Secretary of State John Kerry was welcomed on his first visit to Brussels, the "Capital of Europe," by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on April 22. After discussing ways to strengthen the transatlantic partnership, President Barroso and Secretary Kerry engaged in a wide-ranging dialogue with future U.S. and EU leaders who are currently doing young professional "stagiaire" fellowships at the European Commission. Rather than share my own thoughts on the event, I would like to share with you the observations of Alex Gish, a "stagiaire" at the European Commission who posed the first question at the event. Alex writes:
"When Secretary of State Kerry and President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso meet, it is usually in a setting that I and other fellows within the European Union only get to read about. Yesterday, however, we received an exciting offer -- an opportunity to sit down with both leaders to talk about the transatlantic partnership. The invitation was particularly special for me. I am an American living in Brussels who has interned at the U.S. Mission to the European Union and am now completing a professional 'stagiaire' program in the European Commission.
"The most profound thing I will take from the event is, simply, the seamless, easy rapport Secretary Kerry and President Barroso have with each other. Throughout the event, they echoed each other's comments on issues ranging from trade to common foreign policy challenges. President Barroso spoke about the 'rock solid' nature of the transatlantic relationship, while Secretary Kerry was quick to congratulate the EU for the tremendous diplomatic effort needed to finalize a Serbia-Kosovo agreement this past Friday.
"After opening remarks, the floor was opened to questions, and I had the pleasure of posing the first one! I asked about the prospects for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that the United States and the EU hope to start negotiating soon. President Barroso noted that trade was the 'most efficient way' to respond to our countries' modest growth, and Secretary Kerry confirmed that the TTIP was a great opportunity to 'elevate the rules of the road on a global basis.' Kerry praised Barroso for getting a negotiating mandate by early summer and said the United States was also getting ready 'to sit down and hammer it out.'
"Other questions focused on emerging countries, the role of women in leadership, and U.S.-EU efforts to combat terrorism. On Asia, President Barroso was quick to point out that the transatlantic relationship will not falter as we turn together -- Europe and the United States -- to engage Asia at a deeper level. 'It is not a zero-sum game,' he said. 'Some people believe that if two are doing something, it's necessarily against the others. I completely disagree with that.' Secretary Kerry noted that 'there's much more China and the U.S. and Europe could cooperate on.'
"As Europeans and Americans aspiring to future leadership in our respective countries, my fellow members of the EU 'stagiaire' corps -- a 900 strong body drawn from countries throughout the EU, as well as a few non-European members, such as myself -- were reminded that the points of agreement between the United States and Europe far outweigh the differences between us. We had the opportunity to sit and talk with two of the most high-profile leaders in Europe and the United States, and we realized that the conversation was a unique testament to the truly deep alliance we have.
"As we departed, I thought of what Secretary Kerry told us: 'A fellow by the name of Michael Froman, who is very involved in the trade negotiations, is currently working in the White House, and he's a graduate of this program. So I know we're going to see you all in future roles.' I certainly hope so!"