Saturday, February 19, 2005

More European Union - Less Europe

When President Bush comes to Brussels, it will be a visit different from previous visits by US Presidents in town.

In the days gone, it was all about the old alliance, centered on NATO and focused on the issues of a divided Europe.

After some rather rocky years, we are now seeing a new structure and pattern slowly emerging.

Now, it is about building a new partnership, centered on the European Union and focused on issues outside of Europe.

It's different in several respects. A partnership is different from an alliance. There is an implicit recognition that the dominating agendas on the different sides of the Atlantic are different, but that both the United States and the European Union need the support and help of each other for their respective agendas and on the wider global scene.

While the relationship with NATO has by no means been downgraded - it's critical also in far-away areas like Afghanistan - it's obvious that the relationship with the European Union has been upgraded.

And while in the past the agenda for the talks was focused on the different issues and challenges of the European continent, now it will be centered on issues outside of, although adjacent to Europe. The conflict-ridden Middle East, and the de-democratizing Russia, is the near abroad of Europe but also the core concerns of the United States.

A new partnership with more of the European Union and less of Europe - that's what we will now be seeing.