America and Europe in a waiting game

The good news is that come June, the European Union will open its borders to Americans who have been vaccinated. On the other hand, many European countries are in disarray as they try to bring under control the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic scourge.

America and Europe are engaged in a game in which each side is waiting for the other to act. One of the byplays is indeed the reopening of the frontiers, an event that is desperately awaited by the Europeans since their economic recovery looks far slower than that of the United States.

It is quite obvious the waiting process is harder to manage in Europe than in the United States. The stimulus package of 1.3 trillion euros approved by the Union to rebuild a post Covid-19 Europe has still to be distributed. When and how this money will be spent is a matter of furious haggling within many member countries.

Across the ocean, the $1.9 trillion American rescue plan was signed into law by President Biden in March and now it’s the turn of the $3 trillion recovery plan for infrastructure. The Europeans cannot but look on with admiration, if not envy, but this is not enough to bring the two partners to take early steps in coordinating their respective recovery projects. Just as tricky is the task of shaping a semblance of cooperation in facing their “competitors,” Russia and China.

There are good omens, however, for a common effort that will benefit humanity: mitigating climate change. In particular, President Biden is calling on Congress to invest $35 billion on such a project claiming, among other things, that it will create jobs, including those to produce electric cars. The Europeans are about to join in fighting climate change by devoting to it 30% of the Union’s budget, its largest share.

The G7 meeting that will be held in June in Cornwall will deal principally with international crises but its most important theme will be the defense of open societies that are called to confront together issues that have a huge impact on the lives of their citizens, from the pandemic to climate change and the disruptive impact of new technologies.

In the foreign arena, Americans and Europeans will have to make a common stand on China, in view of what many foresee as a cold war between the two powers. The Europeans cannot afford to stand idly by. Likewise, the United States and Europe must build a unified front vis-à-vis Russia and decide whether to use the strategic pressure afforded by sanctions. Putin’s push into Ukraine justifies effective sanctions, particularly in the field of Russian export of energy. Unfortunately, the European allies are not in agreement about what to do with Putin’s Russia.

In addition, their leaders are retiring or threatened, as in Germany where the Greens are knocking at the door of the chancery that was occupied for so many years by Angela Merkel, in France — where President Macron is challenged by the populist leader Marine Le Pen — or in England, where Boris Johnson is under fire for his response to the Covid-19 crisis.

In conclusion, things are in a state of flux and both the United States and the Europeans find themselves in a waiting game. Their obligation is to hold together. Joe Biden is doing his best to secure their common stance. It won’t be easy.

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