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Europe needs to re-engage its Democratic Allies

There has been much talk lately of a new ‘Marshall Plan’ for Europe. Ursula von der Leyen has spoken often of how the European Union will come up with their own version of the groundbreaking financial programme that revitalised Europe in the post-war years. What the collective memory of the European Commission seems to have forgotten, however, is that the original Marshall Plan was for Europe, but financed by the Americans.

This historical revisionism isn’t new. The European Union has recently made quite a concerted effort to rewrite its own history, and as a result its relationship with other powers. The EU was of course the end product of an effort by the Western Allies to prevent further conflict in Europe and to make sure that none of the mostly new democracies fell under the influence of Soviet Communism. The original Marshall Plan was a means to an end – that ends being that Europe would remain free and united with strong relations across the Atlantic.

Of course, the world has moved on since then – Communism was ‘defeated’ in Europe in the 1980s and the EU adopted a new role of helping to support new emerging economies and markets in the former Eastern bloc – a task that it completed with relative success (notable exceptions do still exist). But with this shift, the European Union thought that it no longer needed to work with the United States and could try and redefine its own relationship with Russia and China. This simple notion has caused huge damage to Europe.

The problem is that the European Union too often forgets that it’s true allies are across the English Channel, over the Atlantic and in the Pacific. The United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and South Korea have been better trade partners and more resolute defenders of freedom in Europe than Russia or China – who more often than not seek to actively undermine European solidarity.

The current circumstances are no different. Whilst EU’s members might welcome the aid that they are receiving from Russia and China, it is obvious that this is far from charity. Neither the Russian Federation nor the People’s Republic of China are known for their altruism. They are using the distribution of aid as an attempt to win hearts and minds – to undermine the European Union for its sluggish response to the crisis.

And to some extent, this has already worked. The President of Serbia gave a speech in early March in which he declared that China, not the European Union, were the true friends of Serbia. In Italy, the far-right and left have claimed that Russia has done more to support the stricken country. The purpose of these moves is to drive a wedge between countries that should be working together.

The reality is that we wouldn’t have coped as well as we have had it not been for the support of our democratic allies. NATO has retooled its own logistical machine to keep the flow of vital medical equipment going – especially from European countries that haven’t been hit as hard as others. Equally, the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) coming from Singapore and testing kits from South Korea show that we do not have to be dependent on authoritarian China.

And more than that – when it comes to the economic recovery after this crisis is over – Europe must look to working with our allies across the democratic world to ensure that we end our dependence on China, and also secure our energy independence from Russia. Working closely with the United States and other countries would help them move in that direction.

We already know that such cooperation is beneficial and works. In late 2019, Poland signed a tri-party agreement with the United States and Ukraine on the import of natural gas – to end dependence on Russian imports. Equally, the Polish government signed an infrastructure agreement with American company AT&T for cellular networks and possible 5G. All sides benefited from this – and without having to depend on autocratic governments.

The European Union needs to stop seeing the United States as a rival, regardless of who occupies the Oval Office and start working towards a common goal. We know that when the Western world works together people benefit on all levels, and without having to sacrifice moral integrity. It will only be with the widest possible support from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and our democratic allies in the Far East and Pacific, that we will be able to emerge from this crisis stronger and more united.