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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Releases > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Remarks > 2003 > June

Mars and Venus: Prospects for Transatlantic Cooperation

Charles Ries, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
Remarks at the XXI German American Conference, Atlantik-Bruecke and The American Council on Germany
Berlin, Germany
June 13, 2003

Let me begin by offering my thanks to Garrick Utley for the generous introduction and for the opportunity to speak early in the program of this very important conference. The Atlantik-Bruecke and the American Council on Germany [ACG] recently celebrated their 50th anniversaries. I suspect few of the previous Atlantik-Bruecke-ACG biennial conferences have come at such an important juncture in the transatlantic relationship.

My American colleagues and I look forward to our forthcoming discussions and through the day I intend to do as much listening as talking. In Washington, we often ask ourselves what Europeans -- and especially Germans -- are really thinking. Participation in such a conference gives me an opportunity to listen to informed opinion on the pressing issues of the day. In turn, my American colleagues and I will do our best to explain contemporary American perspectives and the U.S. Administration's plans for Transatlantic Relations.

When I think about the current state of U.S.-EU relations I am often reminded of an old Mark Twain quote about a famous composer: "His music is better than it sounds." The same can be said about our relationship. Too often we lose sight of the shared values and shared responsibilities that have united us for so long and instead focus only on the dispute du jour.

This is partly due to a tendency to generalize from the immediate to the future in foreign policy. To say things are difficult now does not mean they will always be difficult. We also have a tendency to personalize and psychoanalyze our relationship. Hence references to Mars and Venus. But both tendencies can lead us to dead-ends.

Like most simplifications, the Mars-Venus catch phrase has some truth. It is true that Americans are different in some ways from Europeans. But so what? New Yorkers are different from Californians. In Europe, there are substantial differences in policy preferences between Great Britain and Austria and in attitudes toward security issues between Italy and France. So what? Diversity is our strength, and debate is healthy.

We -- Europeans and Americans -- also agree on far more than we disagree.

We agree on democracy and human rights. Our common effort in UNCHR [United Nations Commission on Human Rights] this year was better than it has been for some time.

We agree on an open transatlantic and global trading systems. Between the U.S. and the EU, we have an annual trade and investment relationship of over two trillion dollars. We agree to take difficult disputes to the WTO [World Trade Organization]  for settlement, even though WTO panels are making uncomfortable decisions -- on FSC [Foreign Sales Corporation] and steel for the U.S.; on bananas, beef, and soon, biotech for the EU.

We even agree on multilateralism -- though the U.S. rarely gets credit for this in Europe. We took Iraq to the UNSC, biotech to the WTO, and North Korea to the IAEA [the International Atomic Energy Agency]. We have concerns over the structure of International Criminal Court and Kyoto, which was why we decided not to participate in those agreements. But we made those decisions only after proposed changes that would have made Senate ratification possible were rebuffed. It was because the U.S. takes multilateral commitments seriously that we did not join, not because we thought such commitments were unimportant.

Many in Europe appear to think that we have aspirations to divide or "disaggregate" Europe. We most often hear that we tried to do this with regard to the difficult decisions on Iraq. This is not accurate. We sought the support of all of Europe and got it for UNSCR [United Nations Security Council Resolution] 1441, and we similarly sought EU support for a follow-on resolution last March. At that point Europe was already split. But what we would have preferred all along was the support of a united Europe. It might even have gotten the Iraqi regime to meet the UNSCR requirements.

Commissioner Patten has called the U.S.-EU relationship the "indispensable partnership." We both have the power to shape events, and our power is multiplied when we work together. When we work at cross-purposes, we create gridlock.

The United States always starts with the presumption that we would like the full support of a united Europe for any initiative. This is what we want and this is what we pursue. Coalitions of the willing are used when all do not agree. The EU itself has accepted this idea with its enhanced cooperation. It makes sense internationally as well. Otherwise policy and security options are held hostage to the tyranny of the lowest common denominator.

Our inclination is to look favorably at EU initiatives and to encourage those that we believe can be carried out successfully and do not undercut our interests. We supported EU High Commissioner Solana's efforts in 2001 to end ethnic fighting in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and backed the EU's takeover from NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] in March of the peacekeeping operation there. We supported the EU's initiative to impose travel restrictions on senior leaders from Belarus and Transnistria. We welcomed the recent French decision to lead an autonomous ESDP [European Security and Defense Policy] mission in the Congo where NATO was not involved.

We know Iraq has been a hard case for the EU and for Germany. We know there were strong views both in support of, and opposed to, military action against Saddam. It was troubling for us to see some Europeans criticizing others for merely agreeing with the United States, as if that was somehow "un-European." As President Bush said three weeks ago to Poles in Krakow, “you have not come all this way – through occupations and tyranny and brave uprisings – only to be told you must choose between Europe and America."

The Iraq conflict is in the past. We cannot let past disagreements deepen or allow them to distract us from the global responsibilities we share.

The greatest threat to peace is the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. We must work together to stop proliferation. When weapons of mass destruction or their components are in transit, we need the means and legal basis to seize them. In Krakow two weeks ago President Bush announced a new effort to fight proliferation called the Proliferation Security Initiative. The U.S. and a number of close allies, including several EU Member States, have begun working on this new effort. Over time we will expand this partnership as broadly as possible.

We support the International Atomic Energy Agency's ongoing efforts to answer the serious questions about Iran's nuclear programs. Iran is actively pursuing an extensive nuclear program that until recently was undeclared and intentionally hidden from monitoring by the IAEA. We believe the program is intended to develop nuclear weapons capability. This not just a U.S. concern or a U.S.-Iranian confrontation. It is a challenge to the entire international community and to the global non-proliferation regime.

We also agree on protecting our own people from terrorism. We have greatly expanded our cooperation on freezing terrorist funds and helping developing countries protect their own financial systems. The newly negotiated U.S.-EU extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties will give our courts and prosecutors additional tools for cooperative efforts against terrorist and other dangerous criminals. We have taken important steps in police cooperation through signing of the EUROPOL [European Police Office] and EUROPOL data privacy agreements.

After September 11, the added emphasis on passenger screening created an inconvenience for legitimate travelers. To help focus our attention on passengers who pose the greatest risk and to help facilitate travel by legitimate passengers, we developed new screening systems. We are working with the EU to ensure that as we fight terrorism, we reduce inconvenience to legitimate travelers, while still respecting data privacy.

We agree that the global war on terror and other security challenges require robust military capabilities. Both European and North American countries count on NATO, the essential forum for Transatlantic security, to defend the Euro-Atlantic area against terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and other 21st century threats.

President Bush said it in Krakow:

“NATO must be prepared to meet the challenges of our time. This is a matter of capability and a matter of will. NATO must show resolve and foresight to act beyond Europe, and it has begun to do so.”

This conviction is reflected in NATO’s mission in Afghanistan and its support for Polish-led operations in Iraq. These are truly historic decisions that bode well for NATO's future. This week NATO Defense Ministers are taking the next steps on the NATO Response Force and on the Prague Capabilities Commitment.

NATO Allies also are discussing means to increase NATO-EU cooperation. We’ve made very important progress in NATO-EU relations with the successful transfer of the Macedonia mission. As we move forward, however, it is important that the two organizations not duplicate efforts or waste precious resources.

But terrorism will not be defeated by military power alone. Because terrorism is often bred in failing states, we must help nations in crisis to build a civil society of free institutions. We should work together, through the Doha Development Trade agenda and initiatives to fight HIV/AIDS and famine, to bring hope and opportunity to the people of developing countries.

One of the greatest sources of development and growth in any society is trade. Together we hope to lead the effort to bring down global trade barriers. June 2 in Evian the leaders of the G-8 renewed their commitment to reaching "on schedule" the goals set out in the WTO trade and development agenda. As the chairman of the BDI pointed out this week, meaningful agricultural reform will be the key to providing real developmental benefits to the developing world and ensuring the success of the round. Cooperation between Europe and the United States was instrumental in launching the WTO talks. We now must lead the negotiations to a successful conclusion.

We are working with Europe to develop and apply new technologies that will improve our air and water quality, and protect the health of the world's people.

In Africa, the spread of HIV/AIDS threatens millions, and the stability of an entire continent. President Bush has signed into law a 15 billion dollar effort to prevent and treat AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean and we urge our European partners to make a similar commitment.

Ethiopia and Eritrea continue to face their greatest humanitarian challenge in nearly two decades. Up to 17 million people may be at risk of famine, unless a global response meets their needs. In less than a year, the U.S. has committed over one million tons of emergency food to Ethiopia and Eritrea. The European Union has provided some emergency relief, but more is needed. We need to work together to ensure the food is rapidly delivered. And we need to work together to ensure that urgent health, water, sanitation, and agricultural needs are met.

Hunger is an age-old scourge that should not exist in the 21st century. We can greatly reduce the long-term problem of hunger and famine in Africa by applying the latest developments of science. Biotech products can help stimulate agricultural productivity and development in both developed and developing countries. Biotech foods have been shown to be as safe as conventional varieties. Such crops can also benefit the environments by reducing soil erosion and pesticide use. The U.S. is simply seeking scientific, rules-based review of applications as the WTO requires, and is not forcing acceptance of biotech food on European customers.

We need to continue to work together in the Quartet to keep the Middle East Road Map on track. The events of this week have tragically demonstrated that. This is yet another moment of decision for the cause of peace in the Middle East.

U.S. efforts in this regard will be focused on facilitating dialogue and implementation of the steps in the roadmap by both sides. As the President's meetings in Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh and the establishment of the mission led by Ambassador Wolf clearly illustrate, we in the U.S. will do our utmost to assist the parties along this difficult road to peace. We need Europe’s commitment as well. Ultimately it will be up to the parties to take the necessary steps to advance the process.

This and much more is our common agenda. But the way Americans and Europeans approach the relationship also make a difference. These are my suggestions:

First, we need to listen to each other and seek ways to accommodate each other's legitimate interests. Europeans cannot build a strong and united continent by choosing policies simply because they are different from U.S. approaches. As the history of the Atlantik Bruecke and the ACG makes clear, one can be a good European and a good transatlanticist at the same time.

Second, we need to find ways to share credit and to demonstrate to critical audiences on both sides of the Atlantic the benefits of our relationship.

Third, we need to talk about issues early, before positions are locked in. We must have a relationship based on trust. Europeans ask us for real consultations but, too often we are also told by Europeans that they cannot tell us their views on an issue with us because there is no common position. And then, once a common position is forged, we are told it cannot be adapted or changed because it is based on a fragile set of compromises. Hence it is the EU that often presents us with a unilateral, take-it-or-leave-it position that cannot be negotiated.

Fourth, Europe cannot be successful with lowest common denominator policies. Global leadership is hard and requires sacrifices as well as responsibility.

If we apply these rules, Europeans can and should build a strong Europe and together we can make the world a safer, more prosperous place. The U.S. does not want a weak Europe. A strong united Europe is in the U.S. interest.

In short, there is too much to be done to focus on past differences. The way I put it is that it is time to get the transatlantic relationship up off the psychoanalyst’s couch and put it back to work. Thank you.

Released on June 17, 2003

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