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EU Worries about its Importance to U.S.

December 17, 2010
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The New York Times reports today that Baroness Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, has issued her first major report, which will be presented at the EU summit today.  Apparently, the report will state that the U.S. has spent less time focusing on Europe, and the EU needs to present a more unified front in order to engage the U.S.  Perhaps the EU’s bigger “problem” is that it poses no real threats to the U.S. and its members have been American allies since the Second World War (except, of course, the post-Communist member states who were on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, but are now some of the most pro-American countries in Europe).  Looking at the major causes of Baroness Ashton’s frustration, it is easy to see why the U.S. cares about other issues.

First of all, it is no secret that the Obama administration has focused on other international issues such as the Middle East and East Asia.  After all, the U.S. has been fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, worried about a militant North Korea, and a rising China.  On two other major foreign policies—Iran and Israel—the EU is an active participant.  Of course, the EU could probably do more, but it is certainly trying.

In addition, the New York Times reports the U.S. decided to work with China at the Cancun Climate Change summit early this month, ignoring the EU.  That the U.S. would take this approach is not too surprising, since China is the largest emitter of green house gases.  In addition, the EU has already created a framework to reduce CO2 emissions, while China is often much more skeptical.  So the EU is a victim of its own success, as it was already onboard with combating climate change.

In fact, the EU is already trying hard to prove its relevance to the U.S.  The EU Delegation to the U.S., located in Washington, DC, has recently published “The European Union and the United States: A Long-Standing Partnership.”  In order to highlight the important ties between the EU and the U.S., the document focuses on the strong economic ties between the two countries.  Given the EU is much less important to American foreign policy than NATO, and the huge economic connections between the two economies, this is not surprising.

However, the EU better be careful about its wish to be more relevant to the U.S.  If it takes a crisis to get the U.S. government’s attention, then the most likely culprit would be current crisis in the Euro Zone expanding to other EU economies, such as Spain.  Of course, no one wants that.

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