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Germany

Bridging the Transatlantic Gap

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer says Berlin and Washington should work harder to strengthen their partnership and understand each others’ views.

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Hot off criticism of US President George W. Bush for vilifying Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil", the German Foreign Minister has called for that closer communication between Germany and the United States.

Joschka Fischer's comments are the latest indication of strained relations, despite a host of common goals between the United States and Europe, that may be further tested should the US-led "war on terror" spread to Iraq or beyond.

"The way people feel, the general mood on either side of the Atlantic is not the same, and it is important to perceive, understand and also to communicate these different moods and expectations," Fischer said during celebrations in Berlin to mark the 50th anniversary of the Fullbright Commission that fosters German-American academic exchanges.

In light of the events since September 11, the close partnership between the two countries "remains of paramount importance for Germany", Fischer said.

"Rarely have the strong emotional bonds between Americans and Germans been more tangible than on September 14 last year at the Brandenburg Gate, three days after the horrific attacks that shook the whole world."

However, Fischer said, it is important for Americans to recognize that the world does not always see things in the same light. Referring to William Fullbright’s goal of intercultural empathy, Fischer added that Americans need to learn to "see the world as others see it" and to allow for the possibility that others may see the world differently.

"Now is a good time to reflect upon what unites Germans and Americans and what sets us apart," Fischer suggested.

A new partnership

"It is up to Europe to discover and develop its own strength so that it can be a true partner for America," Fischer said. And to do this Europe needs to find its own ground politically, economically and militarily. Only a strong and vigorous Europe can stand equally beside the United States.

Fischer praised the current state of transatlantic relations, but emphasized that more still needed to be done to strengthen European-American dialogue. "Investing in transatlantic networks is supremely important at a time when new threats make it imperative that we reassess long-standing ties and policies and order them anew."

Many European nations including Germany were alarmed by Bush’s "axis of evil" statement. They were concerned that the US could unilaterally decide to attack other countries such as Iraq without even seeking the approval of Europe. In a statement last month Fischer warned Bush not to treat his European allies as "satellite states."

Given the current situation and the increasing likelihood of military action against Iraq, Fischer and the other European allies will most certainly be called upon by the United States to demonstrate their commitment to the transatlantic partnership.

At the end of his speech for the Fullbright celebrations, Fischer encouraged the next generation of Germans and Americans to work together in facing the challenges of globalization.

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