The Zeitgeist

The Zeitgeist

Episode 27: EU-U.S. Relations: Messy but Valuable

June 15, 2020

The European Union is one of the world’s most important but least understood international bodies.  It is simultaneously many things: a collection of institutions, including an executive administration (the European Commission) with many of the authorities of a national government; a treaty-based organization with a supreme judicial body (the European Court of Justice); and a coordination mechanism for leaders of 27 countries who exert their national power and exercise diplomacy to shape Europe’s response to internal and external challenges. The inter-governmental aspect of the EU often dominates—when a powerful group of national leaders wants to make something happen, they usually find a way. The European Union is a continuously evolving phenomenon, which over time has gained new and expanded powers in reaction to crises.
The EU is a valuable partner for the United States, and it is at times a frustrating counterpart, because of its diffuse power centers and differences among its member states. For many in the United States and elsewhere, the EU is a green screen onto which you can project your preconceived notions of how the world works: If you favor international collaboration, you see the EU in some ways as an ideal—a post-national beacon for mutual prosperity, a single market, and political solidarity. If you are skeptical about anything that constrains national action, the EU is the apotheosis of globalism that can thwart national sovereignty and the democratically expressed will of a country’s citizens.

On this episode of The Zeitgeist, AICGS’ Jeff Rathke and Peter Rashish speak with Anthony Gardner, who served as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union from 2014 to 2017. He is also the author of Stars with Stripes: The Essential Partnership between the European Union and the United States. Amb. Gardner shares his reflections on the EU with a focus on Germany and the German-American relationship. What is the role of the EU member states, and of Germany in particular, as part of this big, complicated, but also productive and valuable transatlantic relationship?

Jeff Rathke, President, AICGS
Anthony Gardner, Former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union
Peter Rashish, Senior Fellow and Director, Geoeconomics Program, AICGS