On September 15 2010, GMF Brussels hosted the official launch of Transatlantic Trends 2010, the findings of which centered on Obama’s popularity, transatlantic views on security, Asia and Turkey and the dissatisfaction of the euro throughout the EU. High Representative Vice President (HR VP) Catherine Ashton commented on the results that were presented by Bruce Stokes, Senior Transatlantic Fellow. The conference was moderated by Ivan Vejvoda, Executive Director of the Balkan Trust for Democracy. Before offering her observations on the report, Ashton highlighted the importance of opinion polls and ascertained that EU policies have to be firmly rooted to the will of its citizens. In response to data indicating Turkey’s continuous drift from the West, in that support for Western institutions such as NATO and EU is steadily decreasing, Ashton stressed the need for stronger collaboration with Turkey on foreign policy issues of mutual interest. She noted that Turkey, by virtue of its geopolitical location, will continue to be an important partner for the EU. Regarding issues of international security, the polls showed a palpable weariness with the situation in Afghanistan, with majorities across Europe calling for a reduction or withdrawal of troops. Ashton affirmed that Afghanistan posed a significant challenge to the international community and that stabilizing the volatile state would be a long-term project. She noted that this project would not necessarily be military-based. Data pertaining to Iran highlighted a deep transatlantic concern about Iran’s nuclear program but a certain disparity between the EU and the U.S. on how to curtail the Iranian plan to become a nuclear power. Europeans favor economic incentives, Americans favor sanctions, while neither favors military action.
Ashton commented that public opinion was behind putting the right kind of pressure on Iran. She opined that the British public’s experience with the Iraq war was likely to have had significant impact on the U.K. Iran, which showed a clear preference for accepting a nuclear data rather than undertaking a military intervention to prevent such an occurrence. In reaction to the findings that portrayed differing images of China across the EU, Ashton remarked that countries react to China depending on their economic relationship. Ashton put forward that China is an area where the post-Lisbon EU can be effective, in that the EU can be more strategic and innovative in its foreign policy. When prompted on her recent visit to China, Ashton said she had an extremely constructive dialogue with her Chinese counterparts. She noted that while China is, for the moment, focused on its internal development, she believes that China has matured and that there is great potential and impetus in China to become a responsible global player, namely in issues such as containing Iran’s nuclear program, climate change and human rights. She remarked that the Chinese are eager to see a consistent EU policy toward China. Ashton concluded by reiterating the importance of the transatlantic relationship and noted that while both partners did not always agree, there is always a strong will for cooperation. The High Representative stated that she was looking forward to fruitful summit in November.