What role do transatlantic relations play in today’s world, and how will the partnership develop? On Tuesday and Wednesday (16 and 17 May), a German-American conference was held at the Federal Foreign Office in cooperation with Atlantik-Brücke e.V. and the American Council on Germany. Its motto was “Finding Common Ground: Confronting Challenges and Setting Priorities for Europe and the United States”. Foreign Minister Gabriel gave the opening address.
70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan
Seventy years ago, American General George Marshall gave a speech which led to what is now known as the Marshall Plan: the United States’ reconstruction assistance for Europe in the wake of the Second World War. Marshall argued that without economic stability, there could be no political stability and hence no guarantee of peace. He said that this stability could be ensured only through cooperation, not isolation. The idea was that with the help of the United States, the European countries should therefore be rebuilt as economic partners, and that Europe’s status as a partner of the United States should also be restored with regard to shared values.
Gabriel: Europe and the United States are standing at a crossroads
Foreign Minister Gabriel declared that today, this world order that had been built up since 1945 was no longer seen as a given by all countries. At the beginning of the conference he stated: “We, both in Europe and in the United States, are standing at a crossroads. Should we just stand by and watch as our liberal and open world order, built on balance and compromise, is increasingly threatened with disintegration? Or should we rather make this world order fit for the 21st century?”
Gabriel went on to say that in today’s phase of transition, it was only wise to remember the political challenges that had resulted in closer transatlantic cooperation after the Second World War. “We need to do everything we can to renew our partnership and imbue it with new momentum.”
Initiative should come from Europe
Gabriel said that the initiative for this renewal had to come from Europe. He added that in the sphere of security policy, Europe needed to emancipate itself from the United States, and that burdens in the transatlantic partnership needed to be distributed fairly. He declared that while Europe had some catching up to do in terms of hard power, the American side should not lose sight of the significance of its soft power. He said that it was important above all to focus on the political values they shared: the democratic separation of powers, inalienable human rights, the rule of law and representative democracy.
Exchange within society, he added, was also vital. He explained that both in Europe and in the United States, societies were becoming increasingly polarised, which made relations between societies more complex. He believed that to counteract this development, societies needed to be brought into contact with one another and exchange in the areas of culture, business and academia intensified. Gabriel emphasised that this process also had to include those unable to afford a trip across the Atlantic.
Visit to the United States
Gabriel concluded by saying that although European initiative was important, “finally, we, too, as governments on both sides of the Atlantic, ... must declare that we espouse a new, common transatlantic agenda.” The Foreign Minister soon had an opportunity to continue the transatlantic dialogue: following the conference he travelled to the United States for the second time since assuming office.