Metsola in New York: Despite trade battles, EU and US a ‘global democratic alliance’

European Parliament president Roberta Metsola tells American audiences Europe must have strategic trade autonomy but stand strong as part of liberal democracy order

EP President Roberta Metsola with former EC president José Manuel Barroso
EP President Roberta Metsola with former EC president José Manuel Barroso

The European Union should seek a geopolitical role that asserts both its autonomy from the United States and China, but without going down a protectionist route, European Parliament president Roberta Metsola said.

Metsola addressed an audience at the Concordia Summit on Monday 18 September, in a conversation with José Manuel Barroso, former President of the European Commission, on the subject of global EU leadership.

“We are currently embarking on an unprecedented green and digital transition and this relates to the way in which we interact with our allies,” Metsola said, saying the EU must have meaningful relations with Latin America and Africa on raw materials the European bloc is dependent on.

“The question is how do we balance being the most climate-ambitious continent on this planet, while still remaining competitive, making sure we have a safety net for our industries to survive, while at the same time not going down a subsidy-protectionist race to the bottom?” Metsola asked.

Metsola said it was crucially important for the EU to have a critical raw materials alliance with Latin America and Africa, while ensuring the bloc does not price out younger generations from being able to survive in an economy of high interest rates.

“But it’s not about a zero-sum game with the US or China,” she said, referring to America’s Inflation Reduction Act, on which EU finance minsters have expressed serious concerns about its financial incentives that could be in breach of WTO rules on subsidies. “In the European Union, we have started putting the building blocks in place. Take for example our Chips Act, our Digital Services and Digital Markets Acts.”

In New York, Metsola attended the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, while also visiting the new headquarters of the Maltese Permanent Mission, where she was welcomed by the Maltese Minister for Foreign Affairs Ian Borg and the head of the Maltese Mission in the United Nations, Vanessa Frazier.

On behalf of the European Parliament, Metsola also received recognition from the World Jewish Congress and the Jewish community in New York for her personal and the institution’s commitment to fight anti-semitism. She also visited the 9-11 memorial and was invited by the New York Times to visit its headquarters and participate in a discussion on global challenges together with the chairman of the company along with editors and journalists.

Metsola also addressed the World Leaders Forum organised by Columbia University, in a speech in which she pushed for a human-centric approach in all decisions taken.

The EP president described herself as belonging to a generation that had been fully invested in the prospect of a liberal democracy order at the end of the Cold War. “Perhaps we grew a little too complacent, a little too comfortable. Last year we understood, in the most brutal of manners, just how painfully true that was. When Russian tanks rolled into sovereign independent Ukraine, looting, raping, murdering. The world changed, forever.”

Metsola said that despite the faults of the United States and Europe, it was crucial for the two powers to stand as a bastion of liberty and freedom. “If we do not fulfil our inherited duty to lead, then someone else, with a very different value-set to ours will. That’s a responsibility that weighs heavily.”

Metsola also called for a global democratic alliance of trusted partners and friends. “The geopolitical sands are shifting. We have Putin’s tanks on independent and sovereign Ukraine; Lukashenko persecuting, imprisoning, torturing people for their democratic beliefs; China that has risen with a value system that is different to ours; India on the rise; Afghanistan collapsing back into disarray; Iran stirring up the Middle East and propping up Russia; East and Central Africa at boiling point; and South America facing new and old economic challenges.”

She said this alliance had to work to lift salaries, create jobs, push women to break glass ceilings, address the climate crises, and remaining competitive.

She added that public funding to grow economies had to be based on “real, sustainable, economic growth” that had to be both green and “human-centric”: “It must provide real incentives and safety nets for industry and it must be ambitious enough to address the very real climate emergency we are in. It must meet the targets of the Paris Agreement. But it must also work for people. When it comes to addressing climate change, we need to move away from a binary way of thinking.”

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The action was co-financed by the European Union in the frame of the European Parliament's grant programme in the field of communication. The European Parliament was not involved in its preparation and is, in no case, responsible for or bound by the information or opinions expressed in the context of this action. In accordance with applicable law, the authors, interviewed people, publishers or programme broadcasters are solely responsible. The European Parliament can also not be held liable for direct or indirect damage that may result from the implementation of the action.

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