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Europe voted
The Americans didn't care

European politics is something for foreign policy gourmets in Washington, the European elections were largely a non-event.

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For the average American, who is already distant and suspicious of US foreign policy, politically Europe is quite a long way off. European politics is something for foreign policy gourmets in Washington, the European elections were largely a non-event. If you had a look at it, it was mainly from the Brexit perspective. Due to the electoral successes of Nigel Farage's Brexit camp, which has close ties to the Trump camp, and the electoral successes of right-wing extremist and right-wing populist parties in Great Britain, Italy, Hungary and Belgium, the White House feels that it is rejecting a course of multilateral cooperation and the voluntary transfer of sovereignty. Political circles close to Trump maintain traditional contacts with the Eurosceptics in the Tories. This network of contacts with anti-EU groups has now expanded to include representatives from other countries, even if the populist alliance in Europe that Stephen Bannon announced so loudly has not gained in clout. In his speech in Brussels in December 2018, when he accused the EU institutions of the interests of the member states, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed the anti-European thinking and deep-seated distrust of the nature of European integration to act contrary to their peoples and citizens. As little as Pompeo held back with his EU bashing in Brussels, Donald Trump's advice to Boris Johnson to refuse UK payments to Brussels added fuel to the fire of the blocked Brexit agreements.

Europe is NATO, not the EU

Some political observers in Washington, especially those who are close to Trump, tend to interpret the EU election results more selectively. The increased turnout, which is higher than in US congressional elections, is being ignored because it is incompatible with the narrative of opaque and non-citizen Brussels. The growth of right-wing radical forces in some countries, however, is being taken into account. However, the possibility of a stable working majority in the new EU Parliament is being ignored. Rather, one complains that the Europe-critical groups are excluded from the decision-making processes, which would result in a considerable legitimation deficit. The horse-trading in Brussels for the top EU positions, which is now ongoing, will consolidate the image of Europe after the EU is an amorphous and weak-acting structure. America is used to two parties, there are 200 in the new European Parliament. America has a president, but Brussels has too many to remember their names. For the US government, the EU is not an equal partner. When America speaks of Europe, it means NATO. The priority for America today is military relief and fair defense spending. NATO is responsible for security policy in Europe, not the EU. The decisive factor is the NATO Council, not the EP. Europe is politically weak and incapable of acting, and it is on a collision course with America in key areas such as climate and Iran policy. In terms of security policy, the EU is not taken seriously in Washington, despite PESCO and the European Defense Fund. In economic terms, Europe is seen as a rival that imposes fines on US companies, generates export surpluses, subsidizes domestic industry and shields its own markets from foreign competition. The trade ceasefire that Donald Trump and Jean-Claude Juncker agreed in July 2018 could quickly crack under the new EU Commission. The Americans are demanding access to the European agricultural market for the large producers of US agriculture and thus hit a sore point for the Europeans who, under pressure from France, have not included agriculture in the mandate for negotiations on a new trade agreement with the USA. The US side will remain uncompromising on this issue. Republicans and Democrats, government and Congress agree that agricultural market regulations are the crucial issue of US-European trade agreements. Agricultural policy is a make-it or break-it matter, according to Washington’s cross-party and cross-institutional stance.

Transatlantic Domestic Policy

The Trump administration's criticism of Europe raises doubts as to whether America is still committed to the tried and tested post-war dogma of a free and united Europe. Europe free and whole was the principle to which all US governments before Trump felt obliged, even if in practice they set different and own accents. Barack Obama only became a friend of Europe late, long before he spoke of America's new focus on Asia. George W. Bush and his Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld divided Europe into an old and a new Europe. Such statements did not contribute to the cohesion of the European continent and to overcoming centrifugal tendencies. In spite of these different tones, it was true of all administrations that the EU was seen as a partner of values ​​and an indispensable ally for the containment of Russia in particular. This creed no longer seems to apply today. The Trump administration treats friends like enemies, Germany like China, democratic heads of government like authoritarian dictators, Angela Merkel like Vladimir Putin.

But America no longer speaks with one voice on foreign policy. The Friends of Europe sit in Congress and in many think tanks, not in government. Senate and House foreign affairs officials know America needs friends in the world. Without Europe on America's side, Washington and the liberal world will not stand up to the revisionist geopolitical opponents Russia and China. For the transatlantic in the US capital, America is more than a short-term community of interests for jobs and economic growth. America is the guarantor of the international order that it created after World War II and from which it profited greatly. Clever minds therefore demand an intensification of the political and economic dialogue between America and Europe and go well beyond foreign and security policy cooperation. You speak of transatlantic domestic policy, which encompasses broad areas of domestic, judicial, consumer protection, research, economic, labor market and financial policy. Your appeal for forward-looking cooperation is directed in particular at the large number of new MEPs in the European Parliament.

Washington and the top candidates

When it comes to top positions in Europe, Washington is keeping a low profile. Frans Timmermans is a blank slate. His responsibility for the rule of law dialogue with Hungary, on the contentious points of which also financed with US money Central European University belonged to him got little attention in Washington. Margrethe Vestager, on the other hand, has made a name for herself, albeit not a good one in Washington. She messed with US companies, advocates the introduction of a digital tax and is supported by French President Emmanuel Macron, who is considered a protectionist against US economic interests. Thanks to regular trips to the USA and numerous bilateral meetings at international conferences, Manfred Weber has a very good network in congress and think tanks. His manner of acting - conciliatory in tone and tough on the matter - is followed with interest by the Trump administration. With his clear rejection of Nord Stream 2, he has earned plus points in Washington.

Underrated EP

America knows that troubled times have dawned in Europe. But it is also uneasy in America. Washington is interested in its own presidential elections in 2020. The European elections passed largely unnoticed. National repercussions were registered out of the corner of the eye, primarily in Great Britain, also in Germany with the intensified SPD crisis and the soaring of the Greens, and in Greece with new elections. Washington will take note of the new EU commissioners in due course. The fact that the European Parliament is a power factor in the European decision-making process and in international politics is still not on the radar in Washington despite the SWIFT, Privacy Shield and TTIP negotiations.