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Informal General Affairs and External Relations Council 2-3/5/03: Contribution on the issue of EU-USA Relations by Dr. Friedbert Pflüger

Strengthening transatlantic relations
Statement for the informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Greece,
2/3 May 2003

Dr. Friedbert Pflüger

America remains our friend and partner. The transatlantic community is based on a unique foundation of shared values, similar civil societies and the will to ensure that democracy, human rights, individual freedom and the market economy prevail all over the world. The European Union and the USA are, globally, the economic areas most closely interconnected by trade and investments – and thus also the most highly interdependent.

The transatlantic community can, however, only fulfil its function if it constantly adapts to the changing circumstances and challenges. In order to meet the new global challenges, Europe and America need a common global agenda. To achieve this, the Europeans and the Americans must, step by step, create a more efficient mechanism, allowing closer and more continuous consultation and cooperation. Issues on the common global agenda should include: the Middle East peace process, the stabilisation of south-eastern Europe, the transformation in the successor states of the Soviet Union, the fight against international terrorism, drug trafficking and organised crime, environmental protection, the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as questions relating to economic growth, the creation of jobs through the dismantling of trade barriers, future provision in the energy sector, the battle against poverty and the reinforcement of the WTO. Where close cooperation already exists in these areas, it must be intensified.

The value of transatlantic cooperation becomes particularly clear when consultations lead to concrete actions. In addition to combating international terrorism and organised crime together, the Europeans and the Americans must develop a strategy which enables the more effective stabilisation of states suffering from political disintegration and internal conflicts and the elimination of zones where order has broken down and terrorists find a safe haven and breeding ground for their ruthless fanaticism. Programmes designed to prevent children and young people being brought up to embrace hatred and fanaticism must also be a part of this. As in the late sixties, America and Europe should agree on a common security concept, and again, a dual strategy like the one proposed in the Harmel report is required: in addition to military security, and solidarity in the struggle against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, Europeans and Americans have a wider political task. They should demonstrate to the countries of the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and Central Asia their willingness to jointly contribute to the stabilisation of the region through dialogue and cooperation.

Issues such as combating poverty (joint AIDS projects and technical aid), energy security (joint research projects) and the digital economy (joint measures against cybercrime) also belong on the common global agenda. With a view to closer trade and economic cooperation, a joint scientific commission should be set up, within the framework of the WTO or between the EU and USA, to reach binding conclusions on controversial questions of consumer protection; likewise, it is essential to press ahead with the harmonisation of anti-trust proceedings.

The opportunities for dialogue must be expanded in order to identify potential transatlantic differences early on. A high degree of transparency in the decision-making processes of executive and legislative bodies allows many disagreements to be settled at an early stage. EU-US summits should once again be held every six months. The effects of legislative and administrative plans on the transatlantic relationship must be assessed at an early point, without in this way granting the other side veto powers. In order to ensure that differences are identified at an early stage, the transatlantic dialogue between our societies – between companies, consumer organisations, employee associations, churches, environmental organisations, universities and think tanks – must also be expanded.

One vital aim with regard to strengthening relations between the EU and the USA must be to revive NATO. Europe can only counter the new threats to its security effectively together with America. Thus, NATO will have to be the decisive stabilising force in the conflicts of today and tomorrow. So it is only logical that NATO is to take on the leading role in Afghanistan. It was for the same reason that I called, even before the end of the Iraq war, for NATO to take on the leading role, under the auspices of the United Nations, in the tasks of military stabilisation in Iraq.

Yet the revival of NATO will only be achieved if Europe increases its efforts to narrow the widening gap between American and European capabilities. The numerous declarations of intent must finally be followed by action: in other words, the EU must actually create the necessary capabilities! It will be crucial that the EU meets its commitment to ensure the planned rapid reaction force is ready for deployment on time. All attempts to establish Europe as a counterweight to the USA should be avoided, though. Europe needs America more than America needs Europe. For Europe will, in the foreseeable future, remain dependent on the USA for essential aspects of its security.

The grave deficits which exist in the area of strategic transport, together with those in the areas of reconnaissance, communication and armaments, must be eliminated. These gaps in capability cannot be bridged through additional financing  alone. Defence measures must also be coordinated more closely and potential synergies fully exploited.  The needs of the armed forces must be met by a European armaments base which allows efficient production of sufficient quantities, through consolidation of demand and capacities, and avoids the current squandering of resources as the result of products being developed or manufactured in two, or even several, places. Such a European armaments base would then be able to compete against and forge partnerships with the US industry in important fields.

The treaty signed on 27 July 2001 by six EU states, in which they agree to facilitate the work of the European armaments industry and to restructure it, is a step in the right direction: in future, the EU Member States are not only to define the tasks of their armed forces jointly, but also to meet jointly the demand for equipment and materials to carry out these tasks. In future, therefore, the EU Member States should also coordinate their defence budgets, examining the overall level of finances necessary to perform the joint tasks and create the necessary capabilities, and then the national contributions required for this.

Considerable potential still exists for the exploitation of synergies in the area of European security and defence policy: the 25 future EU Member States do not all need to have their own fighter wing. It would be far more sensible for the European NATO states to set up three to four air wings, which would then protect all Member States, with the big states always making a contribution. Major cost savings could also be achieved by the creation of a joint air transport wing. In addition, where the same armaments systems are in use, joint EU-wide training and maintenance units should be created.

Military deployments will, again and again, be a necessary aspect of the battle against terrorism. The majority of the EU Member States, as well as several of the accession candidates, have their own special forces. For the foreseeable future, these forces will continue to be organised at national level. But, in view of the new type of threats which exist, these task forces should not only be strengthened, but prepared on a wide basis for possible joint operations on behalf of the European Union. This requires intensive and sustained joint training. The EU should, if required, have access to special forces with a strength of around three to five thousand men.

Dr. Friedbert Pflüger is spokesman on foreign policy for the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag.


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