EU / US relations - a fresh start?
Condi is in Paris today to make a speech which could mark a turning point in the EU's relationship with the Bush administration. She is expected to stress common objectives, and to make vague gestures to forget the tensions of the last couple of years. In turn, France in particular is looking increasingly keen to rebuild the bridges which were shattered by pointing out that the invasion of Iraq was illegal.
Part of the reason for the shift is the ongoing problems with Iran, which has announced that after today's meeting in Geneva, if an agreement is not reached over their nuclear programme they will withdraw from further talks.
The diplomatic efforts of the EU (principally Britain, France and Germany) to prevent another Middle Eastern conflict have thus far been sterling, so perhaps there is little wonder that Condi has been playing down talk of a fresh war of "pre-emptive defence". Especially as the British Foreign Secretary is on the record as saying he can see no way Britain would participate in such an attack and even drawn up a dossier stating clear reasons why such a move would be bloody stupid. The EU's foreign policy head honcho Javier Solana thinks pretty much the same.
What with President Bush himself due in Brussels on 22nd February (including - possibly - a stint giving a speech before the European Parliament), could this finally be the beginning of the end of the unfortunate and highly silly spat between the two powers on either side of the Atlantic? Yes, the supposed anti-Americanism (actually anti-Bushism) of many Europeans has hardly helped matters, but the frankly xenophobic anti-French attitude of the US ("Freedom fries" and the like) has only entrenched a Europe-wide dislike of everything Bush seems to stand for. This is not healthy either for Europe or America.
As has been amply proved over the last couple of years of poor relations, the EU and its individual member states don't really need America. As has been proved by the recent negotiations with Iran, America needs the EU (or, at least, some of its member states) - even if only as a respected and experienced diplomatic intermediary. Following yesterday's post, perhaps it really is time to start questioning the assumption that the US is the world's only superpower?
Of course, there's still that little matter of the constitution - and things are hardly looking rosy on that front - but the EU certainly seems genuinely to be trying to work in partnership with the US, and these efforts finally appear to be being reciprocated.
Iraq has already proved that America can't go it alone. A genuine partnership between the US and EU, however, could be an overwhelming force indeed.
Update: The various platitudes Condi has uttered on her European trip can be found here.