Five Questions, Four Agendas Germany's Top Parties Debate Foreign Policy Agenda

Part 2: The Transatlantic Relationship


The Transatlantic Relationship

Junior partner or equal partner? What has Europe got to offer the United States -- and can it deliver?

Erler: Europe and the United States need each other to effectively meet new global challenges. The growth in the relative importance of a number of newly industrialized countries has not changed this. By way of illustration, transatlantic economic relations generate revenue of around four trillion US dollars and are responsible for over 14 million jobs, primarily in the high-wage sector. The volume of transatlantic direct investments is significantly higher than that, flowing from both sides, into the newly industrialized countries, including China. Since 2000, US direct investment in Germany has been approximately three times higher than investment in China. We need more, not less transatlantic cooperation. The European Union's ability to promote stability, Europe's pioneering role in the field of environmental policy, as well as European proposals for improved supervision of the capital markets, are just a few examples of the important role Europe plays in the search for global solutions.

von Klaeden: The basis of shared values, the depth of exchange between our societies, and our high levels of economic interdependence and political consultation make the United States the most important non-European ally of Germany and Europe. Through its commitment to NATO and the associated security guarantees, the United States has made a vital contribution to the consolidation of peace and stability in Europe since the end of World War II. The United States is still an indispensable superpower and will remain so for a long time to come, despite the emergence of new powers. We Europeans must play a greater part in helping shape a better world order. Such efforts must include the development of policy options that match our interests, responsibilities and potential as well as incorporate the rational, judicious, and sustainable use of political, developmental, economic and -- as a last resort -- military instruments. Europe can and must continue to display self-assurance in its transatlantic relations, not as a counterweight to the United States, but as a partner. The aim is to establish as much common ground as possible within a partnership. In a transatlantic relationship built on mutual trust, differences of opinion can still occur, but they must be addressed in a spirit of friendship and with the desire to find common solutions.

Transatlantic partnership is important to both sides for the entirely pragmatic reason that the partners' strengths complement each other. The only chance to effectively address key global challenges is through joint action by Europeans and Americans.

Trittin: Neither European Commission President Manuel Barroso nor Chancellor Merkel are the equal of Barack Obama. Obama is taking large strides to grapple with a variety of problems -- the financial and economic crisis, climate change, disarmament, a new relationship with the Muslim world, withdrawal from Iraq, new strategies for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the closing of Guantanamo, mediation of the Middle East conflict. The tasks and projects are enormous. Added to all this is his ambitious economic and domestic policy agenda. In contrast to Obama, Barroso and Merkel appear to be sleepwalking through this time of crisis.

But I believe that Barack Obama knows what Europeans are able to contribute. In contrast to George W. Bush, Obama favors engagement, multilateralism and more diplomacy. And for such approaches Europeans are important partners, whether it be in dealing with Russia, fostering understanding with emerging nations, solving the financial and economic crisis, nuclear disarmament, searching for a solution to the conflict over Iran's nuclear program, or stabilizing Afghanistan. This also means that the European Union has to take on greater responsibility. In Afghanistan, for example, we promised to take on the enormous task of training Afghan police forces -- and then did not deliver. In failing like this we threaten the success of the whole international effort in Afghanistan.

As to the matter of a junior partner, with 490 million citizens the European Union is the world's most important economic region, ahead of the United States. The United States relies on the European Union for climate protection, renewable energy, and trade policy. The EU must assume a leadership role and not shy away from its duty. The climate conference in Copenhagen at the end of this year is a perfect example of Europe dodging responsibility.

On the other hand, the world no longer spins on the axis of the "transatlantic relationship." The international importance of states such as China, India, and Brazil has increased enormously. The United States and the European Union must together attempt to create a more representative international system that gives these countries greater responsibility.

Europe has much to offer -- but only if Europeans can agree to assume responsibility. And unfortunately this has not always been the case. The famous telephone number that Henry Kissinger desired is still not in place, even if Obama might prefer an e-mail address.

Westerwelle: For many people the United States has always represented freedom, prosperity, and justice. For this reason many Germans looked to it during the difficult era of the Cold War and afterward -- including Germans on the other side of the Iron Curtain, where the US always exerted an enormous appeal. Over the last eight years this image has been fractured by the many external and internal policy mistakes of the previous US administration. By electing Barack Obama as their president, Americans have emphatically illustrated their capacity for political change. It is important to bear in mind that what distinguishes Obama from his predecessor is more the means than the ends -- dialogue rather than isolation, integration rather than containment, cooperation rather than unilateralism, the power of law rather than the law of the powerful.

A glance at the international political issues we are facing -- Afghanistan, Iran, proliferation, free trade instead of protectionism, climate change, HIV/AIDS, and many others -- makes it clear that there are no two regions in the world that share more values and interests with one another than Europe and the United States. Experience has shown that neither partner can solve these problems alone. For this reason it is in all our interests that the nations of the West stand together when facing the challenges of the 21st century. We want and need a close alliance with United States.

The role of Germany and Europe in relation to the United States has unarguably undergone a fundamental change over the last twenty years. As a "frontline state" in the Cold War, Germany's role in US foreign policy was very different from today. My party regards the current German government's failure to seize the opportunity to influence American foreign-policy reorientation in the wake of the presidential election as an enormous failure of judgment. The German government wasted its chance to present its own ideas and proposals and thus to influence the reorientation of US geostrategy. One reason was that the enthusiasm for Barack Obama in Germany was nowhere less evident than in the German government.

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