About the Author: William E. Kennard serves as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union.
On October 14, I had the honor of accompanying Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a half-day marathon of meetings and events with the European Union. The Secretary's day began early with an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America," which broadcast a segment of the popular show live from Brussels. It's great to know that our friends and families in the U.S. will get a glimpse into the work we do here with the European Union.
The Secretary had a full schedule, and we were quickly off to the European Commission, home of Commission Vice President and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton. The two foreign affairs leaders have met several times before, and the meeting provided an opportunity for them to update one another on a range of issues, including Secretary Clinton's trip to the Balkans and High Representative Ashton's visit to the Middle East. Following this meeting, both leaders made brief public statements to the international press corps about the relief effort in the wake of the disastrous floods in Pakistan. They also gave a joint television interview to the BBC's “The Record Europe” with anchor Shirin Wheeler. During the interview, I was struck by the terrific working relationship they have developed, which is clearly based on a warm personal rapport and shared common goals.
Saying goodbye to Cathy Ashton, we crossed the street to the headquarters of the European Council Secretariat, where I was pleased to introduce Secretary Clinton to President Herman Van Rompuy. I have been particularly impressed by the President's thoughtful and analytical approach to leadership since he took office in December 2009 as the first fulltime President of the European Council. Following introductions, the Secretary and President dove into a strategic discussion on an array of global issues.
Our final destination was the European Parliament. President Jerzy Buzek graciously hosted a coffee for the Secretary with the leaders of the eight political groups in Parliament. This was Secretary Clinton's second time at Parliament; she also met recently with President Buzek during his visit to Washington. The Lisbon Treaty, implemented late last year, created the positions now held by Cathy Ashton and Herman Van Rompuy and also gave significant new powers to the Parliament. As a result we are working hard to deepen our relationship with these new leaders and the Parliament.
The Secretary's visit was an important opportunity for us to engage with the European Union. It may sound like a long day for the Secretary, but it was not yet even noon when she took her leave from our European Union friends to travel across town to NATO for a Ministerial Conference. I am continually impressed by her energy and passion!