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March 9, 2005
Moderator: Nik Gowing
Panellists: Timothy Garton Ash, Gijs de Vries, Emma Bonino, Hubert V�drine, Rand Beers, Madeleine K. Albright
Respondent: John Edwin Mroz
The panel The Necessary Alliance: Strengthening Transatlantic Relations in the 21st Century discussed the recent political frictions between the United States and Europe. Most panellists agreed that there was more work to do in order to restore the close relationship between the two, with one arguing that in the absence of a unifying force like the Cold War this was not possible at all. In either case, movement was required on both sides: the United States had to become more flexible, whereas Europeans had to show that they were capable of putting their ambitious rhetoric into practice.
Complete audio of the session
- The Necessary Alliance: Atlantic Relations
- Audio Archive (Spanish / English) [1h. 36m., 33 MB, MP3]
If the transatlantic partnership remains central to global peace and stability, how can the great democracies of Europe and North America advance beyond political differences and strengthen their alliance?
Timothy Garton Ash, Director of the European Studies Centre at St. Antony´s College, Oxford, called on Europeans to begin their own debate about their place in the world—and not just about U.S. conduct. The way forward is to start talking about everything else except the United States, he suggested, and then to identify where European interests coincide with those of the U.S. He warned that U.S.-European relations could very rapidly disintegrate. And he counselled the Americans that if they want to intensify relations with Europe it will have to be done through the European Union.
Madeleine Albright, a U.S. Secretary of State in the Clinton administration, reasserted the transatlantic interdependence: the U.S. has specific interests to pursue, and should at least be familiar with European attitudes toward those interests. She said NATO continues to keep the U.S. involved in Europe
Still, Emma Bonino, Member of the European Parliament, acknowledged that it is difficult to manage an alliance from a European perspective because of inevitable difficulties in reaching a common European policy.
Rand Beers, Adjunct Lecturer in the School of Government at Harvard University, took up the same point, saying there is no common policy reliable enough for a U.S. official to visit one European capital and readily grasp a European position. As well, there was the slow pace of European decision-making.
Hubert Védrine, a former French Foreign Minister, held that it will be difficult to achieve a close Atlantic alliance without a single unifying threat like the cold war. Terrorism is serious, but not the same. It should be possible, he said, to strengthen ties on a case-by-case basis. The problem remains that the U.S. is too strong, and Europe not strong enough.
John Mroz, founder and President of the EastWest Institute, said the gulf separating Europe and the U.S. should be addressed in terms of public opinion—not least the discrepancies between elite and popular opinion on both sides of the Atlantic.
Moderator (Nik Gowing)
Welcome back from lunch. My name is Nik Gowing and what we want to do is move ahead with some speed to the title in your daily programme. But of course much has moved on since this panel was conceived many weeks ago. We’ve had the Bush visit to Europe and what I’d therefore like to do is insist that we throw forward and take as a baseline the Bush visit, the Condoleezza Rice visit two weeks before him and the kind of statements we’ve had from both Europe and the United States in Brussels particularly after that meeting.
There’ll be no speeches, I told them this afternoon; I will be particularly ruthless if anyone tries to grab the floor for ten minutes. What I want to do is move forward with more of a conversation, including yourselves on the floor, about some of the issues. Whether what the President of the European Commission said, those optimistic signs, signals and noises, are going to be reflected in the reality of the new transatlantic relations of the 21st century – shall we look at the next two or three years for starters?
Let me remind you of the kind of things that were said in Brussels a couple of weeks ago. The Commission President Barroso said: ‘The US and Europe’ – and he said Europe, not the European Union – ‘have reconnected…The substance and atmospherics are changing fast…A corner has been turned…All that unites us…All that we share…An indispensable partnership that is now very clear…A common outlook on many fronts…The reality is that the world is safer and more prosperous when Europe and America work together’.
For his part, the US President emphasised the need – several times – for a ‘strong European partner’. He used phrases like: ‘The US wants the European project to succeed… It’s in our interest that Europe is strong… Europe must be a continued, viable and strong partner’. There are some interesting questions implied there about what it has been using the words ‘continued, viable and strong’. He added: ‘We share the same values’, to which President Chirac said in his bilateral: ‘Having common values does not mean we agree all the time. They do not change overnight with a wand…Relations must be cemented, broadened and strengthened’.
And surely it must be significant that there’s been the jointery that’s taken place on the Middle East and Lebanon in particular, with the joint statement last week in London, with the French and US moves on Resolution 1559. Let’s broaden it, though, to issues like terror, security cooperation and climate change. I notice that President Bush said ‘Kyoto is beyond us’; I think he probably meant ‘behind us’, but both he and Barroso did say that climate change was one area where, based on the technological opportunities, there are new chances for greater cooperation and mutual understanding.
What about the chances for greater cooperative diplomacy at the United Nations, and we view with interest the appointment of the new American ambassador to the United Nations, given some of the positions he’s taken in the first Bush Administration.
So those are the areas I think we can get through in the next eighty minutes or so. As I say, no speeches; and what I’d like to do is ask for your patience because if we start going down a particularly rich vein of discussion, I’d like to stay on that vein of discussion and see it through and then move on. I’ve said to those up here on the panel to be patient, because we’ll get to some of the areas we might want to get to. So let’s on terror, for example, pick up that issue and move with it very quickly.
You know who’s on the panel – it’s there in your programme – so let’s move on with the discussion. I’d like to introduce Timothy Garton Ash, whose book Free World: America, Europe, and the Surprising Future of the West has made great waves, not just in Britain and America, but elsewhere – I’ve just heard him saying that it’s been translated into Spanish. Timothy, can I ask you, given that you were very caustic and sceptical, particularly towards the end of Bush I, warning about ‘Spaceship Bush’ and worrying whether Spaceship Bush was listening to Europe…You also talked about the dangers of ‘mind wars’ – as you put it – between Europe and America. After you heard the inauguration speech of the President, and now you’ve heard him in Europe, do you stand by that fear that there still are very robust mind wars?
Timothy Garton Ash
Let me say first of all that I do think that there has been a very impressive evolution of American policy, as we’ve seen over the last few months, and there is an agenda there of democracy, most of which is being laid out by the President and Condoleezza Rice, in which the analogy for the war on terror is, as it were, less the Second World War than it was in the first term, and more the Cold War.
So I do think there’s been a significant evolution and there’s an agenda we can engage with, but my essential point would be this: I really think that that’s the wrong place to start. The problem – and here I come to the mind wars – with the whole European debate is that we almost invariably start by reacting to what Washington puts on the table. The mind wars consist, to some extent, of this: in Washington one spends a lot of time talking about the rest of the world and a decreasing amount of time talking about Europe; Europe is increasingly marginal. In Europe, we spend almost all our time talking about America. The one thing all Europeans have in common is America.
As I travel around with different editions of my book, the one subject where every in every European country people know exactly what you’re talking about, down to the third degree of neocon in the Pentagon, is the United Sates. Then we talk about Europe. What we don’t talk enough about in Europe is the rest of the world, our own near-abroad, the wider Middle East. And I would argue that the way to take this conversation forward is for Europeans to start by talking more among ourselves about the rest of the world, by analysing the challenges we face, particularly from the wider Middle East, by identifying our own interests, and then seeing to what extent they coincide with those of the United Sates. I think you will find that they coincide to a very large degree.
We are, after all, here in Madrid because of the terrorist attack, the largest ever terrorist attack on European soil. So I would wish the European response to be not to go down the Bush checklist and say ‘Do we agree or disagree with this or that?’, but to start with our own analysis of where we are and the challenges we face, of what our interests are and then say ‘How do we engage with the United Sates on that basis?’
Thanks, Timothy. Can I just get a quick snapshot from all of you about what impact you think the Bush visit did make in terms of the question we have and the issue we face?
I actually think it was a very good visit both Secretary of State Rice and the President had. First visits are very easy having done them and the real question now is how a lot of the issues the President put on the table will be carried out. While I normally agree with Tim, I think that the US does have a set of very specific issues it has to deal with, which the President did not specifically lay out. But if I were the President or the Secretary of State, I would want to know what the European attitude on it is, because those are the things that are out there waiting for us.
I think there continues to be a question about what the help will be on Iraq. That’s something the President put out there and I think that will continue to be a litmus test. I think it’s very important for President Bush to forgive Europe for being right about the weapons of mass destruction, and for Europe to forgive President Bush for getting re-elected. So I do think that on Iraq there’s an issue.
On Iran, I think it’s very important, as the President spoke about, to recognise that there are real issues that have to be attacked: On Iran I think the US needs to be more flexible and Europe needs to be tougher. They continue to be the real issues of discussion and perhaps the way to go about it, as Tim suggested, is to see what the European list is and see whether we can find anything in common; but those are the issues, no matter how you slice it.
Do you see these as fault lines which are there and which could start ripping apart quite quickly?
I think they could, because there continues to be the question underlying everything, which is whether by coming together, Europe is preparing to create itself as a balance to the United Sates or is the underlying essence of partnership that has existed for fifty years or more still the basis of our relationship?
And Tim, the same question to you. The fault lines there, do you see them as fissures that could be yanked apart very quickly?
Timothy Garton Ash
I completely agree with Madeleine there. I think the honeymoon could go sour quite quickly over two issues specifically: Iran and the EU arms-export embargo on China. With either of those issues, we could very rapidly face another rather major crisis of the West and the test for us both is whether we’re prepared to make the deals in private between the United Sates and the powers of the European Union before the public disagreements begin. The deal on Iran is that the Europeans should get tougher and wave more sticks, and that the United Sates should wave a bigger carrot. The deal on China is much more difficult to see.
Yes, I wanted to follow up on this, starting from the first remarks by Timothy and Madeleine. The fact is that if, as is the title of this session, you want a necessary alliance – with which I quite agree – there must be at least two of you to form an alliance. One is the US, and my point is we Europeans, what are we ready to do on this kind of issue? Suddenly, we have a common position. We have to decide everything through unanimity, so, at the end of the day, most of the time, we don’t believe it. And what we deliver isn’t as effective. We were particularly nervous during the Kosovo period during which we shared some meetings with declaration after declaration. So it’s difficult to have an alliance from a European point of view.
From my point of view, let’s assume we are a soft power: what does this mean, apart from the traditional meaning? You said more stick. Let’s discuss what kind of stick we are willing to invent, apart from the traditional one. Conditionality. It’s said this word makes everyone nervous. Call it ‘accepted standards in relations with a third country’. In our association agreement on whatsoever, it hardly ever happens. We never really ask that the articles on human rights and democracy be respected.
So one of the points of this necessary alliance, and one of the problems of this alliance, lies in Europe. The fact that we don’t have a proper common foreign policy: if you have to wait for 25 member states to agree on something, you get splits. In my opinion, one of the major problems with this alliance lies in Europe.
And I know that you are referring to Iran, etc., which may be the most important thing, but let’s look at Darfur. We have been arguing over the g-word – genocide or no genocide – and now we are arguing over whether to use the ICC or other trade union, but at the end of the day, the result of this dispute is no action. I could elaborate, but my point is that in Europe we have to upgrade our willingness to be a partner. And being a partner means taking a responsibility also.
In the interests of transatlantic even-handedness, let me now go to Rand Beers. Rand, can you just answer that specific point from the perspective of where you are up in Harvard? Is there still no clear common foreign policy in Europe, or are things at least getting better in terms of who to pick up the phone to?
Yes and no. There is no common foreign policy that is a sufficient constant to give the United Sates the sense that one only needs to come to one point in Europe to have a dialogue. I think the requirement to talk to member nations as well as to the Union, or whatever the configuration is, is still a requirement, but I think it’s also getting better.
I think Emma Bonino hit on one of the most serious aspects, which is that even if Europe comes to a decision, it’s often slow. Not every crisis requires an immediate response, but when a crisis does require an immediate response, that ends up being an impediment to moving in a timely fashion.
And back to the original question that from the American view, it’s in our interest for Europe to be strong; Europe must be a continued, viable and strong partner. The emphasis continually in the presentation by the President is on that word ‘strong’.
I think that goes to the heart of one of the long-term issues, and also goes along with Emma’s point about the European Union, and that is that the reduction in European defence capabilities over the period following the end of the Cold War has made us less equal partners in the pure defence aspects and when those decisions come to the fore, it makes the challenges greater and the inequalities become more pronounced.
Whether or not the United Sates chooses to simply ignore Europe, as some in the Bush Administration have suggested, or whether or not it becomes a burden, it is still a burden to think about acting together as long as the level of defence capabilities are as dissimilar and going in the wrong direction.
Let’s get the French view.
L'Europe et les Etats-unis sont naturellement proches et d'origine commune mais ce sont des mondes assez différents quand même. Sauf qu'il y a une menace commune tellement forte que cela crée une alliance, telle était le cas pendant la guerre froide. Nous ne sommes pas devant une menace commune aussi forte, je ne pense pas que le terrorisme soit une menace suffisamment particulière pour les Etats-Unis et l'Europe pour recréer une alliance aussi étroite que pendant la guerre froide, qui était une alliance obligatoire en quelques sortes puisque le terrorisme concerne tout le monde. Si nous ne refaisons pas le partenariat pour le 21ème siècle, face à une menace, il faut avoir un projet commun. Alors soit on est d'accord globalement, soit on est d'accord au cas par cas, projet par projet.
Si on veut refaire une alliance de fond entre l'Europe et les Etats-Unis, il faudrait être sûr que les Etats-Unis et l'Europe peuvent avoir la même conception que sur les défis de l'Euro, à commencer par la question écologique, qui est la question globale par excellence et d'autre part, une politique commune sur la grande question de la démocratisation. Avec le grand problème de relation pour les occidentaux et les russes et les chinois et les arabes et les africains pendant des années et des années car cela ne se faisait pas en une minute. C'est cela l'enjeu, je ne pense pas, je le redis, que l'on puisse faire une nouvelle alliance défensive donc c'est une alliance sur un projet.
Si on arrive à se mettre d'accord sur le projet, la puissance combinée dans le monde des Etats-Unis et de l'Europe est extraordinaire. C'est l'élément de transformation du monde, dans le meilleur sens possible. Est-ce que c'est le cas aujourd'hui? Là on tombe sur une autre question qui est le déséquilibre structurel de la relation Europe Etats-Unis, parce que les Etats-Unis sont très fort, trop fort, et l'Europe pas assez, et qu'il y a une relation perverse et malsaine depuis longtemps, les Etats-Unis naturellement abusent de leur puissance parce qu'ils ne rencontrent rien en face d'eux et où les Européens se sont installés dans une position de lamentation permanente et de critique qui est souvent stérile par rapport cela.
Plus qu'un décalage de philosophie, parce que les Américains ont tendance à sous estimer la complexité du monde, je ne parle pas des Américains sophistiqués comme mon amie Madelaine, je parle de la machine, du système Américain qui sous estime la complexité du monde. Et les Européens qui croient vivre depuis la fin de la deuxième guerre mondiale dans un monde post tragique, organisé par la charte des Etats-Unis, sous estiment la dureté du monde. Pourtant la seule solution serait de bâtir non pas une alliance défensive mais un partenariat positif, avec ces deux morceaux, du monde occidental et y en a d'autres aussi arrivant à reparler d'un projet.
Donc voilà l'essentielle de mon idée, moi je ne crois pas à une nouvelle alliance défensive et je crois à une démarche par projet mais qui suppose un rééquilibrage. Il faut que les Américains acceptent de maîtriser leur propre puissance et que les Européens acceptent d'assumer leur propre puissance, ce qui est possible si l'on fait des agrégats statistiques. Mais la puissance de l'Europe fait peur aux Européens jusqu’à maintenant. Si on surmonte ces deux conditions, je crois que l'on peut faire beaucoup de choses.
Hubert, can I just press you on that, particularly with the French cooperation with the United States on Lebanon? Particularly the joint statement last week, particularly 1559. What do we read into that in terms of strengthening transatlantic relations between Paris and Washington on this one critical issue?
Je dirai que c'est une crise qui tombe bien, c'est une opportunité pour la France et pour les Etats-Unis de travailler ensemble après s'être opposés violemment sur une question [...] allemand, et en plus ça suppose le désaccord théorique sur la question de la démocratisation arabe autant qu'il y a une possibilité. Mais attention nous ne sommes qu'au début d'un processus, c'est comme au Proche-Orient, c'est comme en Irak, c'est ailleurs : tout cela peut évoluer très bien ou très mal. Pour le moment les Etats-Unis et la France sont d'accords sur l'évacuation par la Syrie du Liban mais que se passe t-il ensuite au Liban et que se passe t-il ensuite en Syrie, tout est à débattre. Dans chacun des processus de démocratisation on s'apercevra que c'est aussi compliqué qu'une sorte de réaction chimique qui peut exploser à chaque seconde et qui peut aussi être conduit à un bon résultat. Donc c'est une opportunité à condition que l'on soit tous ce sérieux.
Just before we go onto that particular issue of terrorism, can I just ask all of you what you read into the cooperation that has taken place between Paris and Washington, particularly over Lebanon?
I wanted to go back to the base question that was there before, which is that he is basically suggesting partnership à la carte and that we find things that we can work on together, which I think from the American perspective leads to coalitions when you can put them together, rather than institutional structures.
I think the question we have to ask ourselves is, now we are into the 21st century, whether we want to look at more institutional structures of partnership, which may mean revising, and reviving and making more relevant NATO, or trying to figure out the relationship between NATO, the European Union and the United Nations, or whether we want to go the à la carte route and then looking at coalitions such as we had on Iraq. That becomes a basic philosophical and political-science question. That’s one point.
On the Lebanon thing, I have always believed that cooperation and partnerships actually work best when you’re working on a real project, because it makes you realise that you have things in common, so I am hopeful about the French-US partnership within the context of the United Nations. This is one of those things, though, where we’re going to have to help each other exactly on the points Rand Beer made, which is that Americans have a tendency to oversimplify, therefore President Bush now believes we’re on our way to democracy in Lebanon, and the French – I don’t know what they’re saying privately – may basically understand much more the complexity and may also underestimate some aspects of it. So it’s a good test case actually.
If you can just stand by, because I’d like to talk to you about resilience and security in a moment; but surely Timothy raised a very important point about more private deals across the Atlantic and less public disagreement. How much do you all agree that that’s the way things are moving?
I don’t understand exactly what you mean by private deals. That is the question I wanted to ask.
Timothy Garton Ash
You try to agree in private before you disagree in public on particular issues like Iran, which seems to be not a bad idea. Could I just comment on what the project is? It seems to me you could say we have a series of little projects, if that’s à la carte, but you could also say there’s a grand project proposed for the community of liberal democracies at the beginning of the 21st century, and that is a project of democratisation, notably, but not only, in the wider Middle East, which is, after all, in effect what the Bush Administration is saying and one or two other people have said before.
The question for Europe, and very much a question for this conference where the very first word is Democracy, is: how serious are we Europeans about wanting democracy for others and not just for ourselves? Because the European paradox is that on the one hand, the enlargement of the European Union is the biggest, most successful story of peaceful regime-change in modern history. Over the last thirty years, Europe and democracy have gone together, starting in this country, Spain, in 1975, all the way through across half the continent to Ukraine today. And on the other hand, if you look at the conduct of many European governments on particular issues, from Eastern Europe in the 1980s through Iraq to the attitude to Putin’s Russia and to China, you find again and again that the default position of many European governments seems to be for the status quo, for stability, and, by the way, trade, rather than for the long march for peaceful democratisation. I think that’s a question we Europeans have to be clear about.
I think we have to ask the same question in the United States as well. To simply state an objective is not to produce a programme of attack for that objective. So my question to the Bush Administration is: what do we actually mean, how are we going to support the objectives for getting there and how are we going to work with others, if we choose to do so, in order to get there? I think we have to ask that question on both sides.
Let’s just park that a moment and go back to the issue of whether there will be more private deals and fewer public disagreements across the Atlantic, particularly after what we saw here two weeks ago. Is that going to be practical or is it going to blow apart very quickly?
I think we in the United Sates have to deal with a most aggressive press corps, so I’m not sure we could sustain private deals for a very long period of time over very many kinds of deals. So the questions of ‘How did it come about? What were the agreements and disagreements?’ will then tend to bleed over into the public and become part of the dialogue, as some people choose to interpret an agreement or disagreement in one fashion and some, in another.
Do you have a view as to whether there’s going to be more behind-the-scenes disagreement but less public disagreement? John Mroz, at the end of the table, is the challenger to the issues we’re bringing up over these eighty minutes. Before I go to talk specifically about terrorism and security, how far have we got so far and which bits are missing?
I think one thing the panel should address – and which worries me more – is the gulf between Europe and America in our publics. I think we’re talking largely about leads. Even in the last discussion we just had, we were really talking about leads. It seems to me that there’s a fundamental problem if you look at public opinion polls. For example, President Bush’s trip was deemed by the leads in Europe as being successful, but it did not change European public opinion at all, not at all. The same thing in the United Sates.
There’s a fundamental problem. We should ask ourselves what’s at the heart of this on both sides of the Atlantic. Is it a permanent gulf and what will it take, if anything, to change it? Will it take a massive chemical, biological or nuclear attack on Europe, the United Sates or both? What does it take? How far do you go? So that’s one piece that’s maybe worth exploring.
The second picks up on the point of what happens with these lovely private deals if suddenly something unexpected happens. I’ll give you an example: right now there is a growing problem between Europe and the United Stares over Russia. It is much more serious than people realise. The Bratislava summit did not go well. There are some huge problems. Add to that, you have now a little over two-thirds of the US Senate, from Lieberman to McCain, across all political spectrums, ideologies, etc., saying that Russia should be kicked out of the G8, at the very moment, this fall, when they are to take over the chairmanship, for the first time, in January. A lot of Europeans say: ‘My God! That will lead to a crisis of unprecedented proportions.’ Who’s talking about that? Who’s thinking about that? What do we do about that? So there are two kinds of issues.
Can we do a quick sample among the elite who are here? How many people feel more optimistic about transatlantic relations after the Bush visit two weeks ago? Can you raise your hand?
More people are pessimistic; but many people didn’t put up their hand at all. This is a totally unscientific test of public opinion, but clearly it hasn’t convinced a large number of people. Is there anyone out there who’d like to come in on the issue of elite versus public opinion? Someone who feels passionately and wants to contribute to the discussion at this moment that President Bush’s visit has not set a great tone for the future of transatlantic relations.
First delegate on the floor
I believe the reason is that while the value is the same, the strategy is different; when the strategy is completely different, the value is no longer the same. Let me quote an example to Madeleine Albright: I heard a high representative of the US Senate say that they want to change the Geneva Convention, because it is no longer useful in terrorist situations. That means the strategy is changing values and that is why public opinion in Europe has not been considerate with the visit.
Second delegate on the floor
[...] If the American Administration gets its wish granted of a stronger Europe, how is it going to deal with the paradox of Europe if it adopts its proposed Constitution, having an unelected and unaccountable President and Foreign Security and Defence Minister at its head as the correspondent of the US Administration?
[ Transcription note: due to lack of quality in the recording from this point on, some text are missing, marked as — ]
a limit to what you can do, to institutions. Ultimately, this is a matter of the national policies of member states, that either converge or don't, but, if I may put it to you, I'm convinced that the creation of something like a more common, integrated foreign service at European level, bringing together national experts and experts of the institution, will be tremendously important in shaping a European view of issues, not merely through the prism of member states, but through the combined prisms of member states and the general interest. I think, from an American perspective, that should be [?], but of course it always brings us back to the dual ambivalence we have about each other. Europeans have always been ambivalent about the kind of America they want and the Americans have always been ambivalent about the kind of Europe they want. We have always shuttled between the impression that the Americans were not giving leadership and it was about time that they did—we all know examples–; the moment the Americans show leadership, there is the response from Europe: 'Well, there we are again; the elephant is marching'. On the other side, we've seen the United States being in favour of a stronger, integrated European policy position, European partnership, but the moment that position differs from the American perspective, a great many elements of acrimony arose from the American debate [?]. If we reduce our philosophical approaches to each other to questions of practical cooperation —I'd like to suggest—, there's a great deal more common ground than is often surfacing in the projections of each other, and one of the subjects —we can return to that in a moment— is counter-terrorism, where practical cooperation has been a lot better than the debate about the subject has suggested.
Rand, Madeleine or John, do you want to just come in terms of that perception, which is generated by the constitutional treaty which has now been approved here in Spain, France on the 29th of May?, who knows which way to go?
John?, Rand?, Rand.
Just on this question of the direct election of European leadership, let's remember the American political experience that Union was an evolutionary process and that our Senate was elected by State legislators until 1916 or 1912, I think it was. So, I don't find this a problem because, as you say, [...] to elect a national government and then appoint the leadership of the Union.
A European voice: Timothy...
Timothy Garton Ash
Two quick comments on the institutional subject: if the United States wants a serious institutionalised relationship with Europe for the next twenty years, it has to decide that its main partner is the European Union. That is, [...] over the centuries, [...] That is not to say that NATO, whose enlargement Madeleine Albright has militantly put forward, does not have a role to play, but the United States has to make up its mind whether it really wants the European Union to succeed and I heard President Bush speaking in Brussels. When he said 'We want a stronger Europe', he did not say 'We want a stronger European Union'. Be very careful to not [...]
The second point, Henry Kissinger famously is said to have said, 'You say Europe; tell me which number I should call'. Actually, I don't think he did ever say it. Indeed, I asked him for a reference and he couldn't find one, but he would certainly like to think that he did say it. Se non e vero e ben trovato. It's a good question. There is an answer to that question and I agree with [?]. Of course, the answer is it's not a single number, it is in each particular case a conference call, and the conference call if we have the Constitution, will go to the European Prime Minister, initially Javier Solana, who will chair the Council of Ministers and to a small number of relevant member states. It's a model we've already had in relation with Iran, where France, Germany and Britain have taken the lead; in the case of Ukraine, it was Solana [...]. So I believe there will, in two or three years time, be a European answer to the question that Henry Kissinger probably didn't ask.
Timothy, let me press you. Do you think that page that is missing was ever written? And secondly, there's another part to that visit to NATO, where there was a declaration that NATO should be stronger before he went to the European Union, How do we work that one out?
The political cooperation within NATO should be stronger.
Let me say, I think the hardest thing, having been the United States Secretary of State, is trying to figure out —it isn't just a matter of what number to call— but how do you deal with evolving institutions? I think that is the hardest part. When I became Secretary, I tried to call my counterparts fairly frequently and never could find them, because they were in some European meeting or another, so I asked our intelligence and research department to do a chart for me of all the different European institutions and how they intersected. It arrived in my office and it looked like some astronomical chart, with Bulgaria as Pluto, so I nicknamed it the Euro-mess, and I used to give it to various foreign ministers and say, 'It's really tough for me to figure out who I'm supposed to call'. I think this is still going on; as Rand said, it's an evolving issue, and I personally believe in a strong united Europe.
Is the astronomical map clearer now?
Somewhat, although, what happens is that there's now a lot of navel-gazing, because Europeans are absorbed in their own creativity and creation and it's still hard. I think the tendency, if I were in office, would be to call Solana, but also I would call the major allies or the group that you need for a particular issue. We did create something, which was not exactly brain surgery, during the Kosovo war; we had a [?] call. Every day we talked about the war in Kosovo via a conference call, and then we called other people when we needed to get additional support.
But it's the evolving part of it now, I think, that makes it difficult. One of my problems, and I would be for a strong EU, but this is the question: NATO has played a very important role throughout the Cold War, but also continues to play the role of keeping the United States anchored in Europe. And if you're going to give up on NATO, then this weird relationship that the US and the EU will have, where the EU will then start saying, 'Do something about Turkey', I think then becomes a much more complicated issue. What is the anchor?
Maybe Europe doesn't need the United States any more for anything, but I mean you're the one who said that when we're involved in it [...] I think the larger question is: What does Europe want from the United States in terms of a connection, a bridge, a representative. You didn't want an American representative at the EU. What is the linkage?
[...] On foreign policy, and when you actually decide on the unanimity, we are –I’m in front of my friend Amre Musra– we are a little bit like the Arab League. [...] My point, institutionally speaking, is we in Europe are very much — where the inequality — we decide a qualified majority and then you have that policy line — And I frankly don't understand why we are so timid instead of moving forward to have a qualified majority board on foreign policy. And that at the end of the day means that foreign policy is made by two or three or four countries and the others do other foreign policies, possibly conflicting. And people are exploiting this contradiction. [...] I think it's our problem that we have not been [...] to bear for the institutional, even the decision-making process for a common foreign policy.
Right. We've been talking for almost an hour at a higher level. Let's now just move to some more detailed areas. One of them is counter-terrorism, which Gijs de Vries raised in his remark. He, as counter-terrorism coordinator, kept up the level of coordination that there is, particularly here, a few days before the dreadful events in our memory of what happened here a year ago, and was concerned elsewhere in Europe about what might be looming. How good is the cooperation on [...] homeland security, etc.?
I think that you can say that both transatlantically and within the European Union there has been a significant increase in cooperation, including across the Atlantic. I think that's a point worth making because it's important [—] If you talk about things that make our citizens safe, like airline security, or container security, or passport security, or making it more difficult for terrorists to get their hands on money, there has been very practical, solid cooperation between the Europeans and the United States, during the period when Europeans disagreed about the war in Iraq and during which we disagreed with the United States about aspects of that war.
My point is that there is, I think, on both sides of the Atlantic, an understanding of the nature of the challenge we face. The European Union, in the Solana strategy, has identified the main security threats for Europe. One is terrorism, two is weapons of mass destruction. Those are precisely the two main challenges which the United States has also formulated as being at the heart of the threat to the United States.
We see in Europe, as well, that after 9/11 and also after the attacks in Madrid here, there has been a lot more cooperation between security services, police services, judicial authorities and indeed also in foreign affairs. I don't think we should be complacent, but we must not let our focus wade. The fact that we have not had a major terrorist attack —thank heavens— in either the United States or Europe is not a guarantee that the situation will remain as it is; there remains a serious, persistent risk of further terrorist attacks.
Al Qaeda has been weakened, but has not been defeated. And that means we must invest, both the Europeans and across the Atlantic, first in our common approach to the spread of weapons of mass destruction and the risk of future terrorist attacks with chemical, biological, radiological and possibly at some point nuclear weapons.
Second, in protecting our economic infrastructure —it's clear that Al Qaeda is aiming at the economic lifelines of the West and we must do more to protect them.
Third, we must work more together on questions like radicalisation and [...] together with moderate Muslims in our own world and elsewhere.
And fourthly, and finally, we must work more together in helping the United Nations to provide a [...] for our common approach to this question. If we focus on this issue, as I believe we can, the Bush administration and the European countries [...], notwithstanding the differences that we will have on other issues, I think we have a solid basis for cooperation here.
As we look at strengthening these relations, though, on the practical side, are you clear who you have to call in Washington, given the problem of agency coordination there and the fact that there is now a Coordinator?
On those issues, yes, but not on all and I think that's always been the case and will always remain that way.
Is it getting better? Will it get better?
Homeland security is a work in progress in the United States. The further development of that department is work in progress as well. What we've done, transatlantically, is to set up a mechanism where we bring together homeland security, the State Department and the Justice Department from the United States, plus the Treasury if necessary, and on our side the Council of Ministers of the European Commission, to make sure that we deal with common issues together before they arise as a problem, transatlantically.
One example is [...] When the US wanted to engage [...] security, it originally approached individual European nations. It only subsequently found out that this was European Union competence and therefore the US should have called Brussels. That's been straightened out; we've learnt from that. Now we have decided that before we engage in unilateral negotiations we channel these things through this mechanism, before, hopefully, these questions arise as difficulties. So the situation is not perfect. It's difficult on both sides, but I think we're both hopeful of meeting where we have common ground.
And is there still a latent suspicion among some agencies of sharing intelligence?
I think that information sharing and intelligence sharing is always subject to strict rules of [...] Often information can be traced back to the individual who provided it and people's lives are immediately at risk and effectiveness of intelligence is immediately at risk if information ends into the wrong hands. So, I’m a firm believer in changing our mental matrix. We must move from a situation where we put a premium on non-sharing to a situation where we put a premium on sharing. That was the lesson of 9/11 [...] in the United States; that was the lesson [...]. Now, from that to practical realities is a difficult and sometimes [...]. We have a common international challenge. If we don't work together and share information, we can't meet. On both fronts. And the United States have explicitly said [...] security cooperation on the issues of terrorism. We must continue to [...]
Moi je voulais faire une remarque sur ce qu’avait dit Madeleine tout à l’heure puisque nous sommes en train de réfléchir sur l’organisation de l’alliance du partenariat pour les temps à venir. Nous avons expérimenté des formules pragmatiques de coopération à la carte, par exemple le groupe de contact, qui avait très bien marché et d’autres coopérations pragmatiques se dessinent pour maintenant, mais ce n’est pas suffisant. Si on résonne institution on a mis le point sur une contradiction qu’il faut étudier. Madeleine Albright nous rappelle que l’OTAN est indispensable pour ancrer les Etats-Unis en Europe, ce qui est dans l’intérêt des Etats-Unis et de l’Europe. En même temps le degré de développement de l’Union Européenne est tel aujourd’hui que l’on ne peut pas se satisfaire de cette situation donc moi j’approuve ce qu’a dit le chancelier Schröder dans une autre conférence et je pense que les Etats-Unis devraient accepter de discuter sur la base de ce qu’a dit le chancelier Schröder alors que le Président Bush n’a rien dit, n’a rien répondu. Je ne sais pas ce que sera la réponse mais il faut concilier ces deux éléments.
John, again, it's twenty minutes since I last spoke to you. Are we beginning to answer some of those questions? There are two questions you put. What are the new questions that are in your mind? Five minutes.
I think when you talk to top people on both sides of the Atlantic about this whole fight against terrorism, one of the things they always start by lamenting is the fact that Europe and the United States can not come to agreement on the common-threats aspect, and you hear that just as much today as you did five years ago and three years ago. It's a very interesting question I think for the panel and the people in the audience too. Why is that?, because all of it starts from there.
It's true what we just heard from Gijs that on very practical things –container security and other issues– there's been a dramatic change and the people who know what's involved say it's going very well. But there are other areas where just frankly we're both hopeless, on both sides of the Atlantic, in this field.
For example, bio-incident management, both in Europe and in the States, every expert you talk to —government, private, health, everything– tells you that both sides got it completely wrong, for different reasons, but they got it completely wrong. Why is it, with biological attacks so high on the possibility chart, that we are unable to move and unable to do something together?
Also, what about bringing the private sector in? I was very interested recently that Mr Solana said that it was absolutely impossible to win in all this without the private sector. If you look at the world infrastructure, about two thirds of war is in the hands of the private sector. Eighty-five percent of all critical infrastructure is in private hands. And yet they are largely excluded, even to this day. And a particular problem for our European colleagues is that we hear from our friends in the European Commission how impossibly difficult it is to get European business to get into this field. When they call for the private sector to do something it's Microsoft, General Electric, it's American companies; where are the European companies?
Anyone out there who wants to come in on that?
(Continued in: The Necessary Alliance: Atlantic Relations, part 2).
From left to right, Madeleine K. Albright, fomer US secretary of State, Emma Bonino, Member of the European Parliament, and Gijs de Vries, EU's Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, during the The Necessary Alliance: Strengthening Transatlantic Relations in the 21st Century (Photo: Club de Madrid)