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former German foreign minister on Europe-US relations

Wednesday 17 December, 2008

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs organized this event America and Europe in the Global Age featuring Joschka Fischer, former Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor of Germany, whose family almost immigrated to Chicago from Hungary before WW II.  He couldn’t imagine he’d see the end of the cold war in his lifetime, & Frankfurt (am Main) lies 90 km from what could have been Ground 0 for WW III, yet here we are.  Now most of the world is involved in the political process, the exception being China, where the majority (outside of the big cities) still fall outside of the political & economic processes.  Regardless, the center of gravity has moved eastward.  Both sides of the Atlantic have made mistakes in Europe-US relations;  Europe has not restructured & Bush has been devastating.  Europe woke up early (5-6 a.m. their time) to hear America’s election results.  Europe is not unified & can’t be disunited with the US.  Russia, an emerging Middle Eastern war, & terrorism are more threats to Europe than the US.  Turkey plays a big role & we need to keep it on track to join the EU;  London agrees while Paris & Berlin do not.  Enlargement leads to stability, but Europe needs stronger institutions to implement stronger economic governance.  Europe needs the US presence in Europe, but the US-Europe relationship is not promising right now.  In the future, the new administration must determine a strategic interest in a unified Europe. Truman & Eisenhower pushed European unification & that should be revived.  We need closer cooperation between congress & the European Parliment, but Washington is put off by a new European President every 6 months.  Obama got it right in Berlin by saying, “We discuss, decide, & fight together.”  We didn’t invent a political strategy in Afghanistan.  We need to discuss the Pakistani nightmare scenario (nuclear capability) with Europe.  We need to build regional consensus with Iran & Syria on how to end the war in Iraq.  This impacts Israel & Palestine, both of which are split, so we need to engage them too.    Europe should form a common gas market to deal with Russia.  A grid which connects east & west would help.  Germany has had vested interests in Russia since the 60’s.  Nicaragua has been the only ally to recognize Russia’s interest in Georgia.  We need to keep a door open for the Ukraine to join the EU to keep a bridge to Russia.  Finally we may need to wave goodbye to the G8 & welcome a G-something else.

Q&A-success in Pakistan depends on relations with India & how Kashmir is resolved.  We can’t give Russia veto power over missile defenses in Poland against Iran.  We need to work together to avoid Russia taking over Ukraine.  Although some foreign ministers are worried about coming under the thumb of another strong Secretary of State, Hillary Rodam Clinton should be fine.

I’d comment here, but the focus is much more on politics than economics or business, so I’ll just let this stand as is.

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