Economy, Sustainability, Security and Transatlantic Cooperation

by Kevin Cottrell

We spent the last two days in intensive dialogues with European Union and NATO leadership at the European Parliament (pictured above), addressing a host of issues ranging from security, the expanding membership in the common market and the state of transatlantic relations.

Without question, conversations on this first leg of the journey have been highlighted by both the challenges and opportunities to solving the common global issues facing the United States and European Union countries. Most notable are the larger security issues like terrorism and rogue nations like Iran, the implications of global climate change, and innovations that assist in economic integration on both sides of the Atlantic.

Highlights of these sessions included a roundtable discussion with members of the European Parliament. The European Parliament is the only supernational institution whose members are democratically elected by direct vote. Focusing on European perspectives on security, particularly relations with Iran, the E.U. seems to favor a strategy of dialogue, discussion and negotiation as opposed to military action in Iran. (Group pictured below with host (center), Paulo Casaca, European Parliament, Portugal. Other members of Parliament not pictured included Janusz Onyszkiewicz of the Netherlands and Jonathan Evans of the United Kingdom).

Additionally, E.U. officials clearly communicated their strong commitment to addressing global climate change. In a session with Matthew Baldwin, advisor on Trade, Energy, Development, and Climate Change to E.U. Commission President Manuel Barroso, the Fellows heard first-hand about the E.U.’s “20-20-20 by 2020” plan. The E.U.’s goals by the year 2020 are to reduce emissions by 20 percent, increase renewables by 20 percent, and increase overall energy efficiency by 20 percent. Furthermore, E.U. projects indicate that by 2050, carbon emissions should be reduced by an additional 50 percent to avoid cataclysmic implications of global warming. This plan, coupled by efforts in the U.S., indicates dramatic regulatory, technological, and lifestyle shifts. While California is advancing climate change initiatives that garnered E.U. support and encouragement, the U.S. still lacks a cohesive national policy. This issue will continue to dominate transatlantic relations.

The GMF experience also allows for deepened relationships with our European peers. A colleague of mine from Chicago and I were invited to a charming dinner party hosted by Luca DiPreso, an Italian advisor to the European Parliament. In traditional Italian hospitality, the dinner party went well into the evening in a salon-like atmosphere with other guests from Germany, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Spain, and France. Obamamania continues on both sides of the Atlantic. Although one guest quipped that his only regret of Hillary Clinton’s campaign progress is that many people will miss out on vibrant, star-powered G8 Summits with both Bill Clinton and Carla Bruni in tow. After the raucous laughter that ensued, I vowed to report on it in this blog.

We departed Brussels today by train to Amsterdam. Our travel group has divided up into smaller groups of six. My small group is excited to explore the Netherlands over the next five days, including a focus on the Hague, immigration, water, and urban development.

Kevin Cottrell is Executive Director of the Southern California Leadership Network, blogging from his fellowship with the German Marshall Fund in Europe.