Cross-Atlantic, Interparliamentary and Civil Society dialogues are essential for strengthening EU-US relations

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After some major setbacks in recent years, the EU and the US now have a unique opportunity to re-establish a stronger partnership and friendship, based on joint democratic values, shared history and common interests.

The Follow-up Committee on Transatlantic Relations of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), chaired by its new President Christian Moos, met on 15 December, joined virtually by two distinguished keynote speakers: Radosław Sikorski, Member of the European Parliament and Chair of the Delegation for relations with the United States, and William Hurd, US Congressman for the Texas 23rd Congressional District.

The President of the EESC's External Relations Section, Mr. Dimitris Dimitriadis, conveyed the message of the importance that the EESC gives to Transatlantic Relations, also referring to the EESC's President's statement congratulating the President-elect Joe Biden and the Vice President-elect Ms. Kamala Harris.

In his speech, Mr Sikorski clearly stressed the crucial role of people-to-people contacts, including the Transatlantic Legislators' Dialogue (TLD) and more robust civil society cooperation in line with the new transatlantic agenda. He highlighted the importance of common responses to current global challenges, pointing out that the force of global cooperation is important, as issues cannot be tackled by any country alone. As he said, policy differences between the EU and the USA have not disappeared, but goodwill, equal footing and trust are a good start.

Congressman Hurd warmly supported the transatlantic dialogue, and said that that a new framework should be put forward for the relationship, as America leading is not America alone. We have to show capacity to build alliances. Mr Hurd stressed that it was imperative for the EU and the US to work together to tackle the strategic challenges presented by China's growing international assertiveness. Mr Hurd added that this was the right moment to intensify cooperation between the EU and the US especially in the fields of innovation and AI, as working together we could win this race. In his final remarks, he embraced the concrete proposals put forward by the European institutions on strengthening transatlantic relations and said that transatlantic partnership allowed all of us a standard of living and quality of life that no other civilisation has permitted. Let's keep that and work together.

STATE OF PLAY AND OUTLOOK FOR FUTURE TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONS

In the second part of the meeting, Peter Chase, Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the US, pointed out that an ambitious strategy and the right framework for the future were crucial for transatlantic economic relations, welcoming the potential creation of an EU-US Trade and Technology Council and stressing that a powerful economy will 'feed' civil society, think tanks, businesses and investments.

Matthias Jorgensen from the European Commission' DG Trade described the state of play between the EU and North America, mentioning the current trade disputes but emphasising the unique opportunity to find common responses, as listed in the European Commission's new transatlantic agenda: Working together for a healthier world – COVID-19 and beyond; Working together to protect our planet and prosperity; Working together on technology, trade and standards; and Working together towards a safer, more prosperous and more democratic world.

Further to that, Garrett Workman, Senior Director for European Affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce, commented that trade is the basis to reset a lot of wrongs done by the US policy during the last few years, stressing that common trade leadership is important to approach China. He highlighted the importance of resolving issues related to technology, data and digital taxation.

Tanja Buzek, as former President of the Transatlantic Relations Follow-up Committee, presented its past activities and expressed optimism with regard to the current developments encouraging stronger future cross-Atlantic civil society dialogue. 

BUILDING BRIDGES ACROSS THE ATLANTIC

"Building bridges across the Atlantic" is an ambitious project presented by Christian Moos, Karolina Dreszer-Smalec, Vice-President of the European Civic Forum and President of the National Federation of Polish NGOs (OFOP), and Jean-Marc Roirant, President of Civil Society Europe. The project highlights the role of civil society and the importance of its impact on the renewed transatlantic partnership. It is essential to connect people and their activities and make liberal voices heard on both sides of the Atlantic. Now more than ever, it is necessary to find common ground, identify solutions and avoid getting caught in disputes. Mr Moos particularly underscored that "there is a larger picture that we need to see, and civil society can look at the larger picture". Young people can make the difference, through education, sport and culture. The creation of a union to promote strategies and bring youth organisations together on education and culture could also build up the economy, an idea that should be taken on board by governments and institutions.

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Cross-Atlantic, Interparliamentary and Civil Society dialogues are essential for strengthening EU-US relations