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American point of view of the European elections 2014
Brussels - 24/01/2014
On 29th January 2014 Lysios Public Affairs consultancy organised a debate in Brussels together with the Robert Schuman Foundation entitled "European Resurgence or European Shutdown? An American Perspective on the 2014 European Elections". Jean-Dominique Giuliani, Chairman of the Foundation debated with Tyson Barker, Director of the Bertelsmann Foundation in Washington.

Given the economic and financial crisis and the rise of euroscepticism, how is the European Union responding?

"We must never forget the long term," stressed Jean-Dominique Giuliani. "When European integration started no one could have imagined what the Europeans were going to accomplish. We are facing our first major economic and financial crisis. Many believed that the Union would also enter into crisis but it has consolidated instead. The European Union means stability," he recalled and notably because of the treaties, we cannot go backwards. Moreover the European Central Bank (ECB) is seen as a strong partner. The US are possibly the world's leading power but the leading economic power is the European Union.

To understand the response to the economic and financial crisis we have to turn to the Union's Member States. Today we can see what we have achieved. The States of Europe have undertaken some major projects: the European investment fund, the two-pack, the six pack", the European Budgetary, Pact not forgetting many bilateral agreements between Member States. This progress would not have been possible before the crisis. This shows in the change in the German attitude: in the beginning they were reticent about solidarity, today this is no longer the case. The response to the crisis has required the mobilisation of an extremely impressive amount of money, the equivalent of three Marshall Plans. However we should recall that these sums were found, but not necessarily spent.

Jean Dominique Giuliani concluded by saying that because of its structure the European Union was more difficult to govern that the USA. The present challenges are competitiveness, encouraging growth, bringing order to public finance and saving the Greek, Spanish and Irish economies - even though the latter had made significant progress. The European Union will emerge strengthened and consolidated from the crisis.

Tyson Barker, started by highlighting the nature of economic links between the US and the EU. Trade relations were the consequence of strategic reasons even if over time relations were becoming increasingly focused on economic issues. The US first drew closer to Europe with the enlargement of NATO then with negotiations over the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TIPP) which are ongoing at the moment.

Tyson Barker recalled the response given by the EU to the crisis and American integration Indeed both have accomplished a centripetal if not federal path. Two hundred years ago the US referred to itself as a nation made up of several uniting States. Hence when they spoke of the United States they addressed it in the plural, today this is no longer the case and the USA is considered as one nation, one State. The federal movement was born in five steps:

- Federal funds and taxation were established.

- Opponents faced each other in a civil war that finally strengthened the centrist movement. Civil rights, citizens' protection were asserted.

- The American Central Bank was established. It had two mandates: to support growth and full employment and to ensure price stability. The European Central Bank only has the competence to accomplish the second mandate.

- The "New Deal" was a major federating moment when social security was established, the minimum salary became obligatory and major infrastructures were established, many federal regulations were created. This period can be likened to the launch of banking union for the European Union.

- The last phase consolidated with federal projects like medicare, the civil rights act, the welfare programme and the arts and humanitarian programme.

Tyson Barker concluded that each federating movement has experienced a counter movement. Moreover European integration is more complex because of the history of the European states, whilst the US was built on young state structures.

The euro zone, a zone of stability. Europe is protected from internal hurricanes but there is no navigating wind. There is no nightmare but no dream either.

The USA has three means of action: monetary, fiscal and trade policies. Thanks to its monetary policies it can support employment; fiscal policies are used to stimulate the economy and trade generates new markets. The European Union has no monetary policy since the European Central Bank has not been given the mandate of full employment. Regarding fiscal policy the stimuli that "Brussels" can create are meagre even if there are none, for example, with the budgetary pact. The Union's real tool is the opening of the markets thanks to its free trade agreements. The Union supports trade policies by creating a set of regulations. Jean-Dominique Giuliani stressed that the ECB did not have two mandates like the American Central Bank, however Mario Draghi was innovative and knew how to change modes of intervention and create new instruments.

What do you think about the appointment of the President of the European Commission?

Most Member States have coalitions in government which leads to the appointment of a person of high quality who is the focus of greater consensus. The appointment of the President of the European Commission is a new procedure, the implementation of which still has to be defined and will be seen for the first time in May 2014.

Is Europe suffering a leadership crisis?

Tyson Barker agrees with this and believes that Europe does not have many leaders, however they are more impressive than before. Jean-Dominique Giuliani suggests that due to a certain comfort politicians remain in the realm of the national.

Does the system prevent personalities from coming forward?

There are structural barriers, such as the indirect election of the European Commission and even the fact that there are no European constituencies. To be elected to the European Parliament it is more effective to negotiate a position on the list within his/her own party than to go out to meet the population.

Barack Obama will be coming to Brussels on 26th March 2014 but will only be there for one day whilst he will be spending two days in The Hague. Is this not revealing about the importance of the European Union for the USA?

Tyson Barker answers that the American president had paid great attention to Europe during the euro crisis. Moreover he has sent one of his most trusted men who had a great deal of room to manœuvre. Hence the USA always proves its commitment to Europe by its presence in Brussels.

Jean-Dominique Giuliani concluded the conference by highlighting the difference between Europeans and Americans. Europe is constantly in doubt, it is part of its character, whilst the Americans are more optimistic and believe in the American dream. They do not share the same philosphy.