Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

EU/US rapprochement in 2005 - whatever US Election outcome

Agence Europe - 30 July 2004

In 2005, a new European Commission and a new European Parliament will have to deal with a new American Administration, "irrespective of who is elected US president" and "I see the possibility" therefore of the European Union coming closer to Washington after the recent tensions, it was stated on Thursday by the European Commission's Representative in Washington, Günter Burghardt, speaking to the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs. On several occasions, Mr Burghardt stressed the role that can be played in this respect by legislators on both sides of the Atlantic - hence the European Parliament and especially the committee chaired by Elmar Brok and the security and defence sub-committee chaired by Karl von Wogau. Ambassador Burghardt suggested he should, before the end of his term of office in Washington this autumn, come and give MEPs a more detailed report of his experience in transatlantic relations in recent years.

Looking toward the future, let us look at the "big picture" without just making out a "shopping list", Mr Burghardt advised, urging for the transatlantic agenda to be updated as it dates back to 1995 whereas, in the meantime in Europe, there has above all been the new EU enlargement and also a forthcoming European Constitution. Implementation of the Constitution will also bring about simplification in our dialogue with the United States, Mr Burghardt said, explaining that, today, at the summits with the European Union, the United States has before it "five players: two presidents, of the Council and Commission, and three ministers of foreign affairs - that of the Presidency, Solana and Patten". On the other hand with the Constitution, there will only be one and this is important for the Americans. He went on to say "it is not the mother tongue spoken by the discussion partner that counts but the fact that he/she speaks with a single voice".

In order to give "new momentum" to the transatlantic relationship, Mr Burghardt mainly suggests: - establishing a "roadmap for creating a transatlantic market without borders, as far as possible" (he spoke of a ten year time limit); - developing "Community action" at the international level: on reform effort in the Middle East, peace between Palestinians and Israelis, Iraq, Iran, the fight against terrorism, non-proliferation (weapons of mass destruction); - and proceeding in security and defence matters to a joint analysis of threats and discussing respective security strategies. According to Mr Burghardt, the EU/United States summit held in Ireland in June showed there was some improvement in the climate between Europeans and Americans but that this improvement was still not yet visible. Transatlantic relations have always moved forward "hand in hand" with European integration, Mr Burghardt insisted, telling representatives of the new Member States that they must not think of choosing between being "European or Atlantic" as reunification of Europe was possible not only because of the "attractive pull of the European model" but also thanks to the support of the United States. In the United States, he added, broad discussion is underway on the question of knowing how to manage the American power.

During the brief debate, British Conservative Charles Tannock asked why the EU has no formal trade agreement with the United States when it has concluded agreements left, right and centre with many other third countries. French sovereignist Paul-Marie Coûteaux challenged Mr Brughardt's title of "ambassador", speaking of "galéjade" (tall story). In order to be an ambassador, one must represent a State. The Union does not even have the right of legal entity, he exclaimed, adding that, if the Constitution is adopted then it will have such a right but there are many signs showing that it will not. Elmar Brok said in response to this: In Washington, Günter Burghardt represents the European Commission, and the "Community part" of the EU does have the right of legal entity.