Expatica news

EU urges next US president to cooperate

28 October 2008

BRUSSELS – "You’re either with us or against us." The words of US President George W Bush on 6 November 2001 came to be seen in Europe as embodying everything that is wrong with the United States’ current foreign policy.

While the European Union has 27 member states with widely differing attitudes on everything from nuclear power to defence spending, they all want the same thing from the next US president – cooperation.

Challenges such as the financial crisis, climate change and terrorism have "no respect for national frontiers. America and Europe have no choice but to face them together", the head of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, wrote in a letter addressed to the undecided future president of the world’s biggest power on 24 September.

On 4 November, US voters will elect a new president. Just hours before polls open, EU foreign ministers in the French port of Marseille will write a joint letter to Bush’s successor detailing how they want the EU-US relationship to develop.

Diplomats in Brussels told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) that their key wish is for the US to abandon Bush’s unilateral foreign policy and work with Europe to address the world’s biggest problems.

"The question is how much isolation will be applied in the US after the elections. We’re saying that we would like close ties, so it would not be the best option for them to close up and focus on internal problems", an official from a new EU member state said.

Diplomats highlight five key areas where they would like to see more cooperation: financial stability, climate change, the reform of international organisations, trade and foreign policy.

World leaders will hold talks on the world financial crisis on 15 November in Washington as they search for a joint response.

But EU diplomats also want the US to commit to compulsory cuts in its greenhouse gas emissions, something Bush long opposed.

"The EU and the US must show leadership on this. We have a moral obligation to offer real, deep cuts … not least because we are responsible for the bulk of past emissions", Barroso wrote.

They want the US to return to the negotiating table in World Trade Organisation talks which collapsed in July over a disagreement between the US and India over agricultural subsidies.

Some EU leaders want the US to agree to the reform and, more crucially, to the enlargement of key international groups such as the United Nations Security Council and Group of 8 (G8).

"We cannot wait any longer to enlarge the Security Council. We cannot wait any longer to change the G8 into a G14 with the entry of China, India, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil", French President Nicolas Sarkozy told the UN in September.

Finally, EU ministers are likely to press for more consultation in key foreign policy hot spots such as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel-Palestine and Georgia.

Those are all places in which EU officials frequently accused Bush of ignoring international – and European – advice in favour of unilateral direct action.

But while EU diplomats are largely in agreement over what they should ask from the White House’s next resident, they are still split over how the bloc should react if – as seems likely – the new US president answers with a wish list of his own.

Alternating US administrations, both Democrat and Republican, long accused Europe of lacking a united voice and a willingness to commit troops and money to the world’s trouble spots.

Given the EU’s lack of internal unity on many of the key issues on which it is set to ask for US cooperation – such as farm subsidies and climate change – Europe’s main problem is not to decide what it wants the US to do, but to agree on what it can offer in return.

[Dpa / Expatica]