At the historic Philadelphia’s Independence Visitor Center, Congressman Brendan F. Boyle met with Stavros Lambrinidis — the European Union Ambassador to the U.S. — to discuss transatlantic relations. The discussion was moderated by Ronald Granieri, the executive director of the Center for the Study of American and the West Foreign Policy Research Institute. The event lasted from 4 to 5:30 p.m., and guests could only attend if they received an invitation.
Congressman Boyle represents Pennsylvania’s second Congressional District, which covers Philadelphia east of Broad Street, north of Vine Street and into the far northeast of the county. He is currently serving his third term in Congress but served three terms in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives before, representing the 170th District. The congressman formerly served on the House Foreign Affairs committee and, according to govtrack.us, 27 percent of bills that he sponsors relate to international affairs.
Ambassador Lambridinis has an abundance of diplomatic experience and has been a strong voice in European politics. After he completed high school in Greece, he studied at Amherst College in Massachusetts, receiving his law degree from Yale Law School. Afterwards he practiced law in Washington D.C., where he then served as president of the Committee for Human Rights in the Bar Association of D.C.
Lambrinidis became a member of the European Parliament in 2004, representing the Panhellenic Socialist Movement party. He was the third Vice President of the European Parliament before returning to his native Greece to serve as their Foreign Minister. In 2012, he was appointed as the first European Union’s Special Representative for Human Rights.
Before the event, the congressman took the ambassador on a private tour of Independence Hall and the surrounding area at 2 p.m. Once the event started, both men gave their opening speeches. Lambridinis continued by dismissing the myth that Europe is huge regulator and very bureaucratic. He said, “We took the laws of 28 countries and created one free market.” Lambridinis concluded by acknowledging that both the U.S. and E.U. recognize Russia and China as common economic threats.
Both men were asked by Granieri if Americans take the relationship we have with the EU for granted. Boyle said that if someone were to run on being either pro or anti-EU, it would not gain them political currency because it’s not an issue Americans vote on. He stressed the importance of our leaders not taking that relationship for granted and having them always maintain a strong alliance with the EU.
Both men had a humorous interpretation of the United Kingdom’s issue of Brexit. The ambassador said that the U.K. cannot expect to trade with the U.S. after leaving the EU if they break the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which was a peace agreement in which both the British and Irish governments agreed on how Northern Ireland would be governed.
Boyle recounted when he took part in a congressional delegation, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, that went to both the U.K. and Ireland to deliver the message that no matter the final outcome of Brexit, it must not harm the Good Friday Agreement. The ambassador spoke on the idea of the EU as a nanny state and stated that he is bracing himself ahead of the next election for all of the times the word “socialist” will be thrown around.
Lambrinidis touched the issue of healthcare, which he said was “a politically loaded topic in the U.S.” and said, “In Europe, it cost us $10,000 per person to cover fully the health of everyone in the European Union. In the U.S., it takes you, the government, $15,000 per person to cover not everyone. So you tell me who’s the best capitalist. We don’t waste or throw our money around.”
After the event concluded, the congressman gave the ambassador a miniature Liberty Bell as a gift and reminder of his visit to Philadelphia. Events like these are especially necessary at a time when the United States is attempting to deal with its adversaries, like China, Russia and North Korea. It is good for the American public to reaffirm who has our backs on the world stage.