The German-American relationship has a long history and a very rich tradition. Oftentimes unknown and maybe also sometimes willingly unknown, immigrants of German descent compose the largest European immigrant group in the United States. However, in recent times this relationship which can also be included in the transatlantic partnership has shown some fissures which need to be mended. The post-World War II world order saw the emergence of the U.S. as Europe´s guarantor of safety and freedom. It seems as if since this relationship needs to be adjusted to the aspects of a post-Cold War era which emerged after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The United States´ role in European affairs ought to be defined while the European Union´s member states need to act unanimously in questions of security thereby erecting a new European security architecture.
A new basis for the transatlantic relationship needs to be found and I believe I can offer some insights which might lead to this basis. First of all, a minimal consensus should be reached concerning the underlying values and assumptions on which the transatlantic relationship is to be found. Our brightest minds of political philosophy have offered meaningful notions on this issue. I believe a reanimation of John Stuart Mill´s liberalism is helpful to this endeavor. The “West” is more than a geographical concept. It is also an intellectual and political concept which stresses personal autonomy and self-governance through elections. This social and political order has been and remains highly attractive to the majority of people. But it is a concept which desperately needs an update for the 21st century.
Second, we must identify key issues which the transatlantic partnership should tackle. In a time of growing inequality as well as insecurity due to an unprecedented form of terrorist attacks a mutual understanding of how our political economy as well as on security matter must be reached. The United States and the EU together combine the largest economic entity in the world. Both societies have reached a climax of economic wealth. However, this does not translate into wealth for the larger part of society. Especially young people face high student debts as well as poor prospects on the labor market in Southern European countries. Large public investments in education are needed generating public institutions of education living up to the highest standard. I do not mean to say that it should be our goal to have every young adult studying at a university. To the contrary, I believe that good vocational training needs to be offered. The ultimate goal and aspiration must be that all young people who wish to pursue a meaningful education in order to be well-qualified for the labor market ought to have the chance to acquire their goal without facing debts which will not be reimbursed before they eventually retire.
On the other hand, public security is one of the most pressing questions of our times. Western societies have faced multiple attacks in recent times and are struggling to find an adequate answer which balances freedom and security in a good way. All-encompassing surveillance cannot be the answer to these threats. As I said, the principles of liberalism are the foundation of our societies and they would be violated by such measures. Nevertheless, a new security partnership between both sides of the Atlantic ought to be established. But we need one, in which both populations can put their trust. Clear rules need to be defined concerning personal data. Private companies need to be held accountable by democratically elected state authorities.
I believe that on both sides of the Atlantic major party leaders need to be addressed with the issues I just presented. I am convinced that in the EU as well as in the U.S. most of the people clearly see the advantages of mutual cooperation. Unfortunately, many party leaders lack the audacity to speak up for a renewal of the transatlantic partnership which reflects the challenges of the 21st century. Politicians need to lay out the compelling evidence of benefits in this partnership. Our societies´ prosperity has been built in the post-World War II order in which both sides of the Atlantic fared well with the established world order. I do not agree that both sides should look for new partners. Liberal democracy is our mutual bond which we cannot take for granted. It should, therefore, be adjusted to new challenges without abandoning the underlying foundation. I believe this is clear to most people. However, they ought to be reminded regardless of current political events. There needs to be time to discuss the bigger picture with politicians as well as civil society actors. In a strengthened transatlantic partnership, we can take on the challenges of the 21st century.