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Redefining the transatlantic relationship and its role in shaping global governance

Final Report Summary - TRANSWORLD (Redefining the transatlantic relationship and its role in shaping global governance)

Executive Summary:
In an era of global flux, emerging powers and growing interconnectedness, transatlantic relations appear to have lost their bearings. As the international system fragments into different constellations of state and non-state powers across different policy domains, not only the ability, but even the willingness of the US and the EU to exercise leadership together can no longer be taken for granted. Political, economic, and social elites on both shores of the Atlantic express different views on whether the US and the EU should be bound together, freelance or seek alternative partnerships in a confusing multipolar world. Traditional paradigms to understand the transatlantic relationship are thus wanting. Transworld, a project involving a network of 13 research centres, universities and a survey company from the US, Europe and Turkey, aimed to provide a new approach to the understanding of transatlantic relations and their role in the 21st century world.
Transworld proceeded in three phases. The first phase was dedicated to elaborating a conceptual framework within the contours of which actual research would be carried out. Transworld research team elaborated three potential scenarios of evolution of transatlantic relations – structural drift, functional relationship and enduring partnership – and provided guidelines as to how a redefined transatlantic relationship can effectively affect the global governance architecture.
The second phase of the project focused on redefining transatlantic relations in four policy domains – economy, security, environment, human rights and democracy – and then on illustrating the role of US-European cooperation in the shaping of global and regional governance structures. Overall, the research showed a transatlantic relationship that still gravitates towards the enduring partnership scenario, although with a growing number of elements of functional cooperation. The latter point is one reason the transatlantic capacity to shape governance has diminished, although it still possesses great potential. To support the desk research, Transworld conducted the first ever survey of transatlantic political, economic and social elites on the state of transatlantic relations and their role in the world.
The third phase of the project was entirely dedicated to the elaboration of a set of policy recommendations. Transworld Coordinator Riccardo Alcaro eventually produced a final policy paper that drew heavily on the research carried out by the Transworld research team as well as on the results of four Delphi exercises (the Delphi exercises are a methodological tool aimed at establishing the main areas of consensus among policy experts on specific policy proposals). The policy-relevant conclusion of the project was that the US-European partnership remains indispensable to effectively address some of the most pressing regional and global challenges. The US and Europe should leverage stronger transatlantic ties to engage other countries, including those who behave like rivals, from a position of strength. This approach should guide transatlantic cooperation in critical regional contexts as well as on the global stage.

Project Context and Objectives:
By combining an inter-disciplinary analysis of transatlantic relations, including desk research, in-depth interviews, an elite survey and a sophisticated Delphi exercise to elaborate policy proposals, Transworld has aimed to:
a) determine, differentiating among four policy domains – economics, security, environmental politics, and human rights/democracy – whether transatlantic relations are
a. drifting apart (structural drift scenario)
b. adapting along an ad hoc cooperation-based pattern (functional relationship scenario)
c. evolving into a different but resilient special partnership (enduring partnership scenario)
b) assess the role of a re-defined transatlantic relationship in the global governance architecture;
c) provide policy recommendations on how the US and the EU could best cooperate to enhance the viability, effectiveness and accountability of governance structures.
3.2 Research organisation in WPs
Transworld’s work was divided into eleven Work Packages (WPs) to better coordinate the project’s overall work and fairly distribute responsibilities among partners according to expertise and capabilities. Eight WPs (1-8) concern research activities, while single WPs were put in charge of the project’s policy-relevant dimension (WP9), dissemination of results (WP10) and overall management and coordination (WP11).
Management and dissemination. WP11 ‘Management’ and WP10 ‘Dissemination’ were active for the whole project period. Their activities proceeded in parallel with those of the other nine WPs, whose work plan reflected a timetable designed to ensure greater coherence by having the research-relevant and policy-relevant WPs (WPs1-8 and WP9, respectively) build upon one another.
Research findings. Research activities included four steps: a) elaboration of the conceptual framework; b) redefinition of transatlantic relations in the economic, security, environmental, and human rights and democracy promotion fields; c) survey of transatlantic political, social and economic elites; d) assessment of the transatlantic role in shaping governance structures. WP1 was responsible for elaborating the conceptual framework. WPs2-5 focused on redefining the transatlantic relationship in the economic, security, environmental, and human rights and democracy promotion fields, respectively. WPs 7-8 were responsible for devising, implementing and analysing the Transatlantic Elites Survey (TES). WP6 assessed the transatlantic role in shaping governance.
Policy recommendations. WP9 elaborated a set of policy recommendations on how the US and Europe can foster governance. The process of elaboration of the policy proposals drew on the research conducted by the other WPs as well as on the results of four Delphi exercises, one for each policy domain, involving up to 100 experts from the US, six European countries (France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland and the UK), Turkey, Russia, Brazil, India and China.

Project Results:
The main results of the project are the following.
Conceptual framework. The conceptual framework was elaborated by WP1. It entailed an historical and theoretical overview of transatlantic relations and the articulation of the meaning of the three hypothetical scenarios according to which the transatlantic relationship will have to be redefined: structural drift, functional relationship and enduring partnership.
The historical review warned against extrapolating today’s transatlantic relations from their historical evolution, which features both continuity and discontinuity – sometimes in different times, sometimes at the same time but on different issues. Theoretically, these ebbs and flows were traced back to different conceptual premises of various International Relations (IR) schools of thought. While neorealism traces the origin of the transatlantic relationship to a common external threat (and thus seems to imply that a structural drift is inevitable today, given the lack of such a threat), the various branches of liberalism maintain that non-security interests, as well as shared values and identities, also play a role, whereby other scenarios than the structural drift are conceivable. A significant research achievement of WP1 was that of conceptualising the transatlantic relationship, in social constructivist terms, as a form of a Deutschan ‘security community’ bound by interests, interdependence, institutions and identities (the four ‘Is’). While this conceptualisation is in theory compatible with any of the three scenarios, it provides the most solid theoretical framework for the enduring partnership hypothesis.
WP1 insisted on considering the three hypothetical scenarios not so much as mutually exclusive predictions of the future but as methodological instruments to capture the complexities of today’s transatlantic relationship. WP1 identified the factors that can condition the evolution of the transatlantic relationship towards a combination of the scenarios, whose various elements can coexist in reality. Of particular relevance is the importance attributed to the transatlantic bond by US and EU leaders when constructing their narratives about America’s and Europe’s role in a multipolar world; the endurance or disappearance of structural interdependencies brought about by such systemic shocks as a great leap forward in EU integration, a break-up of the eurozone or a default of the US government; the strategies and behaviour of rising powers, particularly China; and global shocks like environmental crises, widespread wars and instability as well as massive movements of people.
Redefining the transatlantic relationship. WPs 2 to 5 were responsible for redefining transatlantic relations in the four policy domains. Their main findings are the following.
Transatlantic economic relations. The transatlantic economic relationship is still more likely to unfold along an enduring partnership pattern than other evolutionary scenarios. The negotiation over a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is at same time the main reason for which the transatlantic economic relationship can still be seen as an enduring partnership and the one issue on which transatlantic economic relations can start diverging. TTIP would in a single stroke boost intra-Atlantic trade and investment and integrate US and EU economies based on common, or at least partly harmonised, regulatory platforms. However, a failure in the negotiation is a fully plausible outcome too, which, coupled with a number of downsize risks, could impart the relationship a more functional turn. Such downsize risks include: the actual ability of the EU to revamp its economic fortunes by upgrading eurozone governance mechanisms and to reinvigorate support for integration in both the public opinion and member states (most notably the UK); the potential greater appeal, in US eyes, of Asia-Pacific economies; and China’s response to transatlantic efforts to integrate their economies more.
Transatlantic security relations. The fragmentation of international security points to a transatlantic security relationship that is a mix of an enduring partnership and ad hoc forms of cooperation. On issues where a broad consensus is needed for action, such as responding to Russia’s aggression of Ukraine and Iran’s nuclear plans, the US and Europe are likely to make an effort to coordinate action. But on issues to which the US and Europe give a different order of priority, more ad hoc forms of collaboration will be the norm. Where security perceptions vary, as in the Asia-Pacific, transatlantic cooperation will be marginal at best. Overall, the current state of the transatlantic security relationship is one of a still enduring but more vulnerable partnership.
Transatlantic relations and global environmental and climate change politics. Although the complexities of US and EU domestic political landscapes make the future of the US and EU environmental policies difficult to ascertain, the transatlantic environmental partnership is unlikely to take a linear, univocal trajectory. Far from degenerating into a structural rift or converging towards an enduring partnership, the near future of the transatlantic environmental partnership will remain a complex patchwork displaying the coexistence of major disagreements in key areas alongside both old and novel elements of convergence and cooperation efforts. Most importantly, the ongoing negotiation over TTIP will likely entail a degree of harmonisation of regulation on the two sides of the Atlantic, which entails a potential for turning US and EU environmental policies into a common set of rules and practices, thereby giving the US-EU relationship a push towards real partnership. As of now, however, the transatlantic partnership in the environment and climate change field fits the functional relationship pattern.
Transatlantic relations, human rights and democracy promotion. While the identities and normative interests of the EU and the US as democracy promoters undoubtedly converge, there is still no indication of joint institutions for democracy promotion. Divergence and drift are unlikely, yet an enduring partnership is not the case either, since there is no partnership in the first place. Transatlantic cooperation becomes possible when facing crises, but ‘routine’ democracy promotion is currently likely to proceed in parallel rather than be coordinated. Hence, the functional relationship hypothesis seems to be closest to reality, although the sharing of core values in terms of fundamental freedoms does in fact provide a framework in which the US and the EU could build a more structured relationship in the promotion of human rights and democracy.
Transatlantic Elites Survey. The research effort by WPs2-5 was instrumental in giving direction to the work of WPs7-8, tasked with designing and analysing (WP7) and implementing (WP8) the survey of transatlantic elite opinion in seven countries: France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, the UK and the US. The elites groups included political leaders (members of parliaments and officials, including members of the European Parliament and EU officials); opinion leaders (journalists, think tankers etc.), and business leaders.
The survey results showed that US elites want a stronger EU in order to ‘share the burden’ of world leadership more evenly. On the other hand, EU elites are keener on an independent role in global governance. Views of rising powers differ, in particular of China, which European elites do not perceive as a threat to the same extent the American ones do. However, businessmen on both shores of the Atlantic do see China more as an economic threat rather than as an opportunity. The use of force is an acceptable option for elites on both sides of the Atlantic, yet the Americans are persistently more hawkish than the Europeans are.
Overall, the picture is of a transatlantic elite opinion environment still positively inclined towards cooperation. Three fault-lines have emerged, however, that can reduce the room for transatlantic cooperation: a) the Left-Right divide within the US, as American conservative elites are consistently more distant from the European elites than American progressives; b) the split between the eurozone and non-eurozone members over the scope and pace of further economic and political integration, which creates uncertainty in the transatlantic relationship too; c) the division between the views of political leaders, who are still overwhelmingly keen on transatlantic relations, and business elites, who express more neutral attitudes.
Transatlantic relations and global governance. The work of WPs1-5 and 7-8 eventually fed back into WP6, responsible for assessing the role of the US and Europe in governance architectures, which varies according to policy domain.
In the security field, multipolarity poses a serious challenge to the Western-promoted liberal order. However, the system of security governance that rests on the liberal order can survive with some adjustments. International security is characterised more by functional threats such as regional crises, nuclear proliferation and jihadism than it is by great power conflict. The West has been able to find common ground with China and even Russia (as well as other countries) over the management of key issues, such as Iran’s nuclear programme. Along with competition, then, come mutual concerns around which great powers can, and actually do, cooperate. Security governance has become more difficult, but not impossible to achieve. Much will depend on whether the US opt to contain the rising powers or concentrate on functional threats and avoid great power conflict. Europe’s contribution would undoubtedly be more significant in the second case.
In the economic area, the West has the opportunity to continue to influence the ‘rules of the game’ heavily. It can do so not so much via multilateral fora such as the World Trade Organisation (where the Doha round on trade liberalisation has been dormant for years), but through a strengthened bilateral partnership, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). A more integrated Atlantic economy would work as an irresistible pole of attraction for all countries that want into access the US and EU markets, providing them with the incentive to abide by rules and standards set in Washington and Brussels. This entails the risk of creating an even bigger imbalance in global economic governance structures. However, if TTIP is designed in such a way that US and EU markets remain open and accessible, it could actually become a pillar of global economic governance and even inject new life into trade multilateralism.
In the environmental and climate change policy field, there is an even stronger case for the compatibility of unilateralism (by the EU) and bilateralism (between the US and China) with multilateral cooperation. The EU continues to set the pace in addressing climate change by setting goals repeatedly far more ambitious than anyone else’s, whereby the threshold of action against global warming is constantly set higher than most countries would like it to be. Moreover, the recent US-China deal on environmental issues has credibly increased the chances of building a larger consensus on how to fight climate change. However, serious US and EU climate action has also to involve deeper engagement with the ideologies underpinning their economic models, which are environmentally unsustainable.
The transatlantic role in shaping governance structures remains critical also in the highly contested field of human rights and democracy. NATO’s intervention in Libya has given the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) norm an ill repute. It is nonetheless worth emphasising that the controversy focuses on the application rather than the principle itself, meaning that even countries such as Russia and China have accepted the human rights discourse underlying R2P. At the same time, however, it is undeniable that, with alternative models and alternative sources of hard cash, the transatlantic partners are no longer able to be in charge in the field of human rights protection and democracy. The international community will strive to respond to serious humanitarian crises, but to the extent that it will respond in concert, such responses are likely to focus on the preventive and rebuilding, rather than reactive, dimensions of human rights protection and promotion.
Policy recommendations. Drawing on the work of WPs-1-8 and the results of the Delphi exercises. WP9 got to the following conclusions as to where the transatlantic relationship stands in the 21st century world and what it should do to enhance governance of global and regional challenges.
The US-European partnership remains indispensable to effectively address some of the most pressing regional and global challenges. The United States and European Union countries retain still considerable – indeed massive – resources. Critically, they share normative and strategic interests in a broad range of issues, from restoring security to Europe’s troubled neighbourhood to addressing challenges such as global trade and economic governance, as well as fighting global warming.
As much as transatlantic cohesion is necessary, it alone is not sufficient. The US and Europe should leverage stronger transatlantic ties to engage other countries, including those who behave like rivals, from a position of strength. This approach should guide transatlantic cooperation in critical regional contexts as well as on the global stage.
Specifically, the US and European countries should:
• Maintain a multi-tier approach towards Russia that combines the bolstering of defence and deterrence assets, as well as diplomatic and economic sanctions, with engagement in high-level talks on ways to prevent uncontrolled escalation and re-create a more stable security environment in Europe.
• Coordinate efforts to address the multiple crises in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Gulf. In particular, the United States and its European allies should promote inclusive politics, isolate jihadist groups and coordinate with rival powers. In the long term, they should pursue the creation of an inclusive security governance architecture involving Iran and the Sunni Arab states.
• Bring negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership to a successful conclusion. The agreement should be the basis for an open regionalism in which trade and investment practices enshrined in the treaty can be extended to other partners.
• Reduce the imbalance in voting rights in the international financial institutions and undertake a renewed effort to ensure that new financial bodies, such as the Chinese-led Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, follow high-quality transparency and accountability standards.
• Intensify networks, including fortifying contacts between individual US states and EU countries, to exchange best practices on fighting climate change, as well as reaching out to countries such as China to gain the international consensus needed to push forward ambitious and verifiable targets in the aim of reducing polluting emissions.

Potential Impact:
Prospects for transatlantic cooperation to enhance governance of global and regional issues. The main assumption of WP9, drawn from WP6 on Transatlantic Relations and Global Governance, is that governance of global and regional challenges has become an increasingly difficult task. The emergence of new protagonists on the world stage has complicated efforts to achieve the international consensus needed to address global imbalances, fight climate change, and tackle new threats. Tensions between great powers have risen, regional crises have deteriorated, and non-state actors such as jihadist groups and criminal organisations have proliferated. Reflecting these systemic changes, the ability of the United States and its allies in Europe to shape governance structures has dwindled. Nevertheless, the US-European partnership, which WPs2-8 have shown to be still resilient and capable of cooperation, remains indispensable to effectively address some of the most pressing regional and global challenges. The US and Europe should leverage stronger transatlantic ties to engage other countries, including those who behave like rivals, from a position of strength. This approach should guide transatlantic cooperation in critical regional contexts as well as on the global stage.

Presenting and disseminating policy recommendations. WP9 has elaborated the policy recommendations for EU and US policymakers on a number of policy domains based on the research findings of WPs1-8 as well as a series of Delphi exercises. The Delphi methodology consists in submitting a set of policy options to a number of experts, who are then asked to reconsider their first assessment based on the others’ opinion. The process was iterated thrice in the attempt to achieve an acceptable degree of convergence on a specific policy proposal, thereby ensuring a solid ground for that proposal. Over a hundred experts from the US, Europe, Turkey as well as Russia, Brazil, China and India have been involved in the Delphi. The set of policy recommendations were presented at two public events in Washington, DC, and Brussels. In Brussels, a number of separate, behind-closed-door sessions involving Transworld researchers and European Parliament staffers as well as officials from the European External Action Service (EEAS) were held. In Washington DC, the afternoon session of the conference was held at the presence of Gregory Meeks, a member of the US House of Representatives, and David O’Sullivan, Head of the EU Delegation to the United States.

List of Websites:
Project website address:
Riccardo Alcaro
Senior Fellow
Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI)
Tel: +39063224360 ext. 44
Fax: +39063224363