INTERVIEW WITH KRISTEN SILVERBERG, US AMBASSADOR TO THE EU : 'AFGHANISTAN WILL BE THE FIRST TEST'.

US Ambassador to the EU Kristen Silverberg defends the legacy of President George Bush in the field of transatlantic relations. Appointed to Brussels in April 2008 by the Republican administration, Silverberg, who was previously posted in Baghdad, argues that Washington has taken increasingly seriously the EU during the second term of the Bush administration. Looking at the upcoming Obama era, she expects Afghanistan to be the first test for the transatlantic partnership.

In Europe, the common perception is that transatlantic relations touched a low point during the Bush era. How would you respond to that?

Obviously, the debate over the Iraq war put a big strain on transatlantic relations on both sides. But we fought very hard in the US to make sure that that issue did not really impact on our ability to cooperate on a broader range of issues. I think that President Bush's trip to Brussels as his very first overseas travel in his second term was an indication of our effort to reach out to Europe and to make sure that the president healed any of the divisions. I think we have been very successful in that. We now have agreed strategies on virtually every major foreign policy issues. We have established mechanisms for cooperating across the board. You can think of issues like Iran, where Mr Solana is the key negotiator with the Iranians. Or Kosovo, where the US is participating in a rule of law mission led by Europe. Or Georgia, where the French Presidency took the lead in negotiating with Russia and where we supported those efforts. We are also cooperating in Afghanistan, Iraq or in Africa.

Do you think there was a shift during the Bush presidency?

I think from day one President Bush took Europe seriously but we had a disagreement. That is only natural even among close partners. Sometimes we are going to have disagreements. Our views on long term interests are very close, our values are very close, but that does not mean we are going to agree on everything.

The perception in Europe is rather negative. Do you agree that President Bush's style did not fit well with the expectations of European public opinions?

I think it has been very possible for publics on both sides to misperceive comments from leaders. Sometimes the US reacted negatively to comments made by European leaders. I think that's actually something we have to work on. Troubled perception sometimes fails to reflect the very close cooperation that is actually...

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