About the Event

With Europe facing a multitude of challenges—from Russian aggression in Ukraine to varying degrees of success when it comes to pandemic recovery; from concerns around the continent’s energy strategy to a rising tide of right-wing populism across the continent—the European project faces what feels like a highly uncertain future.

At the same time, the structure of the EU has brought the intended peace and prosperity to the continent as largely intended, and they are leading some of the world’s solutions to climate change.  Europe is home to many of America’s key trading partners and crucial allies.  The cultural ties that bind Europe and the U.S.—including but not limited to higher education, innovation, and the arts—remain strong and nimble, as evidenced by The Philadelphia Orchestra’s European Tour this summer, with performances in Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, France, and Great Britain.

World Affairs Council of Philadelphia and The Philadelphia Orchestra hosted a discussion with Ambassadors Ries and Vershbow about the European Project and what can be done for a secure future. They described how the European Union is ever evolving as an organization and has successfully handled many past issues and now faces the unique challenges of new, post-Cold War member states. Ambassador Vershbow described how the transatlantic cooperation of NATO helped the process of European integration and how Russian aggression threatens this relationship. Both ambassadors emphasized the need for new reforms based on the familiar principle of strategic autonomy.

In the moderated discussion, the ambassadors spoke about the vacuum in European leadership after the retirement of Angela Merkel, the possibility that French president Emmanuel Macron will fill the role if he retains approval within France, and the patient diplomacy that will ultimately settle the question. They also commented on the damage that Brexit has inflicted both upon the economic prospects of the United Kingdom and how it had removed from the Union a steadfast advocate for NATO. Russian aggression in Ukraine, however, has pushed the European Union towards a more united military outlook. Lastly, the ambassadors discussed the shared European policy regarding the carbon market and environmental regulations that maintain fair trade conditions.

In the audience Q&A session, the ambassadors answered questions on the postwar reconstruction of Ukraine modelled on the Marshall Plan and the importance of supporting European efforts but with respect for their leadership and autonomy. Audience members also asked about the containment military threats, which the ambassadors answered could be done through military preparedness and economic sanctions. They elaborated that the West must reach out to the next generation of Russians to counter false propaganda and demonstrate the benefits of cooperation, human rights, and the rule of law.

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About the Speakers