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Europe

Opinion: Transatlantic Rapprochement Following EU-U.S. Summit

Europe and the United States are slowly smoothing out their troubled relations originating from the Iraq conflict. But there are still enough problems between the two to spark future political disagreements.

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United they stand: U.S. President George W. Bush with European Commission President Romano Prodi to his right and Prime Minister Costas Simitis of Greece.

Who would have imagined? The shattered transatlantic bond between the United States and the European Union appears to be on its way out of its crisis. The two sides may not be moving towards a hot love affair. But a partnership of convenience is certain to result.


The first EU-U.S. summit after the Iraq war brought Europeans and Americans together once again and proved their ability to face up to common problems with combined powers. Good cooperation in the fight against terrorism plays a significant role here.

New agreements in this sector not only stipulate joint investigative teams to uncover terrorist criminals, but also clarify the extradition of suspected terrorists to the United States. In the case of the latter, the Europeans do not need to fear that the suspects will be sentenced to death or tried before a military tribunal once they are on American soil.

This agreement shows that both sides are capable of cooperating while respectfully recognizing the legal tradition of the other, together with its ethical-moral implications.

Working together for peace

The common efforts to secure peace in the Middle East follow a similar path. Though progression in this conflict is moving more slowly than in the fight against terrorism, new rays of hope have appeared on the horizon. These involve efforts within the group know as the Middle East Quartet - made up of the United States, the EU, the United Nations and Russia - as well as the personal commitment by U.S. President George W. Bush.

Now, it is essential to withdraw the financial basis for the Hamas movement's activities, to press Israel to reduce its settlements in the West Bank and to use the signalized ceasefire by Palestinian groups for a consequential implementation of the U.S. and EU-backed "road map" to peace.

Surprisingly, the transatlantic views on Iran have conformed to each other relatively quickly. The nuclear program of a nation blessed with rich energy sources is, in fact, cause for worry on all sides. But a military intervention by the U.S. similar to that in Iraq is currently not under discussion. And the EU can use its good economic relations to Iran to increase pressure on the country's Ayatollahs. Moving forward despite differences


Despite political synergies, the problems of transatlantic cooperation remain on the agenda even after this summit. Europe's ban on importing genetically-modified food continues to be a thorn in Washington's side. And Europe views the U.S.'s continuous refusal to work with the International Criminal Court as somewhat paranoid. Here, the devil lies in the detail.

But even if this transatlantic bond represents a partnership of convenience, the willingness to solve problems is growing to such a degree that it can reinstate lost trust. In this sense, the summit in Washington has taken Europe and the United States a good step forward.

Daniel Scheschkewitz is Deutsche Welle's Washington correspondent.

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