I believe it is time for new EU approach to transatlantic relations.  That new approach  can only come about if the EU itself works out, as 27 countries together,  what we  want for ourselves, and then  identify  how we together  can harness our collective weight to  achieve that through the  transatlantic relationship, or through  such other means as we decide.
The transatlantic relationship is a means to an end, not an end in itself. That is how the US sees transatlantic relationship, and it is how we  should see it too.
The norms for EU foreign policy making are clear, and binding. The Lisbon Treaty, in article 21,   obliges the EU to follow a policy based on   “democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights …., respect for human dignity…. and respect  for the  UN charter and international law “.
The EU is a  treaty based organisation, so while   EU  foreign and  security policy is  not reviewable by  the  ECJ, it has to  be consistent with these  words in article 21 of  the treaty, and these  treaty obligations  supercede other considerations including the preferences of individual member states..
The Treaty also obliges the European Council, in Article  22, to identify  “the strategic interests and  objectives” of the Union . This means that the  European Council is  obliged by the  treaty  to  work out ,among its  27 members,  what are the strategic interests and objectives  of the  European  Union as a whole in  regard to issues like

  • military action in Afghanistan,
  • the  nature and  dimensions of a Palestinian state,
  • a fair regime to  govern the non proliferation of and the eventual elimination of nuclear  weapons and
  • security and energy relations with Russia.


I believe that the necessary new approach to transatlantic relations can only come about after, not before, we have  worked  out   robust common agreements  binding all  27 of us  on these  strategic issues. This will not be an easy task.  Some of these issues have yet to be discussed in a really profound way in the European Council.  But that is task that  is imposed on the  Council by the Treaty.
In short,  the work  on  EU  foreign  policy must first  be  done in Europe,  not in  Washington,  Beijing or  Moscow. Of course that is not going to be easy. We have  decided  that  policy on this issue  will have  to  settled by unanimity, and  the more members  one has, the more  difficult  does it become to  achieve unanimity.  That is an unavoidable mathematical fact. But is in recognition of the difficulty of reaching unanimity that the Lisbon Treaty has introduced new arrangements and given the Union new fulltime leadership of a  kind  that could not be provided by  Presidencies that rotated  every  six months.
Having represented the European Union for  five years in Washington, I have concluded that the  United States would  welcome a  hardheaded  relationship with the European Union. I believe the United States understands that it will disagree with the European Union from time to time. It may not place the same emphasis as we do on some of the norms we are obliged to follow by  article  21 of our  treaty. Inevitably, US interests and  EU interests will  diverge occasionally.  When this happens, I believe will welcome a honest debate followed by a realistic compromise.
In contrast, I do not believe that the United States is particularly interested in a relationship with the EU that is based on drafting long declarations or on launching new processes and institutions. That consumes a lot of bureaucratic time, but does not deliver much that is concrete.  Nor is the United States  impressed by  EU member states  competing  with one  another  to  show  which of them  has the more special relationship with it,  who can get the  earliest meeting with new US office holders, and who gets the longest meetings in  the White House.
Speech by John Bruton , Former  EU Ambassador to  the  United States, former Taoiseach, and  former  vice President of  the European Peoples  Party  at a  meeting  at  the  EPP  Congress in  Bonn, Germany  at 9am  on Wednesday  9th December
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