The EU and US rely on each other, says EU member of parliament Elmar Brok. Ahead of the presidential election, he explains why he believes that the EU will soon be better off than the US.
Deutsche Welle: Mr. Brok, how would you describe the relationship between the EU and the US under the current Obama administration?
Elmar Brok: On the level of professional cooperation, there's a good relationship. But the EU and the US so far haven't been able to put any strategic emphasis on actions that result in Europeans and Americans working closer together in these times of economic and political power changes. I hope that the recommendations issued by the US/EU-appointed group of experts for transatlantic relations will finally result in a strategy for that and in its implementation.
Many Europeans and especially many Germans would welcome it if Barack Obama were to be re-elected as president. If Mitt Romney wins the election, might bilateral relations cool off?
In that case we would have to establish sensible structures for a working routine; in this ever-changing world, the EU and the US rely on each other to an extent that there isn't really any other option. In this case, too, I believe we have work for creating a transatlantic trade market. I hope this would be possible, too, with Mitt Romney as president.
The US orients itself increasingly with an eye to Asia. As Chinese power grows, the geopolitical balance of power is changing. How important is the EU still for the US?
Trade relations and direct investment between the US and Europe are - in both directions - the strongest economic link. That's why, when you look at financial figures, focusing on China is beside the point. It's absolutely clear that - because of the global changes we are experiencing - only a Europe and an America that work together will be able to push through political agendas or industrial standards. That's why there's a heightened interest in closer cooperation.
How much of a strain does the European financial crisis put on this cooperation? America has insisted rather strongly on reining in the crisis, especially addressing Chancellor Angela Merkel.
We'll see. Should the Europeans manage to achieve greater economic competitiveness - through their policy of capping debts, regulating the financial markets and implementing structural changes - then in 2014 they will be better off than the Americans, who aren't doing anything comparable. Basically what the US have done so far is to agree to what extent the budget deficit can be expanded and what the limit of the deficit should be. The Eurozone today has less public debt than the Americans do; we have far fewer purchases of government bonds by the central bank than in the US. Economically, the situation in Europe really is a lot better. It's the trust in this that needs to be built up.
In its alliance with the US, the EU tends to be the weaker partner. Some might even say America is the chef and Europeans are the waiters. In the EU, there's now more and more talk about a political union, too, with more power for Brussels. Would this be a way to emancipate Europe to a certain extent from the US, enabling Europe to pursue its agenda more effectively?
This is not about emancipation, but about becoming equal partners. I believe that we Europeans need to find a lot more synergy options where the military is concerned - for instance when it comes to acquisition, research and merging of military units in certain areas.
EU member states are spending about half of their budgets on defense - but the end result shows an efficiency of only 10 percent, simply because we are still too individualistic in this regard.
But we should consider something else: From its budget, the EU is spending three times as much on preventive foreign policy, foreign aid, cross-border politics - and many other things - than the United States. 60 percent of all development aid worldwide is being paid for by the EU and its member states. I believe we should highlight this much more, making it clear that we are already taking on responsibility in the world today. We shouldn't always let Americans pressure us, creating the impression that only military spending might be of relevance.
Elmar Heinrich Brok (born May 14, 1946, in Verl, Germany) is a member of the conservative Christian Democrat Party (CDU). Since 1980, Brok has been a Member of the European Parliament. As part of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and deputy member of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, as well as deputy member of the Europe Committee in the German parliament, his work has focused strongly on the future of the European Union and transatlantic affairs.