed the ball at Congress, which will have to see if the agreement is moving in the right direction.

The legislators' joint statement expresses deep concern of the US and the EU about the "broad range of threats that Iran continues to pose" and demands Iran's full compliance with its commitments.

Ehler explained that the EU did not blindly support the agreement and nor did the Americans believe with their eyes closed that it was not being respected but that it was a matter of strengthening it, of taking steps forward and that Iran comply to it.

The Americans "have to see that the negotiations and the nuclear treaty had been a big achievement in order to stabilize the situation in Iran," he added.

The deterioration of democracy in Venezuela - whose opposition was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament this year - and the condemnation of the "irresponsible provocations" of North Korea, were other areas on which the US Congressmen and MEPs could cooperate and featured, along with Iran, in a separate chapter of the final declaration.

For Ehler, what's important is that, since the end of World War II, the West has promoted values such as democracy, freedom of expression and respect for laws, whose defense is the very cornerstone of its global leadership.

For those values, the Western model is "still attractive" and it is not advisable, he warned, to send out "so many contradictory messages."

"I am not pessimistic about the role of the Western world (...) If you look at China and Russia, they are not places one would want to live," he said.

Russia, in his opinion, is "failing economically. China is different because it is economically attractive but, if you look at the younger generations, 'would they accept not having Google or social media?'"

By Rafael Salido

Translated by Parul Dua

 

DISCLAIMER

"The project was co-financed by the European Union in the frame of the European Parliament's grant programme in the field of communication. The European Parliament was not involved in its preparation and is, in no case, responsible for or bound by the information for opinions expressed in the context of this project. In accordance with applicable law, the authors, interviewed people, publishers or programme broadcasters are solely responsible. The European Parliament can also not be held liable for direct or indirect damage that may result from the implementation of the project."

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