(Washington, DC--October 27, 2003) A group of European politicians and journalists, visiting the U.S. as part of the State Department’s International Visitor Program, spoke last week of the differences that currently exist between the U.S. and the countries of the European Union and emphasized that dialogue is a vital aspect of maintaining a healthy partnership.
Mario Schmidt of German television station NDR/ARD said it is important for Europeans to feel that they have some influence on the U.S. government’s policies. He stated that the partnership should allow for different opinions without putting the partnership itself in danger. While he acknowledged the fact that the diversity of voices from different states in the E.U. makes it difficult to sort out a single European viewpoint, he emphasized that "partnership does not mean [a] briefing by one side." Konrad Schuller of "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" added that it matters to Europeans to have partners with whom they can agree with on "both aims and means." Schmidt observed a tendency of the U.S. government to claim a "9/11 license" that allows the U.S. to "do whatever it wants, if it thinks it is necessary." Schuller stated that the U.S. should realize that Europe will sometimes not agree with the U.S. and will have to "go it alone." He said however, that the past should not be repeatedly debated and that the common interest now is that "Iraq be pacified."
Greek Member of Parliament Stavros Kalafatis stressed that common interests do indeed exist between the U.S. and the E.U. and that "all we have to do is to work on our relations." Kalafatis elaborated on the long history of Europe dealing with terrorism as well as the recent collaboration with the U.S. in the fight against terrorism. He cited the fact that the first Convention on Terrorism was adopted by the Council of Europe in 1977. Since that time, numerous other counterterrorism measures have been taken and the U.S. and Europe have achieved a high degree of cooperation since 2001, including agreements between Europol and Eurojust, intelligence sharing, bioterrorism, and maritime and aviation security.
Schmidt characterized the situation overall as "not that bad" and said that business relations have been unaffected by disagreements in other areas. He said that what will determine relations in the future is whether there is better dialogue and Europe feels that it has some influence in decision-making "when the next big international issue arises."
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