U.S.-EU visa spat reveals something bigger

CGTN Published: 2019-03-12 10:56:37
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A CNN report, which says that a U.S. citizen might lose the privilege of traveling visa-free in the Schengen area due to disagreement between the U.S. and EU on reciprocal visa arrangements, has added to a long list of unpleasant news for both sides in recent days.

Flags of the United States and the European Union. [File photo: VCG]

Flags of the United States and the European Union. [File photo: VCG]

The news itself is still debatable, since government officials on both sides claim the EU only requires visitors to take the extra step of filling a form and paying a small fee under the platform "the European Travel Information and Authorization System" (ETIAS), and it is nothing like applying for a visa.

It is not the first time a diplomatic incident between the U.S. and EU has made international news. The U.S. has just restored the diplomatic status of the EU ambassador in Washington, two months after it emerged that the Trump administration had quietly reversed an Obama-era decision to upgrade the status of the EU ambassador to one on par with that of all national envoys to the U.S.

That this kind of diplomatic incident, true or false, has aroused attention from international media reveals something bigger than the incident itself. The simplest interpretation is that people are aware that some profound changes are ongoing in the Transatlantic relationship and therefore are sensitive to any signs helpful for making an analysis or prediction.

European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker takes part in a news conference at the EC headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, June 20, 2018. [Photo: VCG]

European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker takes part in a news conference at the EC headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, June 20, 2018. [Photo: VCG]

Clearly, since the beginning of the Trump presidency, Europe and the U.S. are having a rough time, which is not normally seen for a pair of strategic allies and key economic partners. Although during the Iraq war the division between the EU and U.S. was wide and open, this time, the gap is more wide-ranging and deep-rooted.

On the economic front, last July's compromise between European Commission President Junker and President Trump on trade looks increasingly untenable, as the U.S. threatens the EU with automobile tariffs and are keen to include agricultural products in the supposedly trade negotiation on industrial goods.

On the security front, Europe is generally convinced that the U.S. might not be reliable when it comes to offering protection, as evidenced by Trump's half-hearted commitment to Article Five of the NATO Treaty, and are determined that "strategic autonomy" is the only way forward.

On the strategic and foreign policy level, Europe and the U.S. frequently speak in different languages, and as the recent Warsaw summit on Middle East has shown, the coordination between the two is either misplaced or missing all together.

Shown by the examples above, the Transatlantic relationship has acquired more attributes lately. It has become more transactional, meaning the two sides are engaged in a more business and management style in dealing with each other.

U.S. President Donald Trump threatens to impose a tax on European cars on March 3, 2018 if the European Union raises tariffs on American goods in response to his plans for steel and aluminum tariffs. [File photo: VCG]

U.S. President Donald Trump threatens to impose a tax on European cars on March 3, 2018 if the European Union raises tariffs on American goods in response to his plans for steel and aluminum tariffs. [File photo: VCG]

The U.S. and Europe will still cooperate where they can, but when disagreement arises, will not bury the hatchet simply because they are allies. This implies a loss of mutual understanding and accommodation between the two, a normal development between allies. Though the deep state connection between the two sides is still strong, the damage caused by the apparent loss of affection cannot be underestimated.

However, the end game of the evolution of the transatlantic relations is not manifest at all.

As a cornerstone and a product of the current international order, forged after the Second World War and adjusted after the end of the Cold War, the relationship between the U.S. and Europe is more than regional or even global, it is truly systematic. The well-being of this relationship reflects that of the system. This might explain the resilience and also the consequence of the Transatlantic relationship.

Editor's note: Zhang Bei is an assistant research fellow from China Institute of International Studies. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

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LU Xiankun Professor LU Xiankun is Managing Director of LEDECO Geneva and Associate Partner of IDEAS Centre Geneva. He is Emeritus Professor of China Institute for WTO Studies of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) and Wuhan University (WHU) of China and visiting professor or senior research fellow of some other universities and think tanks in China and Europe. He also sits in management of some international business associations and companies, including as Senior Vice President of Shenzhen UEB Technology LTD., a leading e-commerce company of China. Previously, Mr. LU was senior official of Chinese Ministry of Commerce and senior diplomat posted in Europe, including in Geneva as Counsellor and Head of Division of the Permanent Mission of China to the WTO and in Brussels as Commercial Secretary of the Permanent Mission of China to the EU. Benjamin Cavender Benjamin Cavender is a Shanghai based consultant with more than 11 years of experience helping companies understand consumer behavior and develop go to market strategies for China. He is a frequent speaker on economic and consumer trends in China and is often featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, and Channel News Asia. Sara Hsu Sara Hsu is an associate professor from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is a regular commentator on Chinese economy. Xu Qinduo Xu Qinduo is CRI's former chief correspondent to Washington DC, the United States. He works as the producer, host and commentator for TODAY, a flagship talk show on current affairs. Mr. Xu contributes regularly to English-language newspapers including Shenzhen Daily and Global Times as well as Chinese-language radio and TV services. Lin Shaowen A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized. George N. Tzogopoulos Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is an expert in media and politics/international relations as well as Chinese affairs. He is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre International de Européenne (CIFE) and Visiting Lecturer at the European Institute affiliated with it and is teaching international relations at the Department of Law of the Democritus University of Thrace. George is the author of two books: US Foreign Policy in the European Media: Framing the Rise and Fall of Neoconservatism (IB TAURIS) and The Greek Crisis in the Media: Stereotyping in the International Press (Ashgate) as well as the founder of chinaandgreece.com, an institutional partner of CRI Greek. David Morris David Morris is the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissioner in China, a former Australian diplomat and senior political adviser. Harvey Dzodin After a distinguished career in the US government and American media Dr. Harvey Dzodin is now a Beijing-based freelance columnist for several media outlets. While living in Beijing, he has published over 200 columns with an emphasis on arts, culture and the Belt & Road initiative. He is also a sought-after speaker and advisor in China and abroad. He currently serves as Nonresident Research Fellow of the think tank Center for China and Globalization and Senior Advisor of Tsinghua University National Image Research Center specializing in city branding. Dr. Dzodin was a political appointee of President Jimmy Carter and served as lawyer to a presidential commission. Upon the nomination of the White House and the US State Department he served at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. He was Director and Vice President of the ABC Television in New York for more than two decades.