U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice concluded her surprisingly well-received European trip with an hour-long meeting in Luxembourg with a small group of European journalists, including one from the Financial Times. According to that newspaper’s front page report today,

… Rice insisted there was no conflict between a strong Atlantic alliance and greater European unity.

Ms Rice gave forthright backing to the efforts of European governments to forge a common foreign policy, saying a “unified” Europe was a “positive force”. Acknowledging the concerns of some in the administration that the European Union might develop as rival to Washington, she said her meetings with European leaders had reinforced her perception of a strong identity of interests. “The most powerful message I have heard here is that there is a strong desire to move forward on a common [transatlantic] agenda.”

She indicated that Washington would not stand in the way of further integration. “As Europe unifies further and has a common foreign policy — I understand what is going to happen with the constitution and that there will be unification, in effect, under a foreign minister — I think that also will be a very good development,” she said.

“We have to keep reminding everybody that there is not any conflict between a European identity and a transatlantic identity . . . but this is working.” Anticipating George W. Bush‘s visit to Brussels later this month, Ms Rice added: “I very much want to call to everyone’s attention that is why the president is coming to the European Union”.

Inside the FT, there’s more from Philip Stephens:

Ms Rice sought … to soothe Europe’s neurosis about whether the US had abandoned its long-standing support for European integration in favour of divide and rule. Did she share the preference of Donald Rumsfeld, defense secretary, for splitting Europe into old and new? No. There had been “concerns” about the direction of the EU, Ms Rice said of the debate among Republicans in Washington. But the fears of some that a European identity would threaten the “transatlantic identity” had proved unfounded. A unified Europe was instead a “positive force”. So, too, would be the European foreign minister envisaged by the EU’s constitutional treaty.

Huh. I guess the U.S. diplmats just prefer knowing who to phone to understand the European position on foreign policy issues.