America, Europe and Global Security: Convergent Goals, Divergent Capacities
With the election of President Barak Obama, Ambassador Vasillis Kaskarelis argued that a greater degree of convergence and cooperation on international issues is now possible between the European Union and the US, which calls for a more comprehensive and operational EU-US partnership. Kaskarelis asserted that the EU- US relationship is more crucial now than ever. As natural allies, they are each other's most obvious political and trade partners, united by common values and threats.
In order to tackle the many critical global issues facing the EU and US, Ambassador Kaskarelis said, the EU needs to be more coherent and assertive, and must learn to speak with one voice. In assessing the capacity of the EU to agree on foreign policy goals, he noted that it is startling that the US has been better able to build cooperative relationships with individual EU member states than the 27 member states have been able to achieve among themselves. In part, this is a failure of the EU's institutional structure which makes such cooperation difficult. Kaskarelis praised the recently ratified Lisbon Treaty, which facilitates cooperation through the institutionalization of a President of the European Council and the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy. It is hoped that through better institutional and political integration, the EU will be better equipped to act as a reliable and authoritative partner for the US, especially as the US strives to protect its commitments around the world. Steps have already been taken to work towards finding pragmatic solutions that will result in a stronger and more united EU foreign policy.
NATO has long played a role as a framework for the transatlantic relationship. While Kaskarelis supports NATO's crucial role, he suggested that direct talks between the US and EU will produce better results than through the heavily institutionalized framework of NATO. He recognized that lingering frustrations between the EU and US stem from the EU's inability to support military capabilities that could contribute to burden-sharing among international actors. While the US has a comprehensive approach to crisis management and has strengthened its civilian capabilities, the Europeans are having trouble developing "their military arsenal in a way that will make the EU a more credible actor on the international scene," he said. Nevertheless, Kaskarelis asserted that the EU is uniquely equipped as an ideal strategic partner, given that it currently allocates $36 billion to foreign aid and is stepping up its engagement in European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) missions and operations. The EU also contributes to the global security framework as has been demonstrated in Aceh (Indonesia), the Middle East and in Africa.
By overcoming its past limitations, and by shedding formalistic and rigid definitions, the EU can become a more effective actor in the international sphere on the basis of "sustained and results-oriented coordination," Kaskarelis concluded. Effective EU and US cooperation will help bring other major players on board, which will enable them to work as a bloc within international institutions. In this way, the EU and the US can continue to make a positive global difference.