The EU just can’t wait to team up with U.S. President-elect Joe Biden.
The Democrat’s victory has yet to be finalized, with several procedural steps including a vote by the Electoral College and official tallying by Congress still to take place before his expected inauguration on January 20, which is still 51 days away.
But in a sign of just how eager Brussels is to move past the acrimony created by President Donald Trump, the European Commission and Council have put forward competing policy papers outlining how they would like the EU to team up with the new U.S. administration on a wide array of policy issues.
On Monday, EU ambassadors discussed the Council document, and the bloc’s 27 heads of state and government are due to hold a strategic debate on U.S. relations during a summit in Brussels next week.
The Commission and the Council documents, obtained by POLITICO, each called for immediate and urgent cooperation in managing the continuing coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying economic fallout. The Commission paper, titled “A new EU-US agenda for global change,” is longer and more detailed, running slightly more than 10 pages.
The Council “non-paper” is just two pages, essentially an outline of five key points, but where the Commission proposal is a vanilla pudding of sugary sweet diplomatic subtlety, the Council document is punchier. It bluntly states an expectation that Biden will reverse Trump’s decision to quit the World Health Organization, and pointedly calls on the EU to push the U.S. “to lift sanctions against personnel of the International Criminal Court.”
The Council document also calls out the U.S. for its role in undermining the World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement system by essentially shutting down its highest appellate body, and says Washington should “reengage … in the reform and strengthening of the WTO.”
The Commission and Council each call for renewed cooperation on climate change, with the Commission urging a joint commitment to “a net-zero emissions pathway by 2050.”
The papers also envision extensive new cooperation on trade and digital issues, as well as across the foreign policy sphere, including in pressuring China, on reviving the Iran nuclear deal, strengthening NATO, containing threats from Russia, ending conflicts in Ukraine and Libya, and bringing stability to the Middle East, Africa and other regions.
A senior Commission official said the two documents should be viewed as overwhelmingly complementary and compatible — and not as evidence of any tension or competition between the two institutions.
“On the two papers, I wouldn’t read too much in it to be honest,” the official said. “I think the papers are very much aligned.”
While the Council paper will be used to develop conclusions for the December 10-11 leaders’ summit, the Commission paper is intended as an EU policy statement and must still be formally approved by the College of Commissioners.
“In the new relationship with the United States, what was important for us is that we are not passively sitting … and waiting for the U.S. administration to reach out,” the senior Commission official said. “As you know it’s a sensitive time for the United States. A lot of the advisers cannot get in touch with us until the elections are certified, they are very cautious.”
A second senior official said the EU wanted to make clear its intention in being an equal partner with its own objectives.
“The predominance of the U.S. over the world is no longer a given,” the second official said. “It’s still the most powerful nation in the world but there are strong competitors.
“The United States is no doubt the most important partner that the European Union has in the international sphere and an ally,” the second official said. “Many things have changed. The U.S. has changed. We have changed. The world has changed. But this fact does not change.”
The official added, “The European Union and the United States together constitute a very powerful actor in the world. If we join forces, we can change things. We can make things better.”
Want more analysis from POLITICO? POLITICO Pro is our premium intelligence service for professionals. From financial services to trade, technology, cybersecurity and more, Pro delivers real time intelligence, deep insight and breaking scoops you need to keep one step ahead. Email [email protected] to request a complimentary trial.