BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union members debated on Monday how best to “renew and reinvigorate” transatlantic relations after the departure of U.S. President Donald Trump, according to an internal document seen by Reuters.
Ambassadors from the 27 EU countries considered five broad policy areas on which they see greater opportunities for cooperation when Joe Biden takes over as president after four years of strained ties since Trump introduced his “America First” policy.
“The arrival of a new administration and congress … is an opportunity for the EU to renew and reinvigorate its strategic partnership with the U.S. based on mutual interests,” said the document prepared for envoys.
“The EU should agree a set of concrete priorities on which to engage the new US leadership,” it said.
Despite divisions between EU members – with France seeking more autonomy from Washington and eastern Europe keen to keep the United States close – there was broad agreement on the focus areas on Monday, an EU official said.
They were: health including fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, boosting economic recovery, combating climate change, promoting peace and security and upholding shared values including a belief in multilateral rules.
EU leaders are expected to debate transatlantic relations when they convene for a summit on Dec. 10-11.
The European Commission and the EU’s foreign service, the EEAS, have prepared another document that would rebuild ties on common fronts including digital regulation and consider how to handle a more internationally assertive China.
The strategies by EU governments and the EU’s executive Commission underline optimism in Europe that a Biden presidency will mark a new chapter reinforcing EU priorities on combating climate change, nuclear proliferation and human rights.
Many European leaders watched with shock as Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate change agreement and the deal between world powers and Iran limiting Tehran’s nuclear activities, imposed tariffs on EU goods and spurned multilateral bodies that Washington has backed for decades.
However, one EU diplomat cautioned against any assumption that the EU and the United States would agree on all issues.
“There will be a change of tone from Biden, but the tough U.S. stance on China, the insistence that Europeans spend more on defence – they will remain,” the diplomat said.
European Council President Charles Michel, who chairs EU summits, has invited Biden to an in-person gathering in the first half of 2021, with a virtual summit perhaps soon after he takes office.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said the EU is looking forward to the United States rejoining the Paris agreement, which Biden has said he will do.
(Editing by Timothy Heritage)