Europe's Strategic Choices 2020

This year’s conference will consider the possible impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on Europe’s future and how it interacts with what was an already highly-charged political environment.

Special event Recording
5 November 2020 TO 6 November 2020 — 2:00PM TO 5:00PM

Europe's Strategic Choices 2020 - Keynote: Next Generation EU Plan

— Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for Economy at the European Commission, discusses the challenges for securing a resilient and sustainable economic recovery with Creon Butler, Director of the Global Economy and Finance Programme at Chatham House.

‘Europe’s Strategic Choices’, hosted by Chatham House, the Institute for Security Policy at the University of Kiel, and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, aims to explore and understand the complex set of challenges facing Europe in the areas of security, economic competitiveness and global influence.  

This year’s conference will consider the possible impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on Europe’s future and how it interacts with what was an already highly-charged political environment, including the US presidential election, increasingly difficult to navigate geopolitical tensions and the perennial challenge of delivering growth and social wellbeing alongside structural changes in the European and global economy. 


Thursday 5 November (all times are CET)

Welcome Remarks

Dr Robin Niblett, Chief Executive and Director, Chatham House
Professor Joachim Krause, Director, ISPK
Dr Gerhard Wahlers, Deputy Secretary General, Department Head, European and International Cooperation, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung


The Transatlantic Relationship and the 2020 US Presidential Election

The relationship between Europe and the United States is founded on a perception of shared values and a bedrock of economic interdependence and understanding of the need for close cooperation on foreign policy.

Historically, the relationship has prioritized a rules-based approach to international affairs and support for liberal democracy. However, the United States under the Trump Administration has looked inwards, raising questions around its commitments to the Atlantic Alliance and multilateral institutions and undermining jointly negotiated agreements on climate action, global health and arms control.

With the alliance under strain, the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election, which takes place shortly before the conference, will have a profound bearing the future trajectory of transatlantic relations.

  • What will be the most significant changes to US foreign policy given the result of the US presidential election and what will these mean for Europe?

  • Is there a multilateral agenda around which Europe and the US can coalesce and, if so, which areas are most or least promising?

  • What will the UK’s separation from the EU mean for relations with the US? How might the US administration re-prioritise its bilateral relations with EU members and with the EU as a whole?

Dr Leslie Vinjamuri, Dean, Queen Elizabeth II Academy for Leadership in International Affairs; Director, US and the Americas Programme, Chatham House
Dr Kori Schake, Director of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute 
Dominique Moïsi, Special Advisor - Geopolitics, Institut Montaigne
Dr Johann Wadephul MdB, Vice-chairman of the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group, German Bundestag
Sir Simon Fraser, Deputy Chairman; Senior Adviser, Europe Programme, Chatham House 

Dr Robin Niblett, Chief Executive and Director, Chatham House




Keynote Speech | Next Generation EU Plan: Challenges for Securing a Resilient, Sustainable, Economic Recovery

Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for Economy, European Commission

Creon Butler
, Research Director, Trade, Investment & New Governance Models: Director, Global Economy and Finance Programme, Chatham House


Europe’s Political Economy Post-Coronavirus

In the face of an economic downturn unparalleled since the Great Depression, the impact of COVID-19 has prompted a pause and rethink of the relationship between the state and the economy in Europe, with potential long-term consequences for national and supranational economic governance and for the future of the European project.

This session will discuss Europe’s road to recovery and how the political economy of the EU is being reshaped as a result of the pandemic.

  • Taking stock of the EU’s leadership to date, how are expectations matching with the reality of the current economic and political situation?

  • Given the vulnerabilities revealed by the pandemic, what kind of post-coronavirus European political economy is likely to emerge? What are the current political trends and perceptions of government that may enable a shift to a new model?

  • What will more interventionist economic measures by national governments mean for EU-level governance and the European project?

Dr Mark Speich, State Secretary for Federal, European and International Affairs for the State of North Rhine-Westphalia
Erik Jones, Professor of European Studies and International Political Economy, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)
Brigid Laffan, Director of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute
Pepijn Bergsen, Research Fellow, Europe Programme, Chatham House 

Thomas Birringer
, Deputy Head of Analysis and Consulting, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung  




In Conversation |Transatlantic Security: External Threats, Leadership and the Future of NATO

General Phil Breedlove USAF (Ret), Distinguished Professor, Sam Nunn School, Georgia Tech, and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, NATO (2013-16)
General Jörg Vollmer, Commander, Allied Joint Forces Command, NATO

Dr Jana Puglierin
, Head of the Berlin Office; Senior Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations 


Europe’s Security: How Can Europe (De)Fend for Itself?

Europe faces a multitude of security threats, from terrorism and cyber warfare through to geopolitical conflict and foreign interference in internal democratic processes. These threats do not stop at national borders and emphasize the need for shared insights and greater cooperation between European countries to address common security concerns.

France continues to push for European autonomy in security policy externally to NATO, while Germany adheres to a belief that the European pillar within NATO should be strengthened. With the US retreating from a leadership position in NATO, and the UK exiting the EU, it has become increasingly important for Europe to take on more of the burden for its own defence without losing the benefits of collaborating with traditional allies.

  • What does Europe need to do to protect its democracy and democratic institutions, both from external threats and from internal stresses that have been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic? 

  • How will transatlantic tensions and intra-European disagreements, including on ideas on European strategic autonomy, shape institutional arrangements for Europe’s security?

  • To what extent can Europe develop a strategic autonomy independently of NATO without encouraging the US to withdraw support for European defence institutions?

  • Post-Covid, what is a realistic level of ambition for European security and defence cooperation?

Dr Detlef Wächter, Director General for Security and Defence Policy, Federal Ministry of Defence, Germany 
Natalia Pouzyreff, Member of the National Defence and Armed Forces Commission, French National Assembly

Dr Patrick Keller
, Vice President, Federal Academy for Security Policy, Germany


End of day one


Friday 6 November (all times are CET)

The Future of UK Trade

The Rt Hon Greg Hands MP, Minister of State for Trade Policy, Department for International Trade 

Dr Robin Niblett CMG, 
Director and Chief Executive, Chatham House


The Global Economy and Trade in the Covid Era

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented global economic contraction, resulting in significant demand and supply shocks to global trade flows.

It has heightened tensions between the US and China, putting the rules-based trade system under increased strain. Meanwhile, the environmental and geopolitical risks highlighted by COVID-19 have the potential to accelerate the localization of supply chains, aided by technological advancements, raising questions around a wider trend towards de-globalization. 

  • To what extent do the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic signal a turning point for the EU’s bilateral trade relationships and its ambitious trade agenda?

  • Post-Covid, how can harmful protectionist measures be avoided in order to stimulate a successful economic recovery?

  • How has the pandemic further exacerbated tensions in US–China–European trade relations? What could be the impact of the US election result on the future of these relations?  

  • Will COVID-19 and a new director-general provide the necessary impetus for WTO reform?

Professor Gabriel Felbermayr, President, Kiel Institute for the World Economy
Laurence Tubiana, CEO, European Climate Foundation
Marianne Schneider-Petsinger, Senior Research Fellow, US and the Americas Programme, Chatham House
Matthias Schäfer, Chief Representative in Shanghai/China, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung

Dr Linda Yueh
, Associate Fellow, Global Economy and Finance Programme and US and the Americas Programme, Chatham House 




Europe’s Digital Strategy and Tech Competitiveness: Doomed to Play Catch-up?

In February, the European Commission unveiled its European Digital Strategy. The series of proposals aim to make the EU globally competitive in a digital economy increasingly defined by geopolitics, through strengthening its tech sector and reducing reliance on foreign technology.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted both the importance of technology to European life, and the extent to which this is intertwined with technology from beyond the bloc’s borders. Europe’s goal is to encourage a globally competitive tech sector through policies that also benefit its citizens.

  • To what extent is the lack of a shared understanding and common purpose among EU member states a barrier to achieving the goals of the European Digital Strategy?

  • Does there need to be greater regulation and limits on foreign corporations’ activities in Europe?

  • What is Europe’s influence in shaping governance and as a standard and norms setter for technology?

  • Can Europe avoid being caught up in a battle for technological supremacy between the US and China?

  • How does an EU vision for the digital world differ from a US or Chinese one? To what extent is a compromise between different models possible?

Ammar Alkassar, State Commissioner for Strategy; Chief Information Officer, Saarland State Government
Anu Bradford, Henry L. Moses Professor of Law and International Organizations, Columbia Law School; Author: The Brussels Effect
André Loesekrug-Pietri, Director, Joint European Disruptive Initiative (JEDI) 

Marjorie Buchser
, Executive Director, Digital Society Initiative, Chatham House


Closing Remarks



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