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US-EU relations

May 6, 2010

There's been some disquiet lately about the state of US-EU relations with Obama cancelling his participation at an upcoming EU-US summit. Still, the US ambassador to the EU says the relationship between the two is fine.

William Kennard
Ambassador Kennard says EU-US relations are on the right trackImage: DW

William E. Kennard is the US ambassador to the European Union

Deutsche Welle: In what way has the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty changed the US view toward Europe?

I think at the highest levels of our government the people who focus on this relationship, we're encouraged. We supported Lisbon because we want Europe to be more externally focused, particularly in foreign policy, and more decisive. We have interacted with the new leaders of Europe post-Lisbon like Mr. Van Rompuy and Mrs. Ashton and we're very encouraged by the early signs of European integration post-Lisbon.

So is Europe now speaking with one voice?

We never really expected Europe to be able to speak with one voice. Just as you wouldn't expect the United States to speak with one voice. We have three branches of government, they have different points of view…

But you have one president…

We do have one president, but as you well know, our one president often has to work with members of Congress. So it is an oversimplification to suggest that any government should only and always speak with just one voice.

What we see Lisbon as representing is yet another stage in the evolution of European integration. We think it's a positive step. We know it will take time to implement. And these implementations are sometimes frustrating because they are confusing, and you don't really know exactly how they are going to play out but overall we're quite encouraged.

Vice President Joe Biden was in Brussels this week, visiting and addressing the European Parliament, is this an indication that the United States is returning its focus toward Europe?

I don't think the focus ever left Europe. If you look at the broad range of issues that are important to the Obama administration, we are in partnership with Europe in virtually all of them whether it's Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, fighting terrorism around the world, fighting the ravages of climate change. There has been consistent engagement with Europe on these issues. So I strongly reject the notion that we have turned away or lost our focus. If anything, our focus has intensified.

William Kennard
The US and the EU agree on most of the key issues, says KennardImage: US Mission to EU

You said that there is consistent engagement, but still there are differences, notably on climate change. What needs to happen in the months leading to the summit in Cancun at the end of this year to bridge this gap, for Europe and the United States to head in one direction?

Well, again, I don't agree with the premise that we differ with Europe on climate change. We fundamentally share the same views that climate change is an existential threat to the planet and we have to deal with it. The devil is in the details. How quickly can we get there?

On our side, it's important for us to get legislation through Congress for us to be able to deal with a large piece of the solution to climate change which is emissions caps. We're working on that. It's going to take some time. But the fact that we haven't gotten there yet should not be interpreted that we don't have the resolve to work on this issue. Particularly our president. If our president didn't have to pass legislation in this area, climate change would be done, I have no illusions about that at all.

The discussion about stabilizing Europe, especially in light of the problems in Greece, has been dominated by Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel, so does Germany have a special role in Europe?

Germany is Europe's largest economy and that puts it in a very unique position in Europe. It's a strong economy in an era when other European economies are not as strong, so not only by size but also by circumstance Germany is clearly one of the major powers of Europe, that is unquestionable.

So is the United States dealing with Germany differently than with the other European states?

I don't think so. I think we recognize the importance of Germany and President Obama and Chancellor Merkel have developed a warm personal relationship which is very very helpful. And given the range of issues that we're both dealing with, it's really important that they have developed that personal relationship.

Interview: Christina Bergmann (DW Washington)
Editor: Rob Mudge