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Informal General Affairs and External Relations Council 2-3/5/03: Contribution on the issue of EU-USA Relations by Alan K. Henrikson



Fulbright/Diplomatic Academy Visiting Professor of International Relations
Diplomatische Akademie Wien
Favoritenstrasse 15a, A-1040 WIEN, Austria

Director, The Fletcher Roundtable on a New World Order
The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
Medford, Massachusetts 02155, U.S.A.

Structures matter.  Just as the United States was, to a great extent, “built” with an eye toward Americans’ relationship with Europe, so, today, is Europe, to a degree, being “built” with an eye toward Europeans’ relationship with the United States.  Both have emphasized their “independence,” not just in an abstract sense, but also from each other.

President John F. Kennedy recognized the risk involved in American and European independentism when on July 4, 1962, in Philadelphia he stated that the United States would be ready for a “Declaration of Interdependence” with a united Europe, and would even welcome the formation of “a concrete Atlantic partnership.”  One of the strengths of America’s political system, he then noted, was its “checks and balances,” by which individuality and plurality could be preserved within a larger unity, even with strong central leadership.   This seems applicable to the present situation of the Atlantic partnership—which has not yet been “concretely” formed.

A “partnership,” by definition, implies the existence of a whole.  It is more than an “alliance.”  It is premised on the partners’ awareness of belonging to the same community.  A transatlantic community does exist, and this has been confirmed by the experience of two World Wars and the Cold War.  Americans and Europeans believe in freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.  In recent decades the economies of North America and Europe have grown so close, in terms of investment as well as trade, that they are almost a single economy.    This reality has not been matched in the political realm, however.  There collaboration also is needed, especially now that common American and European action is vital for global purposes.

The historical successes of the “constructions” of the United States of America and, during recent decades, the European Union strongly recommend an effort to give more form to transatlantic cooperation.  Both James Madison and Jean Monnet understood, and themselves impressively demonstrated, the power of institutions as factors in community-building.  

Could something of a structural nature—following a constructivist approach—be done to “build” Europe and America closer together?  A number of suggestions here are offered.

Starting at the highest—the ideological-conceptual—structural level, the governments involved in transatlantic discussions would do well to recall, and perhaps again to articulate, the purposes of transatlantic unity in the context of a globalizing world.  This is not necessarily to propose drafting an “Atlantic Charter for the 21st Century,” but it is to emphasize, by this historical reference, that “Atlantic” ideals have not been narrow or exclusionary ones.   They have been, in principle, universal.   The original Atlantic Charter (August 14, 1941) was the basis of the “Declaration of the United Nations” (January 1, 1942), to which much of the world could and did subscribe.

At the next level—the organizational level—there should be formed a transatlantic Leadership Group to set policy priorities, to concert long-term plans, and to manage crises as they occur.  Henry Kissinger has proposed, along these very lines, an “Atlantic Steering Group” that would be composed of the United States, the integrated European Union, nations not part of the politically integrated Europe, the Secretary-General of NATO, and the EU’s High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (Does America Need a Foreign Policy? [2001]).  This idea could be further developed.  In order to prevent the Leadership Group from becoming too large for serious discussion, a system of rotation could be built into it, thereby permitting smaller and medium-sized countries to have a real voice in Atlantic leadership, along with the institutional voices of NATO and the EU and, presumably, of all the larger European and North American countries.

The reasons for forming an Atlantic Leadership Group, whose meetings would be of the informal Camp David or Fontainebleau type, are many.  Perhaps the most important one would be to bring together the NATO and U.S.-EU relationships within the same framework.  A second would be to rise above the current system of U.S.-EU meetings, which tend to focus, somewhat bureaucratically, on the “problem areas” in the relationship.   A third would be to enable all of the Atlantic partners (if some of them only on a rotational basis) to think grand-strategically, and in so doing to help meet the complaint made by U.S. officials that the United States must be prepared to “go it alone” because it really doesn’t know, in advance, whether it can count on European help, for how much, where, and under what circumstances—even outside the military sphere.  A fourth would be to widen the circle of Atlantic decision-making intellectually, for no longer can international decisions be made, wisely, at the national level—within the political structures in individual countries, even that of the United States.   A fifth would be to increase transatlantic  “checks and balances,” so that more objective interests are taken into account.

At the level of economic cooperation, nothing would be more important, or exemplary, than U.S.-European cooperation in completing the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization.  Beyond close cooperation in multilateral trade, serious consideration should be given by Europe to negotiating a comprehensive economic pact with the United States to include its NAFTA partners, Canada and Mexico (with which the EU already has concluded a free trade agreement).

At the social-cultural level, a major global educational project should be launched.  This would involve not only increased educational exchanges directly across the Atlantic but also European-American cooperation in educational exchange and distance learning with developing countries in the Middle East and in other parts of the world.   The existing Fulbright and Erasmus programs are partial models, but a “whole” is needed, such as expansion of the proposal for The International Open University under the Auspices of the United Nations http://unicttaskforce.org/stakeholders/detail_match.asp?cod=24.

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