Strasbourg, 12 January 2005
First of all I would like to convey to you Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner’s apologies. She regrets very much that she is unable to attend this debate with you today. However, the reason she is not here is very pertinent to this debate - she had foreseen to participate in your debate as originally scheduled this morning and is now on her way to Washington to meet with the present and future American administration, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, future Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and future National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Mrs. Ferrero-Waldner will debrief the Committee on Foreign Affairs on this visit next January 25th.
The Commission welcomes to have the opportunity to discuss transatlantic relations with you so early on in this legislature.
Reviewing the state of our relations with the US will be high on our political agenda over the next few months. With good reason - the outcome will have a very important influence on developments in the transatlantic relationship for the coming years. So this debate today is both timely and welcome.
I would like to start by stating two simple and irrefutable facts: first, EU-US relations are truly unique and irreplaceable; and second, the balance sheet of the transatlantic relationship is fundamentally positive.
On the economic front, we have the largest trade and investment relationship in the world, with figures like € 600 billion worth of trade in 2003 and an investment stock measured at € 1,500 billion in 2002. These investments have created directly or indirectly some 12 million jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.
But our relations extend well beyond the domain of economics. Although some media reports continue to focus solely on past divisions over Iraq, we are actually working together with remarkable success in places such as the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Ukraine.
That being said, it is clear that the EU-US relationship must adapt to the changing security environment and to changing global priorities. But it must also adapt to changes within the European Union - we are convinced that as the enlarged EU’s foreign policy strengthens, so too will the scope and intensity of our relations with the US.
In essence, the European Union and the United States are both founded on the same principles and values - respect for the rule of law, democracy, human rights and free market economics.
We also share many common interests such as the fight against terrorism; promoting solutions to regional conflicts; dealing with failed states; improving transatlantic economic relations; concluding the WTO Doha Round; and creating global prosperity.
In many cases we share the same strategy for implementing these goals. In others, although we share the same goals, we have different approaches to implementation. And of course there are also issues on which we have a fundamental difference of view, for example on the ways how to tackle climate change and some aspects of human rights and international law.
Looking at the key EU-US issues today, it is natural to begin with our multilateral efforts in the Indian Ocean.
The recent human tragedy clearly demonstrated that in times of crisis only effective international co-operation can prevail. EU and US assistance has been vital and together we have set a good example of effective multilateralism.
We want to continue this preference for effective multilateralism by working closely with the US on issues such as UN reform and climate change.
Turning to one of the most significant areas of dispute between the EU and the US, my colleague Peter Mandelson announced yesterday that the EU and the US had agreed the terms for launching negotiations on subsidies affecting the civil aircraft sector. The objective of these negotiations, which will last three months, is to eliminate subsidies and to establish fair market-based competition between Boeing and Airbus. With this agreement the EU and US have confirmed their willingness to resolve the dispute which has arisen between them over trade in large civil aircraft, and to devote time and resources to doing so by negotiation rather than pursuing the dispute through WTO panels. This is a significant move. However, it is the beginning of a process and not its conclusion. Much work remains to be done. The Commission intends to work closely with Member States and Airbus, as well as the US Trade Representative, to achieve a final result that maintains Europe’s competitiveness in this important sector.
On regional issues, I would like to highlight three areas of common priority:
First, we should redouble our efforts to bring peace to the Middle East, now that a new Palestinian leadership has been elected. It is crucial that we – through the Quartet- use the positive momentum among the parties to ensure the full implementation of the Road Map without delay.
Second, we must continue working together to help put Iraq on the road to democracy, peace, prosperity and stability.
Third, we share the objective of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability, and we should both do our best to ensure that Iran fully implements the Paris Agreement.
Doubtless many of you have the feeling that we could do more and work better together. The Commission shares that feeling. For our co-operation with the US to continue developing successfully, we must be united, consistent, effective and pragmatic.
Some important work is already being done to reinvigorate our ties. The Commission is assessing the contributions made to the discussion by the stakeholders on how to enhance the EU-US economic partnership, and we will propose a strategy with concrete steps by the time of the next EU-US Summit later this year.
We are also reviewing the institutional framework of our relations.
The Commission will submit a communication on both the framework of relations and the economic partnership to Parliament and Council in the spring, prior to the EU-US Summit.
The European Parliament has an important role to play in furthering EU-US ties. We have been carefully listening to your views in frameworks such as the TransAtlantic Policy Network. And we look forward to a constructive dialogue with you more generally on the future of the Transatlantic partnership. You are an important ally for us in ensuring that this partnership flourishes and grows stronger in the coming years. And we are convinced that further dialogue between you and the US Congress will be essential to cement a good basis for our bilateral relations.
Finally, let me underline that the Commission attaches great importance to the visit of President Bush to Brussels on 22 February. We see this as an important opportunity to revitalise our partnership and define common priorities and missions. We will do everything in our power to ensure that the visit is a success, and that it confirms what we already see as auspicious signs of an improving relationship.