‘Let’s rebuild a strong EU-USA alliance’, EU chiefs tell Joe Biden

European Union chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel heralded “a new beginning” of EU-US relations on Monday during phone conversations with President-elect Joe Biden.

Von der Leyen, the Commission President, said she congratulated Biden on his victory during their phone call.

“It is a new beginning for the EU-US global partnership,” she wrote on Twitter, adding that a “strong EU and a strong US working together can shape the global agenda based on cooperation, multilateralism, solidarity and shared values.”

Charles Michel, who presides over the EU Council, said he invited the soon-to-be 46th US President “to a special meeting in Brussels next year” with the bloc’s head of states.

“Let’s rebuild a strong EU-USA alliance,” he added. “Now is the time to join forces on COVID-19, climate, security, and multilateralism.”

The phone calls took place as the US General Services Administration recognised Biden as the “apparent president-elect” — 21 days after the election — thus setting the transition in motion.

Earlier this month, Biden already spoke with several EU leaders including France‘s Emmanuel Macron, and Germany’s Angela Merkel. Both said they planned to work on “shared priorities” and “global challenges” with the new administration including climate change.

Tensions between Brussels and Washington increased under the administration of Donald Trump, who pulled his country out of the 2015 Paris Agreement for the Climate and the landmark Iran nuclear deal. He also said the US was being “ripped off” by the EU, and imposed tariffs on European exports.

The bloc retaliated with its own set of tariffs on around $4 billion (3.4 billion) worth of US goods. Hopes are that Biden’s election will allow for negotiations to resume and for relations to normalise once more.

An overwhelming majority of German people — 79 per cent — rated the relationship between their country and the US as either “very bad” or “rather bad” in a survey carried out in September and released on Monday.

Nearly the same proportion of the 1,058 respondents assumed that transatlantic relations will normalise under Joe Biden’s presidency.

Washington was also described as “not a partner” to Berlin by a majority of respondents when it came to issues including climate protection, promoting free trade, protecting human rights and democracy and dealing with China.

“The last four years have been an enormous test of the transatlantic relationship. The fact that the majority of Germans expect normalisation under Joe Biden shows, however, that the damage caused is not irreparable,” Nora Muller, head of International Politics at the Korber Foundation, said on the survey’s results.

Biden also exchanged with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Monday.

Stoltenberg said in a statement that he “thanked President-elect Biden for being a long-standing supporter of NATO and the transatlantic relationship.”

“They discussed the importance of our transatlantic Alliance as the cornerstone of our collective security,” he added.

Trump had previously described the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as “obsolete” and threatened to pull the US out of it.

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