For the past two decades, the United States has essentially ignored the European Union. Through Republican and Democratic administrations alike, Washington treated the union as an afterthought at best and, as under the current administration, sometimes even a foe. This is a profound strategic mistake. With the selection of Germany’s defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, to be the next head of the European Commission, the United States should seize the opportunity to build a new lasting partnership with the EU.
The recent European parliamentary elections have shown that Europe’s political center of gravity is shifting from national capitals to Brussels and the European Union. They saw turnout rise for the first time ever, surpassing 50 percent. The boost was driven by a highly charged debate about the EU’s future, pitting far-right nationalists looking to devolve power from the EU against unionists looking to strengthen it. In the end, a robust showing from pro-EU parties, particularly the Greens, staved off a feared far-right surge. As the Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum observed following the elections, “the continent is becoming a single political space.”This article was originally published in Foreign Policy.