The relationship between the United States and Europe has been a source of great stability in the years since World War II but appears now to be fraying, said Emmanuel Macron, who served as France’s minister for the economy, industry, and digital affairs from August 2014 to August 2016.
“During the past decade, the historical relationship between the U.S. and the European Union seems weaker,” Macron said in remarks at SIPA on December 5. “From a geopolitical point of view the U.S. has stopped being a security umbrella, and in terms of trade the U.S. and the EU are more active with Asia than each other.
“For the very first time, our relationship is at risk,” he said.
Macron, who is the founder of the French political movement En Marche! and a candidate for next year’s presidential election, recalled the moment he realized that the bond between continents was in jeopardy.
“Obama’s declaration that he will become the first transpacific president shocked me because it represented a shift from the transatlantic relationship to a transpacific one,” Macron said.
He also identified globalization, climate change, and advancement of technology as the three causes for what he called the “marginalization of the Western world.”
Even as globalization increased inequality in the Western world, suggested Macron, technology has rendered many middle class jobs obsolete, leading to an embittered working class.
“Our market economy is putting democracy at risk because it is threatening the middle class,” he said. “It’s a part of the explanation for Brexit and Trump and the rise of demagogues and extremists in Europe.”
Macron said climate change poses a similarly significant economic and political challenge.
“Climate change is changing the way we produce. We have to find new ways to produce and innovate, and organize our diplomacy,” he said.
Macron went on to argue that joint action as a transatlantic bloc is necessary to solve these challenges.
“If the western world decides to deal with climate change as a unit then we can do so,” he said. “Together we can create new jobs in a green economy.
“If we invest jointly on human capital,” Macron continued, “we would be able to moderate the effects of globalization and find a place for the middle class and everyone else in this new world.
“Lastly, it is up to us to regulate the digital world and make it sustainable,” he said.
If the transatlantic bond is to be rebuilt, Macron said, it would be necessary for both parties to remember their shared history and values.
“We have common values forged from centuries of revolution which are a part of our common DNA. Our political relationship is based on these values so our top priority should be to rebuild on our common values,” he said.
In conclusion, Macron suggested that the actions of the incoming American administration would be a key factor in the future direction of the transatlantic relationship.
“The new administration will have to choose,” he said. “Do they want to be a part of this successful history or do they want to enter into a new, unpredictable, unknown relationship where values are not the most important things and economic and personal friendships are more important?”
The event was sponsored by SIPA, the Center on Global Economic Governance, the Alliance program, and the European Institute. Sheri Berman, a professor of political science at Barnard College, introduced Macron and moderated the event.
— Serina Bellamy MIA ’17
Photo by Barbara Alper