In a futuristic setting of mock satellites, arching beams of chrome and a moonlit snowscape, the Washington-based European Institute honored two of the world's most formidable players on both sides of the Atlantic at its millennium dinner Wednesday. Despite the weather, guests showed up at the domed Intelsat building to see a woman receive the Transatlantic Leadership Award for the first time.

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and the other winner--Javier Solana, secretary general of the Council of the European Union, who is also high representative for the EU's recent military initiative, the Common Foreign and Security Policy, and secretary general of the Western European Union--expressed their gratitude for the honor. They dueled amicably with pointed pleasantries and waxed idealistic about their vision for cooperation as annual trade across the Atlantic exceeds the $1 trillion mark, providing more than 14 million jobs, and as the EU seeks to become a more visible and stronger pillar of the transatlantic alliance.

Albright praised Solana as "Europe's new renaissance man" and teased him over his many titles: "secretary general, high representative, secretary general et cetera Solana," joking that unemployment in Europe may be because "Javier is holding every important job."

"Of course, disagreements arise on both sides of the pond," Albright said. "We are cousins, not clones. We have disputes over trade. We differ, at times, on sanctions. We must continue to work toward a better mutual understanding on national missile defense."

But she could not resist a dig at European unity: "Although Europe is increasingly integrated, it remains far from monolithic," she said. "As I expect High Representative Solana could attest, not even a whirling dervish could see eye to eye with all of Europe, all the time." But she stressed the need to stand together. Quoting W. B. Yeats, she said: "When the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passion, anarchy is loosed upon the world, and the center cannot hold. Our generation has no greater task than to see that the center does hold.

"To those inclined to build a new wall, this time not across Europe but rather the Atlantic, I say we have had enough of walls," she continued, warning that a forced choice between Europe or the United States would be "false" and "fatal."

Solana said the quest for a European security system is not intended to "duplicate" NATO. "We do not need it. At a moment of budgetary restraint, we cannot afford it," he said. "Our citizens now expect us to react to events. . . . They will not tolerate that Europe stands by rather than facing up to . . . conflicts," he added. "But in order to react, we need new tools." He vowed that "a larger and more influential Europe will continue to work closely with the United States," and he underlined the aim to have EU-led operations "but only where NATO as a whole is not engaged."

Reminding Albright that before his high-powered diplomatic life, he was a professor of physics, Solana said: "Motion is a relative concept. If something is moving faster than you, then you can go back, even if you are in place . . . We are trying to move faster than the landscape to continue to serve the transatlantic community." An expanded European Union will have "twice the population of your country and four times the population of Japan . . . We are going to raise the dividing lines that separated Europe for too many years. We are going to reconcile history and geography," he said. "Imagine," he observed, one of the future EU partners, "Turkey, has borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran."

EU's New Man in Washington

Joining European Institute President Jacqueline Grapin and Rep. Sam Gejdenson (D-Conn.), the ranking minority member of the House International Relations Committee, was Guenther Burghardt, the new EU ambassador to Washington, who took up his duties this week. A chess player and strategist who rose in the ranks of the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, Burghardt has had a pivotal role in the smooth reunification of Germany and as a link between former European Commission president Jacques Delors and former German chancellor Helmut Kohl.

In an interview Wednesday morning, Burghardt spoke of the EC's agenda for 2010 and a new European constitution that "will strengthen the constitutional process in order to make the decision-making process more efficient." Before enlargement, Europe must get its act together, he added. "Before it widens, it must deepen and get fit for enlargement. Otherwise the process will be derailed. With 13 new countries, the EU will almost be doubling its present size." The EU is a very confused notion, he said, and "it has to be able to take decisions that have democratic legitimacy."

"We are somewhere between the Articles of Confederation of 1781 and the final [drafting of the] Constitution of Philadelphia in 1787," he said. He played down fluctuations in the exchange rate of the euro: "For 320 million people in Euro-land, 11 states, a euro remains a euro. A dollar remains a dollar." He defended Europe's new security plan, saying it would be a partner that could "decide and mobilize" without duplicating. "People see the risks, not the opportunity. You can't change anything in politics without taking risks," he said.