14.1 C
London
Friday, September 17, 2021

EU’s next generation: It’s the climate, stupid!

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Bruce Stokes is director of the German Marshall Fund’s Transatlantic Task Force.

Angela Merkel’s imminent departure from politics after 16 years as German chancellor highlights the generational shift that is coming to European politics. A new cohort of leaders is preparing to step onto the political stage, one shaped less by the Cold War and rapid globalization than by rising environmental concerns and the erosion of the international order. 

To get a sense of what the arrival of this next generation will mean for the relationship between Europe and the United States, I spent the past five months interviewing a cross-section of young European political leaders — most of them under 40 — for the German Marshall Fund.

My biggest takeaway: While the U.S.’s failures in Afghanistan have raised doubts about the durability of the transatlantic relationship among older establishment figures, the priorities of the next generation of leaders lie elsewhere. For them, it’s not the Afghanistan debacle that raises questions about American trustworthiness. Instead, it is the risk that the U.S. will fail to follow through on its commitments to combat climate change. 

According to the people I spoke to, who agreed would remain anonymous, Washington’s decision to end its presence in Afghanistan is not a major concern for European voters. “I hardly hear any blaming of the U.S. and their trustworthiness toward allies and the Afghan people,” a member of the German Bundestag from the liberal Free Democrat Party told me. “The public perception is very much focused on internal topics and on the German failure when it comes to Afghanistan.” 

An Austrian People’s Party member of the European Parliament agreed: “The West has failed as a whole. There is no point in pointing the blame as this would only play into the hands of our opponents.” 

The disappointment among some of the foreign policy establishment about U.S. President Joe Biden is also not shared by this younger generation.  

“Whereas the opinion polls in the U.S. show a massive decline for Joe Biden,” observed the FDP member, “in Germany, I have not sensed any blame on the U.S. President. Joe Biden is still perceived as the ‘savior of the U.S.-European relation’ after Trump.” 

They do note, however, that he still has to show he can live up to their demanding expectations. 

“At the moment, expectations [of Biden] are very high, but Biden will have to deliver to keep that trust,” said a young Green Party member of the Swedish Riksdag. 

For many of those I spoke to, the most immediate test of U.S. reliability will be what Washington does on climate change and what Biden can deliver at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland in November. 

“If there is any single issue that [could change public trust in the U.S.], it is the way the Biden administration handles climate change,” a Christian Democrat in the Riksdag said. “When it comes to issues such as climate and international cooperation, America still has to rebuild trust.” 

The young leaders described fighting climate change as a defining issue and an ambitious challenge that will require close cooperation with the U.S. “We have to make climate change our ‘Man on the Moon’ challenge,” said a representative in the Bundestag from the left-wing Social Democratic Party. 

There are, however, doubts that Washington can be relied upon as a climate partner. “The big issue is that one of the major parties in the U.S. does not acknowledge climate change as a problem,” observed a Moderate Party Riksdag member. “Even if the Democrats are trustworthy, it is a problem that the other party is not.” 

The first test of U.S. trustworthiness on this issue will be whether the climate-related portions of the reconciliation bill, now before the U.S. Congress, survive in the face of Republican Party opposition — especially the tax incentives for wind and solar, electric vehicles and recharging stations. A significant scaling back or elimination of such support for climate resilience will signal that the U.S. is not really serious about climate change, whatever the Biden administration says in Glasgow. 

Beyond this immediate issue, however, next-generation leaders were notably short on what specifically they hoped the U.S. and Europe might do together to cope with global warming. But one thing was clear: If you’re looking for signs of the health of the future transatlantic relationship, don’t look at what happened in Kabul, look at what will happen in Glasgow.

- Advertisement -
Latest news

Killer sudoku 780

Click here to access the print version. Normal sudoku rules apply, except the numbers in the cells contained within dotted lines add...
- Advertisement -

Saints put 2 defenders on IR, plus 7 coaches out

5:58 PM ETMike TriplettESPN Staff Writer CloseCovered Saints for eight years at New Orleans Times-Picayune Previously covered LSU football, San Francisco 49ers Iowa native and University...

Week 2 injuries: Updates on DeMarcus Lawrence, Ryan Fitzpatrick and more

5:00 PM ETNFL NationESPN Week 1 of the NFL season gave fans and experts a lot to talk about. There were fantastic finishes, questionable...
Related news

Killer sudoku 780

Click here to access the print version. Normal sudoku rules apply, except the numbers in the cells contained within dotted lines add...

Saints put 2 defenders on IR, plus 7 coaches out

5:58 PM ETMike TriplettESPN Staff Writer CloseCovered Saints for eight years at New Orleans Times-Picayune Previously covered LSU football, San Francisco 49ers Iowa native and University...

Week 2 injuries: Updates on DeMarcus Lawrence, Ryan Fitzpatrick and more

5:00 PM ETNFL NationESPN Week 1 of the NFL season gave fans and experts a lot to talk about. There were fantastic finishes, questionable...
- Advertisement -

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here