Looking Forward: the Future of the EU and Transatlantic Relations
H.E. David O'Sullivan, Ambassador of the European Union to the United States

Washington, DC—On June 7, 2016, Ambassador David O’Sullivan of the European Union addressed an audience of WFPG members and guests at his residence on the future of the European Union and transatlantic relations. Ambassador O’Sullivan spoke about the current issues facing the European Union including the transatlantic alliance, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the refugee crisis, and the rise of Eurosceptic movements throughout the EU.

In his remarks, Ambassador O’Sullivan emphasized the importance of the transatlantic relationship between the European Union and the United States, and cited the Atlantic trade corridor as the most important economic channel in the world. He argued that the transatlantic alliance would only grow stronger with the implementation of TTIP. However, TTIP has been labeled a highly controversial piece of legislation in both the US and Europe. The Ambassador cited the trade deal’s focus on regulatory convergence as the main source of opposition, but also emphasized the transparency of the deal and its ultimate goal of reducing additional costs to industries on both sides of the Atlantic. The refugee crisis was also at the forefront of the Ambassador’s address. Citing impressive statistics on the number of Syrian refugees in European Union member states like Greece, Italy, and Turkey, the Ambassador recognized the magnitude of the refugee crisis as “one person in seven in Jordan is a refugee [and there are] 2.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.” To put the numbers in perspective; “Germany taking 1.2 million is equivalent to the US absorbing 5 million refugees, Greece processing 1 million refugees in the last year would be the equivalent of the United States handling 32 million refugees.”

In response to the crisis, the EU is working to increase control over its borders in order to prevent a larger influx of undocumented refugees from entering member states. The EU has also given significant amounts of humanitarian aid to member states bearing the brunt of the crisis, particularly Greece. In addition, the EU has brokered a deal with Turkey in which it will provide financial aid to the country through NGOs. Refugees that are caught illegally crossing the border into Greece will be returned to Turkey. In exchange, the EU will take Syrian refugees out of Turkey and resettle them in the EU.

Burden sharing among EU member states remains a critical problem in the midst of the refugee crisis. Ambassador O’Sullivan stressed the importance of countries in Europe, and around the world, honoring their humanitarian commitments under the Geneva Convention of 1951 and called upon more countries to do their part in accepting refugees.

In the midst of the refugee crisis, right wing movements have gained increasing support throughout Europe. Ambassador O’Sullivan highlighted the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash and the current refugee crisis as possible explanations for the increasing fear, xenophobia, and Euro-skepticism among European Union member states. Regarding the populist movements, Ambassador O’Sullivan noted the importance of regional politics and the need to maintain democracy in the EU. Despite criticism that the EU is a part of the problem, the Ambassador emphasized the need for unity among European institutions in advocating for the EU as a solution to the growing fears among member states.
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WFPG President Patricia Ellis, Board Chair Ann Stock,
Ambassador Anne Anderson of Ireland, and
Ambassador David O'Sullivan of the European Union

Ambassador David O'Sullivan speaks to WFPG


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WFPG Board Chair Ann Stock welcomes guests

WFPG President Patricia Ellis moderates Q&A


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WFPG Corporate Advisory Council Member
Ayelet Haran of PhRMA asks a question

Heather Hill of the United Nations
Association of the National Capital Area


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Agnes O'Hare with guests

WFPG Board Member Marcia Wiss and
Francesca Riddy-O'Dowd of the EU Delegation

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Board Member Gebe Martinez and
WFPG Intern Stephanie Verganza

WFPG Corporate Advisory Council Member
Eric Trachtenberg of McLarty Associates
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Sarah Dean of John Deere

Robert Skinner of the UN Information Center and
DCM Joanneke Balfoort of the Netherlands


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Guests at the reception

DCM Nathalie Broadhurst of France