“If I want to call Europe, who do I call?” asked the German-born secretary of state.
That was in the early 1970s, when only nine nations were members of the European Economic Community, the predecessor of the European Union. Today, the EU has 27 member nations, with more than 500 million citizens throughout most of Europe.
Europe also finally has an answer to Mr. Kissinger’s question.
The EU’s Lisbon Treaty, which went into effect Dec. 1, created a European foreign service with a new foreign minister. Mr. Vale de Almeida represents Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, which includes all EU leaders, and Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, the executive body of the EU.
“I’m the only ambassador who represents two presidents,” he quipped.
Mr. Vale de Almeida must practice a new type of diplomacy with the United States and with the 27 other ambassadors who represent EU nations in Washington. He must advocate EU foreign policy without interfering with the bilateral relations between the EU member nations and the United States.
“It’s an interesting position,” the Portuguese-born diplomat told Embassy Row on Tuesday.
“I do not wish or will impose myself on the member states’ ambassadors. … Where we have a common position, I am the one leading the show. Bilateral matters are the mandate of the 27 [other] ambassadors.”
In remarks prepared for the White House ceremony, Mr. Vale de Almeida stressed the common goals of the U.S.-EU agenda and concerns that the rising economic clout of China will distract Washington from its traditional ties to Europe.
“Our common values and shared goals are strengthened by our deeply interdependent economies and the long-standing ties between our peoples,” he said. “My ambition is to move beyond what exists today to build a stronger and even more positive EU-U.S. agenda with solid bilateral and global pillars.”
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