This weekend, the European Union celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which bound Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg together into the European Economic Community.
The EU stands as a political achievement that has brought peace, prosperity, and global influence to the bloc. By integrating into a single market of over 500 million consumers, the EU has laid the groundwork for workers, consumers, and companies to succeed in a fast-changing global economy.
Europe’s founding fathers realized that collaboration was more than just the best way forward. It was imperative. In the aftermath of World War II, Europe lay in financial and physical ruin. With the help of the United States through the Marshall Plan, Europeans found rebuilding, growth, and success in integration. Since then, the EU has achieved much: a Single Market that removes all customs duties between member states; the ability to travel, work, and study freely across national borders; and a globally relevant shared currency used by 19 member states.
From a geostrategic perspective, a united Europe is critical for the United States. Not only that, but the economic relationship between the U.S. and the EU is by far the world’s largest. Every day, almost $2 billion worth of goods are traded across the Atlantic. In fact, 45 U.S. states export more to Europe than they do to China, generally by a very wide margin. In addition, Europe accounts for more than 70 percent of global FDI inflows into the U.S., and it is the destination for nearly 60 percent of U.S. investment abroad. Together, these two-way investment flows directly support more than 15 million jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.
Europe is facing a host of challenges today, including an unprecedented migration crisis, the threat of terrorism, Russian efforts to test the resolve of the transatlantic alliance, modest economic growth, and the UK’s decision to leave the bloc. Against this backdrop, the EU is rightly reflecting on the best way forward. What role should the European Commission play relative to member state governments? What is the role of the directly elected European Parliament? What motivated the Britons’ vote to leave the EU despite the many direct economic benefits of membership?
These questions are both natural and healthy as the EU turns 60. Tough decisions must be made, politicians must do a better job of explaining the advantages of European integration, and the benefits of international trade must be reinforced amid a growing populist tide.
Europe is the world’s largest market, America’s most important ally, and a second home to thousands of U.S. companies. The U.S. Chamber is a longstanding champion of the European project, and it is committed to promoting strong ties between the U.S. and the EU.
As Europe’s leaders gather in Rome this weekend to celebrate the EU’s 60th birthday, we congratulate them on their achievements and look forward to forging an even stronger transatlantic bond in the decades to come.