What Does Europe Want From the United States?


Brussels Forum

Dr. Ian Lesser: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the final day of Brussels Forum. I’m Ian Lesser from GMF in Brussels and we’re very pleased this morning to start off with a session on What Does Europe Want from the United States. I’d also like to mention that we have our young professionals with us this morning, and we’re also very pleased to have Peter Spiegel, the Brussels Bureau Chief of the Financial Times, with us to moderate this first session so Peter, please.

Mr. Peter Spiegel: Well, thank you all for joining us this early on a Sunday morning. I spent all night and into early morning Saturday with Eurozone finance ministers assisting with bailout for Cyprus, so I missed most of your panels yesterday ‘cause I was sleeping, but I appreciate everyone getting up with us today. The title of this panel, I think, is quite interesting for a couple of reasons. What does Europe want from the U.S.? As Ian pointed out to me when wewere heading in here, it’s usually the other way around. Everyone wants to know what the U.S. wants from Europe. It’s nice to turn it on its head a little bit to look at the other way.

But to me, the other issue, which I’d like to explore and hopefully we can get to the panels to deal with, is it’s a bit of a difficult question because this definition of Europe. Is there a “what Europe wants”? And, you know, I think from the summit that we just had here last week, case in point, the prime minister of Great Britain, the president of France pushing for lifting the arms embargo on Syria so we can arm the rebels, and the reaction from the rest of Europe was not hugely enthusiastic, from a German wait-and-see to outright hostility from, frankly, some of the most transatlantic members of NATO, including the country where the current secretary general comes from, Denmark. Issues like Russia have also always bedeviled Europe on this front. We have countries from the Central and Eastern Europe who are very concerned about energy security, issues like Georgia where we saw the Russians being quite aggressive in the region, and then we have countries like France which decided to sell amphibious ships to the Russians, Germany setting up its own pipeline to Gazprom. Is there a common policy that can be developed in Europe and how does that affect relations and a view towards the United States?

I also just want to point out before I go to the panel that it happens in a context. One of the contexts, obviously, is what Charles has written about, "The Rise of the Rest." You know, obviously, yesterday, we had the panel on the U.S.-EU Trade Agreement. That is agreement that clearly is coming from some of thegeopolitical imperatives of shouldn’t the U.S. and theEU come together ‘cause they have common interests in aworld where the BRICS, where China and others have different interests, forcing together. On the other hand, there are centrifugal forces at play here. Obviously, the generational shift in the U.S., in particular that Secretary Gates mentioned in his sort of salutary speech given just across town here, talking about a new generation of leaders in the United Stateswho didn’t fight the Cold War with the Europeans, lessemotionally tied to that transatlantic relationship, but most importantly, also, the Obama Pivot and what does that mean. I mean, obviously, the administrationhas talked quite a bit, but just because we’re pivoting to Asia doesn’t mean we’re not paying attention toEurope, but as anyone in this room who has been in a policy position before knows leaders can only focus on one thing at a time, maybe two. It’s very difficult if you’re pivoting one way, to keep your eye on the otherside.

With that, let me turn to the panel and we’ll address people left to right. We’ll start with Artis Pabriks who’s defense minister from Latvia. Again, on this issue of Russia, I’ll be pinging you on this one. Sitting next to him is Ambassador Pierre Vimont who is the secretary general of the European External Action Service, the awkwardly named diplomatic corps for the EU, and the Ambassador and I go back quite a bit when he was ambassador in Washington, and I was covering foreign policy for the Wall Street Journal in Washington. Sitting next to him is Franco Frattini, also another person who is not unknown to us here in Brussels, former Italian commissioner to the European Commission, but more recently, the Italian foreign minister, particularly during the Libya conflict who obviously can talk to us a bit about how the U.S. played a role, leading from behind in that conflict.And finally, as I mentioned before, Charles Kupchan, Senior Fellow at the Council On Foreign Relations, has written quite a bit about this issue of "The Rise of the Rest" and how that affects the rest of the West.

Mr. Peter Spiegel: It’s a difficult one for journalists, in particular, because we don’t like complexity. We like to be over-simplified. And in a differentiated world in which the relationship between the U.S. and EU differs on different issues, very hard to hold our attention on this. But this issue of the complaining back and forth that the U.S. doesn’t pay enough attention to Europe, that the Americans believe the Europeans should lead, there was no better example of that, I think, than the Libya situation where you did have that dynamic play itself out. The Obama Administration very much willing to allow Europe to lead on that. And obviously, Minister Frattini, you were part of that as the Italian, Finance, Foreign Minister. I also might mention Mr. Frattini’s name as potentially a successor to Anders Fogh Rasmussen in NATO so it’s something that you may be dealing with in the future. Can you talk a bit about that dynamic, that transatlantic dynamic, and whether that burden-sharing that the Ambassador talked about is a good thing potentially for the transatlantic relationship or is it a sign of divergence?

The Hon. Franco Frattini: Well, I think first: what are our goals, what to do, and how? These are my three brief points. Since our goals are to implement and to follow this strategic cooperation on the basis of common values: democracy, rule of law, individual liberty, I consider that, first of all, a stronger Europe is in the interest of United States. I used to say we need more Europe, not less America. This is my departing point. Since I’m convinced of that, I think that a division of labor, a cooperation where sometimes Europe is in the condition to take the lead, as it was in the Balkans, as it should be in the Mediterranean area and it should be in North African countries, shouldn’t lead to a decoupling of transatlantic security.

Transatlantic security is a good. It’s something that we have to keep together. In some cases, Europe should be in the lead. I can mention the case of Libya, maybe I’ll be further elaborating later during this debate. I would mention the idea that has emerged of having a strong involvement not only of our partners: our members of NATO, in the NATO mission Unified Protector, but involving partners.

In the first case: of Libya, four Arab states that are partners of NATO participated in terms of capabilities. Not only political support, which was decisive for the go-ahead but they participated in terms of capabilities. In that case, America, somebody says, led from behind. I saw that situation. I think this was a good example where some Europeans, I wouldn’t say first of all, but among the first Italy, knowing better than others the situation in Libya, was playing a good role by, I would say, cooperating, exchanging information, and so on and so forth, while United States have been cooperating.

The same applies, and should apply, to the near future in that area. Because it is not enough to say, the mission Libya led to liberating Libyans from the regime. Now, we have to stabilize. The Libyan situation is very fragile. The situation in Sahel and North Africa is becoming more and more fragile. Think about Tunisia. We have been hoping about a consolidation of regime in Tunisia and unfortunately, they had to change the government a few days ago. So now more than ever, American involvement in North Africa is what we need, even though, I would repeat, Europe should take the lead.

On the contrary, think about the Gulf. Think about the negotiations to bring Iran to be, I would say, a responsible partner and not undermining the security. In this case, I would like very much America taking the lead and we cooperating. In the Gulf, for example, where we want to be part, and unfortunately, except for some of important NATO initiatives there, Europeans as European countries are not so much involved as it should be. The same applies to the Middle East.

I agree with what Pierre Vimont said. I’ve never seen a president of United States so close to the European perspective of working together.

A final point. We want to have from America is also the concrete and smooth implementation of what I would call the second pillar, that is: economic cooperation. The offer to negotiate a free-trade agreement between United States and Europe is something that can very easily complement the security perspective. And then, I would repeat what the Minister just said about importance of avoiding this exercise of horizontal cuttings in defense and security spending. Instead, we should think about coordinating, optimizing, taking political decisions, not a bureaucratic decision that’s, well: we have to reduce by 1.3 percent and that’s all, by horizontal acts.

Mr. Peter Spiegel: Thank you very much. I think we would not get a more clear clarion call for transatlantic cooperation in various regions.

... Let me ask you also to address the issue of the co-decision model. For those of you who are from outside the Brussels ring road, what has happened since the latest EU treaty, the Treaty of Lisbon, European parliament has given far more powers to make decisions with the member states. Now, obviously, in foreign defense policy, not necessarily all that powerful, but we did see, certainly on issues of swift data protection, where Joe Biden had to actually show up at the European parliament and start lobbying individual MEPs on these issues, the parliament has become much like the U.S. Congress, a player in some of these transatlantic issues. Do you get a sense that the U.S. has been good about this? I mean, Kennard, obviously, the ambassador here to you, is up at the European parliament quite a bit. What is your sense in terms of the U.S. as an external actor in understanding how the EU works?

The Hon. Franco Frattini: Well, I have some experience about that. I know quite well the story. Because I've been working very hard in my capacity of Vice President of European Commission in charge of Home Affairs to negotiate with United States the “Passenger Name Agreement”, the famous one to prevent terrorist activities or the so-called “Shift Agreement” on countering financial activities of terrorist group. And the parliament did not agree with the proposal we had negotiated and they decided that there was not a right balance between security and data protection. Our American friends were a bit frustrated about that.

I was able to explain that, first: Europe will never become a super state. But if we are stronger, this is also because there is more political and democratic legitimation coming from European Parliament. Not only I accepted this final decision of the Parliament, but through renegotiating some paragraph of such agreement, we came up with a better final proposal that America accepted at the end of the day. So the fact that we have a stronger democratic institution is an added value, not a problem: that should be understood from the United States.

At the same time, we have to avoid to be paralyzed in very long confrontation between the Council, European Commission; you know, the famous triangle of institutions, co-negotiating for, some time too long time. So if we are able to find the right balance between being effective and representing the democratic aspirations of so many members in the Parliament, we would be stronger, not weaker, in negotiating and our result, our final result, would be, and will be, more producing in the interest of transatlantic security. This is in the case of all the agreements concerning security. And the same applies to the principle of cutting in public spending for defense. If we don't coordinate, if we don't consult, if we go ahead with unilateral national decisions to cut budgets, there we are weaker. On the contrary, perhaps within the NATO structure, we will start to better coordinate and optimize: the result would be much better.

Mr. Peter Spiegel: Mr. Frattini, may I ask you to address the same point, as someone who has experience here as the “Ultimate Soft Power”: the EU but also of the hard power among other things in Italy, How do we strike the balance to underdevelopment, but also making sure we keep to the hard end of the sphere?

The Hon. Franco Frattini: These are very key points. I believe that this is exactly why we have to develop what we used to call a comprehensive approach to global security. Not limited to purely military means but considering all what would have an impact on our security. Lack of development, mass migration, poverty, desertification, all these are crucial components to be understood and to be addressed together; and this is another ground of excellent cooperation for America and the European Union. Why? Because think about, for example, to the need of elaborating together a common global strategy on mass migration, or what to do with the stalemate on The Doha Round negotiations.

I want to recall a phrase that touched me during a G8 Italian Presidency in 2009. One of the most important leaders of Africa raised the hand in the formal session and he said, dear Western friends, President Obama was there, either you take our goods or you take our people. You cannot do anything. This is a key to explain why our security will depend on addressing the roots leading to desperation, leading militias to be established because of, I would say--think about if--a last example I want to make. If only we would be able to reduce, by half, the rate of interest that has to be paid for the remittances of migrants, we would increase by the equal amount, that every year is the sum of aid for development in the world. But only by reducing by half, they pay on the average ten percent of remittances on migrants, banks, money transfer. Shouldn’t we be all engaged, we and Americans, to push over this money transfers, the banks, to cut these remittances costs? This would be increasing to the destination, to the final destination countries, huge amounts of money to address poverty. These are two examples where America and the EU, should be very strongly engaged because this is security. These are the preconditions to pave the way to prevent, rather than just react. Think, to Sahel, to Africa and so on.

Mr. Peter Spiegel: Mr. Frattini, if I can be a little bit cheeky to ask you to answer the question on military spending? A country that I believe has F-16s, also part F-35, also part of Euro Fighter, also flies Tornado, not particularly effective use necessarily of defense spending. Is that a possibility of a common defense expenditure in Europe? Talk about sovereignty, this gets to the core. Is that a realistic thing? I think everyone agrees it needs to be done, but is it a realistic outcome, given the sensitivity of defense spending? But also, any closing remarks you might have to wrap us up.

The Hon. Franco Frattini: Yes. Thank you very much. I thank Professor Migone for the question because it is really important, indeed. We have been talking for a very long time in Europe about having too a European defense strategy. Defense strategy should include, to me, a system of better consultation and coordination among the member states of Europe to optimize spending on defense, rather than just cutting spending horizontally.

I make an example. Again, as you know perfectly, in a very important mission of NATO to Afghanistan, we found to have at our disposal a huge number of war planes that in Afghanistan were, yes, important, but not so necessary, while missing a number of helicopters that were extremely important to land in the areas or in the regions outside Kabul in Afghanistan. So, the idea of optimizing. We have huge a number of ground forces in member states, in each of us, and these ground forces are quite difficult to manage. If you want to become an Alliance, I think about the NATO Alliance, capable to rapidly react in case of need and optimizing the use of modern capabilities, think about facing the cyber crime threat. So this would mean having a political decision. It comes to a political decision. It’s not a technical decision to be taken by bureaucrats. They know perfectly where to cut. It is very easy to cut horizontally by 1.5 percent each and every year. It’s much more difficult to take a political decision after a previous consultation among equals. This is another challenge for us, for our American friends, for Europeans.

We know what to do. We have to strengthen our European integration. More European economic integration, as well as political integration. And political integration include foreign policy and defense policy. While our American friends will have to agree with us that given our common values and common goals, there will be--I would say, a need to agree with us the idea of consultation within the forum we have: our Alliance, our historical Alliance, our Transatlantic Alliance, where it’s possible to draw a conclusion and to have a division of labor, which is not affecting this or that individual member state, but this is to the benefit of the whole Alliance.

Peter Spiegel: Very good. And on that note, thank you very much. It’s been a very lively discussionfor an early Sunday morning and I hope you have a good day today.

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