Prodi's galactisch misverstand

De transatlantische relaties zijn 'alive and kicking', en 'the world is still a dangerous place'. Commissievoorzitter Prodi spreekt aan de vooravond van de Amerikaans-Europese top.

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"Looking ahead in transatlantic relations"

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very glad to be here with you tonight and I offer my sincere thanks to Craig Kennedy and the German Marshall Fund of the United States for their invitation.

It gives me special pleasure to speak to you on the eve of the EU-US Summit.

The German Marshall Fund seeks to foster understanding between the United States and Europe as a whole. That aim has taken on special relevance recently.

The Fund's establishment was announced on the 25th anniversary of the Marshall Plan for Europe. And the words used to describe its aim were these: the "memory of the past" needs to become "our mission of the future."

On that occasion, Willy Brandt reminded his American audience of Europe's gratitude to America for their decisive strategic support after the Second World War.

The German Chancellor spoke for the whole of Europe as he went on to say: "What we give in return is our growing ability to be a partner of the United States and […] to assume our share of responsibility in the world at large."

We in Europe today still feel bound by the promise the Chancellor gave in 1972.

Willy Brandt has a sure place in history as the architect of "Ostpolitik" -- the policy that paved the way to peaceful coexistence between the eastern and western blocs in Europe. It was the first step along the road to a free and united Europe -- a Europe that owed its existence both to the American security guarantee and to Willy Brandt's courageous opening to the east.

By establishing the Marshall Fund, Willy Brandt did not just show Europe's gratitude to the United States. He also expressed his firm belief that, without the United States' backing and security, the policy of détente could not have existed. And that policy was vital if Europe was to reduce tension with its eastern neighbours.

Willy Brandt was a true European and a loyal "Atlanticist" throughout his life. And being a European Atlanticist meant working for a strong transatlantic partnership in combination with good relations with our neighbours in order to achieve sustainable stability -- at a time when this was still highly controversial. And that example has inspired the Marshall Fund ever since.

I want to express my gratitude to the Fund for your contribution to the transatlantic relationship. The Marshall Fund has played a major and constructive role in the recent debate on our relations.

That gives me pleasure -- not because I agree with all the arguments people have used, but because the debate shows clearly that people across the Atlantic also think the transatlantic partnership matters.

Much has been made of the planetary aspects of our relationship in the last few months. I believe this story about Venus and Mars is a galactic misunderstanding. And even if you think we live on different planets, don't we orbit the same sun? And aren't we bound by the same principles?

I will not add fuel to that debate except to point out one simple and basic truth that underlies it: the transatlantic relationship is alive and kicking, it is stronger than some would have us believe, and -- last but not least -- there is no attractive alternative.

Support for this view is not lacking here on this side of the Atlantic either. I am thinking of the recent Joint Declaration on Renewing the Transatlantic Partnership which rejects the erroneous idea that the United States no longer needs this partnership.

The Declaration was endorsed by some of your most distinguished personalities -- people like Madeleine Albright, Alexander Haig and Lawrence Eagleburger to name just a few.

The European answer, formulated by 17 European statesmen -- including Douglas Hurd, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and Giuliano Amato -- recommended we draw strength and inspiration from the past, but look ahead and focus on challenges and threats "which require a full joint commitment".

I could not agree more. We need to look ahead in transatlantic relations.

But that does not mean we should forget. In historical terms, the bipolar world order came to an end only minutes ago. It is not surprising we are all still defining our roles.

This dramatic revolution has changed the face of Europe -- not without atrocities and untold suffering. I am thinking of the Balkans, where we are still working to ensure stability and security.

But it could have been much worse. The collapse of the Soviet Union was not accompanied by bloodshed. And in central Europe the feared clashes between minorities never took place. This is a tremendous relief -- and a success of our joint policies.

That success took a combination of three factors. It took massive support from the US. It took the cooperative spirit of the new Russia. And it took the European Union's decisive enlargement strategy -- a strategy that set many communist countries on the road to transformation into stable democracies and market economies and membership of the Union in less than a decade.

In the light of the terrific success of our dream team -- the United States and the European Union -- I am not worried about the odd rhetorical blunders on either side of the Atlantic.

But the talk about a new and an old Europe did make me uneasy. On both sides of the Atlantic, don't we share the same vision of a Europe united in peace and freedom? Is the extension of the area of stability, democracy, solidarity and shared prosperity not in our common interest?

So I ask you to reject this division. You divide your foes, not your friends.

The world is still a dangerous place. 11/9 was a cruel reminder of that.

Across the world, America's partners showed spontaneous, unconditional solidarity in the war on terrorism. Solidarity that created potential for even closer cooperation within a stronger Nato and a more authoritative United Nations.

Instead, we have witnessed a diverging perception of reality on the two sides of the Atlantic.

Since the Twin Towers, America has been living in a post 9/11 world. And this led to your new pro-active approach to potential threats throughout the world.

Meanwhile, the European Union is absorbed with the new situation stemming from the collapse of the Berlin wall -- and the opportunities and challenges it brought in our immediate neighbourhood.

European integration has been a stunning success. We are taking in twelve new members in the next few years. This has expanded the area of stability, prosperity, market economy and the rule of law -- in just one decade.

And other countries are lining up to join. Turkey is already a candidate, and the clear prospects of membership we offered the Balkan countries were confirmed in Thessaloniki last week.

But enlargement is not our only response to the new opportunities and challenges facing the continent. With the "Wider Europe" initiative, the Union aims to build a "ring of friends" on its future borders to the East and around the Mediterranean's shores to project stability even further.

The initiative translates our willingness to share "everything but institutions" with our future neighbours. This includes reciprocal arrangements covering the Union's Four Freedoms: Free circulation of people, goods, services and capitals.

The European Union exerts a huge pull on the countries within its field of gravity. And this has transformed our neighbours economically, politically, and culturally. This power of attraction is our strongest and most effective instrument for shaping sustainable relations throughout the region.

To understand our particular approach, you need to look at our past experience. Over the last century at least, our problems have chiefly involved relations with our neighbours. In Europe's crowded, complex environment, you cannot move without colliding with someone.

So it is no surprise that we have become experts in finding sustainable, long-term solutions to complex situations involving a multitude of players. We are born multilateralists.

Of course, we realise these negotiating skills are not enough to cope with all the challenges in the world. We have developed our potential for action in foreign affairs, but more work is needed to take on a greater share of responsibility in the world. The results of the European Convention on the Future of Europe will take us further along the road.

Your approach stems from a different experience. Threats to your security are global in scale. History and geography have taught you to anticipate distant threats. But effective actions and military force have always been accompanied by a determination to generate confidence and trust, which are highly valuable assets in international affairs. The value of trust -- politically, economically and socially -- can only be calculated once it is lost.

Nobody doubts America can achieve many things on its own -- militarily. But in the long run you need to gain confidence and trust. Without trust you cannot inspire hope. And without hope, there will always be hatred. As President Bush said recently in Krakow: "Americans know that terrorism is not defeated by military power alone. We believe that the ultimate answer to hatred is hope."

Let us -- your European partners -- help restore trust and inspire hope among people throughout the world -- and make the world a safer place for all.

Our approaches may be different, but they do not rule each other out. Indeed, they are complementary, as in development policy, where the US is more concentrated on the short-term approach, while the European Union cares more about the medium-to-long term.

Let's take an example. In the Action Plan on Famine recently adopted at the G8 Summit in Evian, we all agreed on a twofold approach: urgent action to feed people and save lives, and a strategy to help people to help themselves. We all know that if you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day; but give him a fishing rod and teach him how to fish and he will become self-sufficient.

Our partnership is strong. Look at how much we invest in each other's future. A recent study by the School of Advanced International Studies reveals the primacy of the transatlantic economy for both the United States and Europe. Europe's investments in the US rose to $835 billion in 2000. That accounts for 75% of all European investment abroad. And US investments in Europe amount to $640 billion -- 50% of all US investments abroad. European investments in Texas outstrip US investments in Japan. And the United States invests twice as much in the Netherlands as it does in Mexico.

These figures show how deeply intertwined the European Union and the United States actually are. Together the US and the EU command almost 40% of world trade, which underlines the scale of our joint responsibility for the world economy.

A strong American-European partnership is vital for the world. Trade is an excellent example. We have reduced tariffs and liberalised trade together. I will not claim there is harmony on all fronts. But the partnership works successfully for the benefit of all. This must be continued.

The same goes for security, stability and world order. Making the world a safer place calls for a joint effort.

Europe is there as your partner -- a partner on equal terms -- to build peace and fight poverty -- today and tomorrow.

If we join efforts and tackle the root causes of insecurity across the world, no challenge is too great.

Thank you.

Romano Prodi
President of the European Commission

Dinner at Rayburn House with German Marshall Fund of the United States

Washington, 24 June 2003

GroenDe enige partij die sociaal én milieuvriendelijk is.


De Groenen/EVAGroenen en Europese Vrije Alliantie in het Europees Parlement.


Samen ijveren voor een beter Europa en klimaat?