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Transatlantic Relations under Biden: Opportunities and Challenges!

September 20, 2021

Speaker: VeronikaWand-Danielsson, Ambassador, Americas Department, Swedish Foreign Ministry
Chair: Michael Leigh, Academic Director, Master of Arts in European Public Policy; Academic Director, Master of Arts in Global Risk; Senior Adjunct Professor of European and Eurasian Studies, Johns Hopkins University SAIS Europe

In the wake of the dramatic events that unfolded in Afghanistan over the summer and the fallout over the recent Aukus submarine deal, it is no wonder that Transatlantic relations between the United States and Europe are strained. How did we get here and what does the future of US- EU relations hold? On September 20th, the Head of the Americas Department at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Wand-Danielsson, joined the SAIS Europe community in Bologna to discuss the opportunities and obstacles of this special relationship, as well as Sweden's particular place within it.

Speaking a mere few hours after the US announced the lifting of its travel ban for vaccinated EU citizens from November, Ambassador Wand-Danielsson began the conversation by underlining the need for unity and strong partners on both ends of the Atlantic – a body of water that, according to the Ambassador, unifies, rather than divides. In Sweden, particularly, the US is viewed as an invaluable partner. To explain this Ward-Danielsson outlined the strong economic ties, but also emphasized the importance of the security- and defense-oriented nature of the partnership. Today, Sweden faces an increasingly insecure and unstable geopolitical environment in the Baltic region as well as credible threats from Russia and its eastern allies. Despite, or perhaps because Sweden is not a member of NATO, the Scandinavian country therefore looks to the US for security. The joint police operation with the FBI codenamed Trojan Shield and recent training exercises of US and Swedish marines in the Stockholm archipelago are just two examples that demonstrate this objective in practice.

Moving away from the particularities of the US' relationship with Sweden and focusing more generally on the Brussel's agenda, Ambassador Wand-Danielsson outlined four common priorities: public health, climate change, green trade, and shared democratic values. This new transatlantic agenda has a high potential, both in terms of economic output and strategic progress. For one, the newly formed Trade and Technology Council (TTC) between the US and EU is set for its inaugural meeting at the end of September, marking both parties' commitment to deepening economic ties in the context of a rapidly changing global environment. Furthermore, there is a shared understanding of the need to combat climate change and work towards net zero emissions. However, agreeing on how exactly this is done, and by when, is one of the current challenges.