By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
PARIS, Nov. 3 -- European governments drew up a road map for relations with the new U.S. president Monday in their maiden attempt to present a concerted policy to guide dealings with the United States.
The outline, formalized by the 27 European Union foreign ministers at a meeting in Marseille, set out in broad terms Europe's top priorities for cooperation with the incoming U.S. administration. They laid out a unified platform in a domain traditionally dominated by nation-to-nation relationships.
The ministers steered clear of taking sides in the U.S. election, but their priorities seemed geared to the collaborative style of foreign policy advocated by Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate. The often unilateral decisions of the Bush administration during the past eight years, which were largely supported by Obama's Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, frequently grated on European leaders and led to a cooling in traditionally warm relations with the United States.
The list of priorities included reinforcing multinational diplomacy in the United Nations, paying more attention to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and improving coordination between military and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, according to French officials. In addition, they said, the European initiative called for intensified diplomatic contacts with Russia, now projecting a sense of renewed power and prominence on the world stage, to prevent confrontation with the United States and Europe.
Implicit in the appeal was a veiled suggestion that the Bush administration, focused on the struggle against terrorism and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has not paid sufficient attention to changes in Moscow over the past several years, and has concentrated too heavily on a military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.
Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in a separate but related appeal, said the new U.S. president must show leadership and willingness to cooperate with other nations in resolving the global financial crisis.
Brown, speaking at an oil conference in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, credited the Bush administration with decisive leadership in the coordinated interest rate cuts announced in recent days by the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and other national central banks. But much more remains to be done, he said, and officials in Washington should be working closely with Europeans and others to make sure the crisis is contained.
"In the coming weeks and months, the whole world will want to work closely with America on a shared common agenda to bring growth and jobs back to our economies," Brown said, according to the Associated Press.
The E.U. road map emerged from two months of contacts undertaken on France's initiative. It will be formally communicated to the State Department for consideration by the new U.S. president and his foreign policy team in the hope it can help frame transatlantic relations, according to Anne Boillon, a spokeswoman for French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. Draft versions already have been made available to the Bush administration, she added, but the ultimate target is the administration that will result from Tuesday's election.
Pending its transmission to the new U.S. government, the document will remain confidential, Boillon said. But she and other French officials described its contents in general, and an E.U. announcement said it was aimed at fostering "a balanced and closer relationship with the United States."
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who holds the European Union's rotating presidency, has pursued a particularly vigorous European foreign policy over the past six months, with the road map for U.S. relations as the latest in a series of initiatives.
He and Kouchner intervened on behalf of the European Union in August, for instance, to bring about a cease-fire in the Georgia-Russia war. Since the financial crisis erupted in September, Sarkozy has pushed hard for a coordinated European response; he has convoked a summit conference Friday in Brussels to forge a common stand for the 20-nation financial summit scheduled Nov. 15 in Washington, a gathering called by President Bush in response to Sarkozy's urging.