Former European Leaders Call for Improved Transatlantic Ties | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 16.06.2003
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Former European Leaders Call for Improved Transatlantic Ties

In an open letter published in "Le Monde" and "Corriere della Sera," 17 former European leaders, including ex-German chancellor Helmut Kohl, called on current leaders to renew the transatlantic partnership with the U.S.

U.S. President Bush and French President Jacques Chirac don't always see eye-to-eye on transatlantic issues

U.S. President Bush and French President Jacques Chirac don't always see eye-to-eye on transatlantic issues

Seventeen ex-leaders from across the European Union wrote an open letter this weekend to the current leaders of Europe calling for a rapid improvement in transatlantic relations. The list of signatories reads like a who’s who of European politics from the last 20 years: former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, Spain's ex-Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez and two former German chancellors – including Kohl – all backed the initiative.

The letter, which appeared simultaneously in the French newspaper "Le Monde" and the Italian newspaper "Corriere della Sera", stressed the importance of maintaining good ties between Europe and the United States. Under the title "Never Against America," the former heads of state said it was time to put aside the differences which arose in the wake of the U.S.-led war on Iraq.

Transatlantic Cooperation

Since the war in Iraq, "the unity of the western world has been openly questioned," the former leaders lamented and criticized the damaging tone of the current transatlantic debate which encompasses everything from the U.S. role in world affairs to trade and most-recently the dispute over the International Criminal Court.

Recalling their own experiences with U.S.-European relations, the signatories – including former German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher – complained that the Atlantic had grown wider than it ever was before. Europe and the United States should not isolate themselves and work against one another, they wrote.

"The renewal of transatlantic cooperation must be an immediate priority," the letter stated in its appeal to current EU leaders to drop their anti-American stance and work with their partner across the ocean. Neither the United States nor Europe is in a position to be the sole provider of security and economic growth, the leaders stressed.

"No important problem in the world can be solved without the joint engagement of the U.S. and Europe; and no problem is impossible when worked on together," they said.

U.S. Role in European Unification

The letter, which appears in the run-up to the European Union summit in Greece later this week, reaffirmed the importance the United States played in the creation of a free Europe.

"The existence of a unified Europe could not have been possible without the decisive role played by the U.S., who helped us conquer totalitarianism. Europeans will never forget this and they appreciate the support provided to the Union by America, in particular at this key moment in history."

In light of the upcoming summit, the 17 former leaders admonished the current heads of state that the EU "was not created in opposition to the United States and will work in close collaboration with the U.S. in the future."

The topic of U.S. – European relations is expected to rank high on the summit’s agenda after the question of the first draft for a European constitution, which some politicians hope will eventually lead to a United States of Europe.

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