MR. SCHNABEL ON US/EU RELATIONS.
Belgium has three US Ambassadors. Indeed, both NATO HQ and the EU Commission – say, Europes government – have their premises in Brussels, and maintaining diplomatic contacts with and the Belgian state and these entities has been considered from the beginning as too daunting a task to be entrusted to one ambassador. That is why there are:
a.) a US Ambassador to Belgium
This is Mr. Tom C. Korologos, who was sworn in as Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium on June 30, 2004 by the Chief Justice of the United States, Mr. Rehnquist. He is the 29th Ambassador of the United States to Belgium.
Mr. Korologos has ample experience as a senior staff member in the White House and as an assistant to two US Presidents, besides being an accomplished businessman. Iraq keeps coming back to us, since his most recent assignment was in that country, where he served under L. Paul Bremer as a senior counsellor to the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority).
b.) a US Ambassador to NATO.
Mr. Nicholas Burns is the United States Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a post he holds since August 8, 2001. As such, he heads the combined State-Defense Department U.S. Mission to NATO, which promotes U.S. interests on the full range of Alliance issues, including NATO’s peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo, counter-terrorism, missile defense, relations with Russia and Partners, and NATO’s relations with the European Union.
Under President George H.W. Bush, he was Director for Soviet Affairs and specialized on economic issues. Under President Clinton, he also served for five years (1990-1995) on the National Security Staff at the White House. In 1997 he became Ambassador to Greece, a post he held until 2001.
c.) a US Ambassador to the European Union.
The US’s Third Ambassador in Belgium is, imho, the most important one, and his function will only gain importance in the years ahead. We are talking about Mr. Rockwell Schnabel, a successful former businessman who supported Ronald Reagan to become governor of California and who subsequently served Reagan as President as well as his successor George H.W. Bush. In 2000 the current President asked Mr. Schnabel to become US Ambassador to the EU, on which he agreed.
I intend to give you now the gist of an interview with Mr. Schnabel as it was published in a Belgian newspaper. The Ambassador being of Dutch descent, this interview took place in that language, but knowing how proficient you all are in the Talk of the Land of Wooden Shoes I preferred to present the summary in English. Here goes:
Currently, Mr. Schnabels Office is frantically preparing President Bush’s visit to Brussels on February 21-23. As Mr. Schnabel stated, the emphasis will be on Europe, on the European Union. "Naturally" the President will also go to NATO because that is the Transatlantic Organization America is part of. And he will also meet the Belgian authorities. But the focal point of the visit will be the European institutions: the Council, the Commission, the Presidency currently under Luxemburgs aegis.
Mr. Schnabel said that the EU gains importance with every passing day or hour. A lot of issues once considered improbable have over the past decades been realised: the internal market and a unified currency e.g., furthermore there is the upcoming Constitution for which President Bush, according to the Ambassador, has shown intense interest. He also asserts that, whereas earlier (American) generations doubted the European project, now they realize that the Europe of 25 nations is a fact, and that decisionmaking once considered the realm of national authorities is shifting towards Brussels.
When Mr. Schnabel then asserts that the US thinks this is considered in the US a positive development, I guess he’s trying to soothe the interviewer and the readers. Asked to back up this claim, he arguments that if the US understands well how Europe functions and if it can work with the EU in a partnership, it will be easier to cooperate with one entitiy instead of with 25 countries. "Together we account for 60% of the world economy. This means we can address global problems like poverty and trade issues together (e.g. in the Doha talks, MFBB), and we can let ourselves be heard toether in the WTO."
The ambassador then reflects on a number of what I would call – in the context of a powerful US/EU alliance – details. Contemporary details, such as the role of American and European industry in stabilizing political tensions. I certainly don’t follow Mr. Schabel when he says that what the EU has done to avoid armed conlflicts (is he talking about he Balkan?) is "fabulous". When confronted with the interviewers' assertion "that George W. Bush is seen in Europe as the first American president who worked actively against European integration", the Ambassador responded that this perception is based on several decisions on which the Europeans disagreed: Iraq, Kyoto, steeel tariffs etc…
I found the most interesting quote from the interview the one with which it ended: upon asked whether an evermore stronger and unified Europe will not lead to a more competitive and antagonistic relationship, Mr. Schabel answered that if Europe is strong and powerful, that automatically bodes well for the US. "There will be competition, but the US have never been afraid of that". He then goes on saying that American companies are used to a merciless competition, and that they are not scared they couldn’t handle European companies. But they ask a level playing field. They want to be able to compete in Europe on the same basis as their European counterparts. Americans think that a strong competition is good, because it is an incentive to do better still. "The more prosperous and competitive Europe becomes, the better it is for us". The Ambassador then pointed out that the level playing field works in both directions, citing Airbus’s example which in a contract for the US Air Force is a contender for Boeing. Final words: "And possibly even the President flies soon in a helicopter not built in the US. Bush does not distrust Europe, of good relations with his European allies he as made one of his four priorites for his second term."
I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Schnabel. As those of you who have followed this blog over the past year know, I am very much in favour of a strong Europe as one nation state modelled on the USA. In my view this implies a superstate with key responsibilities shifted away from the national to the supranational level. In other words, Europe becoming one political, economic, monetary entity with own defense capabilities.
But… I'd equally glad like to see it as an ally of the United States. It is easy to discern in today’s world the trends which will lead to tomorrow’s realities. Everywhere on the planet bloc-forming is on the rise. We see it in South America, where key countries are getting geared together in an economic union, the Mercosur, just as happened in Europe fifty years ago with the ECCS. We see it in the Pacific, where Japan has ambitions to lead a union opposing the emerging superpower China, which is a bloc of its own. Taking all these developments together, it simply isn’t logical to assume – and expect – that Europe should stall in its tracks now, somewhere halfway the grand unification project, like an Empire State Building stopped at 250 meters with elevator shafts leading to open air. As it is, I think that in the multipolarized world that is certainly coming, the United States of America and the United States of Europe will automatically gravitate towards each other, given their unique relationship. Indeed, no other two blocs on this planet are more alike and share a set of common values and a history and culture so entwined: neither a Latin-American blog vs., say, India, nor China vs. an Asian bloc under Japan’s leadership. In tomorrow’s world, so I hope, all the differences of the past can be forgotten and both partners will find themselves in a Grand Transatlantic Alliance.