US Ambassador: EU and US positions on Iraq are not far apart

Prior to the EU-US summit, US Ambassador
Rockwell Schnabel shares his views on Turkey, the defence
industry, Iraq and co-operation on terrorism in an exclusive
interview with EURACTIV.

 

 

The EU-US Summit will take place on 25-26
June. Issues at stake include terrorism, Iraq,
the wider Mediterranean and Middle East, weapons
of mass destruction, HIV/AIDS and the
transatlantic economic relationship. (see 
EURACTIV, 23 June 2004

). On the eve of the summit euractiv.com has been
talking to US Ambassador to the EU Mr Rockwell
Schnabel. 

How will the nature of US-EU relations
change now that the EU has grown to 25 nations?
How has this fact affected your preparations and
expectations for the Summit?

 

A free and united Europe is
good not only for Europeans themselves, but for
America and the rest of the world. The new
members states, as I have seen in my visits, have
strong, competitive and attractive markets. They
should help to make the EU as a whole more
competitive in a global economy. 

Many of the things that make
enlargement good for the EU are the same things
that make it good for us. U.S. businesses benefit
from a larger single market, with more consistent
regulation. US travelers and exporters benefit
from easier movement of goods and people across
the continent. And US security is enhanced by
improvements in the justice and home affairs
area. 

We thus look forward to the
first US-EU Summit with an EU of twenty-five. We
believe that the perspectives and experience
contributed by an expanded EU membership will
exert a positive influence – one that will be
good for Europe and good for America. 

Prior to the war in Iraq a number of EU
countries, Germany, France for example, argued
the case for multilateralism and acting through
the UN-system. In the light of the challenges
that have since arisen from the occupation of
Iraq, how do you presently assess the relevance
of that approach? 

The U.S. and European
positions are not as far apart as the press likes
to portray. The United States has always
supported the UN and an effective multilateral
approach to international affairs. Events in Iraq
have not affected that position, and we look
forward to continuing to work with the UN and our
friends and allies to help the Iraqi people build
a stable, prosperous and free society. 

The U.S. agrees with the EU
that multilateralism must be effective. That is
why we are working closely with EU member states
in the UN to achieve common ends and to realize a
better world for all. 

Some analysts have stated that the Iraq
war and occupation runs counter to the
objectives of the ‘war on terrorism’
because it has given terrorists a new rallying
cause and a clear focal point. What is your
reaction to this problem? 

I would say Iraq has become a
magnet for terrorism, but not an incubator. The
terrorism we see in Iraq today is being carried
out by murderous outsiders and desperate
Baathists who have declared war on a free and
democratic Iraq. 

As we hand over sovereignty to
the Iraqi people at the end of this month, we
will remain steadfast and united in supporting
their efforts to face these terrorists down – by
force and with the persistent logic of freedom
and democracy – so that ordinary Iraqis, who
suffered so much under the brutal regime of
Saddam Hussein, can have the same freedoms and
opportunities that we enjoy in Europe and
America. 

In a recent interview with
euractiv.com, Turkey’s ambassador to the
EU, Mr. Oguz Demiralp stated that Turkey as
future member of the EU, could serve as a
strong shield against waves of instability,
which could come from unstable neighbouring
regions. Do you agree with this appraisal?
Should it not be enough assurance for the EU,
that Turkey is already a trusted European
member of NATO? 

I don’t see Turkey so much
as a shield, but as a bridge between the Muslim
and Western worlds. As you probably know, the
United States has consistently and strongly
supported Turkey’s European aspirations,
including EU membership, for over a decade. This
support is deep and bipartisan. 

We believe Turkey is making
dramatic and important reforms, which will
benefit the Turkish people and advance
Turkey’s long-standing strategic objective of
joining with Europe. On the political level,
Turkey has shown again and again its commitment
to bold democratic reform, human rights, and the
values which define members of the European
Union. With its dynamic Mediterranean economy and
large market, both as a producer and as a
consumer of EU goods and services, Turkey would
offer much to the EU as a member. 

Turkey’s continued
evolution toward Europe and its commitment to
meeting the Copenhagen criteria demonstrate for
the continent and the entire world that Islam and
democracy are fully compatible. That is why we
appreciated the recent European Commission’s
assessments recognizing Turkey’s progress to
date toward fulfilling the criteria for opening
EU accession talks. 

How do you assess the EU’s
contribution to the global ‘war on
terrorism’? Have you seen a stronger EU
commitment since the 11 March attacks in
Madrid?

 

The tragic attacks in Madrid
on March 11 had a profound impact in all European
capitals, indeed throughout the world. But the EU
was not divided or demoralized as the terrorists
had hoped. Instead, European leaders came
together on March 25 to renew their solidarity
and commitment in the fight against
terrorism. 

The Declaration they issued on
March 25 illustrated that renewed commitment by
setting ambitious new deadlines for
implementation of agreed counter-terrorism
measures. Now we are all committed to putting
these declarations into action. We hope to build
on that commitment at the US-EU summit by
agreeing on practical steps forward to prevent
access by terrorists to financing, to enhance law
enforcement and judicial cooperation, and to
strengthen the security of international
transport and trade. 

How important do you think the recently
agreed future European Defence Agency will be
for the evolution of the EU defence industry?
What impact will it have for US defence
contractors? Do you see the agency as a factor
that will in time sharpen competition in the
defence procurement market? 

The United States strongly
supports European efforts to improve defense and
security capabilities. The new European Defense
Agency, (EDA) is clearly an ambitious project. We
hope it will fulfill its stated tasks of
improving capabilities and interoperability among
our European allies. 

At the same time, we would be
opposed to an EDA which was used as a
protectionist shield to exclude highly
competitive arms manufacturers — including US
companies — from competing fairly in EU markets.
I remain optimistic that the EDA can make a
useful contribution to capability
improvement.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe
Contribute