As Angela Merkel prepares for her final Group of Seven meeting and Joe Biden for his first as president, their differences represent more than just a summit experience.
Merkel is part of a strong European G-7 contingent on the southwest coast of England emerging from the pandemic exceptionally united and determined to carve out a larger global role on par with her American ally.
For the French Chancellor Emmanuel Macron and the Italian Mario Draghi, as well as for the leaders of the European Union who take their places around the table, the relief is real at the prospect of dealing with Biden rather than Donald Trump. Yet their high hopes for the summit do not diminish the growing sense that they must collectively step out of the shadows and US politics of influence in Washington rather than obediently accept the American line.
An impending deal to put aside pending trade disputes between the EU and the US shows mutual desire to work together. However, there is annoyance in Berlin, Paris and Brussels at Biden’s call to arms to save the world from Covid-19, after the United States reserved their vaccines for Americans while Europe has took up national defense for exporting gunfire to the world – some 300 million since January – including to other members of the G-7, Canada and Japan.
For Europe, the pandemic illustrates the need to get its message across to Washington. It’s research of greater influence that appears in tune with public opinion, with polls this week suggesting transatlantic divisions persist after Trump. The G-7 plans to promise 1 billion new doses over the next year, according to a draft statement. The Biden administration plans to purchase 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses to share.
The G-7 will show the world “that the alliance and its leaders are back after Trump and the pandemic to tackle global issues,” said Peter Beyer, the German government’s transatlantic coordinator. Yet, he said, “it is not just about returning to the old Western alliance, but rather forging a new West.”
Luck of europe
As the president flies off to the G-7, a NATO summit, EU-US talks, then a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Europe feels like it has a chance to advance his cause. Brussels in particular is in a emboldened mood, according to two EU officials, who cited the results of the bloc’s vaccination program, the strong recovery in the eurozone economy and the imminent arrival of a pandemic pulse. massive EU.
More than just trust, European leaders have some certainty that they have been right on issues ranging from the climate to Iran and have the right to have their point of view heard. Four years of Trump created a lot of mistrust, but also a belief that Europe should be less submissive to America, said a person working on the EU-US summit.
“The European Union can be at the forefront when it comes to ideas for the world,” said European Council President Charles Michel, who will attend the G-7, in an interview this week with Bloomberg and a small group of other reporters. electrical outlets. Citing topics from the summit ranging from climate action to taxation and vaccine certificates, he said the EU has more influence than you think, and “sometimes in Europe we forget that” .
This differs from the Biden administration’s emphasis on a post-Trump return to American leadership.
EU hopes for better relationship with US President Joe Biden, who took office in January
“Whether it’s ending the Covid-19 pandemic everywhere, responding to the demands of an accelerating climate crisis, or dealing with the nefarious activities of the Chinese and Russian governments, the United States must lead the world from a position of strength, ”Biden said. in an op-ed published Sunday in the Washington Post.
European officials say they are disappointed that Biden’s policies carry certain characteristics of Trump’s America First stance. The EU has raised concerns with the United States over Biden’s surprise withdrawal from Afghanistan, where several member states, including Germany, have troops, according to people familiar with the talks. One official said the new administration appears to be banking on goodwill just because Biden is not Trump.
Disappointment so far
“We expected more change with Biden,” said Françoise Nicolas, director of the Center for Asian Studies at the French Institute for International Relations in Paris.
Stimulating Europe means realizing that there is a small window for its biggest hitters to advance their common interests. Macron faces a murderous election campaign ahead of next year’s presidential election, while Draghi, the former European Central Bank chief named Italy’s technocratic leader, is not expected to serve beyond 2023.
Most urgent of all, Merkel is not running in Germany’s September election, which means it’s her swan song for the G-7. She is not about to take a back seat, however, and will push to send a clear signal to Minsk and Moscow about recent events in Belarus and Russia’s involvement, according to a senior German government official with knowledge of her. thought.
Disputes persist with the United States over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a point of contention picked up by Trump and maintained under Biden. A delegation from Berlin met with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in Washington last week, but little progress was made. Merkel fundamentally sees this as a problem for Germany and Europe only, according to another German official.
Trump has made no secret of his contempt for the EU, NATO and for Merkel personally. Seen from Berlin, although the Trump years are over, the lesson remains that Europe will have to fend for itself, Germany’s chief official said. It is on this basis that Merkel will now deal with Biden.
The G-7 reminds Merkel of the need for joint action to face the world’s most intractable problems: at its first summit in 2006 in St. Petersburg, leaders discussed Israel’s conflict with Gaza, Iran’s nuclear program and climate change, topics that could just as easily be on the agenda this weekend.
A constant presence
Biden will be his fourth US president since then; during this time she worked with two Canadian prime ministers, three Japanese prime ministers, four French presidents, five British leaders and 10 Italian.
Putin has always been a constant – a Russian speaker, Merkel regularly makes calls with the president to harass him over Ukraine, and Biden will surely harness his knowledge ahead of his meeting with Putin in Geneva. The other is that she was the only female leader in 2006; she will be at this G-7 again.
Certainly there is enthusiasm for the Cornwall summit. Germany, France and Italy all want to strengthen cooperation with Washington. The US has signaled its support for the EU in its Brexit standoff with the UK, while Brussels is set to back US pressure for a new investigation into the origins of Covid-19.
Despite all the differences between the leaders of the G-7, the stars may be lining up for common action, which is, after all, Europe’s strong suit.
“They all want to leave their mark and get things done,” said Nicolas de Ifri.
© 2021 Bloomberg LP
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