As President Bush heads off to the Continent for five days of chilly talks, the New York Times asked a number of prominent Europeans what the US can do to reinvigorate US-European relations. Here is one of the responses today, "Give a Little" by Irish rock star Bono...
"Europe is securing its ports, steeling itself for an American charm offensive. Over the coming days, President Bush and his hosts will shake hands, slap backs, make toasts. But if the United States and Europe really want to repair their relationship, they should look to another continent: Africa.
Both America and Europe have a stake in preventing African states from crumbling. Both have an interest in ending the poverty that breeds violence. And both feel a moral obligation to stop the hemorrhaging of life.
Aren't those shared interests obvious? Not lately. We lament - but secretly indulge - our differences. Points of tension are points of pride. Snottiness is the new patriotism.
So what can Mr. Bush do? Well, he can clear up some confusion about America's basic beliefs.
Americans are overtly devout. And yet Europeans, who inhabit a more secular world, give more per capita than Americans to what the Bible calls "the least of these" - the world's poor. The United States is in 22nd place, last in the class of donor nations. (Add private philanthropy and it's up to 15th.) Europeans see the discrepancy, and they smell hypocrisy.
President Bush should try to help Europeans understand American generosity. He should remind people that the United States has gotten more AIDS drugs to more Africans than anyone else. But he should also underscore that Americans want to ensure that the money is spent responsibly.
To Europeans, this "tough love" approach seems cruel. But there is compassion at its core. Mr. Bush can demonstrate this by putting more financial muscle behind his push for "accountability." If he does, Europeans will follow suit. They will see talking tough on poverty as a perfect rhyme for talking tough on terrorism.
If Europe and America work together, a breakthrough for Africa is within reach. Then, other obstacles will fall away - as will the misconceptions that blind us to one another. "
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