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30. 5. 2019

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The relationship between the United States and the European Union is now going through a very complicated period. The current functioning of NATO and its future is at the center of this tension. Donald Trump had previously dismissed NATO as “obsolete” and had expressed doubt that the future of the EU matters much for the United States.
What will be the development of Euro-Atlantic relations? To what extent are Euro-Atlantic relations damaged?

The European Prague Summit in cooperation with Institute for politics and society organized a business breakfast on the subject of Atlantic challenges on 29th of May 2019.

The main speakers and contributors to the debate were Reka Szemerkenyi, Executive Vice President of Center for European Policy Analysis, Tony Barber, Europe Editor, Financial Times and Charles Grant, Director, Centre for European Reform.
The moderator was Jan Macháček, Chairman of the Board, Institute for Politics and Society.

At the beginning of the debate Jan Macháček introduced topics related to Atlantic Challenges, which are fear of a trade war, introduction of tariffs on steel and aluminium, dispute mainly between US and Germany, concerning the German-Russian pipeline. He pointed out another point of Alliance member relationship development, connected with withdrawn of US from Iran’s nuclear agreement. Chinese interests on the trade market and cyber security issues are also one of the main aspect that form the Atlantic challenges.

Tony Barber as a first speaker started with outline of Trump´s administration that arises with the many contradictory ideas and impulses. In his point of view, Washington is concentrated more obviously in Central and Eastern Europe, considering the annexation of Crimea and war at Donbas. What he thinks is important, America needs to focus more on NATO and its priorities. He also remarked on Donald Trump´s distaste for international alliances. Donald Trump’s administration is much different from his predecessors. Firstly, it is his skepticism towards international organizations and secondly his attitude to Germany – no president since the administration of Mr. Roosevelt had such a bad personal relationship with Germany as Trump does.

Reka Szemerkenyi contributed to the topic of European-American relationship. She thinks it´s necessary to observe the problems that are popping up and what they are showing about transatlantic challenges. She accentuate on the growing interests in resolving of the very serious problems of NATO by the US. As one of the difficulties she mentioned the divergence of assessment on the both sides, which needs more serious discussion and common assessment. She believes if we want to take the challenges seriously, we have to refocus on very basic priorities. It brings us to the new understating of possibilities, which can be seen in the US Congress. In her opinion, the Congress have never been as open to the debate of Russian threats as it is now. Mr. Macháček was grateful that Mrs. Szemerkenyi still sees the positives of transatlantic cooperation.

Charles Grant thinks the world is changing in Russian´s direction, naming the leaders as Viktor Orbán and Marine le Pen and their euroskepticism which is dividing Europe´s priorities. Furthermore, they neglect the human rights and democratic principles. To make solutions in Atlantic challenges, the world powers have to settle the economic problems not only in European region related to Eurozone, but worldwide.  In his opinion, the future of Atlantic challenges depends on how we can handle climate change, the future of the trade market, and dealing with euroskepticism e. c.

There were some interesting questions in the auditorium after the contributions. First question reflected a fact, that more and more Germans trust Chinese or Russians instead of Americans. Tony Barber said that former president Obama was very popular in Germany. On the contrary, Donald Trump´s popularity is at the lowest level. In fact, the German society attitude reflects not only the presidential administration, but also their approach to international responsibilities. Second question touched the Brexit issue and its wording was if there is a possibility of British-American cooperation in the security field after Great Britain leaving EU. Tony Barber´s reaction was unanimous – future discussion between these two powers will be more difficult than people think now. For comparison, Reka Szemerkenyi says that discussion is element we are missing also in these days and change predictions aren´t positive.
Charles Grant was asked about the possibility of re-election of Donald Trump as a president. If this happens, won´t it lead to soften of his attitude toward European Union? Charles Grant proclaimed that Donald Trump does not believe in EU and never will. Segregated Europe means stronger America. That is the main reason he does not believe in his possible change of view of the EU.