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Common Goals Request a New Transatlantic Partnership
Common Goals Request a New Transatlantic Partnership
Speech delivered by Michèle Alliot-Marie, French Minister of Defense, at the 42nd Munich Conference on Security Policy. Munich, (Bavaria), February 4, 2006. Source: 2006 Munich Conference on Security Policy.
Michèle Alliot-Marie (right) and Prof.Dr. Horst Teltschik - Photo by Kai Mörk
    Madam Chancellor, General Secretaries, Ministers, Ambassadors, Generals, Ladies & Gentlemen,

One year ago, many observers were still wondering about the European and American "continental drift". This was a remainder of the Iraqi crisis, of course. But, more fundamentally, there was a legitimate question about the result of increasing demographic, economic, cultural gaps between the two sides of the Atlantic; and this could bring about an inexorable distance. The year 2005 has witnessed a few spectacular moments, like President Bush's visit to Brussels, the failure of the referendums on the European Constitution, the humanitarian disasters in Louisiana and Pakistan, the hopes and uncertainties in the Middle East, the sudden rise of crude oil prices, the Iranian crisis, etc… The year 2005 has reinforced the strategic analyses that highlighted the rise of China, India and Brazil, the Russian ambitions, the international competition about energy and raw materials, the development of political Islam, the risks linked to terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the African crises, social protest in South America…

The international environment changes very quickly. Globalization induces opportunities and frustrations on a global scale. Our previous references fade away. Everyone wonders about new risks and new balances. How can one defend his interests and values? Are the traditional tools still efficient or should new ones be developed? The transatlantic relation is no exception to this self-examination. Where is the European project heading? Does the Atlantic Alliance still make sense? On both sides of the Atlantic, one knows what brings us together: common values, close interdependence. But, as we are all aware, a couple only survives if it has a common plan and if it is built on a true partnership. It is the same for the relationship between Europe and the United States: what is our shared goal? Can we develop a balanced relationship?
Michéle Alliot-Marie and Dr. Franz-Josef Jung - Photo by Sebastian Zwez
  • Our common plan

Our countries are democracies based on the rule of law, individual liberty and a social pact. And on the international scene we defend what we think are universal values. But we are aware of the discrepancies in terms of culture, development and history which leave marks on countries and people. Diversity is richness and must be safeguarded. Our vision can therefore not be uniformity, but a search for goals that are in line with our common values. Which are they?

First, preservation of an unquestioned international lawfulness. We all need an international rule that is recognized; otherwise it is the law of the jungle. For all of us, the UN is the only holder of international legitimacy. But today, its organization and its actions are criticized. Therefore, it is urgent to reach an agreement on the composition of the Security Council and on how the implementation of its resolutions can be reinforced. If we don't do it, the Council's representativeness will be challenged and we will lay open to "double standard" criticism. The credibility of the very basis of any common action is then at stake.

Counter-terrorism still remains a priority. We have to admit that it will take time. And we are not shielded from new large-scale attempts or from the use of weapons of mass destruction. This implies reinforced cooperation in the fields of intelligence, police, justice and control of financial flows. We will be efficient only if we convince our partners outside the Western world of the beneficial effects of such an international cooperation. To reach that goal, we must also tackle the reasons for terrorism, which hide a feeling of injustice against unacceptable political or economic situations.

Counter-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is another priority. Because these weapons can be used with a terrorist goal. Because countries like Iran or North Korea violating their international commitments may damage the whole non-proliferation system. A failure on our part would entail a risk to destabilize the international society. We cannot take such a risk. Despite the difficulties, we must show our solidarity and determination.

Settling regional crises is also a sine qua non of our security. Africa witnesses the expansion of "no-go areas" that become shelters for terrorists and traffickers of all kinds. The Arab-Muslim world is confronted with an identity crisis with very deep roots which makes it reject any imposed external model. Asia's traditional balance is shattered by the upsurge of new power poles. Latin America is searching for its own specific way. We must take these hopes and frustrations into account. We must also help solve sometimes long-standing crises which stop any harmonious development.

A certain number of transnational issues will only be solved at a global level. The issues dealing with environment, water, pandemic diseases or illegal migrations cannot be solved by a few states. It is a common challenge that must be answered by the richest states, in Europe and America, with generosity; otherwise our children's future is mortgaged.

  • These common goals request a new transatlantic partnership

In order to implement this shared plan, we must adapt our resources so as to take the best advantage of our respective assets. As we said: uniformity is not our goal and diversity may go together with efficiency. Provided that we make sure our actions are coherent. What can we rely on?

Most of us, Europeans and Americans, are members of the Atlantic Alliance. This military alliance enabled us to overcome the East-West confrontation. It remains a key-guarantee for our common security. Today, it enables us to promote stability in Afghanistan and Kosovo together. We must see these priority operations through and carry on with the transformation process to be even more reactive. However, let us make sure we do not spread ourselves too much, in areas where the competence of other organizations is more obvious. Let us not waste the money that is necessary to improve our equipment. Let us not spend our energy recreating methods of action with no real justification.

We may also rely on a European Union which is more and more able to assume its responsibilities. Today, Europe is the first economic power in the world. It is cut out to be a major power pole in the new international environment. Indeed, it is faced with institutional difficulties, and its economic growth could be stronger. But it remains a fantastic plan to the eyes of the regions of the world, as it is both a movement from the bottom of history and a model of peaceful cooperation. The development of its defense capacities is a must so as to enable it to be an autonomous player, and to strengthen the European pillar of the Atlantic Alliance.

This durability challenge of the transatlantic link precisely depends on our ability to define a new partnership between the European Union and North America. Each of our pillars has specific trumps: particular links with this or that region, specific capacities in civil-military fields, experience adapted to specific environments ...

Last year, in February, the Europeans and the Americans agreed upon the necessity of a strong Europe, indispensable to reinforcing an efficient cooperation between the European Union and the United States. Now, we must implement this dialogue on the major stakes of common interest. We must think together of the implications by the rise of new power poles in the world, the counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation assets, the settlement of regional crises and transnational issues. The key word is complementarily in our actions.
In terms of defense, we must make the specificities of NATO operations and EU operations clearer. Today, NATO is better equipped to handle heavy and long-lasting operations, when the United States are involved. ESPD is better adapted to "lightning" operations and civil-military actions. One should not think in terms of competition between organizations; one should rather provide the necessary flexibility in the procedures in order to allow the optimal use of capabilities in all circumstances.

In fact we must be aware that we will probably be confronted to numerous crises in the years to come. The problem will therefore not come from a competition between institutions, but from a lack of resources to settle these problems if we don't make the necessary efforts.

It is the role of each of us to assume our responsibilities. And the primary responsibility of a state is to ensure the safety of its citizens. When faced with a crisis, it is therefore necessary to reinforce the resources dedicated to defense.

Today's meeting must help convey this message to our public opinions. It must also reflect our determination to help our values and common interests prevail in the new international configuration. Due to their capacities, the Europeans and the Americans have a particular responsibility in giving a definition of a more stable and fairer international order. I am deeply convinced that the European Union and North America must establish a new strategic partnership as soon as possible. Better balanced and respectful of diversities, it could bring a lot to the world.
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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).