Europe remains Washington's 'essential partner': Clinton

AFP, Saturday 4 Feb 2012

Despite it's turn towards Asia and the Middle East, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says at the Munich Security Conference that Europe is still the US' essential partner

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attends the 48th Conference on Security Policy in Munich February 4, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday that Europe remains Washington's "partner of first resort," even as the United States marks a strategic pivot to Asia.

In a speech in Munich, Germany, Clinton pledged cooperative efforts for a united and secure Europe, mutual economic recovery and an "agile" security alliance, as well as a democratic Middle East.

The chief US diplomat also urged her European partners at the Munich Security Conference to work together in meeting "the opportunities that lie ahead" in the Asia-Pacific region.

"Taken together, all of these elements point to a larger, enduring truth: when Americans envision the future, we see Europeans as our essential partner," Clinton told the international conference in the southern German city.

"I've heard all the talk about where Europe fits into America's global outlook. I've heard some of the doubts expressed. But the reality couldn't be clearer: Europe is America's partner of first resort," she stressed.

Forced to make tough choices in tight budgetary times, the United States is shifting its military priorities to Asia and the Middle East  – even if it has pulled its troops out of Iraq and begins a drawdown in Afghanistan.

Reducing its troop presence in Europe, Washington sees the looming strategic challenge in the Asia-Pacific region as a newly powerful and assertive China rattles US allies in the region.

In opening the conference Friday, German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Europe should not fear a renewed US focus on Asia and must increasingly look after its own backyard militarily without its historic ally.

In offering support for a "secure, united and democratic Europe," Clinton said Europe will not be complete and secure until it resolves conflicts in eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Mediterranean.

And stressing that security and prosperity are inseparable, she said: "We need a common agenda for economic recovery and growth that is every bit as compelling as our global security cooperation."

In this vein, she said Brussels and Washington must push for a level economic playing field in the rest of the world where there are trade barriers, intellectual property theft and favoritism for state-owned firms.

"Third, in a time of tight budgets, we need to ensure that our security alliance is agile and efficient as well as strong," Clinton said.

In promoting democracy in a revolutionary Middle East, Clinton said Europe and the United States will work together to promote political and economic reform, trade, investment, regional integration, and entrepreneurship.

Alluding to China, Clinton said "America and Europe need a more robust dialogue about the opportunities that lie ahead in the Asia-Pacific region -- and we are building one here today."

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