News

US-Europe Dialogue Turns a Corner

Multimedia

Audio

New leaders are now in charge of "Old Europe". Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel recently has been joined by Nicolas Sarkozy, the new President of France and Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Some analysts say the change in leadership will help reinforce the transatlantic alliance, which has been challenged in recent years.

U.S.-European relations have weathered a number of controversies in recent years.  Perhaps most notable among them was the crisis over Iraq in 2003, which strained transatlantic ties and bitterly divided the European Union itself.

But in the past several years, many analysts say, both sides have made efforts to restore strong relations.  And recent U.S.-E.U. summits have sought to emphasize areas of cooperation and partnership, especially in trade and business.  The transatlantic economic relationship is the largest in the world -- and growing.  Trade between the Atlantic partners tops $1 trillion dollars a year.  Their mutual investments amount to more than $1.9 trillion.

U.S. foreign affairs specialist John Hulsman, at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, says political relations have also noticeably improved, particularly since the coming to power of new "Old Europe" leaders. He says French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown have joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel in changing the tenor and substance of the transatlantic dialogue.

“Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair got into trouble for being too close to President Bush and former French President Jacques Chirac got in trouble for being too far away from President Bush.  Now you have Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy moving to almost a common position, which is the one that Angela Merkel is,” says Hulsman. “She set the groundwork to be much more pro-American than former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was, but to make it clear you are allowed to disagree with America, while being a friend of America. And that fine line is the line that Brown and Sarkozy are now trying to walk after her.”

Disagreements Over Terrorism Remain

But Hulsman adds that despite better rapport at the government level, America's standing in Europe's public opinion has yet to be restored.

Dana Allin of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies agrees.  He says many Europeans remain wary of U.S. foreign policy goals, which they say often override the interests of America's friends and allies.

"Popular affinities are tattered. You can see this in extraordinarily low levels of public support in various European countries for the U.S.," says Allin. "We don't really know how easily American moral prestige will rebound. It hasn't really sunk this low in a long time."

Allin says Europeans view the Middle East differently than Americans, for example. “There is a much greater consensus in Europe across the board, including a very Atlantacist country like Britain, that the resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict is crucial to broader stability in the Middle East and the relations with the Arab and Muslim world.  Americans have tended to look at it the opposite way.  They are saying they need a reformation in the Arab world in order to make Israeli-Palestinian peace possible.”

Moreover, says Allin, Europeans fear the U.S. is losing the battle for Muslim "hearts and minds" as a result of its military action in Iraq and some of its practices in combating terrorism.

Many Europeans would like to see the Guantanamo Bay detention center closed because they say it disregards international human rights accords.  Europeans are also concerned about the American program to detain and question suspected terrorists outside of the United States.

Many analysts say most disagreements stem from the competing foreign policy and security doctrines the U.S. and Europe have developed since the end of the Cold War.  Europeans generally favor compromise, political and economic engagement with adversaries and rarely opt for war.  Americans, mindful of U.S. global security responsibilities, often say unilateral action is justified to prevent serious threats.

The Next Test

Michael Brenner of the University of Pittsburgh says that more than 60 years after World War II, the transatlantic partners need to forge a new, 21st century security arrangement.  He argues its time for Europe to be more assertive.

"A Europe and America, each of which knows its own mind and each of which is prepared to act in the world and on that basis are prepared to act in concert, would simply be more effective dealing with problems than is currently the case,” argues Brenner.  “Allies can provide a corrective. They can raise questions. They can make it clear that doing certain things has some costs. The current balance is so out of whack that you pay a heavy price for it and we are."

According to Brenner, the next test for the transatlantic relationship is how to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions. U.S. officials consider it an urgent matter that threatens security and stability in the Middle East.  They say military strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities are not off the table, if diplomacy fails.

But most Europeans strongly oppose use of force against Teheran, says John Hulsman of the German Council on Foreign Relations. "Iran is the deal-breaker. All these good trends go out the window if the United States unilaterally bombs Iran.  I think one more good knock at public opinion with America behaving unilaterally in terms of military action, this difficult, tenuous, frustrating, but incredibly important and prosperous alliance comes to an end," says Hulsman.

Still, some experts, including Dana Allin of the International Institute for Strategic Studies say there are signs that some European nations, like Britain and France, are close to adopting the U.S. position.  He points to French President Sarkozy's recent statement on Iran.

"He said it could come down to a choice between an Iranian bomb or bombing Iran.  And he said an attack against Iran would probably be catastrophic, but an Iranian nuclear bomb would also be unacceptable," says Allin.

President Sarkozy, some analysts note, is seeking a bolder global security role for Europe, which would remain strongly allied with the United States.

This story was first broadcast on the English news program,VOA News Now. For other Focus reports click here.

 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs