Select Committee on European Union Thirtieth Report

CHAPTER 2: The present state of the eu/us relationship

6.  The relationship between the United States and Europe is of great breadth and depth. In the main it works well and fruitfully. Commissioner Patten's Chef de Cabinet told us that "across the board our relations with America are extremely good. In many areas we co-operate, we have common interests and we pursue those interests together."[7] Where the Union itself has clearly defined competence, for example in respect of trade and the single market, the United States has long been accustomed to dealing with the Union (principally the European Commission) as the prime interlocutor.[8] Dr Anne Deighton of the British Foreign Policy Resource Centre, University of Oxford, explained further: "the way in which the European Union has been able to act collectively towards the United States over legislation relating to terrorism, money-laundering and other activities is quite remarkable."[9] Differences arise and have occasionally been very sharp, for example over US actions on steel imports or EU actions on genetically modified foods.[10] We were told that such disputes have been, however, generally managed by well-understood methods, and they rarely seemed seriously to affect wider transatlantic links.[11]
Box 2

EU-US Relations: The Transatlantic Dialogue[12]

The European Union and the United States are the two largest economies in the world. They account together for about half the entire world economy. They also have the biggest bilateral trading and investment relationship. Transatlantic flows of trade and investment amount to around $1 billion a day, and jointly their global trade accounts for almost 40 per cent of world trade.

Diplomatic Relations

The United States has maintained diplomatic relations with the European Union and its forerunners since 1953.

The European Commission is represented in the United States by a Delegation in Washington, which was established in 1954. A New York office, accredited as observer to the United Nations, was established in 1964. In 1971 the Washington office became a Delegation with full diplomatic privileges and immunities. The Delegation represents the European Commission in its dealings with the US government.

Transatlantic Co-operation

The landmarks in EU-US relations in recent years are the Transatlantic Declaration, the New Transatlantic Agenda and the Transatlantic Economic Partnership. The Transatlantic Declaration was adopted by the US and the EU in 1990. It laid down the principles for greater EU-US co-operation and consultation. Co-operation was established in the fields of the economy (trade liberalisation, OECD, competition policy), education, science and culture, and global challenges. A machinery of twice-yearly summits and ministerial meetings, ad hoc EU Troika/Presidency meetings with the US Secretary of State, and briefings on European Political Co-operation (now CFSP) was set up in the Declaration.

In 1995 the New Transatlantic Agenda (NTA) and the EU-US Joint Action Plan were adopted. The NTA and the Action Plan provide a framework for EU-US partnership and co-operation across a wide range of activities under four broad chapters: (i) promoting peace and stability, democracy and development around the world; (ii) responding to global challenges; (iii) contributing to the expansion of world trade and fostering closer ties; and (iv) building bridges across the Atlantic.

In promoting peace and stability the EU and the US are working together in areas such as the former Yugoslavia and in the Middle East Peace Process. In the economic field the EU and the US mostly work together within the framework of the Transatlantic Economic Partnership and under the multilateral umbrella of the WTO.

The EU and the US launched the Transatlantic Economic Partnership (TEP) at the London summit in May 1998. The TEP is an extension of the approach taken in the NTA. It includes both multilateral and bilateral elements. Bilaterally the purpose is to tackle technical barriers to trade. The purpose is also to stimulate further multilateral liberalisation by joining forces on international trade issues such as labour integration, and on business, environmental and consumer issues. It is however too early to say what will come out of this partnership.

In the Bonn Declaration adopted at the 21 June 1999 EU-US summit in Bonn both sides committed themselves to a ""full and equal partnership" in economic, political and security affairs. This explicit recognition is a step forward from the NTA. The Bonn Declaration outlines how the EU and the US want to shape their relationship over the next decade and is embedded in the NTA process.[13]

7.  Since the end of the cold war and the EU's gradual development, after the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, as a more coherent foreign policy actor, transatlantic differences have appeared in the more general area of foreign affairs.[14] The catalogue of foreign policy issues over which EU members and the United States have been at odds includes a comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT)[15] to proscribe the testing of nuclear weapons; the Kyoto Convention to limit environmental damage; aspects of the break-up of Yugoslavia and the conflicts which ensued; verification arrangements to underpin the 1972 Convention prohibiting biological weapons; and the International Criminal Court (ICC).[16]

8.  The reaction to the events of September 11 2001 in the US nevertheless showed the EU united in sympathy and support. As Le Monde's now famous headline[17] declared "We are all Americans now." It was at European initiative that NATO, for the first time ever, invoked Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty in support of the US (and in Washington we more than once heard regretful afterthoughts expressed that the EU's initiative had not been picked up more positively by the US). The EU also unanimously supported the first stages of the drive against terrorism by providing assistance to the United States in Afghanistan. For example Germany, despite its reluctance since 1945 to make overseas military deployments, has provided a large number of troops for post-conflict stabilisation there.

9.  As 2002 progressed, however, the problem of Saddam Hussein's Iraq exposed transatlantic differences of view. The US National Security Strategy document[18] of September 2002 was a further indicator of the shift in EU/US relations, intensifying European fears that the US was set on a more hawkish policy of unilateral military action to deal with perceived threats to US security. The salience given to the concept of pre-emptive attack worried many EU Member States. These concerns also deepened divisions among Member States themselves on how to deal with terrorism in general and Iraq in particular.

10.  The US approach to dealing with Iraq sharpened these divisions both among EU Member States and between some of them and the United States. It proved impossible to reach a solidly common EU view. The Iraq episode also highlighted wider divergences over underlying themes, such as claims to a national right of preventive war, the value, role and authority of the United Nations Security Council, the relevance of commitments to NATO allies, and the general balance between dialogue, "soft" power and force in dealing with international problems.[19]

11.  The most damaging phase was between late January and March 2003, when governments on both sides of the Atlantic used the media to underline political divergences and even exchange insults. The US seemed willing to exacerbate differences among EU Member States and between some of them and EU "accession countries", for example in the matter of the statement of the "Vilnius Ten"; and some Member States worked directly against US preferences. [20]

12.  The emphasis placed upon issues of national security by the current US Administration, especially since 11 September 2001, reinforces the tendency to see the overall relationship as characterised by such disagreements rather than by the mass of other transatlantic business that is transacted quietly and successfully. Since the end of the Iraq war relations have become less heated, but they remain strained.
Box 3

Europe and the European Union

Many in the United States draw no clear distinction between Europe (or "the Europeans") as a whole and the European Union in the strict institutional sense, and views about the former influence perceptions of the latter. Our analysis of the current condition of the relationship is therefore widely drawn; but we have sought to focus our recommendations more closely upon what the Union itself, and Member States acting through it, might do in the future.

7   Mr Antony Cary, Q183. Back

8   Q196 one billion dollars trade a day or 1-2 per cent of our trade. Back

9   Q94. Back

10   Q216. Back

11   Q183. Back

12   As summarised on the European Commission's website: (as of 13 June). Back

13 Back

14   QQ178-180. Back

15   Nuclear weapons testing is currently suspended by a voluntary moratorium by nuclear states. A Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has been signed by more than 150 countries but will come into force only when 44 actually or potentially nuclear-capable countries ratify it. In the summer of 2001 the Bush Administration made it clear that it considered the CTBT 'fatally flawed' and would not seek its ratification by the Senate. This Administration decision on the CTBT came two months after the announcement that it would withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and would go ahead with a new missile defence system. Back

16   139 countries are signatories to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court establishing the Court, which is situated at The Hague in the Netherlands. 90 countries have so far ratified the treaty, including all 15 EU Member States. When the ICC treaty was signed in July 2002, a one-year temporary exemption for American nationals was accepted. In June 2003 the US announced that it wanted to lengthen this exemption in order to negotiate bilateral agreements with governments not to surrender US nationals to the Court. So far the Bush Administration has signed 37 such 'immunity pacts'. The US has accused the European Union of actively lobbying countries, including the 10 prospective members of the Union, not to sign bilateral deals with the US, while many EU Member States have expressed concern that the US is actively seeking to undermine the power of the Court. Back

17   Le Monde dated 13 September 2001. Back

18   National Security Strategy available at Back

19   QQ97, 165. Back

20   Q70. Back

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