Democrats will soon be in control in the US: What does this mean for Europe?    
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Democrats will soon be in control in the US: What does this mean for Europe?    

Wednesday, 13 January 2021
This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.

After a long night of counting votes in the U.S. state of Georgia, both Democratic Party candidates have won in the Senate runoff elections.

These runoff elections, which took place after no candidate reached a majority of votes required in the November election, secured control of the Senate for Democrats for at least the next two years. This comes on the heels of a victory in the 2020 presidential election by Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden, which means that by February, Democrats, the center-left party in the United States, will control both chambers of the legislature and the presidency. 

Donald Trump, the outgoing U.S. president and member of the center-right Republican Party, and a number of Republican members of Congress, have continued to make claims of election fraud since November, and the Trump team have filed dozens of lawsuits in courts across the country, all of which have failed thus far. On Wednesday, Trump held a rally in Washington D.C., the U.S. capital, while a large group of Trump supporters breached the U.S. capitol building, causing the building to go to lockdown and the Republican vice president, Mike Pence, to evacuate to a safe location. 

Regardless of the tumult in Washington, it is all but certain that the Democrats will be leading the government at the federal level in the United States for the foreseeable future. While this has major implications for the United States, it also affects life and politics abroad. In particular, the upcoming shift in party control could shape the U.S. relationship with the European Union. It is important for the future stability of both the United States and Europe that these two actors work to improve their relationship in trade and cooperation, which has been strained in recent years.  

Trump’s Fights with the EU

During his time as president, Donald Trump was never shy about attacking the trade relationship between the U.S. and the EU. In 2018, The U.S. put tariffs on steel and aluminum from Europe, and recently increased tariffs on a number of goods from France and Germany. The trade war between the U.S. and the EU only grew as a result, with the EU restricting steel imports from the U.S. and later imposing $4 billion dollars in tariffs on U.S. goods.

In addition to this, Trump has simply maligned many top officials in Europe, calling German Chancellor Angela Merkel “stupid” and getting into a verbal dispute with French President Emmanuel Macron over statement regarding NATO. Trump has used the EU as a campaign tool as well, claiming that the EU was established to take advantage of the United States. Taken together, this paints a clear picture of strain and difficulty in the relationship between the EU and the U.S. in recent years.

A Path Forward for the EU-US Relationship

EU officials have appeared to view the election of Joe Biden to the presidential office in the US as an opportunity for a better relationship, which admittedly may be a low bar following the four-year Trump presidency. The EU has already created a plan for a “new, forward-looking transatlantic agenda.”

The agenda is more than simply an attempt to improve trade relations. Instead, the plan seeks to stabilize the relationship between the two political actors more broadly, pointing to a shared interest in “strengthening democracy, upholding international law, supporting sustainable development and promoting human rights around the world.” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has spoken about the agenda, outlining four core elements, 1) overcoming the global pandemic, 2) protecting our climate/environment, 3️) shaping digital/tech governance, and 4️) upgrading global institutions, that the European Union hopes they will be able to work on in conjunction with officials in the United States moving forward.

While Joe Biden has said little about the EU-U.S. relationship in recent weeks, he has said he would pull the U.S. out of its trade war with the EU, and his track record shows that he should be more likely to establish an improved relationship with European officials.

What Does This Mean for Europe?

A push to improve and re-establish relations between the EU and the United States is a proper step towards improving future conditions in both regions. The agenda put forth by the European Commission, while simply a plan for now, outlines key issues through which both the EU and U.S. should seek to work together.

Likewise, the Biden administration should consider renewing a strong relationship between the U.S. and EU as a priority during his time in office. Particularly over the next two years, Democrats have an opportunity to restore an important relationship which has been strained over the past four years. While a major focus of the EU-US relationship will be trade, a better overall relationship is important for both parties. 

The EU and the United States are facing a number of shared issues, including, but not limited to, climate change, public health crises, tax evasion by major corporations, and challenges to democracy. A new president in office in the United States, and a shift in party control in the Senate as well, should provide an opportunity for the U.S. to improve upon the state of U.S.-EU relations, a relationship which must recover quickly in the face of current political affairs.

Whether this opportunity is realized is yet to be seen, however. Officials in the United States have been relatively quiet on their relationship with Europe and the EU recently, which will hopefully change in coming months.

Improving the relationship between the EU and U.S. should be at the top of both parties’ agendas in the coming years. The shared issues that the EU and U.S. are facing are integral to the stability and progress of both regions, and to miss this opportunity to reinvigorate strong relations and international cooperation would be a danger.