European Affairs

Letter from the Publisher     Print Email
Jacqueline Grapin

The first decade of the twenty-first century presents an unprecedented challenge to the relationship between Europe and the United States. The post-World War II era, in which the two continents were bound by feelings of solidarity dating back to a common war-fighting experience, is over. For the new generation of leaders on both sides, it is necessary to reassess the rational grounds on which to base transatlantic cooperation. The Cold War, which froze the parties in preestablished positions, has also passed. More than ever, our leaders' initiatives and mistakes make dramatic differences. The road map to our future is not obvious.


The Transatlantic Challenge

In this context, information exchange will be key to our ability to understand each other on both sides of the Ocean. As technology accelerates our communication, our cultural variety and differences in approaching the same issues remain immense. Although Europeans and Americans tend to believe they are very similar, they are less so than they think.

They do, however, share a lot, in particular a value system which they cherish. They can achieve much together, but cannot do much alone. To reach its full potential, the transatlantic relationship will require considerable efforts by both Europeans and Americans to adjust to each other.

European integration is still in its infancy, and the definition of Europe remains open. The enlargement of the European Union is a priority, as the new President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, explains in the first issue of this magazine. Institutional reform is on the agenda of the European Union for this first year of the new century. Although the introduction of the euro took place in the last year of the twentieth century, the monetary union remains in flux as long as the United Kingdom and several other EU member states have not joined. Its long-term impact on the dollar is yet to be seen. Europe already speaks with one voice in trade negotiations, as was demonstrated at the WTO meeting in Seattle, although it does not always make itself heard effectively. The relationship to multilateral organizations and the approach to global issues, such as environment and labor standards, must be clarified between Europe and the United States.

The European Common Foreign and Security Policy is still in its preliminary stage. Creating mixed feelings in Washington are the twin responsibilities given to Javier Solana, the former Secretary General of NATO, as both Secretary General of the European Council of Ministers and Secretary General of the Western European Union, as it becomes the defense arm of the European Union. Although nobody can forecast how the transatlantic relationship will absorb these changes, one can predict that the coordination of policies in Europe and with the US will depend on the ability of both sides to promote and implement an in-depth reform of the transatlantic alliance's political, military and industrial tools.

Both Europeans and Americans Must Listen to Each Other

One should remember that superiority is useful only as long as it is possible to enjoy its benefits. The lessons of the Vietnam War should not be forgotten. What is the use of superpower when it becomes impossible for American citizens to travel abroad without governmental warnings? What is the use of sophisticated, highly technological weapons when it becomes impossible or pointless to use them? What would be the point of European integration which would lead to a conflicting posture vis-ˆ-vis the most powerful nation in the world? The United States and Europe are compelled to work together, and their ultimate prosperity will depend in large part upon their ability to adjust to each other and to the rest of the world.

The European Institute would like to contribute to this new era by providing the readers of European Affairs with a view of the discussions taking place in Washington between European and American leaders. Its goal is to disseminate a balanced, timely, and anticipatory picture of the issues to be dealt with in Europe and in the United States. Both Europeans and Americans must listen to each other. We hope that reactions from readers will prompt us and other organizations to take innovative approaches to the new issues that will face us.

 

This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number I, Issue number I in the Winter of 2000.