The United States and the European Union: A Renewed Partnership Delivering ResultsKurt Volker, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
Remarks at the Conference on "New Instruments of International Governance: Transatlantic and Global Perspectives"
Diplomatic Academy, Vienna, Austria
May 11, 2006
Thank you. It is a great pleasure for me to be in Vienna, and a great honor to have the opportunity to speak with you today. I would particularly like to acknowledge the European Community Studies Association of Austria and the Good Governance Association, the co-organizers of this conference, who have done such a fine job in setting up a very impressive program on a very important topic.
In addition to being an incredibly beautiful city, Vienna is a city with a remarkable history, having played a vital role in the development of Europe, and in the development of Europe’s role in the world. This is the city where the destinies of Europe and Turkey were first intertwined over 400 years ago. This is the city where the Napoleonic wars were finally settled. This is the city that led a vibrant, multiethnic, multicultural, and multi-religious empire in the heart of Europe and stretching across the Balkans -- an achievement in peaceful existence we are still striving to re-create. This is a city that saw some of Europe’s finest achievements, as well as its worst destructive forces.
Today, Vienna is again at the crossroads of a great many of the major international currents of our day. It is the home of the OSCE, which is the leading institution defining standards of democracy and advancing freedom, democracy, tolerance, and security throughout Europe and Eurasia. It is the home of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is at the heart of efforts to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons technology, while providing safeguards for the peaceful, civilian use of nuclear energy. It is the gateway to the Balkans, the place where UN Envoy Ahtisaari maintains his offices, the place where efforts to bring lasting democracy, prosperity and peace in the Balkans are fused with efforts to see their integration into the European mainstream. This is a city that embodies the idea of modern diplomacy; the words "Vienna Convention" say it all.
I am told that the forerunner of the Diplomatic Academy, the Orient Institute founded by Maria Theresia over 250 years ago, was one of the very first institutions devoted to educating diplomats. Today, the Diplomatic Academy is again part of Austria’s outreach to the East, the training ground for hundreds of young diplomats from Central and Eastern Europe and beyond. The fact that this institution is headed by a distinguished Czech Ambassador is no doubt something that would have seemed as natural in Maria Theresia’s time, as it does, once again, today. And not least, Vienna is the home of the Austrian Presidency of the European Union, and will play host to a U.S.-EU Summit, which President Bush will attend next month.
Today, however, Vienna plays host to another kind of Summit, bringing some 60 leaders from Europe and Latin America together for the EU-Latin America Summit. We wish them well. While there is so much to discuss on the full global strategic agenda, I would like to focus my remarks on the work America and Europe are doing together in facing our common global challenges, and in particular on our work together with the European Union.
A Renewed Partnership
America was determined to face these challenges. We knew we would have to use all means available to fight terrorism -- financial, law enforcement, intelligence, and even military. For this alone we needed assistance from Europe. But only with time did we come to understand more fully the implications of combating an ideology of violence with a positive vision of freedom, democracy, and opportunity.
To succeed in that broader intellectual challenge, it is critical that the principal pillars of the democratic community speak with a common voice. In this respect, our strategic relationship with our European partners and Allies is just as fundamental to addressing these challenges today as it had been to addressing the challenges of the past. This shift in focus -- from an emphasis on resolving internal European problems to addressing common global challenges -- is an historic and positive development in Transatlantic relations. But working through this change has not been easy. Especially after the divisions over the war in Iraq -- both within Europe and between Europe and the United States -- re-building a strategic Transatlantic partnership around our shared global challenges became the first order of business in President Bush’s second term of office.
That is why, in his first press conference two days after being reelected -- and many times since -- President Bush set out the clear objective of working together with our European Allies and partners in facing the global challenges of the 21st century. The President’s first foreign trip after re-election -- and Secretary of State Rice’s first foreign trip as Secretary of State -- was to Europe, to build this renewed transatlantic relationship and put it to work. Both of them took time to meet with EU counterparts, with President Bush becoming the first U.S. President to visit the European Union in its Brussels headquarters, and giving a speech endorsing the objective of a strong European Union as a partner in facing global challenges.
The President met again with European leaders during the Luxembourg presidency and agreed to a detailed agenda of joint cooperation. A year and a half into the second term, we have made substantial progress in building a strong strategic consensus with Europe across the full range of global challenges. This work goes on every day. And in fact, the reason I am in Vienna today was for a meeting of the U.S.-EU Task Force, which reviews the full range of our partnership, and is also working to prepare the upcoming U.S.-EU Summit. Our efforts encompass three broad areas of partnership: advancing democracy, prosperity, and security.
Democracy and Freedom
The United States and the European Union are united and active in pursuing the advance of democracy and freedom in the world. America’s commitment to the advance of freedom was articulated clearly and decisively in President Bush’s Second Inaugural Address.
For the European Union, the promotion of democratic values comes naturally. The European Union is itself based on a shared attachment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Through enlargement, the European Union has helped spread democracy, market economy, and security in Europe. America’s own commitment to freedom is itself a European import.
In Afghanistan, the European Union and its member states covered more than forty percent of the costs of last September’s elections and the United States provided over 28 percent of Afghanistan’s overall parliamentary election costs. Austria, I might add, made its own important contribution in the form of some 100 soldiers to ensure the success of that election. EU support was critical to the success of the London conference in January, where nations pledged over $10.5 billion worth of additional assistance. European financial pledges to Afghanistan over the past few years exceed $6 billion. Alongside Afghans and Americans, there are over 12,000 European military, police and civilian personnel in Afghanistan, not counting NGO’s.
Concerning Iraq, the United States and the European Union co-hosted a major international conference on Iraqi reconstruction last June. The European Union sent electoral experts for the December elections and trained over 300 international observers, while the United States provided substantial support to local NGOs who also trained election monitors. Following the elections, the EU has increased its engagement, pledging to open an office in Iraq and starting negotiations on a trade and cooperation agreement, while providing reconstruction assistance. Whatever our past disagreements over removing Saddam Hussein from power, we agree today that it is imperative that we all work to help the Iraqi people build a democratic and secure society that will not depend upon foreign military forces.
In the Balkans, we are working together to strengthen constitutional reform in Bosnia; and to promote democratic standards in Kosovo as part of negotiations toward a final status for that province. We are encouraging the integration of all the states of that region in their aspirations to integrate with the European mainstream, insofar as they cooperate fully with the ICTY and turn over indicted war criminals for trial.
Our cooperation in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans is well known. Less well known is that we hold regular consultations on supporting democracy throughout the world -- in places like Ukraine and Georgia, Burma and Zimbabwe, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus.
In Belarus, the United States and European Union delivered strong joint messages before and after the March 19 elections. We launched a joint effort to increase access to independent media and coordinated assistance to civil society and political opposition. We coordinated visa bans on the regime leadership and are working on financial sanctions. Alexander Milinkevich and other opposition leaders depend on coordinated U.S.-European support -- and we are providing it.
In Latin America, we are working together to strengthen the electoral process in Venezuela and in Haiti.
On the African continent, the United States and the European Union both provided support for the October elections in Liberia and are working together, along with NATO, to support the African Union in Darfur.
In the Broader Middle East, working together to support democracy and reform, and are both taking part in the Forum for the Future and a Foundation to support NGO’s in that region. And of course the EU’s Euromed process and America’s Middle East Partnership Initiative further these common objectives.
And, in the United Nations, we have both supported the launch of the UN Democracy Fund and agreed to establish a Peacebuilding Commission.
A second major area of Transatlantic cooperation and achievement is in promoting a more secure world. Our Justice and Home Affairs ministries work together extremely closely to strengthen our ability to protect our citizens at home, and improve the security of international commerce and travel. We work together daily to deprive terrorists of the funding they need to conduct their violent acts. We share "best practices" on investigations, prosecutions, and effectiveness of designations. We also are sharing approaches on preventing radicalization and recruitment among alienated Islamic youth in both the United States and the European Union. Our law enforcement authorities are working to ensure that privacy concerns are addressed without putting information sharing at risk. We have negotiated U.S.-EU framework agreements on Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition, which await full ratification by all the countries of the European Union before entering into force. We anticipate this will occur very soon.
The United States and the European Union recognize that the greatest danger we face today is weapons of mass destruction in the wrong hands. Thus, we have cooperated very closely on non-proliferation.
Today, foremost in all our minds is Iran. The EU-3 deserves the highest praise for its leadership trying to convince Iran to cooperate with the international community and abandon its efforts at nuclear enrichment and reprocessing. The United States and the EU-3 have worked closely in the IAEA, and in building support within the UN Security Council. We are offering Iran the opportunity for a positive outcome, while also working toward sanctions if Iran continues to defy the international community.
At the same time, the United States and the European Union remain dedicated to supporting the democratic forces in Iranian society. We must define our policy not just by what we stand against, but also what we stand for. In Iran we support the people’s longing for freedom and democracy, their hopes for change, their desire for jobs and an end to isolation. It is important that we remain on the right side of history, supporting the legitimate aspirations of the Iranian people.
The third area of strategic U.S.-European partnership is promoting global prosperity. Together, we have long promoted economic freedom, and EU enlargement has been a critical factor in advancing prosperity throughout Europe. Through open markets, a stable financial system and integration of the global economy, we seek to foster prosperity among both developing and developed nations. Prosperity creates better lives for all people and a more secure world.
President Bush has put forward ambitious proposals in the Doha Development Agenda negotiations of the World Trade Organization. Lowering trade barriers worldwide in agriculture, manufacturing and services is the best opportunity in a generation to lift millions of people out of poverty and enhance economic opportunity for all. We are disappointed that WTO members missed the April 30 deadline, but remain hopeful that the European Union will match our ambitions to conclude the negotiations successfully. Especially in the wake of the New Year’s energy cut-offs in Ukraine and the Caucasus, we have intensely discussed energy security issues with the European Union.
We have broad agreement on approaches to diversifying suppliers and sources, market integration, boosting new technologies and promoting efficiency. We are working together to encourage Russia to embrace this approach, and I anticipate that this will be an important topic at the U.S.-EU Summit, occurring just weeks ahead of the St. Petersburg G8 Summit.
Protection of intellectual property worldwide and greater convergence between European and American regulatory systems -- in pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and telecommunications -- may not sound sexy, but are further critical areas of joint Transatlantic cooperation, with billions of Euros at stake each year.
I have touched lightly today on many areas, but let me conclude by stressing one fundamental point. Underneath all of our common actions in facing today’s global challenges is one simple and powerful idea: the idea that people have a right to live in freedom. They have a right to have their human dignity respected, and to be protected by the law; to choose their leaders; to pursue their own prosperity; to do the best they can to support their families and their nations.
These are the ideas upon which my nation was founded -- ideas that came from Europe and which we -- the United States and Europe -- share today.
As President Bush said in his second Inaugural Address, "The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world." To someone like me, who deals every day with our European policy, he was saying that my job is to find ways for America and Europe to work together to advance freedom and address common challenges, in order to make the world a better and safer place.
I have tried to give you a snapshot of how the U.S. and Europe are taking concrete actions to meet those challenges. But in the long run, we can only measure our success in how well the idea of freedom fares in the world. That is why it is so critical that Europe and America -- the heart of the Transatlantic community where the idea of freedom flourishes -- work together.
We have seen a long evolution of the European Union, and an equally long evolution in the U.S.-EU strategic partnership. No doubt this will continue. But as we approach another U.S.-EU Summit here in this lovely city just over a month from now, we may have finally crossed a threshold to a new level of U.S.-EU strategic partnership in facing a global set of challenges. Only time will tell, but I am indeed optimistic.
Thank you very much.