As President Biden begins a tour of Europe that includes closely watched sessions with NATO and Group of Seven leaders, hardly anyone thinks about the stepchild of these international get-togethers: the European Union summits. And why not? The U.S.-E.U. meetings have often been tedious affairs, dreaded by American presidents. They typically focus not on the big geopolitical issues of the moment but on parochial trade or regulatory dust-ups. An exasperated John F. Kennedy asked after one such diplomatic tussle, “Is the Grand Alliance going to founder on chickens?”
It’s little wonder that American presidents have sought to avoid these meetings. Back in 2010, President Barack Obama caused a stir when he skipped a U.S.-E.U. summit, and the Trump administration canceled them altogether.