Brussels, always a hub of foreign affairs activity with two of the world’s leading international organizations, NATO and the EU, headquartered here, was abuzz this week with change and international consultation.
On the very hot front burner of issues was President Obama’s strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan and the question of how the U.S.’s partners would respond. Senior U.S. officials started arriving in Brussels a scant six hours after the President’s speech at West Point on Tuesday night for in-depth consultations with U.S. European allies, as well as with other nations contributing troops and civilian aid to the effort in Afghanistan. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke engaged over the course of three-days, with various government officials, members of the media, and with think tanks about the new plan. Secretary Clinton and Deputy Secretary Steinberg arrived in Brussels just a day or so later for NATO meetings centered on the ways we can work together in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
On the EU front, the Lisbon Treaty came into force December 1, bringing reorganization within EU institutions and new faces to U.S.-EU relations. The Lisbon Treaty created two new positions – President of the EU Council and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security, the “Foreign Minister” of the EU. On Friday, Secretary Clinton was the first U.S. official to meet with the new High Representative, Catherine Ashton, in her new position, ushering in even more active transatlantic engagement on our very full agenda of global affairs.