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Living with Our Differences

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It is telling that the war in Iraq has changed the very way the transatlantic question is habitually posed in Europe from 'how to resolve US-EU conflicts?' to 'how should we deal with American power?' Differences that were simply taken as factors in the global and regional orders are now exposed as our central concern: the overwhelming asymmetry of military power between the United States and the European Union (and indeed the rest of the world); and the divisions within the EU as to what to do about it. There is of course a need to patch things up both on the transatlantic and intra-European front—the two are interconnected—and to devise a European global strategy for the new era of American Empire. This is the agenda of the Kastellorizo meeting of EU foreign ministers. My purpose here is to make a simple point: a prerequisite for doing things together is to learn to live with our differences. This is true between the EU and the US where we need to define a constructive and conscious division of labour in tackling some of the most pressing problems before us and creating a more secure and just world. This is also true within the EU where we need to learn to disagree better, and moreover to draw strength from our diversity. Intra-EU diversity in turn can be better exploited to foster transatlantic cooperation. In short, we need to move beyond the universal assumption that pervades for instance our EU constitutional debates that the one and only secret of success and effectiveness on the international scene is to acquire a more unified voice and a more 'common' foreign policy.

Document Type: Commentary

Publication date: March 1, 2005

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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