There is a growing danger that the two most important global "ships," the United States and the European Union, might pass each other in the night. As evidenced by President George W. Bush's two summer tours of Europe, and the media frenzies that preceded them, the sources of contention between the two world powers are numerous, and seemingly growing.
At the heart of many of these disputes is the failure or unwillingness of one side to fully understand where the other side is coming from. If there is a positive result emanating from the tragic events of September 11, it may be that it presents a golden opportunity for the United States and the EU to work together on an issue of mutual concern: global terrorism.
That will involve a significant new effort. Pre-September 11, the United States and the EU had been adopting an increasingly competitive mindset, often acting without consulting the other, or considering how the other will be affected by its actions. The unilateral actions of one side beget hard feelings and unilateral actions by the other.
Simply put, this cannot continue - not if the promise, espoused by both entities, of a world marked by sustained peace and prosperity is to be realized. I remain an optimist about our relationship with the EU but we must recognize the challenges we face.
The European Union's bones of contention with the United States are varied, ranging from foreign policy issues to food safety. In foreign policy, the EU has been disheartened by what it saw pre-September 11, as the current Administration's increasingly unilateralist outlook.
The EU was already deeply concerned during the Clinton Administration about what it considered unilateral, extraterritorial sanctions legislation, reßected in the Helms-Burton Act, intended to discourage foreign business dealings with Cuba, and the Iran Libya Sanctions Act.
More recently, the Europeans cite the Bush Administration's disavowal of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and its position that the 1972 ABM Treaty should be abrogated in order to allow for a missile defense shield. What is more, many Europeans argue that Washington has rejected, or has proposed to reject these pacts, without offering credible alternatives.
On climate control, the United States has found itself on the outside looking in, after 178 countries approved a resolution in Bonn this July that kept the Kyoto Protocol alive, albeit modified from its more stringent 1997 version. The administration's unabashed contention that the United States should reject the climate pact - termed "fatally ßawed" by President Bush - because it would be bad for American business, has reinforced the views of many Europeans that the U.S. outlook is too narrow.
This "America First" attitude is seen as unjustly putting the needs of Americans - whether real or perceived - above those of the global citizenry. In a recent study conducted, in part, by the Pew Research Center, 73 percent of citizens polled in Britain, France, Germany and Italy said that President Bush bases his decisions "entirely on U.S. interests."
On missile defense, and its sibling issue, the abrogation of the ABM Treaty, we have seen the EU speak with a slightly less unanimous voice. In contrast to those who say that the U.S. position should not be quickly dismissed, or that the possible abrogation of the Treaty is solely a concern of the United States and Russia, many European officials regard the administration's position as indicative of a fortress mentality.
On the whole, the EU sees Washington's handling of Kyoto and missile defense, and its similar approach to the International Criminal Court, the germ warfare protocol and the small-arms control pact, together with Mr. Bush's recent suggestion that half of the World Bank's loans to certain poor countries be converted into grants, as confirmation that the United States does not look on the EU as a significant foreign policy actor.
The United States is accused of taking its position as the world's only superpower as sufficient to move forward on issues of global concern, ignoring the concerns of other countries. In short, the European Union has yet to acquire the taste for the Bush Administration's self-proclaimed "a la carte multilateralism."
Another issue that has rankled many European politicians is the perceived U.S. failure to grasp the full implications of the EU's monetary policy - particularly the rationale behind the soon to be circulated euro bills and coins.
For Europeans, a single euro currency, beyond its desired economic effects, is intended to be an integrating force. "The euro is a symbol of stability and unity," noted Wim Duisenberg, President of the European Central Bank, at the unveiling of the euro in September.
"Disinterested" is how others might characterize the general American response to the euro. In a recent article, Stanley Crossick, Chairman of the European Policy Centre in Brussels, states, "The pattern so far [of U.S. politicians] appears to be: first, to ignore the euro; second, to criticize it as not being sustainable; and presumably third, to warn of the dangers when it looks successful."
The United States has its own negative perceptions of EU actions. In the United States agreement can be found with the claim, made recently in a Financial Times opinion piece by AEI resident scholar and New Atlantic Initiative executive director Jeffrey Gedmin, that "our European partners seem less troubled by unilateralism per se than by U.S. unilateralism."
In support of his position, Mr. Gedmin cites the EU's decision - made "unilaterally" - to dispatch a delegation to North Korea soon after President Bush made it clear this spring that he wished to review U.S. policy towards that country. Moreover, the United States feels that a number of EU directives lack transparency, and do not provide a full opportunity to comment.
From the U.S. standpoint, the EU is currently too preoccupied, and increasingly so, with its own problems of enlargement and integration. Washington feels that the EU is not acting quickly enough to deal with problems posed by enlargement, and Ireland's rejection of the Treaty of Nice in its June referendum has only served to reinforce that belief.
As for the Treaty of Nice itself, the United States finds that, like so many previous efforts, it has fallen short of the kind of genuine government reform that is needed to deal with a growing and continually integrating European Union.
Many Americans believe that the EU's preoccupation with internal problems, like those surrounding the introduction of the euro and the establishment of the ECB, is coming at the expense of transatlantic relations. In its defense, the EU argues that the United States does not fully realize the difficulties associated with enlargement - the costs, and the problems of wrenching changes in the EU's decision-making apparatus.
The United States also has numerous complaints about EU trade policies. In addition to the EU's two-year prohibition on food and farm products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which cost American producers hundreds of millions of dollars, the United States cites the EU's unwillingness to make substantial cuts in internal agricultural subsidies and external export credits, and its recent labeling requirements for GMOs, as further proof of protectionist tendencies.
The EU's reluctance to abide by WTO decisions on bananas and beef hormones, its recent decision to block the GE-Honeywell merger (although not, I believe, a product of protectionist thinking), and the EU lawsuit brought against the U.S. Foreign Sales Corporation tax system, have further served to roil the Atlantic waters. The FSC case, Americans argue, had purely political motivations, and the resulting WTO ruling against the FSC has put both sides over the barrel, with no clear way out.
In short, there is at least some truth to both sides' perceptions of the other. To a certain degree, the EU is engrossed in its own internal problems, and the United States has every right to insist that it not be.
Likewise, the EU has every right to insist that the United States become more appreciative of the difficulties - economic, political, social, and logistical - involved in its eastward expansion and continued integration. We should, moreover, engage in more prior consultation with the EU. We cannot expect the EU simply to accept our unilateral decisions or, in some cases, to be asked to pay to support them.
In general, the United States and the EU need to get back to basics - back to realizing their mutual rights and obligations with respect to one another. One way to do just that would be to update the 1995 New Transatlantic Agenda and the Senior Level Group, or SLG, that it created to prepare for U.S.-EU Summits, which tend to be sterile and non-productive.
The notion held by many, including some U.S. officials, that the European Union is an economic heavyweight but a foreign policy bantamweight just simply does not reßect current realities. While it is true that the EU's foreign policy has yet to coalesce to the degree that its economic policy has - that is, it lacks a centralized authority like the European Commission, and it is still mainly vested in the member states - it has recently made great strides.
The success of the EU's economic and trade policies have played no small part in its increasing political importance. Its wealth and its willingness to use it as foreign aid have bought the EU considerable inßuence. The EU has become the world's largest provider of foreign humanitarian aid.
Provided that it uses them wisely, the EU's economic and trade policies could earn it even more political leverage in the future - particularly in North Africa and the Middle East, where EU trade and economics programs are already in effect. The EU is by far the largest benefactor of the Palestinian territories, donating over $2 billion to the Palestinian Authority - without which, experts argue, the Authority would not have been able to keep its government and economy aßoat.
Evidence that the EU's foreign and security policies have become more coherent over the last few years can be seen in the Amsterdam Treaty, which strengthened its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).
The EU's 1999 Stability Pact for Southeast Europe with the United States and the Balkans, and its subsequent inßuence in stabilizing that region, further illustrates a maturity in European foreign and security policies. The EU members' tendency to vote in blocs in the United Nations and other international fora is also evidence of this trend, Kyoto being a perfect example.
If the EU's goal of creating a rapid reaction military force consisting of 60,000 troops with air and naval support comes to fruition, the foreign policy implications would be immense. EU policy initiatives could, for the first time, have the direct backing of force behind them.
The accession of new members should also augment EU political power - despite the problems associated with absorbing Central and Eastern European states with political needs and foreign policy perspectives often markedly different from those of current members. By promising economic success through EU membership, the EU has already begun to project its members' foreign policy values across the greater-European region.
The EU, in other words, acts as a magnetic force, attracting non-member states to its economic and political values. Just as they must get their budgets in order and control inßation, nations seeking accession must also adhere to democratic institutions, political stability, and respect for human rights.
In short, the European Union is an increasingly important geopolitical player, and the United States should treat it accordingly. Member states will certainly no longer allow themselves to be viewed simply as paymasters for American foreign policy.
On the whole, however, our partnership is strong. And in most instances, the issues described above are about style as much as substance. Even to be separated by matters of style, however, is both undesirable and unnecessary.
As evidenced by the downturn in the global economy and the tragic events of September 11, the world can still be a tumultuous place. Maintaining international order will require the joint efforts of the United States and the EU.
The future of our relations, however, will depend significantly on how we deal with three major foreign policy challenges in the coming months and years - the Bush Administration's plans for a missile defense shield, the development of the EuroCorps consistent with NATO, and the proposed worldwide assault on terrorism and those who harbor it.
EU government officials have not spoken with one voice on missile defense, with Britain, Italy and Spain expressing support. In general, however, EU officials, if they have not voiced strong opposition, have reacted hesitantly at best, and public opinion seems to be mostly against it.
How Russia ultimately responds to the U.S. plans should be a significant factor in determining a definitive EU response. If the United States, for instance, can persuade Russia to accept its proposed tradeoff - a missile defense shield in exchange for deep cuts in each side's nuclear arsenals - the EU may fall in line, eliminating a potential source of friction.
While the formation of EuroCorps may afford the EU greater foreign policy prominence, the proposed rapid reaction force, which should become a reality by 2003, might create an additional rift between the United States and the EU, particularly if Washington feels that the force is encroaching upon NATO's terrain.
NATO has served as an important source of transatlantic glue over the years. Those who thought it had become irrelevant in the post-Cold War world have been proven wrong by Bosnia, and again by Kosovo. And while the United States should not obstruct the formation of EuroCorps, it does have every right to insist that it operate within the confines of NATO's rights and obligations.
So far, the EU has shown no signs of disagreement. In calling for the force, for instance, the European Council decreed that "the Union must have the capacity for autonomous action . . . in order to respond to international crises without prejudice to actions by NATO." Until the force becomes a reality and begins to engage in maneuvers, however, the United States cannot be certain it will not step on NATO's toes.
Combined, well-attuned efforts in fighting terrorism could, in time, bear longstanding fruits, both economic and political, for the
U.S.-EU relationship. Should irreconcilable differences arise, however, the waters between the United States and the EU could be further roiled.
Areas in which cooperation could bind us together include: going after money laundering; intelligence cooperation; police/immigration cooperation; and finalizing the U.S.-EU Cooperation Agreement with Europol.
In general, European leaders have responded in a promising fashion to President Bush's entreaty that they join the United States, not only in bringing to justice those found responsible for the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, but also in a prolonged, global assault on terrorism.
The President's successful effort to make this a multilateral one will help soothe European concerns about American unilateralism. The easier part of the still developing two-pronged plan to combat terrorism will be to root out those responsible for the September 11 attacks. The harder part will be the sustained and broad assault on terrorism, which could last months and years, and spread beyond the terrorists themselves to where they are harbored. The still unanswered question is whether the EU is in for the long haul?
The debate over terrorism exposes an already existent divide between the United States and the EU on how to handle rogue states. A sustained attack on terrorists and the states that harbor terrorism could make the split even more apparent. In short, when dealing with wayward states, Europe prefers the carrot, while the United States prefers the stick.
The EU believes that a country can be made more civil and democratic by engaging it, while many in the United States, particularly in Congress, feel that that end can best be reached by isolation. Helms-Burton and the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) - where, in both cases, the EU has favored investment and the United States has favored sanctions - serve as the best showcases for the two sides' differing approaches.
Both Helms-Burton and ILSA originated in Congress as a response to what many American legislators felt was Europe's lax response to human rights violations and previous acts of terrorism by the states concerned. If terrorists, or their actions, are found to be currently sponsored by Iran, Libya, and Syria (which is likely, if not already proven), will the EU follow America's course of action and forgo investment in these countries? If not, how will this affect Europe's relationship with Congress and the Bush Administration?
More likely than not, EU member states will not forgo investment in Iran, or in any other state in which they currently invest - France is already testing current UN sanctions against Iraq. Obviously, this would not bode well for the future of U.S.-EU relations.
At the same time, the fact that European countries have normalized relations and investments in Iran can give the EU a comparative advantage in trying to convince them to abandon the terrorism bandwagon.
I am a strong believer that unilateral, extraterritorial sanctions are counterproductive, do not accomplish their stated goals, and have served only to cause conßict between the United States and the EU. Whether or not accord can be struck on this issue will speak volumes about the future of the whole U.S.-EU relationship.
Equally, if the long-term fight against terrorism is to succeed, or even be possible, the two sides of the Atlantic must first develop a consensus on sharing information about terrorists and terrorist activities.
Likewise, the United States and EU member states must be vigilant about possible terrorist cells within their own country. The critical piece of a successful
U.S.-EU strategy to significantly weaken global terrorism, however, will be consensus on how to deal with those states who are found to harbor it.
Returning to my "two ships" analogy, I would conclude by stating the obvious: that the "ocean" in which the United States and the EU sail is not big enough for either of us to avoid the other's wake - and the sooner we both realize that, the better.
We share common values, outlooks, and interests. Our differences are usually over the means to achieve them. I am confident that we will have a stronger, not a weaker, relationship as a result of the tragedy of September 11.