Select Committee on European Union Thirtieth Report

CHAPTER 4: looking ahead

23.  It is in the interest of both sides of the Atlantic to repair the harm done. The EU/US relationship matters because there is a significant international agenda in which the Union and the United States share deep, common and practical interests. The agenda includes, for example, counter-proliferation, counter-terrorism, combating transnational crime, spreading democracy and respect for human rights, maintaining order in post-conflict situations, deepening relationships with the countries of the former Soviet Union, and relieving poverty in developing countries. Together the two sides of the relationship can achieve a great deal in all this. By contrast, progress will be difficult, perhaps seriously impeded, if they are mistrustful and uncomprehending of one another, or lack the capability and will to work well together.[39] In that perspective the present state of the relationship is harmful to both sides.

24.  In our judgement, EU Member States—and, in our strongly-held view, the United States too—must recognise a powerful common interest in restoring their relationship, for hard-headed practical reasons. Mr Klaus Becher[40] agreed: "In the end common solutions and common approaches will have to be found and have always been found because of the overriding interests of both sides to…(make) progress".[41]

25.  The first step to defuse this situation is to calm the rhetoric. We note that this process already appears to be under way. The Minister for Europe, giving evidence on 12 June 2003, informed us that "American Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in Garmisch-Partenkirchen yesterday that the US/EU partnership was more necessary than ever. He also added that President George W Bush's visit to Europe ten days ago was a signal for the normalisation of German/American relations. After the undoubted differences which existed over Iraq, both partners want to get back to serious business".[42] Both should resist temptations, powerful and understandable though they may be, towards recrimination and even "punishment" in the wake of painful aspects of the Iraq episode. In our view every major participant made mistakes and has in turn some legitimate grievances. All will be losers if these are made important criteria for future choices.

26.  Where divergences of view do persist, whether on Iraq or other issues, both sides need to seek to identify these early and deal with them in dialogue rather than by public denunciation. They should think particularly hard before translating disagreement into a programme of active opposition to another's policies, save exceptionally when, as perhaps over the ICC, direct incompatibility is inescapable. Structured and regular consultation by way of an early warning system to discern and treat possible future difficulties might be useful.

27.  Both sides should take care to avoid either accepting or reinforcing the "Europe as counterweight" perception. Europe should be seen, rather, as seeking to be a more effective partner. Similarly, the United States should reject, and EU Member States should not co-operate in, any deliberate policy of exploiting or aggravating differences within Europe. No-one on either side should build on recent discomforts in order to force artificial choices between close transatlantic partnership and the building of a more cohesive Europe. There is complementarity within the relationship which should be recognised—for example America's "hard" power alongside the EU's "soft" power.

28.  The recommendations we make below could contribute to making the EU a more welcome and effective partner for the US in the longer term. In concentrating on this, however, we by no means wish to imply that nothing needs to be done on the US side.


29.  Whatever opinions may still be held about how matters reached their present condition, EU Member States should now do as much as they can, preferably within a UN framework, to contribute to Iraq's future political, economic and social health. As current events are demonstrating, these are not merely second-order or "clearing-up" tasks. Member States should as far as possible co-ordinate their efforts through the EU. They should be closely aligned with any collective NATO efforts, for example in the support of an interim military administration.

30.  The European Union should continue to work energetically with the US and other members of the Quartet to make progress in the Middle East Peace Process.

31.  The EU should make extra effort to maximise its contribution in countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Such efforts could relate, for example, both to co-operative threat reduction (CTR) programmes in the countries of the former Soviet Union and to measures to limit trade elsewhere that is relevant to the spread of weapons of mass destruction. While we have not yet been able to study in detail the recent principles and plans recently approved by EU Foreign Ministers for an EU strategy against proliferation, they seem to offer a good basis for action; but action itself will be what matters.

32.  EU leaders should give renewed attention and priority, even amid economic difficulties, to driving forward the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) project to the full extent of the Petersberg tasks. Premature claims that this has already been achieved will reduce political will within the Union and both respect and influence across the Atlantic. The Union should give determined attention to the further build-up of its real armed force capability and to the ability of Member States to operate effectively with one another and in wider military groupings. It should avoid unproductive duplication of what NATO is ready to provide and should take care not to create a pattern of European industrial protectionism for acquiring the new defence material needed.

33.  At present the United States seems opposed to having NATO transfer to the EU prime responsibility for security in Bosnia. This would nevertheless surely be beneficial in the long run to transatlantic burden-sharing and confidence, and we urge that the idea of the EU's taking on this task, still within a wider NATO framework, should not be abandoned.

34.  Care must be taken in the work of the forthcoming IGC to design a foreign policy framework flexible enough to avoid the risk that any unilateral action, or action by small groups of Member States, is automatically seen as a CFSP failure.


35.  The IGC needs to ensure that the EU improves communication and handling of its foreign policy. The current process of developing a Constitution for the Union is an opportunity for evaluating how the EU should deal with the US. Many individual Member States rightly place great value upon their own bilateral relationships with the US and it would be neither desirable nor realistic to expect these to be abandoned. Member States should however recognise that on an increasing number of issues their interests are well served by having the Union act as one, and that arrangements for this need to be more effective. The proposed EU Foreign Minister would create a single point of contact for the US when dealing with the EU as a whole.

36.  NATO should not be treated as a last resort or a disagreeable necessity. EU members should recognise—as should the US—that NATO is the principal and most systematic forum for EU-US consultation on security and defence issues, and accordingly the best setting for transatlantic co-ordination and influence.

37.  If an EU Foreign Minister position is established, arrangements should be made for the occupant and supporting staff to have ready access to deliberations in NATO.

38.  The European Union should make a special effort to improve the clarity, force and cohesion of its collective voice on foreign affairs in Washington. The embassies of Member States need to make a determined effort to co-ordinate the presentation and dissemination of policy and information on the Union. The United Kingdom Embassy is well placed to take a lead.[43]

39.  The European Union, collectively or through Member States, should put more effort into spreading knowledge about the Union across the United States.

40.  Parliamentarians should consider what more they could do to enhance understanding. We are aware that there are numerous efforts already made in this regard, both from within national Parliaments and in the European Parliament,[44] in addition to the work of such institutions as the North Atlantic Assembly; the British-American Parliamentary Group is another example of how Member State parliamentarians can form close relationships with the US Congress. At the same time, we recognise the limitations imposed by the multitude of demands upon Parliamentarians.[45] The priority given to the organisation, preparation and co-ordination of transatlantic Parliamentary dialogue requires renewed attention.

41.  We make this Report to the House for debate.

39   QQ32, 94, 183. See also "European Attitudes towards transatlantic relations 2002-2003: an analytical survey" Menon and Lipkin, May 2003 Back

40   International Institute for Strategic Studies. Back

41   Q4. Back

42   Q272. Back

43   QQ56, 72, 188, 272. Back

44   Q272. Back

45   Q221. Back

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