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Looking Beyond the U.S.-EU Summit: Future Challenges
Kurt Volker, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, American Council on Germany, and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik
Washington, DC, April 30, 2007



As prepared.

Thank you, Jack. Wonderful to see you. And before I begin, let me congratulate you on all you do to strengthen understanding between the United States and Germany. The German EU and G8 Presidencies have given our governments a lot of work, but you seized this as an opportunity to work in the public sphere on many of the same issues governments are tackling, building more understanding and common ground that brings our governments closer together. So thank you.

I also want to thank you and the American Council on Germany for inviting me here. You have had among your guest speakers some of the most hallowed names in transatlantic relations, including every Chancellor of the Federal Republic, save one. So I am especially honored to be your guest.

As all of you know, today we have a big event in this town, the annual U.S.-EU Summit. Chancellor Merkel is here, speaking not just for Germany but on behalf of 27 nations, as are Jose Manuel Barroso, Javier Solana, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and Benita Ferraro-Waldner, and many others. We are delighted to have them in Washington, and wish them well.

The airwaves are full of what the main issues of today's Summit will be, so I won't take up too much of your time by talking at great length about them here today. There is, for example, the visionary proposal Mrs. Merkel has made to create a framework for Transatlantic Economic integration, which we hope will be implemented over multiple EU Presidencies, and reduce regulatory obstacles to building a genuine transatlantic economy.

We will sign the Air Transport agreement, which will be a boon to transatlantic travelers, allowing airlines to fly direct between any U.S. city, and any EU city.

We will stress our concern about climate change, and our commitment to slowing, stopping, and reversing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. We identify a number of areas where joint efforts by the U.S. and EU can help develop new technologies and encourage its adoption in the marketplace, aimed at breaking the link between economic activity and greenhouse gas emissions.

And, of course, the U.S. and EU are strategic partners dealing with global challenges, and we will discuss many of the areas where U.S. and EU efforts are contributing to the advancement of democracy, human rights and peace around the world - Afghanistan, Kosovo, the Middle East, Cuba and Sudan, to name a few.

We have such a rich and productive agenda at this Summit for one simple reason: Europe and the United States are societies based on the same shared values of freedom, democracy, market economy, human rights, rule of law, and so on. One can speak of a single transatlantic zone of freedom, democracy, prosperity, and stability.

And as two of the principal pillars of democratic society in the transatlantic community, and indeed the world, we face common challenges, and share a common responsibility to support and advance these human values in the world.

As if we needed proof of this, a poll issued last Friday by the Bertelsmann Foundation makes clear just to what degree there's an identity of views on this issue on both shores of the Atlantic.

Vast majorities on both sides want transatlantic cooperation on issues from democracy promotion and proliferation prevention to climate change and energy security. This is not the first poll to show such consistently high numbers, by any means. But it is refreshing to see that earlier polls that showed the same thing are again substantiated.

Refreshing because this isn't often what you get in the media. Any press report on Euro-American relations will emphasize differences between Europe and the United States. Well, Bertelsmann has given us some fresh data, worth remembering: A large majority in Germany - 73 percent - want to see both sides working together to prevent countries like Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The figure is 74 percent in Spain, 79 percent in Finland, and 81 percent in the United States.

When it comes to promoting democracy worldwide, 84 percent of Germans want to work together with America. That's an even higher rate than Americans-72 percent of us called for transatlantic cooperation in this field. Spain also has a very high rate, 85 percent.

On the important issue of energy security, the Germans, the Spaniards and the Americans have statistically identical views on the need for transatlantic cooperation - 80, 83, and 81 percent respectively.

Overall, across eight European countries, only an average of 4 percent said they did not wish to see closer cooperation between the United States and Europe.

Small wonder that Bertelsmann concluded that "There is a clear mandate among the citizens of Europe and the USA for close transatlantic cooperation. Both parties see the other side as a vitally important partner."

And America is acting on this mandate. We want to work together with Europe, not just on those few remaining challenges within the Euroatlantic areas, but on what we can do together to support democratic human development and security around the world.

So that is our common, transatlantic community, and our commitment to facing global challenges together. I'd like to spend the balance of my time looking further ahead, and discussing some of long-term challenges the United States and Europe are going to have to face.

I'll mention three:

 • the phenomenon of violent extremism that distorts Islam and exploits young people;
 • the need for our nations to do a much better job at having an integrated approach to supporting security and development in the world; and
 • the real-world challenge of how we increase our energy independence, and break the link between energy consumption to power our economies, and the production of greenhouse gases.

First is the phenomenon of an anti-democratic ideology of violent extremism - an ideology that distorts Islam, and exploits young people all over the world. This issue is supremely important and it is essential to the long-term safety and well-being of our own societies and the world. It is essential that our democratic, transatlantic community speak with a common voice, and address this challenge together.

Concerning violent extremism, allow me to make a few observations.

First, as well all know from 9/11, 3/11, or 7/7 - or from what we see in the Taliban, in the extremists in Iraq, or other terrorist movements - this is a serious and deadly challenge. It represents a deliberate effort by a radical minority to kill civilians - women, the young, the elderly, no matter what faith - to intimidate, to create fear, and to impose the rule of an undemocratic ideology upon societies.

Second, while there have been attacks in the U.S. and Europe, by far the greatest number of victims of this violence have been Moslems, outside of Europe and outside the United States.

Third, this ideology of violence does not represent the wishes of the majority of people throughout the Broader Middle East, or in Moslem communities in Europe or America - and indeed it in has very little in reality to do with Islam. True, those who advocate such violence claim to do so in the name of Islam. But neither in the teachings of Islam, nor in the view of the vast majority of Moslems throughout the world, is it accepted, justified, or supported to engage in wanton murder of women, children, the elderly and other innocents.

Fourth, acts of violence are by definition destructive forces. Those who commit them seek to destroy societies, making it easier to impose the rule of a radical minority. As a transatlantic community, we should support those who want to build up societies - to protect people, to build economies and jobs and wealth, and to create peace and security.

And we in the United States, and in our transatlantic community, need to be crystal clear that we support freedom of religion, and support Moslem communities at home, and in the world.

Finally, we should be clear that in our foreign policies, the United States and Europe are motivated precisely by these universal human values which are essential to building strong societies: freedom, democracy, human rights, market economic development, the rule of law. We need to be clear about our own motives, speak with a common voice as a democratic community, and demonstrate that these values guide our actions.

Now this brings me to my second long-term challenge. It is easy to say that we will support those who want to build societies. But when those people are themselves being attacked and thwarted by a heavily armed, brutal minority - through bombings, killings, mortars, and more - it is clear that there is a role for the use of force in fighting back, and in protecting people.

Today, we heard news of fighting in the Herat province in Afghanistan, in which a number of insurgents were killed. Reports say that some civilians may also have been killed, and if so, that is tragic. We must do our utmost to prevent civilian casualties. But when the Taliban indoctrinate a 12-year old boy and videotape him beheading a bound hostage, or insurgents in Iraq blow up dozens of people simply doing their shopping in a market-place, we have to recognize the nature of the violent extremists we face, and fact that the appropriate use of security forces is in such circumstances is necessary.

Security is a condition for human development. They go hand in hand. So we cannot kid ourselves that soft power alone will do. Or that we can build a school in Afghanistan, but not be willing to use military force to defeat insurgents whose very aim is to destroy that school.

In our transatlantic community, we need to find a better way of integrating military and civilian efforts. Military force alone cannot solve anything. But neither can we build security and development without it.

We need to overcome the stigma that many in Europe attach to the use of force, and see it as integral to our efforts to support human development. And because it is integral on the ground, we need to figure out how to integrate our efforts - between military and civilian, among regional, national, and international efforts, among international actors, such as NATO, the EU, the UN, the World Bank, and more.

The first two challenges I mentioned are related - violent extremism, and the need to counter it through better integration of our efforts. The third is related as well, though not in the obvious ways. That is the complex, intertwined set of questions on energy, climate, and democracy. Let me set out the challenge this way:

In the modern world, economic health, development, and well-being depend on the consumption of energy. To the extent this energy comes from fossil fuels, it produces carbon emissions, which contribute to global warming. And as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us, the consequences of global warming could be severe.

Fossil fuels are not evenly distributed in the world. And to the extent that there is a monopoly on supply, or a near monopoly, this creates a dependency. And that, in turn, affects the freedom, independence of nations.

The money that nations pay for energy supplies goes, quite naturally, to those who provide them. Yet those providers can use those funds for whatever they wish. It can fuel economic diversification, human development, and global prosperity and stability. Or it can support radical extremist teaching, armed movements that mix politics and violence and subvert democratic governments, and authoritarian regimes that pressure their neighbors.

As global energy demand grows, nations pay higher prices and, increasingly, compete for supplies. And in the case of weak, non-democratic states, that influx of energy money and influence can often reinforce destructive trends, rather than overcome them.

This is, indeed, a thorny mess of problems. This gets talked about in Europe mainly as climate change. But it is much more complex and a great deal more riding on it: the well-being of our people; the trends in democracy and human development in the world; the independence and freedom of action of our own nations and many others; global peace and security; as well as global climate change.

A great missed opportunity over the past seven years has been the division of our transatlantic community, and indeed the world, over the means of tackling the challenge of climate change. By arguing over whether the Kyoto Protocol is the right means of pursuing a common goal, we have perpetuated a divided international community, and obscured the bigger issues at stake.

Unwinding this complex web of challenges will not be easy. But a central element, perhaps the central element, will be diversifying the kinds of energy we use, and the way we use it. Since economic activity produces greenhouse gas emissions, the only way to reduce emissions is either to reduce economic activity - not an option for any of us, and least of all the developing world, which needs growth to alleviate poverty, fight disease, and provide education, health, and stability - or to change the ways economies work. To break the link between economic activity and the production of greenhouse gases.

European publics like to hear grand targets - a 20 percent cut in emissions, or a prohibition on allowing the global temperature to rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius. But targets are just that - targets. They still beg the question of how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

And the only viable answer to that question is to change the way our economies work - in other words, to see the introduction of new technologies in the market place that use less energy; that use different, non-carbon creating energy; that reduce the carbon output of the energy we use; or that recapture carbon. But it is all about developing, and supporting the market introduction of new technologies.

And on this, the U.S. is leading the world, and we are working hand-in-hand with Europe. Today's US-EU Summit reflects this. I recently gave a speech on this subject in Berlin, and I can refer you to that for more of the current policy details.

But keeping the focus on looking ahead: our goal is to overcome the divisions created in the past over the means of tackling emissions, and instead seek to unite the international community around the common goal of reducing them, and welcoming all efforts, by developed and developing countries alike to achieve this common goal.

And if we address this issue through new technologies, we will also alleviate the problems of energy independence, security of supply, and the impact or energy cash has when it flows around the world. There are other things we should do as well, such as diversify markets supplies of fossil fuels even today. But for the very the long-term, our goal has to be re-engineering the way our economies work. We can do this if we work together, and we are determined to do so.

These are just three of the longer term challenges the transatlantic community must face in the years ahead - violent extremism, integrating our own crisis management efforts, and dealing with energy security and climate change. I'd be delighted to discussed these - and any other issues - in the Q and A.

You've been a terrific audience and I am honored to be here. Thank you very much.

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Updated: June 2008