Giving a boost to Europe's global standing and improving cooperation with the United States are priorities for Germany as it takes over the presidency of the EU. Running concurrently with the prickly institutional dossier, strengthening the position of the EU on the world scene will be Berlin's other key objective in the next six months. And first in line is its desire to improvea the EU's capacity to react to international crises, as explained by the German Foreign Affairs Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier when presenting his programme on 19 December 2006.

Well aware of the unpredictable nature of crises which can throw the schedule of the presidency right out, as was the case with the crisis in Lebanon last year during the Finnish presidency, the German minister wants to be ready for all eventualities and is counting on member states to strengthen their capacities to react. This willingness was sorely tested when the crisis broke out in Somalia, leading to a meeting being called on 3 January under the leadership of Steinmeier (see Europolitics 3218). In the light of the ongoing international conflicts, Berlin wants to reinforce consultation not only within the Council but with the EU's key partners headed by the United States and the UN.

Improving transatlantic relations both politically and economically is one of Angela Merkel's priorities. The German chancellor is hoping to take advantage of the German presidency of the EU to finally put an end to the cold war' between Germany and the United States, which developed under her predecessor Gerhard Schroder. She is hoping to reach a co-operation agreement on crisis management between the United States and the EU. In economic terms, Berlin is hoping to give a spectacular boost to co-operation in terms of regulations, technology and finance in order to stimulate commercial trade. The fight against terrorism, energy security, Eastern Europe and the attitude towards Russia are all points which will feature on the agenda of the next bilateral...

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