From the outset, the transatlantic relationship has been more than a mere marriage of convenience. It encompasses a community of states, which are committed to common values, ideals and interests. Europe and North America can look back on a common cultural and intellectual history and they are bound together by a cultural affinity.
Transatlantic relations have benefited from the conscious decision made by the US not to withdraw from Europe in 1945, as it had done after the end of the First World War but, rather, to maintain a long-term presence. This injected an element of stability into Western Europe, which made it possible to tackle the European integration project.
Naturally, there are also conflicts of interests and areas of friction within this community of values. The transatlantic community has never been a perfect community of interests. We are each other's cousins, not identical twins.
Current contentious issues are not limited to the military action by the United States against the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Europe and the U.S. also have divergent viewpoints on issues such as climate protection, the death penalty or relations with international organizations. However, leading politicians on both sides of the Atlantic know that it is in everyone's interest to deal responsibly with such differences.
The visit by President Bush to Brussels and to Germany at the start to his second term as American president has helped to refocus the transatlantic relationship.