European Affairs

Letter to the Editor: Jean-François Boittin -- The Transatlantic Early Warning System: a Red Herring     Print Email

David Aaron's article on "Communicating - and Failing to - Across the Atlantic," in your spring issue, suggests a wrong answer to a real question.

The question is real: the multiplication of conflicts, some with a very high profile, strains the relationship. Let me suggest, though, that these conflicts are a direct consequence of the massive trade and investment flows that cross the Atlantic daily, in what is now already a Transatlantic common market, with few residual tariffs and barriers, not very different from the situation that exists between the states of the United States.

It is true that the differences in culture - in the largest sense - may here and there complicate the management of these conflicts. I would strongly

suggest, however, that, to solve that problem, the last thing we need is yet another Transatlantic structure or a so-called Transatlantic early warning system:

  • There are already too many Transatlantic fora, where officials from both sides can meet: the sheer number of these leftovers from past initiatives deprives them of any visibility, and it would be better to get rid of a few rather than to create yet another one.
  • Proceedings in the European Union are totally transparent, especially to U.S. representatives in Brussels. In the well-publicized case of aircraft hushkits, it is public knowledge that officials were simply caught asleep and misread the potential difficulties created by the directive.
  • One can only suppose then that Mr. Aaron's suggestion is slightly different. He wants the United States to become member of the European club without paying the dues, i.e. to be able to modify or veto a proposal on a par with member states that sit in the Council of Ministers, one of the EU's two legislative bodies. That is a difficult proposition, at least till the EU gets the right to veto bills before the U.S. Congress or the legislatures of individual states.


This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number I, Issue number IV in the Fall of 2000.

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UMD Jean Monnet Research Project

The University of Maryland has received a Jean Monnet grant from the EU to conduct a series of policy exchanges between Europe and the US on filling infrastructure needs and the utility of public/private partnerships as the financing mechanism. If interested in participating in or receiving more information about these exchanges, please contact Rye McKenzie (

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The Bertelsmann Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit think tank in Washington, DC with a transatlantic perspective on global challenges.

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