In his role as Assistant Secretary of State for European affairs, Kurt Volker, has been working to repair US/EU relations after four years of tension over Iraq and other issues. He has supported efforts by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to restore a climate of confidence between the two sides. In an interview with EuroNews Volker said he believes the forthcoming EU/US summit in Vienna will offer an opportunity to show how relations have been improving over the past year.
Welcome to EuroNews, what is the message the US administration will deliver to te EU in the next EU/US summit in Vienna?
I think the turning point was really president Bush5;s trip to Europe in February 2005, where he made clear that he wanted to work with Europe as a whole on a global strategic agenda based on shared values. So, we are really engaged in a robust way with Europe. What we see now, as we approach EU/US summit one year and half from that time is that we probably have the most robust, broadest in scope, the deepest in content US-EU relationship that we ever had.
Is the issue of Iraq still dividing some European Union member states from the United States?
We deal with the European Union, we deal with countries that are members of the EU, and their allies throughout Europe that are not in the EU yet7; and there5;s a great deal of consensus and support for security, democracy, stability in Iraq on behalf of the Iraqi people, and there isn’t any difference on the objective that we are trying to achieve. The issue of the past: how we got into Iraq is really not so relevant today as it is what we do to support this government. We in the US of course would like to withdraw our forces at some point, we want to see Iraq succeeds, it5;s going to need a stable and secure democracy to do that, but we don5;t want to have our troops there permanently and similarly other European countries are making adjustments: under prime minister Berlusconi Italy announced that was going to withdraw its forces over time, and prime minister Prodi has continued that process and also made clear that Italy would continue to support democracy and development within Iraq through reconstruction assistance with security forces adequate to provide protection for that effort.
Could the Iranian row be an opportunity for the USA and the EU to find a common position vis-à-vis other issues in the Middle East?
I would say that the issue is Iran5;s nuclear programme and not a wider regional programme. This is an effort by the Iranian regime to insist on ownership, access to full nuclear fuel cycle. Which, based on its past record, we believe reflects an intention to develop nuclear weapons programme and that5;s a view, an assessment that is shared just not by the USA, but also by the EU three. And we have taken this view forward through the AIEA, through the UN security council working with Russia and China and that is the focus of the effort.
Are you afraid that one day the EU could decide to negotiate with Hamas?
Right, there have been some people within Europe who have said that, there has not been a policy of the European Union, or of the states of the European Union7; instead there have been those who supported the policy as we define it within the quartet, which the EU, of course, is a critical part. And it is what we are now implementing, so there will always be debate in a free society, in Europe or in the United States. We have adopted the common line on how US and Europe are moving ahead to implement that together.
Do you think that the European Union and the United States could have a sort of joint action in relations with Russia?
I certainly hope so, and what I would say is, there is that which we all share – I believe – a common interest in a transparent, in a reliable and secure supply of energy between producers and consumers. This is something that we will develop through diversity of supplies, through not having a monopoly on supply, but rather diverse source of energy, diverse transmission routes of energy, relying on different types of energy, developing alternative fuels that sustain that part of the energy charter that the EU has developed, but I think that what the EU and the US can do together is to raise the profile of these issues to discuss them as a matter of high policy that we would like to see developing in this direction and then encourage industry to work in this direction and try to do so, cooperatively, with supplier countries like Russia.
What do you think of the enlargement ‘blues’ spreading inside the European Union in the last couple of years?
I would say that it5;s unfortunate that the enlargement debate now is seen as a negative because when you take a long term perspective the enlargement of the EU has been really an historic success. It has helped to advance freedom, democracy, market economy and security throughout half of Europe and without wasn5;t the case before. We don5;t believe this job is done in Europe, there are part of Europe where we would like to see democracy and security continued to be strengthened: the Balkans is the first in line, the first on our minds.