What do Europeans want from the United States? As President Bush prepares for his first trip to Europe since his re-election – a five-day swing through Belgium, Germany and Slovakia – the Op-Ed page asked a variety of Europeans to name the single most important thing Mr. Bush could do to reinvigorate trans-Atlantic relations (The New York Times, 20/02/05):
No New Wars
PRESIDENT BUSH needs Europe. He knows it himself by now. He started a war in defiance of international law and didn’t pay any attention to the Europeans, and with that he split the continent into a “new” (good) Europe and an “old” (bad) one.
Now he ought to convince Europeans that he is not planning another war (for example against Syria or Iran), while at the same time professing to think highly of the opinion of European nations and to value them. The freedom that Mr. Bush proclaimed in his inauguration speech cannot be achieved and maintained without the help of the Europeans. First and foremost he has to convince Europe that he is not planning a new war, which shouldn’t be difficult.
After all, his troops can only with the greatest difficulty halfway pacify Iraq.
Elfriede Jelinek won the 2004 Nobel Prize in Literature. This article was translated by Martin Chalmers from the German.
Give a Little
Europe is securing its ports, steeling itself for an American charm offensive. Over the coming days, President Bush and his hosts will shake hands, slap backs, make toasts. But if the United States and Europe really want to repair their relationship, they should look to another continent: Africa.
Both America and Europe have a stake in preventing African states from crumbling. Both have an interest in ending the poverty that breeds violence. And both feel a moral obligation to stop the hemorrhaging of life.
Aren’t those shared interests obvious? Not lately. We lament – but secretly indulge – our differences. Points of tension are points of pride. Snottiness is the new patriotism.
So what can Mr. Bush do? Well, he can clear up some confusion about America’s basic beliefs. Americans are overtly devout. And yet Europeans, who inhabit a more secular world, give more per capita than Americans to what the Bible calls “the least of these” – the world’s poor. The United States is in 22nd place, last in the class of donor nations. (Add private philanthropy and it’s up to 15th.) Europeans see the discrepancy, and they smell hypocrisy.
President Bush should try to help Europeans understand American generosity. He should remind people that the United States has gotten more AIDS drugs to more Africans than anyone else. But he should also underscore that Americans want to ensure that the money is spent responsibly.
To Europeans, this “tough love” approach seems cruel. But there is compassion at its core. Mr. Bush can demonstrate this by putting more financial muscle behind his push for “accountability.” If he does, Europeans will follow suit. They will see talking tough on poverty as a perfect rhyme for talking tough on terrorism. If Europe and America work together, a breakthrough for Africa is within reach. Then, other obstacles will fall away – as will the misconceptions that blind us to one another.
Bono, a singer for the band U2, is the founder of DATA, which campaigns against AIDS and poverty in Africa.
I grew up under communism in the former Czechoslovakia. We were taught that Ronald Reagan was a servant of the military-industrial complex, a man who wanted war and scorned ordinary people. Paradoxically, most Europeans shared this view, not just those of us who lived behind the Iron Curtain. Had leaders in Moscow, Prague, Paris and Madrid been asked at the time what Mr. Reagan could do to reinvigorate relations between the United States and Europe, they probably would all have had the same answer: he should abandon his dream of American hegemony and start to consider Europe, including the Soviet Union, as an equal partner.
But Mr. Reagan didn’t seek their advice, and communism eventually collapsed. Mr. Reagan reinvigorated relations between the United States and Europe by staying true to his convictions.
Now I live in democratic Slovakia, which is a member of NATO and the European Union. Since the Velvet Revolution in 1989, almost everything in our lives has changed. Our part of Europe is no longer under occupation; my friends can travel freely; our children can study at Harvard, Oxford and the Sorbonne; the secret police are not almighty; and a market economy has replaced socialism.
But one thing didn’t change: the majority of people in Europe still consider the American president a servant of the military-industrial complex who wants war and scorns ordinary people. So to the question of what George Bush can do to reinvigorate relations between the United States and Europe, I offer the same answer that worked for Ronald Reagan 20 years ago: stay true to your convictions and act accordingly. The salons of postmodern Europe will eventually appreciate your wisdom.
Stefan Hrib is the editor in chief of the Slovak weekly Tyzden.
PRESIDENT BUSH would cheer up the Europeans enormously if he indicated that he was willing to discuss the future of the dollar. The United States is the only major country proclaiming itself indifferent to its currency’s value. In countries running persistent current account deficits, governments normally – indeed must – reduce domestic consumption. But so far, the United States has relied on other countries to adjust their economies to profligate American spending – either by revaluing their currencies at the expense of their export trade as the Europeans have done, or by accumulating depreciating dollar i.o.u.’s without limit as the Chinese are doing.
But this cannot and should not last. The truth is that a country’s exchange rate is too important a price to be left to market forces. Unless currency adjustments are made subject to rules or agreements, there will be currency wars, as happened in the 1930’s.
Unilateralism is no more acceptable in currency matters than in foreign policy. The United States needs to start acting as the leader of an alliance, not as a rogue elephant, and treat the health of the Atlantic alliance as a core security interest, not as an optional extra.
Robert Skidelsky,a professor of political economy at the University of Warwick, is the author, most recently,of “John Maynard Keynes: Fighting for Freedom, 1937-1946.”
A U.N. Seat for Europe
THE most dramatic gesture President Bush could make during his visit to Europe is this: Call for a United Nations Security Council that has a single European seat.
It’s a no-brainer, Mr. President. It would get more attention for your basic message – that Washington is now willing to work with Europe as a whole – than anything else you could possibly say. It would also make you look more European than the Europeans; no mean feat in itself. As you know, the British and the French have one seat each (because they won World War II, too, and have nuclear arms), but have not been amenable to suggestions that they should step down in favor of a seat that rotates among all European member states. (Which is why the Germans now want one as well.) It would even make you look more United Nations-friendly than the Europeans. After all, they’ve been complaining that the United States doesn’t take the United Nations seriously enough. This tells them they’re the ones holding up reform by not being able to take turns.
Here’s a neat final twist: last weekend Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany nearly torpedoed your secretary of state’s efforts at rapprochement when he suggested that a panel of experts should re-examine the architecture of our collective institutions, including NATO. If you call for a single European seat at the United Nations, you’ll be taking him at his word. And preventing a German seat.
Constanze Stelzenmüller is an editor for Die Zeit.
All for One
HERE is what President Bush should say upon arriving in Brussels:
“Dear European friends: from today on my administration will no longer address your noble and ancient countries one by one. From now on, we will address the European Union only as a whole. We will not talk sweetly to London and Rome, sourly to Paris and Madrid, and sweetly and sourly to Berlin and Warsaw, depending on your differing stances on terrorism and Iraq. On Iraq, Iran, China, North Korea, Kyoto and United Nations reform, I will deal with the Union only as a single organism. Europe wants to be a superpower? Then here I am, ready to deal with a superpower. On any given issue – from schools in Kabul to settlements in the West Bank – you must first reach a consensus, after which the United States will discuss and negotiate with an open heart and mind. Once we have agreed, the world will understand clearly the full weight and will of the democratic Atlantic.”
Gianni Riotta is themanaging editor of Corriere della Sera.
NATO for Everyone
CHANCELLOR GERHARD SCHRÖDER of Germany said this month that NATO needed to be renovated to better cope with today’s challenges. This important message was poorly delivered, and United States leaders predictably reacted negatively.
It is true, however, that NATO satisfies neither the Europeans nor the Americans. Washington fears that any NATO military operation would be micromanaged by political authorities, as in the Kosovo war. The Europeans feel that NATO military decisions are made by an American general under the direct control of Washington. These positions are irreconcilable. We must make NATO into an institution where burdens and responsibilities are divided more evenly. This would oblige Europeans to do more for their own security, a development that Americans would applaud.
The method proposed by Chancellor Schröder, establishing a committee of former statesmen, is very much in keeping with NATO’s traditions. President Bush should use his appearance in Brussels to call for the creation of a small group of influential and independent personalities to write a new trans-Atlantic charter. Names? I hereby nominate James Baker, the former American secretary of state; Douglas Hurd, the former British foreign secretary; Alain Juppé, the former French prime minister; and Volker Rühe, the former German defense minister.
Guillaume Parmentier is director of the French Center on the United States at the French Institute for International Relations.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE’S recent visit to the Old Continent paved the way for a better future between Europe and the United States. Europe’s leaders have tried to minimize their differences out of an awareness that re-establishing better relations is a necessity. Beyond the official discourse and public smiles, however, a tension is palpable.
President Bush should listen to the European street; he should prick up his ears and hear what the presidents and prime ministers cannot or will not say in public. The European people will remind him that his administration has deeply tarnished America’s image: its unilateralism, warmaking and lack of respect for human rights.
Mr. Bush must allow the European governments to be in tune with their people’s aspirations. Europe’s leaders cannot afford politically to align themselves with America solely under the evocative banners of “war on terrorism” or “Western security.” Their nations are experiencing deep identity crises and need to reconcile the new world with their traditional political ideals and ethical values. Mr. Bush needs to determine the kind of world he wants to build with Europe, and give up his obsession with the phantoms he considers our common foes.
Tariq Ramadan is the author of “Western Muslims and the Future of Islam.”