On July 9, Heinrich Böll Stiftung Hessen invited Prof. Crister S. Garrett, Director of American Space Leipzig, Dr. Stormy-Annika Mildner, Head of Department External Economic Policy, Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie, and Member of the European Parliament from Germany (Alliance 90/The Greens), Reinhard Bütikofer, to discuss the current state of transatlantic relations under the topic “Fremde Freunde – Welche Wege gehen die USA und Europa?” at Evangelische Akademie Frankfurt am Main. Head of the “Meinung” (opinion) section of the Frankfurter Rundschau, Andreas Schwarzkopf, moderated the panel and led the around 200 guests in attendance through the event.

Frankfurter Rundschau also reported about the discussion. You can read the story in German here.

Prof. Crister Garrett (right) with moderator Andreas Schwarzkopf and Dr. Stormy-Annika Mildner (left)

The three panelists addressed the future of the European Union, the role of China on the global stage, and their relations to the United States. Central to the discussion were also the politics of US President Donald Trump.

While his political style is certainly unforeseen, argues Reinhard Bütikofer, President Trump’s political agenda demonstrates striking continuity. Trump’s view on NATO, for instance, echoes Secretary of State during the Clinton administration Madeleine Albright’s critique of the organization. The difference is merely in tone and how the critique was formulated.

Dr. Mildner, however, sees in this change of tone a great danger for the transatlantic alliance. President Trump’s directness and his strategy to discuss trade partnerships outside the framework of the World Trade Organization creates uncertainty for German businesses thus hurting transatlantic trade and relations.

Prof. Garrett offered a historical perspective and described the current situation as a generational change in international relations. The instability in transatlantic relations is not just a phase; it creates openings that will soon be filled with other partners. Europe, everybody on the panel agreed, needs to rediscover a common narrative and political goal first in order to find a strong position on the international stage.

The international community is reorienting and adjusting itself to novel circumstances. This may not be the end of the transatlantic relationship but certainly a new chapter in the long history of European-American relations.