Welcome to the eleventh edition of the Trans-Atlantic Scorecard, a quarterly evaluation of U.S.-European relations produced by Brookings’s Center on the United States and Europe (CUSE), as part of the Brookings – Robert Bosch Foundation Transatlantic Initiative. To produce the Scorecard, we poll Brookings scholars and other experts on the present state of U.S. relations with Europe — overall and in the political, security, and economic dimensions — as well as on the state of U.S. relations with five key countries and the European Union itself. We also ask about several major issues in the news. The poll for this edition of the survey was conducted April 6 to 9, 2021. The experts’ analyses are complemented by a timeline of significant moments over the previous three calendar months and a snapshot of the relationship, including a tracker of President Biden’s telephone conversations with European leaders, figures presenting data relevant to the relationship, and CUSE Director Thomas Wright’s take on what to watch in the coming months.
- January 1
- The United Kingdom officially left the European Union (EU) Custom Union and the EU single market, and Gibraltar joined the Schengen Area under Spanish sponsorship. In Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new year’s address, he stated “we have our freedom in our hands and it is up to use to make the most of it.” French President Emmanuel Macron countered in his new year’s address and stated, that Brexit “was the child of European malaise and of many lies and false promises.”
- January 1
- President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey issued a presidential decree to appoint Melh Bulu, a politician from Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), as the rector of Boğaziçi University, launching a months-long, student-led protest movement.
- January 4
- Portugal began its sixth month presidency of the Council of the European Union with the motto “time to deliver: a fair, green and digital recovery.”
- January 4
- The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran had resumed 20% uranium enrichment at the underground Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant. The Council of the European Union later urged “Iran to refrain from further escalation” and called on the U.S. and Iran to return to full JCPOA compliance.
- January 6
- The European Medicines Agency (EMA) reccomended the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for authorization in the EU.
- January 6
- While members of Congress were certifying the results of the November 2020 presidential election, a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol. European leaders expressed deep concern over the events. EU High Representative Josep Borrell stated, “This is not America,” and German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned President Trump’s response to the November 2020 election, stating “A basic rule of democracy is: After elections, there are winners and losers. Both have to play their roles with decency and a sense of responsibility, so that democracy itself remains the winner.”
- January 8
- In response to the events of January 6, Twitter permanently banned President Trump due to “the risk of further incitement of violence.” Across the Atlantic, Twitter’s decision raised questions of technology, social media regulation, and freedom of speech. High Representative Borrell stated that the European Union needs “to be able to better regulate the contents of social networks,” and European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton called for a restoration of “trust in the digital space” in order to guarantee the “survival [of] our democracies in the 21st century.” Chancellor Merkel considered Twitter’s move “problematic,” with her spokesman saying that she viewed the right of free speech as having “fundamental importance.”
- January 13
- In response to allegations of corruption, Jüri Ratas resigned as Prime Minister of Estonia and head of the Center Party. Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid tapped Leader of the Reform Party Kaja Kallas to start talks to form a new government, which would be completed two weeks later with the formation of a coalition cabinet consisting of the center-right Reform Party and the left-leaning Center Party. Kaja Kallas became the first female Prime Minister of Estonia.
- January 13
- The U.S. House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump, making him the first president in U.S. history to be twice impeached. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stated that the impeachment was “nothing other than the expression of the American people’s need to ensure that there are consequences for damaging their democratic institutions.”
- January 14
- The German Bundestag approved the German Act against Restraints of Competition (Gesetz gegen Wettbewerbsbeschränkungen – “GWB”), a comprehensive overhaul of Germany’s antitrust laws. The GWB provides the German government with the necessary regulatory tools to address abuses of competitive dominance, including abuses in the digital realm.
- January 16
- Armin Laschet, the minister president of North Rhine-Westphalia was elected the new chairman of Germany’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), beating his more conservative rival Friedrich Merz by 521 to 466 votes in a runoff.
- January 17
- Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny returned to Moscow from Germany, where he was recovering from a suspected poisoning by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Upon his return, Navalny was detained and held by the prison services. On February 2, a Moscow court would rule that Navalny violated the terms of his probation for an old criminal charge that was previously deemed by the European Court of Human Rights to have lacked a fair trial. Navalny was sentenced to more than two and a half years in prison.
- January 18
- Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte won a vote of confidence in the Chamber of Deputies, by a vote of 321 to 259. The next day, he survived a vote of confidence in the Italian Senate but was short 161 votes in the parliament and thus did not secure an overall majority. He would resign as prime minister on January 25.
- January 19
- The European Commission announced a goal of having “a minimum of 70% of the adult population” vaccinated by Summer 2021.
- January 19
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo determined that China is “committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.” During his confirmation hearing, Secretary of State-nominee Antony Blinken agreed, stating “the forcing of men, women, and children into concentration camps; trying to, in effect, re-educate them to be adherents to the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party, all of that speaks to an effort to commit genocide.”
- January 20
- Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, and Kamala Harris was sworn in as the 49th vice president of the United States.
- January 21
- Hungary approved SputnikV, the Russian-produced coronavirus vaccine, for use, becoming the first EU member state to independently authorize a COVID-19 vaccine.
- January 22
- AstraZeneca announced that its first deliveries of the COVID-19 vaccine to the European Union would be “lower than initially anticipated,” leading the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides to state that the EU Commission and member states were deeply dissatisfied with the delivery delays.
- January 23
- President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Johnson and discussed NATO, “the importance of cooperation, including through multilateral challenges such as combatting climate change, containing COVID-19, and ensuring global health security,” and shared foreign policy concerns, including China, Iran and Russia.
- January 24
- President Biden spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and discussed NATO, the importance of cooperation through multilateral organizations, and foreign policy priorities, including China, the Middle East, Russia, and the Sahel.
- January 27
- Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, suspended operations in Hungary after the European Court of Justice ruled that Hungary violated EU law by denying protection for asylum-seekers.
- January 29
- The EMA approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for use. In response to fears that the newly approved vaccine would be imported to the United Kingdom by way of Northern Ireland, the European Union attempted to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, a provision of the treaty that allows for one party to unilaterally instate trade controls between the European Union and Northern Ireland. However, the European Union quickly revoked the decision and instead implemented an export authorization scheme, that would block all COVID-19 vaccine exports to about 100 countries worldwide.
- January 30
- Following the resignation of Prime Minister Conte, Italian President Sergio Mattarella tasked the speaker of the lower house and member of the 5Star Movement Robert Fico to build a new government.
- January 31
- European Commission President von der Leyen announced that AstraZeneca would deliver 9 million more doses to EU countries by the end of March, for a total of 40 million total doses.
- February 3
- The United States and Russia agreed to extend the New START treaty for five years, ensuring verifiable limits on Russian ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers until February 5, 2026. In support of the agreement’s renewal, the EU stated “[b]y increasing predictability and mutual confidence amongst the two largest nuclear weapon States, this Treaty limits strategic competition and increases strategic stability.”
- February 3
- Poland’s Law and Justice Party (PiS) unveiled a media advertising tax against independent television and radio stations, print outlets, and media companies. Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, issued a statement expressing concern, stating “this measure could undermine the financial viability of Poland’s independent media, a necessity for any democracy.”
- February 5
- EU High Representative Josep Borell traveled to Moscow and met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. In a tense joint press conference, Foreign Minister Lavrov called the European Union an “unreliable partner,” accused European leaders of lying about Alexei Navalny’s poisoning, and called EU sanctions against Russia over Crimea “unilateral and illegitimate restrictions […] imposed under false pretenses.” During a working lunch following the press conference, Russia expelled three European diplomats from Germany, Sweden, and Poland. In a blog post published two days later, High Representative Borrell stated “[a]n aggressively-staged press conference and the expulsion of three EU diplomats during my visit indicate that the Russian authorities did not want to seize this opportunity to have a more constructive dialogue with the EU.”
- February 8
- Germany, Poland, and Sweden each expelled a Russian diplomat in response to Russia’s decision to expel three of their diplomats from Moscow.
- February 9
- Following High Representative Borrell’s visit to Moscow, more than 70 members of parliament signed a letter drafted by Estonian European People’s Party MEP Riho Terras calling on Borrell to resign.
- February 13
- Mario Draghi, former president of the European Central Bank, was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Italy. After the resignation of former Prime Minister Conte and a failed attempt by Roberto Fico of the 5Star Movement to form a new government, Silvio Berlusconi broke center right unity and the 5Star movement voted in favor of Draghi’s government, resulting in the successful formation of a new Italian parliament. Draghi would go on to win votes of confidence in Italy’s upper and lower chambers on February 17 and 18.
- February 14
- European Health Commissioner Kyriakides announced that COVID-19 vaccines that “have been upgraded by the manufacturer based on the previous vaccine to combat new mutations will not have to go through the whole approval process,” in effect shortening the previous EU vaccination approval process.
- February 15
- The Hungarian Media Council stripped Hungary’s last major independent radio station Klubrádió of its broadcasting license, forcing the station to operate solely online.
- February 17
- U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin joined his first NATO defense ministers meeting to discuss NATO2030, burden-sharing, enhanced deterrence and defense, NATO-EU relations, emerging and disruptive technologies, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Ahead of the meeting, Secretary Austin wrote, “We are ready to consult together, decide together and act together. We are ready to revitalize our alliances. We are ready to lead.”
- February 18
- The U.S. Department of State announced the imposition of a third round of visa restrictions against 48 “Belarusian individuals responsible for undermining Belarusian democracy, making them generally ineligible for entry into the United States,” including justice officials, law enforcement leaders, and academic administrators.
- February 19
- The Group of Seven (G7) met to discuss cooperation on COVID-19, reaffirming the group’s support for COVAX and the World Health Organization (WHO) and agreeing to work with the WHO and the G20 to “bolster global health and health security architecture for pandemic preparedness.” This marked President Biden’s first G7 meeting.
- February 19
- Secretary Austin spoke with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Andrii Taran and reaffirmed the U.S.’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Minister Taran emphasized his commitment to bringing Ukraine’s defense sector in line with NATO principles and standards. Following the discussion, NATO representatives from the U.S., Canada, Lithuania, Poland, and the U.K. met with Ukrainian officials to discuss sovereignty and territorial integrity, with a focus on the Black Sea.
- February 19
- President Biden of the United States, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, President Macron of France, Prime Minister Johnson of the United Kingdom, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, and EU Commission President von der Leyen spoke virtually at the 2021 Munich Security Conference. President Biden declared “America is back, the trans-Atlantic alliance is back,” and Chancellor Merkel argued that while she had “no illusions” that the United States and Europe will always be in agreement, it is important for the United States and Europe to cooperate on China and Russia.
- February 20
- After being sentenced to more than two and half years in prison for violating probation rules, Alexei Navalny was called back to court on an additional charge of defaming a World War II veteran. He was ordered to pay a fine of 850,000 rubles ($11,500).
- February 22
- U.S. Secretary of State Blinken participated in the EU Foreign Affairs Council where he highlighted the U.S.’s commitment to U.S.-EU relations and stressed that the United States remains committed to cooperating with the European Union on issues such as democracy, human rights, and multilateralism. Secretary Blinken also welcomed the EU’s decision to sanction Russia in response to the poisoning of Alexei Navalny.
- February 23
- Nikanor Melia, leader of Georgia’s main opposition party United National Movement, was arrested and detained on charges of inciting violence during the June 2019 street protests. The U.S. Department of State released a press statement, stating “polarizing rhetoric, force and aggression are not the solution to Georgia’s political differences,” and an EU statement noted that, “this polarization risks undermining Georgia’s democracy.”
- February 23
- Secretary Blinken spoke with Polish Foreign Minister Rau on NATO, democratic values, media freedom, and respect for civil rights.
- February 25
- Secretary Blinken spoke with Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok and discussed the desire to intensify U.S.-Dutch cooperation “to manage key global challenges, including those posed by China, Russia, and Iran.”
- February 26
- On the seventh anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Crimea, President Biden and Secretary Blinken released statements of support for Ukraine, stating, “we affirm this basic truth: Crimea is Ukraine.” Both statements condemned Russia’s violation of international law, and the Department of State declared that U.S. sanctions on Russia would remain in place “unless and until Russia reverses course.” In his capacity as President of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, German Foreign Minister Maas reaffirmed “unequivocal and unwavering support for the independence, and sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders” and called on Russia to comply with international law and human rights standards.
- March 1
- The U.S. Department of Defense announced a new $125 million defense package for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, consisting of patrol boats, defensive lethal weapons, medical equipment, and training support.
- March 1
- European Council President Charles Michel traveled to Georgia to meet with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and the speaker of the Georgian parliament Archil Talakvadze. Following private meetings, President Michel presided over negotiations between Prime Minister Garibashvili and opposition politicians.
- March 2
- European Council President Michel met with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv to discuss COVID-19, ongoing Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, and Ukrainian domestic political, judicial, and economic reform. In a press statement, Michel stated that “Russia is a party to [the conflict in eastern Ukraine,] and not a mediator,” and noted that Russia continues to violate the Minsk Agreements and as such, EU economic sanctions against Russia will remain in place.
- March 2
- Canada, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States announced coordinated sanctions against Russian government officials involved in the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The United States sanctioned seven individuals and added 14 entities involved in the proliferation of Russia’s weapons of mass destruction and chemical weapons programs to the Entity List. Under the new EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime, the European Union and the United Kingdom sanctioned four government officials.
- March 2
- Secretary Blinken spoke with Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide and discussed efforts to deepen cooperation on the UN Security Council, climate change, human rights, and transatlantic security, among other issues. In addition, the United States and Iceland held their annual strategic dialogue and discussed the Arctic, climate change, human rights, and democracy.
- March 2
- U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with Luigi Mattiolo, Diplomatic Advisor to the Italian Prime Minister to discuss Italy’s G20 presidency priorities, Libya, and the Eastern Mediterranean.
- March 3
- After 148 MEPs voted in favor of new rules that would allow for the European People’s Party (EPP) group to vote for the exclusion of “a Member or Members of the Group,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced that MEPs from his political party, Fidesz, would resign their EPP memberships.
- March 3
- Following the release of the U.S. Interim National Security Strategic Guidance report, Secretary Blinken, in his first major speech as Secretary of State, outlined the Biden administration’s eight foreign policy priorities: pandemic response, economic recovery, strengthening democracy, immigration reform, revitalizing alliances, climate change and energy, technology, and China.
- March 3
- The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence service, placed the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) under surveillance as a suspected threat to the country’s constitution. Shortly thereafter, a court in Cologne ruled that the BfV could not yet label the AfD as a suspected threat or treat it as such due to an ongoing court case initiated by the AfD which alleged that the BfV’s actions would infringe upon the party’s right to a fair electoral campaign.
- March 3
- In response to criticism of EU’s vaccine procurement and distribution, European Council President Michel published a letter attempting to “set out some facts which show that Europe is not lagging behind in a spring, but is well placed to lead the field in a marathon.” President Michel highlighted that the European Union “was the driving force and leading donor” in the development and production of several COVID-19 vaccines and pushed back against “accusations of ‘vaccine nationalism’,” stating, while the United Kingdom and United States imposed “an outright ban on the export of vaccines,” the European Union “has simply put in place a system for controlling the export of doses produced in the EU.”
- March 3
- The Czech Republic sent a request to President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping requesting deliveries of the Chinese Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, making the Czech Republic the second EU member state, following Hungary, to independently procure vaccines from China.
- March 4
- Secretary Austin spoke with Georgian Minister of Defense Juansher Burchuladze and reaffirmed U.S. support for Georgian sovereignty and territorial integrity and U.S. commitment to helping Georgia develop defense capabilities in the face of Russian aggression and malign influence.
- March 4
- Under the export authorization scheme implemented in January 2021 and with approval from the European Commission, Italy blocked a shipment of 250,000 Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine doses en route to Australia.
- March 5
- Following a call between President Biden and EU Commission President von der Leyen, the United States and European Union decided to suspend all retaliatory tariffs imposed in the Airbus and Boeing disputes for a four-month period. A press release following the call noted that President Biden and President von der Leyen also discussed the climate crisis, democracy, and regional issues, including China, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and the Western Balkans.
- March 8
- The United States and the European Union finalized a two-year long negotiation on new post-Brexit agriculture quotas. The parties agreed to maintain original import quota volumes and divide imports between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
- March 10
- The Russian government announced it would slowdown access to Twitter after the company failed to comply with a 2006 law that bans Internet providers from hosting content related to suicide, child pornography, and the use of narcotic drugs.
- March 10
- U.S. Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry traveled to Brussels, Paris, and London, where he met with EU Commission President von der Leyen, European Commission Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans, President Macron of France, and Prime Minister Johnson of the United Kingdom, among other U.K. government officials, to discuss climate goals ahead of the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26).
- March 11
- Following reports of blood clotting from the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, several European countries, including Italy, France, Germany, and Denmark, suspended its rollout. Denmark stopped administering all AstraZeneca jabs, while Italy placed restrictions on one delivery batch. The EMA would later announce that “the benefits of the vaccine…continue to outweigh the risk of side effects,” and that “the vaccine is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of blood clots.”
- March 11
- France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States Italy released a joint statement in support of the interim Government of National Unity in Libya. In an additional joint statement, the group condemned sustained Houthi attacks in Yemen and reiterated their commitment to “the security and integrity of Saudi territory.”
- March 11
- The EMA approved the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID -19 vaccine for authorization, becoming the fourth vaccine authorized for use in the European Union.
- March 12
- The G7 foreign ministers and EU High Representative released a joint statement, expressing “grave concerns at the Chinese authorities’ decision fundamentally to erode democratic elements of the electoral system in Hong Kong” and calling on “China to act in accordance with the Sino-British Declaration and its legal obligations and respect fundamental rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, as provided for in the Basic Law.”
- March 14
- The German states of Badan-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate held elections. In Badan-Württemberg, The Green Party won with 32% of the vote, and in Rhineland-Palatinate, the Social Democrats won, securing 34.5% of the vote. Support for the CDU in both states dropped by several percentage points compared to the 2016 election.
- March 16
- The National Intelligence Council released an unclassified report, “Foreign Threats to the 2020 US Federal Elections,” that assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized “influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the US.”
- March 15
- After the United Kingdom released plans to unilaterally delay the introduction of post-Brexit custom checks at Northern Ireland’s ports in early March, the European Commission launched legal action against the British government “for breaching the substantive provisions of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as the good faith obligation under the Withdrawal Agreement.”
- March 16
- EU Commission President von der Leyen announced that BioNTech/Pfizer would accelerate deliveries to the European Union and supply an additional 10 million doses, bringing the total delivery of BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine doses to more than 200 million in the second quarter of 2021.
- March 17
- The European Commission released its official proposal to create a Digital Green Certificate, a vaccine certification that would assist with facilitating safe, free movement inside the EU during COVID-19 by verifying that an individual has been vaccinated, recently tested negative, or recently recovered from COVID-19.
- March 17
- The chief prosecutor of the Turkish Supreme Court filed a case asking the court to ban the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP). The case alleged that the HDP was acting effectively as an extension of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a claim President Erdoğan has long made. The Supreme Court would reject the case on March 31, citing procedural deficiencies. In addition, Turkey’s parliament stripped Ömer Faruk Gergerlioglu, Member of Parliament for the HDP, of his parliamentary seat. Both the European Union and the United States released statements of concern and called on Turkey to respect international obligations, including respect for democracy and human rights.
- March 17
- President Biden hosted his first virtual bilateral meeting with Irish Taoiseach (PM) Micheál Martin. In a joint statement following the meeting, the leaders “called for the good faith implementation of international agreements designed to address the unique circumstances on the island if Ireland.”
- March 17
- Ahead of U.S.-China talks in Anchorage, Alaska, U.S. National Security Advisor Sullivan previewed the meeting, in a joint call, to his French, German, and British counterparts and, in a personal call, to Secretary General Stoltenberg.
- March 18
- The G7 foreign ministers and EU High Representative released a joint statement to reaffirm “support and commitment to the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.” Further, the ministers opposed “Russia’s continued destabilization of Ukraine, especially Russia’s actions in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, disregarding the commitments it made under the Minsk agreements” and called on “the Russian federation to stop fueling the conflict by providing financial and military support to the armed formations it backs in eastern Ukraine.”
- March 18
- The U.S. Department of State warned that “any entity involved in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline risks U.S. sanctions and should immediately abandon work on the pipeline.”
- March 18
- China, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States held an extended “Troika” meeting with Qatar, Turkey, and representatives from the Afghan government and the Taliban on the intra-Afghan peace process. After the meeting, China, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States called on the Taliban “not to pursue a Spring offensive, so as to avoid further casualties and to create an environment conducive to reaching a negotiated political settlement.”
- March 19
- The Dutch People’s Party of Freedom and Democracy (VVD) won the Dutch general elections, leaving Prime Minister Mark Rutte in office. Following the election, the Democrats 66 (D66), a social liberal political party, became the second largest party in the Netherlands, and 17 political parties would be represented in the 150-seat Dutch parliament in total.
- March 19
- EU Commission President von der Leyen and European Commission President Michel held a videoconference with President Erdoğan of Turkey, where they “underlined the importance of sustained de-escalation and of further strengthening confidence building to allow for a more positive EU-Turkey agenda.”
- March 20
- Turkish President Erdoğan withdrew Turkey from the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention. A White House statement called Turkey’s decision a “disheartening step backward for the international movement to end violence against women globally.”
- March 22
- The European Union, under the Global Magnitsky framework, sanctioned eleven individuals and four entities connected with serious human rights violations and abuses in Xinjiang, China; North Korea; Libya; Russia, South Sudan, and Eritrea. In coordination, the United States and United Kingdom announced additional sanctions against Chinese individuals connected to gross human rights abuses and violations in Xinjiang Province. Hours later, the Chinese government announced retaliatory sanctions against eight European parliamentarians, two European scholars, and four entities, including The Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS), the Alliance of Democracies Foundation in Demark, the Council of the EU’s Political and Security Committee, and the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights.
- March 22
- After raising interest rates to counter a rise in inflation, Naci Agbal, Turkish central bank governor, was fired by President Erodgan of Turkey. Sahap Kavcioglu, a former parliamentarian in President Erdoğan’s AKP, replaced Agbal.
- March 22
- The European Council officially established the European Peace Facility (EPF), a fund worth approximately €5 billion intended to “enhance the EU’s ability to prevent conflict, preserve peace and strengthen international stability and security.”
- March 24
- Secretary Blinken traveled to Brussels for the NATO Foreign Ministerial. In addition to speaking at NATO headquarters, Secretary Blinken met individually with EU Commission President von der Leyen, EU High Representative Borrell, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, participated in two joint meetings – one with his French, German, and British counterparts and one with the foreign ministers of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – and met on the margins with Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and German Foreign Minister Maas. In a joint statement following Secretary Blinken and High Representative Borrell’s meeting, the two parties announced they had “decided to re-launch the bilateral dialogue on China, as a forum to discuss the full range of related challenges and opportunities” and “acknowledged a shared understanding that relations with China are multifaceted, comprising elements of cooperation, competition, and systemic rivalry.” With Foreign Minister Maas, Secretary Blinken emphasized U.S. opposition to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
- March 24
- Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and 16 additional countries, signed a joint statement to support the Establishment of the International Accountability Platform for Belarus (IAPB), an organization that “has taken on the responsibility of the collection, consolidation, verification and preservation of information, documentation and evidence of serious violations of international human rights law committed in Belarus in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election and its aftermath.”
- March 24
- Amid growing trade tensions and export control talks, the European Union and United Kingdom released a joint statement on COVID-19 vaccines, stating that “openness and global cooperation of all countries will be key to finally overcome this pandemic and ensure better preparation for meeting future challenges.”
- March 25
- Greece celebrated its 200th anniversary of independence from Ottoman Turkish rule. To honor Greece’s bicentennial, President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and “conveyed his appreciation for our growing defense cooperation, including the U.S. Naval Support Activity Souda Bay.” The two also discussed climate change, economic recovery, energy security, and regional issues, including the Eastern Mediterranean, Russia, China, and the Western Balkans.
- March 25
- President Biden virtually joined the European Council video summit, marking the first time in 11 years a foreign leader joined a regular Council meeting. In opening remarks, Council President Michel stated that Biden’s Presidency is “a historic opportunity to re-energize [U.S.-EU] cooperation. And deepen our historic bond.”
- March 25
- Secretary Blinken met with Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmes. In remarks to the press, Secretary Blinken stated: “Whether it’s climate, whether it’s COVID, whether it’s the challenge of emerging technologies, all of these things that actually have an impact on our people’s lives, not a single one of them can be dealt with effectively by any one country acting alone.”
- March 25
- Members of European Parliament voted in support of future EU integration of Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Serbia. A press release following the vote noted that membership negotiations with North Macedonia should begin as soon as possible.
- March 26
- The U.S. Department of State announced that the United Kingdom and the United States “completed an exchange of diplomatic notes to bring the U.S.-UK Air Transport Agreement (‘the Agreement’) into force.” The Agreement serves as the basis for U.S.-U.K. air services relations, including unrestricted capacity and frequency, open routes, code-sharing opportunities, a liberal charter regime, and market-determined pricing.
- March 26
- The Ukrainian military reported that four Ukrainian soldiers were killed and two were injured by Russian-backed separatist in southeast Ukraine, near Donetsk.
- March 27
- Chiefs of defense from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States released a joint statement “calling on the military junta in Burma – also called Myanmar – to follow international standards of military professionalism.” The statement came after reports that over 350 people, including more than 20 children, had been killed in the aftermath of the February 1 military coup.
- March 29
- U.S. National Security Advisor Sullivan spoke with Ukraine’s Head of Presidential Office Andriy Yermak and “affirmed the United States’ unwavering support of Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and Euro-Atlantic aspirations.” The two also discussed President Zelenskyy’s “plan to tackle corruption and implement a reform agenda that delivers justice, security, and prosperity to the people of Ukraine.”
- March 29
- In an unusual peak of flights over the Atlantic, North Sea, Black Sea, and Baltic Sea, NATO intercepted six different groups of Russian military aircrafts in the span of less than six hours.
- March 30
- President Macron of France, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, and President Putin of Russia held a joint videoconference and discussed Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, Alexei Navalny, and regional issues, including recent events in Ukraine. France, Germany, and Russia emphasized that the 2015 Minsk peace deal brokered by France and Germany remains the only viable solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. President Putin placed blame on Ukraine, expressing “serious concern about the escalation of armed confrontation on the contact line being provoked by Ukraine.”
- March 30
- Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Ruslan Khomchak announced a buildup of Russian troops in southeast Ukraine. In response, it was reported that the U.S. military’s European Command raised watch levels to the highest level. U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke with both his Ukrainian and Russian counterpart and U.S. National Security Advisor Sullivan spoke with Ukraine’s Head of Presidential Office Andriy Yermak to affirm U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Europe on the line
Between January 1 and March 31, 2021, President Biden spoke on the phone with British Prime Minister Johnson twice (January 23 and March 26), French President Macron once (January 24), German Chancellor Merkel once (January 25), NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg once (January 26), Russian President Putin once (January 26), European Commission President von der Leyen once (March 5), and Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis once (March 25).
We track President Biden’s phone calls with the leaders of France, Germany, Russia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, whether they had spoken or not, as well as other calls with European leaders of which we were aware. If we missed a conversation, please give us a ring. Sources: the White House.
The race to vaccinate citizens of the United States and Europe featured prominently in the trans-Atlantic discussion this quarter. Criticism of the European Union’s slow vaccination campaign was met with accusations that the Biden administration was exercising a form of nationalism by restricting exports of raw materials needed to produce vaccines.
As of March 31, vaccination rates in Israel, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which, respectively, gave out nearly 116, 53, and 44 COVID-19 doses for every 100 citizens, stood in sharp contrast to the global average of less than 8 doses per 100 people. These numbers represent the total number of jabs administered – counting first doses and second doses separately in the case of Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech. 61% of Israelis, 46% of Brits, and 29% of Americans and had received at least one shot at the end of March, while globally, that number stood at roughly 4%.
Since at least summer 2020, the European Union has firmly made the case for multilateral vaccine distribution and sought to position itself as a leader in this effort. As of early April 2021, just over $11 billion had been donated to the WHO’s Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), the umbrella organization for COVAX, which seeks to facilitate equitable distribution of COVID-19 treatment, including vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostic and personal protective equipment. Of that $11 billion, the total contribution from the European Union (member states and European Commission combined) came to nearly $3.9 billion, representing approximately 0.02% of the combined 2019 GDP of all EU member states. By contrast, the United States committed a total of $2.5 billion to ACT-A, 0.012% of 2019 GDP. Not only does this make the European Union’s contribution to ACT-A over 1.5 times larger than the United States’, but relative to GDP, the EU contribution is twice the size of the U.S. donation, while Germany’s alone is nearly 6 times the United States’ when pegged to GDP. Meanwhile, the WHO estimates that an additional $22 billion – twice the amount donated thus far – will be needed beyond the amount already given to meet the WHO’s vaccine delivery goals, bolster research to address COVID-19 variants, and ensure effective supply and usage of COVID-19 tests and PPE.
Ultimately, as WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in February 2021, without vaccines, money becomes “irrelevant.” From the onset of the pandemic through the first quarter of 2021, the United States focused existing vaccine doses on its population, even placing export controls on not only the vaccines themselves, but also the raw materials needed for their production.* Taking a slightly different approach to the United States, the European Union exported millions of vaccine doses to Britain and Canada, only placing export controls on vaccines in March 2021 in response to vaccine shortages and a rising third wave of cases in Europe.
On the other end of the spectrum sit China and Russia – two countries seeking to capitalize on the lackluster global vaccination effort. Despite slow domestic vaccination processes – as of March 31, China had only given out 8.32 shots per 100 people and Russia only 7.79 – both have promised millions of doses to countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. In both cases, actual deliveries have lagged markedly behind commitments, but, nevertheless, both countries have realized the potential benefits of being a first mover in vaccinating the world, or at least appearing to be. Unsurprisingly, then, China and Russia do not feature among the list of donors to ACT-A. In their cases, donating vaccines directly, perhaps to the detriment of their domestic population, is both easier and carries more weight than a multilateral initiative.
*N.B.This section was written based solely on the events of the first quarter of 2021. In April 2021, the United States announced its intent to share its entire stock of AstraZeneca vaccines – 60 million doses – with the world and to lift export controls on raw materials for the production of the AstraZeneca vaccine, marking a shift in U.S. contribution to the global vaccination effort.
What to Watch
Center on the United States and Europe Director Thomas Wright lays out events, issues, and potential developments to watch for in the months ahead.
I am delighted to share with you the eleventh edition of the Trans-Atlantic Scorecard, a quarterly evaluation of U.S.-European relations produced by Brookings’s Center on the United States and Europe, as part of the Brookings – Robert Bosch Foundation Transatlantic Initiative.
This is the second scorecard since the U.S. election last year. It has been a relatively quiet first few months in trans-Atlantic relations with most of the energy and innovation of the new administration being focused on the Indo-Pacific. However, a number of trips by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Europe, President Biden’s virtual participation in the March 25 European Council summit, and a series of dialogues with European nations on technology, taxation, and Iran are signs of a real improvement in trans-Atlantic cooperation. There are still differences of course, particularly over how to deal with China. The larger question that Europeans are asking is if the return to internationalism under the Biden administration is the aberration, not Trump. But this is not preventing their enthusiastic engagement with Washington.
A few points from this iteration of the survey are worth highlighting.
Large majorities of our survey pool (85% in each case) saw U.S.-Europe relations trending positively on political and security issues. The trend in economic relations was split between positive (45%) and neutral (50%). Of all bilateral relations, U.S.-Russia relations remain the weakest (at 2.3 out of 10), with U.S.-Turkish relations having increased slightly to 3.7 out of 10. Relations with most other countries hovered around 6 on the same 1 to 10 scale.
On the topical questions posed to our experts, almost half thought that the difficulties faced by the European Union in distributing the COVID-19 vaccine illustrate weaknesses of the European governance model with just over a quarter disagreeing. Almost 80% answered that Chinese sanctions against European parliamentarians and scholars will encourage the development of a common trans-Atlantic approach to China on issues like trade and human rights. Only 10% disagreed. Opinion was split over Nord Stream 2 with 40% saying that tensions over the pipeline will be a significant impediment to the United States and Europe developing a cohesive approach to Russia while 35% disagreed.
As we look ahead to late spring and early summer, we will be watching for President Biden’s first trip abroad, which will be to the G-7 and NATO summits in mid-June. We will be looking to see if the president articulates an affirmative vision of what his administration wants in Europe on these trips or on other occasions. We will also be watching to see if a summit takes place between President Biden and President Putin and if recent tensions between the United States and Russia continue.
Thank you again for reading the Trans-Atlantic Scorecard.
Acknowledgements and disclosures
Trans-Atlantic Scorecard maintained by Agneska Bloch, Sam Denney, Caroline Klaff, and Filippos Letsas. Additional research by Lucy Seavey. Digital design and web development by Eric Abalahin, Abigail Kaunda, Yohann Paris, Rachel Slattery, and Cameron Zotter.