Europe and US drifting apart

Tensions between the European Union and the United States are more tense today than at any other time in their history. And we are not talking about Iraq here.

    EU and US foreign policy makers disagree on increasing number of issues

    Iran's nuclear programme has been the most notable problem, but there are many other sticking points likely to generate “very candid discussions” in the coming months.
    US State Secretary Colin Powell exposed the main split with Europe at the start of his trip to Brussels on Tuesday.

    He said the EU view that Iran had been honest with the world’s nuclear watchdog were far too optimistic.
    Nuclear issue

    The issue is set to come to a head on Thursday when the International Atomic Energy Agency governing board meets in Vienna to consider Tehran's alleged attempts to develop nuclear weapons.
    Powell claims an IAEA report proved Iran had been seeking to develop atomic weapons. The assertion was not contained in the report and is apparently not shared in Europe.
    However, there are plenty of other new and old issues that are likely to surface in meetings with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and other European foreign ministers sooner rather than later.

    European defence

    European defence policy will
    generate serious US interest

    An additional source for friction come to the fore on Tuesday, with Brussels’ decision to set up a new defence agency next year.

    The stated aim is to improve military co-operation and boost European capabilities.

    But the new Armaments and Research Agency, now approved by EU defence ministers, has not met with approval in Washington.
    The US government takes issue with the proposal from four countries - France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg - for a new EU headquarters for operational planning which is seen as a threat to Nato's role.

    Middle East policy

    The US administration has also been irritated by continuing EU willingness to talk to Palestinian President Yasir Arafat.

    Although there has been no official criticism of the US policy of isolating the president, individual foreign ministers from the 15-member bloc have not been shy at voicing opposition.

    German Foreign Minister Joschka Fisher launched a scathing criticism of US foreign policy on the eve of his latest visit to the Middle East.

    "Nobody can admit that others should decide who is the legitimate representative. While Arafat is in office, nobody has the right to ignore him.”


    The International Criminal Court
    began work this November

    The Bush administration’s objection to the new International Criminal Court shows no sign of abating any time soon either, and anger is rising around the EU.

    Brussels has condemned the apparent willingness of Washington to undermine all international peacekeeping if that is what it takes to curtail the tribunal’s jurisdiction.
    Washington believes American officials will be hounded by politically motivated attempts to put its officials on trial, though the issue has been overshadowed for the moment due to an intense focus on Iraq and Iran policies.

    But the US sent what a warning to the EU this summer not to take a common stand against US agreements with individual nations, some of which are Eastern European nations waiting to join the bloc.


    Not all issues are so outwardly political, though they threaten to become so.
    Genetically modified food and labelling law is likely to remain a sore point for months to come.

    Euro eco-warriors such as Jose
    Bove enjoy wide support on GM

    US Ambassador to the EU Richard Morningstar has already condemned Brussels for its approach to GM products, warning that the dispute would dwarf other transatlantic disputes like bananas and hormone-treated beef.

    Morningstar claimed the resistance to GMO products was based on "scare stories, politics and demagoguery," which Washington says has completely taken over the EU regulatory process.

    Steel remains contentious too. European trade officials on Wednesday dismissed a potential compromise from US manufacturers that would reduce contentious steel tariffs, saying they remain illegal and ought to be removed.

    But with European Union trade spokeswoman, Arancha Gonzalez, telling journalists the bloc is waiting for the complete elimination of the steel tariffs “which are clearly illegal” – transatlantic strained relations look to remain.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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