Building a Transatlantic Alliance for the 21st Century

By Ferrero-Waldner, Benita | Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly, January 15, 2006 | Go to article overview

Building a Transatlantic Alliance for the 21st Century


Ferrero-Waldner, Benita, Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly


This contribution is based on an address by Benita Ferrero- Waldner, EU Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy, before the Institute for Human Sciences, Boston University, on September 12, 2005.

My central thesis is that our world is changing irrevocably, and if the US and EU want to protect our fundamental values we must work together. The transatlantic alliance must be strong enough to enable us to achieve that. I will structure my remarks around 4 points, first, the current state of EU-US relations; second the EU's ability to act as a major international power; third which powers will dominate the 21st century; and fourth the value and necessity of multilateral organizations, particularly a reformed UN.

1) EU-US Relations Today

Watching the footage of Hurricane Katrina and the almost apocalyptic scenes from a flooded and virtually-abandoned New Orleans we Europeans were once again reminded of the depth of the ties that unite us to Americans. Beyond the natural shock and intense sympathy for any natural disaster on this scale, we felt an additional almost instinctive desire to help.

So in response to the disaster, for the first time ever in the history of European civil protection coordination, all participating countries have offered assistance. Under the European Commission's supervision, help has been mobilized from across Europe - a crisis intervention team from Austria; tents and first aid kits from France; blankets, meals and pumps from the UK. It seems painfully inadequate given the enormous need, but the underlying message is clear - we feel your suffering and we are here for you - just as Americans have been there for Europeans at difficult moments of our history.

Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of 9/11. That tragedy also produced a moment of great solidarity across the Atlantic, embodied in Le Monde's headline, "Nous sommes tous Americains" - we are all Americans. For me, that epitomizes EU-US relations - it is a special relationship, we feel for each other as citizens united by the same fundamental values.

Our relations have had their ups and downs since 9/11, but I can confidently say we are now on an upward path. And this is what both EU and US citizens want - a survey of transatlantic trends released last week by the German Marshall Fund found that 80% favor greater cooperation between the EU and the US.

EU leaders share President Bush's emphasis on combating terrorism, bolstering homeland security, and promoting democracy, the rule of law and human rights. The declarations of the last EU- US Summit demonstrate how much we're working together on our common priorities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts, and the threat posed by non-state actors.

Neither one of us can go it alone - we both recognize that the challenges are too great for either of us to deal with individually. As President Bush said at his inauguration, "All that we seek to achieve in the world requires that America and Europe remain close partners".

I agree. And as the international capabilities of the EU have grown, it is only natural that the EU-US agenda increasingly focuses on the world beyond our borders. Our approach may sometimes differ, but we are working together successfully around the world, in some countries turning those very differences to our mutual advantage. We are talking to each other more and more - sometimes formally, like our strategic dialogue on East Asia, sometimes informally, like our daily contacts over Ukraine, Lebanon, and Gaza disengagement.

Our views on many of today's most pressing issues are the same - for example the need to encourage China to take its place in the established international rules-based order. We have discovered the benefits of complementarity, in the Broader Middle East, in Iran, in Afghanistan, Georgia, Belarus and elsewhere. …

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