Ambassador Wouters on his December 2016 visit to Texas A&M.
By Sam Peshek, Texas A&M University Marketing and Communications
Ambassador of Belgium to the United States Dirk Wouters’ visit to Texas A&M University Monday comes at a time when there is some uncertainty surrounding the future of the European Union in the age of “Brexit,” but despite current events, he remains optimistic about the future of European-U.S. relations.
Wouters outlined Britain’s exit from the European Union, the rise of populism and more during his talk titled “Transatlantic and EU-U.S. Relations: Do we really want to question this historic partnership?” at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
Wouters’ discussion marked his second appearance at Texas A&M following Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid of Belgium’s December 2016 visit. It was also the sixth installment of the “Europe in the 21st Century Seminar Series.” He underscored during his talk that a healthy European Union leads to a healthy Europe, and a healthy Europe strengthens the United States.
“Since many in the United States are certainly charmed by the cultural diversity and the history of Europe, plus many in Europe are without any doubt attracted by American heritage, I think this mutual attraction can only be enjoyed to the fullest if they both understand they need each other and there is no departure of 70 years of established policy.”
Over the course of his talk, he revisited the early days of transatlantic partnerships beginning with Woodrow Wilson’s “14 Points” for peace following World War I, the groundwork it laid for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and how leveraging those same partnerships have helped the U.S. in counterterrorism activities, sanctions against Russia, backing climate change policies and strengthening trade relations.
Wouters also touched on the rise of nationalist and populist climate highlighted by candidates like France’s Marine Le Pen and Britain’s Nigel Farage. He said this rise has caused him concern that “we will lose faith in the European project” and that some countries “do not want a multicultural society.”
When asked about his own country of Belgium, he reiterated his concerns, as Belgium’s future is closely tied to the European Union’s.
“What I fear most is that people will lose confidence in the project,” Wouters said. “In Belgium as it always was and still is today, Belgium, on many issues, often coincides with the EU.”
Wouters’ talk was organized and sponsored by the European Union Center, the Department of Political Science, the College of Liberal Arts. It was cosponsored by the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs, the Bush School of Government and Public Service and the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.