Select Committee on European Union Thirtieth Report


1 JULY 2003

By the Select Committee appointed to consider European Union documents and other matters relating to the European Union.




CHAPTER 1: Introduction
Box 1


The European Union's relations with the United States are at their lowest ebb for at least a generation. How did this happen? What can be done about it?

The outrage of 11 September 2001 thrust international security to the top of the US agenda, overshadowing the great bulk of transatlantic business that is done quietly and well. EU Member States agree with the US about the key security objectives, but there are serious divergences about how to achieve them. The Iraq crisis highlighted these divergences very sharply.

Both sides will be losers if the relationship remains bad. There is a massive agenda on which they need to work together. Both need to put effort into repairing the damage, even if differences about method persist. They should accentuate the positive, look to the future, and not focus on blaming or punishing for the past.

The EU for its part needs to:

  • Help shoulder post-conflict burdens in Iraq, without arguing about whose fault they may be;
  • Put its weight behind the Middle East peace process, and re-double its effort against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;
  • Build up its own military capability;
  • Improve methods of handling and communicating agreed EU foreign policy, and explain itself better to the US; and
  • Exploit NATO as the best forum for transatlantic dialogue in defence and security.

1.  This inquiry into international security relations between the European Union and the United States of America could not have come at a more critical time for those relations. The Iraq crisis revealed new and deep divisions in the transatlantic partnership. In some respects relations are at their lowest ebb for at least a generation. How did this come about? How can it be redressed? Has there been such a sea-change that the former close relationship is beyond recapture?

2.  We[1] recognise that the end of the Cold War heralded a change in world order that is yet to come to a conclusion. With the disappearance of the Soviet threat Europe's geopolitical importance as a possible cockpit of conflict has declined, while new threats elsewhere have intensified. The US holds pole position as the sole world super-power, whereas the EU's foreign policy remains in its infancy, having been contemplated seriously only a decade ago.

3.  In addition US attitudes appear to have changed towards the EU as the Union has moved to become a foreign policy actor as well as an economic force. Serious disagreement first appeared on the Kyoto protocol[2], but subsequent disagreements have escalated into what has been termed by Mr Timothy Garton Ash[3] "a very deep crisis of the post Second World War West".[4]

4.  In this report we describe the current state of the relationship and discuss the issues it raises. We underline the importance and benefit of good relations to both parties and suggest what steps might be taken in both policy and process between the EU and US to improve matters.

5.  We began work in January 2003 as debate about a possible war in Iraq was reaching a peak. A wide range of discussions in London and Washington D.C. and evidence sessions held in Brussels helped us to form an understanding of the changing climate of foreign policy on the two sides of the Atlantic. [5] We received written submissions or took oral evidence from the United Kingdom Government, other EU Member State governments, and individuals and non-governmental organisations both on the continent of Europe and in the United States.[6] We are grateful to all for the contributions made to our inquiry.

1   Members of Sub-Committee C which conducted this inquiry are listed at Appendix 1. Back

2   The European Union has been a key supporter of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Kyoto Protocol is an agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and equivalent gases, by 5 per cent in the first decade of the Twenty-First Century, and was adopted in December 1997. The Protocol looked unlikely to be ratified by the US Senate even under the Clinton Administration and was effectively abandoned by the Bush Administration. In March 2001 the President wrote a letter to Senators noting the 'clear consensus that the Kyoto Protocol is an unfair and ineffective means of addressing global climate change concerns' and saying that any climate change measures would be subordinate to concerns about US economic growth. (Letter from the President to Senators Hagel, Helms, Craig and Roberts, March 13, 2001.) Back

3   Director, European Studies Centre, St Antony's College, University of Oxford. Back

4   Q89. Back

5   A list of witnesses is given at Appendix 2. Back

6   Evidence can be found at the end of this report. Back

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