European Affairs

The Need for a Much More Ambitious Transatlantic Agenda     Print Email
Günter Burghardt

Head of the Delegation of the European Commission in the United States

This year's Europe Day, May 9, marked the 50th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration which set in motion the historic process of European unification after World War II. It was France that took the bold and farsighted initiative of inviting Germany and other European countries to join it in creating the European Coal and Steel Community as a first step toward "a Federation of Europe."

That revolutionary event marked a decisive turnaround from traditional balance-of-power policies among the European nation states to the profound changes in Europe's modern political landscape we have witnessed in the second half of the past century.

In a nutshell, the Schuman Declaration prepared the foundations for lasting peace and prosperity in Europe and enabled the European Union to emerge as an international actor commensurate with its political and economic weight and moral values.

Today, 50 years after the Schuman Declaration, we face an equally historic challenge: to double the EU's membership over the next decade while preserving the momentum and dynamism of Europe's unification.

Will France and Germany again, joined by those partners who are ready to proceed further on the road to unity, have the vision and courage to adopt the institutional reforms necessary to accomplish the ambitious European Agenda 2010 outlined by successive European Council meetings?

Will the European Agenda be matched by U.S. support for a Transatlantic Agenda 2010, with the aim of establishing a partnership of equals? These are, in my view, the two most formidable issues determining the EU-U.S. political agenda for this decade.

Yet, the day-to-day reality of our relationship often contrasts with these fundamental goals. Indeed, one can easily have the impression that the transatlantic relationship is characterized by a growing gap between evocations of its importance on the one hand, and specific, short-term, often trade-related disputes on the other. Meaningful dialogue about medium- to long-term political questions risks being pushed into the background.

The transatlantic relationship is the most important economic and political relationship in the world. The EU and the United States conduct 40 percent of world trade, and are each other's biggest markets and sources of investment. The EU and the United States together account for 60 percent of world economic output and share the main responsibility for the functioning of the multilateral system.

The tendency to concentrate on isolated trade issues is therefore both shortsighted and off-the-mark. It does a disservice to the common values and interests on which the relationship is founded, ignores the significance of our new political challenges, and prevents the EU and United States from taking full advantage of immense opportunities.

In order to break out of this transatlantic tunnel vision, a common project beyond bananas, hush-kits and GMOs is required, one that gives expression to the depth and breadth of our common values and interests.

Together, Americans and Europeans have won the Cold War. While the United States has emerged as the only superpower, European integration - through Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and past and future enlargements - continues to gain momentum. This dynamism on both sides of the Atlantic should be harnessed to develop a more balanced relationship.

The history of European integration so far has taught us that for grand designs to become reality, one not only needs a vision but also a careful construction plan. In the Transatlantic Declaration of 1990, we have already set out our common values and aspirations and established a framework for regular, high-level bilateral meetings.

More recently, the New Transatlantic Agenda of 1995 and its accompanying Action Plan reflect the actual state of transatlantic relations in the light of the further progress toward European unity provided for in the EU's Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties.

Against the background of the EU's ambitious agenda for the next decade, the EU and the United States should aim for a "Transatlantic Agenda 2010" which would build on the emergence of a stronger and more integrated European partner and establish a set of mutual commitments covering every aspect of the relationship, in the economic, political and security fields.

Such a Transatlantic Agenda would build on the successful achievement of the European Union Agenda 2010, which comprises:

  • strengthening EU institutions and decision-making mechanisms as a result of the current Inter-governmental Conference;
  • preparing the EU and its candidate countries for an unparalleled expansion that will almost double EU membership;
  • completing the introduction of the single currency in the form of euro notes and coins, starting on January 1, 2002;
  • taking a first step toward implementing the security dimension of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy by putting in place the military, civil and institutional mechanisms for crisis management, in close cooperation with NATO, by the end of 2002;
  • building up the EU's capacity to act in the area of internal security and the management of its external borders;
  • complementing the EU's internal market with a network of free trade zones, thereby creating a greater Euro-Mediterranean economic area of around one billion consumers by 2010.

If the EU succeeds in this agenda, it will automatically grow into a fuller partner in a better-balanced transatlantic relationship. That must also be in the U.S. interest since, from an American perspective, one could not wish for a better contribution to growth, stability, prosperity and enduring burden-sharing on the global scene.

As European integration advances, and against the background of the recent traumatic events in Southeast Europe, security policy will inevitably occupy a more prominent position in transatlantic relations. As a consequence, the transatlantic dialogue on security policy must be conducted in a constructive way.

As past experience has shown, important new developments on the EU side are sometimes met in the United States with a mix of support and anxiety. This was the case with the completion of the internal market, which was initially greeted in the United States with concern about a "Fortress Europe."

Similarly, the introduction of the European single currency was first met with skepticism. Again, initial U.S. reaction to a common EU policy in the area of security and defense concentrated on what neither the EU nor the United States actually want, namely the so-called three Ds - Decoupling, Discrimination, and Duplication.

The European Security and Defense Policy is, in fact, about the EU's completion of its unification process and its determination to acquire the status of a genuine partner, able to play its full role in Europe and internationally. This is why it would seem to me more appropriate to describe the process as focusing on three Es - Europeanization, Empowerment and Efficiency:

  • Europeanization stems from decisions of the European Council in Cologne and Helsinki to make the European Security and Defense Policy an integral part of the EU agenda;
  • Empowerment stands for auto-nomous EU military and civilian crisis management capabilities to carry out security missions, including humanitarian and rescue tasks, and peacekeeping (as well as peacemaking) as defined in the Treaty of Amsterdam, and "where NATO as a whole is not engaged;"
  • Efficiency points to the EU's determination to establish the necessary decision-making mechanisms and the overall security and defense capabilities through military and non-military headline goals, as decided by the Helsinki European Council last December.

It is obvious that the EU must be prepared to provide military and budgetary means commensurate with its economic and political weight. This is also the message, conveyed loud and clear in recent U.S. Congressional debates, particularly with regard to the EU and the U.S. role in the Balkans.

Of course, in order to be taken seriously as a full partner, the EU must present itself as a single actor, with a common will and a single voice, and be capable of joint action. The tandem between Javier Solana as Chief Representative of the CFSP and Chris Patten as Commissioner for External Relations is a step in the direction of a more coherent and comprehensive EU foreign policy, combining economics, diplomacy and security.

It is equally important that Washington fully understands and assesses European developments, despite their complexity. While the EU will never be a carbon copy of the United States, a look at American history can be inspiring.

When the 13 British colonies declared their independence in 1776, it was not foreseeable whether the loose confederation would ever emerge as a powerful federation with a genuinely common foreign and security policy.

The European Agenda 2010 is a powerful message of unity and stability. A Transatlantic Agenda 2010 would seem to be a logical response. EU-U.S. relations need long-term conceptual underpinning as much as they require day-to-day management of individual conflicts.

The EU is pursuing its path toward deepening and widening ahead of an important European Council meeting at the end of this year. A new U.S. Administration starts immediately after the New Year. The time appears ripe to reflect on how a common EU-U.S. Agenda 2010 could set as its goal a more balanced transatlantic relationship, able to take on the many important tasks before us.


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

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