The partnership between the United States and Europe has been an anchor of the world’s economic, political and security order for more than seven decades, but we should not take it for granted. The transatlantic relationship faces many dangers. However, the issues that bring the two sides together ultimately carry much greater weight than those that might divide them.
The US and the EU have notably different perceptions and interests, the navigation of which requires nuanced diplomacy. Although each side brings different ideas and experiences to the table, numerous areas of actual and potential collaboration can be identified. The rules-based international order benefits both the US and the EU, and it urgently needs their collaborative support.
The US and the EU have different approaches to privacy, data protection and the technology industry. While the US favours a more sectoral approach that relies on a combination of legislation, regulation and self-regulation, the EU tends to rely more heavily on legislation. This complicates the relationship. However, the two sides share the goal of allowing data to flow between Europe and the US while ensuring a high level of protection for their respective citizens’ privacy and personal data. A key task for EU officials will be to keep their US counterparts informed about the implementation of the new General Data Protection Regulation.
The US and Europe face many of the same challenges in fighting terrorism and other serious crimes. The Trump administration has made clear its intention to act more forcefully in this area. While EU–US cooperation in law enforcement and counterterrorism has been a fruitful aspect of transatlantic relations for years, the EU’s new capacities make it a more valuable law enforcement and counterterrorism partner for the US than ever before.
The Trump administration has focused at the political level on promoting increased European defence spending, as well as on increasing NATO’s role in counterterrorism efforts. Although President Donald Trump has abandoned the stance that NATO is obsolete, there remain suggestions that the US could moderate its commitment to defending NATO members in the future if they do not shoulder a greater share of the financial burden.
It is not surprising that European leaders would want to simultaneously strengthen their contributions to NATO defence and build European defence capabilities. In focusing primarily on peacekeeping, conflict prevention and strengthening international security, the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy complements and supports NATO’s mandate for European and transatlantic security.
EU–US foreign policy coordination on third-country and regional situations is an essential part of transatlantic efforts to shape the global political environment. The coordination of US and EU sanctions policies against third countries such as Iran, Russia, Syria, North Korea and, most recently, Venezuela has played an increasing role in EU–US foreign policy. However, there are areas of potential divergence, particularly around Iran and its nuclear deal, which could lead to major rifts between the EU and the US.