Jack Straw: Europe and America must work together

From a speech delivered by the Foreign Secretary during his visit to Washington
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The Independent Online

You know, but we sometimes forget, that the US is half a continent: its population is about equal to that of the five largest EU member states, its GDP greater still. Americans, correctly and rightly, consider that it is they as Americans who created the modern world's greatest democracy.

But Europeans tend to see the US through a different prism. They see a US born out of Europe; born from those with the courage, imagination and iconoclasm to break away from the straitjacket not just of poverty but of institutional and political constraints in Europe to form what has long represented, in an almost idealised form, the best of European values and institutions.

For all these reasons, of size, power, origin, but above all a "what might have been" and "what could be" example to those in Europe, the US is a source of more absorbing fascination to Europeans than ever an individual European country could be to the US.

I'd like to think that we in the UK are more relaxed about this lack of symmetry in the perceived relationship than are some elsewhere in Europe. But even for us it seems that we get more twitchy about specific differences of opinion and policy than we do with our European allies.

We are mature enough to cope with dissent and debate. We both recognise the fundamental commonality of our roots and values.

There is no contradiction between being pro-American and pro-European. I do not share the view of Romano Prodi, the President of the European Commission, that Britain's relationship with the US somehow gets in the way of playing a full part in Europe. I reject the idea that relations with the US and EU involve a zero sum – that an individual has to prove his "pro-European" credentials by being anti-American.

The truth is that all European nations have ties of family, friendship and culture with the US, which are often as close as those we enjoy with each other. And within Europe, we have learnt in recent decades the value of working closely with one another; of maximising our agreement and minimising our differences.

We should conduct our relations with the US on the same basis. Our fundamental interests are the same. We have everything to gain from continuing a robust, confident partnership in the future.