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United States–European Union relations


United States–European Union relations

European Union–United States relations
Map indicating locations of European Union and United States

European Union

United States

Relations between the European Union and the United States are the bilateral relations between the European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA). Due to the EU not having a fully integrated foreign policy, relations can be more complicated where the EU does not have a common agreed position e.g. EU foreign policy was divided during the Iraq War.


  • History 1
  • Trade 2
  • Issues 3
    • EU-U.S. Summits 3.1
    • Arms embargo on the People's Republic of China 3.2
    • Boeing and Airbus subsidies 3.3
    • Defence contracts 3.4
    • Genetically modified food 3.5
    • Rendition 3.6
    • Death penalty 3.7
    • International Criminal Court 3.8
    • Arab-Israeli conflict 3.9
    • Iran's nuclear program 3.10
    • Iraq War 3.11
    • Kyoto protocol 3.12
    • Visa waiver reciprocity 3.13
    • Spying 3.14
  • Resolved issues 4
    • Banana wars 4.1
    • U.S. steel tariffs 4.2
  • Delegations 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10


The European Union and the United States have held diplomatic relations since 1953.[1] The relationship between the EU and the US is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world. They are the biggest economic and military powers in the world (even if the EU does not have a common defense policy), they dominate global trade, they play the leading roles in international political relations, and what one says matters a great deal not only to the other, but to much of the rest of the world.[2] And yet they have regularly disagreed with each other on a wide range of specific issues, as well as having often quite different political, economic, and social agendas. Understanding the relationship today means reviewing developments that predate the creation of the European Economic Community (precursor to today's European Union).

Key events in the evolving history of the relationship include the following:

  • Truman Doctrine – The United States become militarily involved in Europe soon after withdrawing
  • Marshall Plan – Provided billions of dollars in aid for the reconstruction of European economies following World War II
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) – provided western Europe with a security guarantee in the face of Soviet threats
  • 1949 Berlin crisis, which marked true beginning of the Cold War
  • Korean War, during which Americans and Europeans differed on strategy
  • McCarthyism, which raised alarms in Europe about levels of American anti-communism
  • The 1954 French defeat at Dien Bien Phu, which precipitated a tumultuous French withdrawal from colonial Empire, and resentment at U.S. failure to help
  • The 1956 Suez crisis, in which perceived U.S. betrayal of European allies caused considerable resentment, and led to British withdrawal from colonial Empire
  • 1957 Treaty of Rome, which created European Economic Community
  • Berlin wall
  • The 1962 Cuban missile crisis, which alarmed western Europeans not only because it took the world to the brink of nuclear war, but also because they were not fully appraised by the Kennedy administration
  • 1966 French withdrawal from military structure of NATO, emphasizing French distrust of U.S. foreign policy and international influence
  • The Vietnam War, opposed by political and public opinion in western Europe, and which generated U.S. resentment because of the lack of European support
  • End of the Bretton Woods system 1971, brought about by the Nixon administration without reference to western European leaders
  • Ostpolitik, which alarmed the United States because of West German outreach to East Germany
  • 1973 – Yom Kippur War, which created serious rift between Americans and Europeans
  • 1979 – Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
  • 1980 Moscow Olympics, the boycott of which won little European support
  • 1990–91 Gulf War, which found the western Europeans deeply divided in the face of American military and political leadership
  • 1991 outbreak of the Yugoslav Wars, which found the Europeans again divided, and unprepared to present a unified policy
  • 2003 invasion of Iraq, which brought U.S.–EU divisions out into the open
  • 2013 start the negotiations of a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)


It is proposed to create a Transatlantic Free Trade Area between the United States and European Union. Map shows potential other members: NAFTA, EFTA and future EU members.

Euro-American relations are primarily concerned with trade policy. The EU is a near-fully unified trade bloc and this, together with competition policy, are the primary matters of substance currently between the EU and the USA. The two together represent 60% of global GDP, 33% of world trade in goods and 42% of world trade in services. The growth of the EU's economic power has led to a number of trade conflicts between the two powers; although both are dependent upon the other's economic market and disputes affect only 2% of trade. See below for details of trade flows;[3]

Direction of trade Goods Services Investment Total
EU to US €260 billion €139.0 billion €112.6 billion €511.6 billion
US to EU €127.9 billion €180 billion €144.5 billion €452.4 billion

In 2007, a Transatlantic Economic Council was established to direct economic cooperation between the two. It is headed by the U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs and the EU's Commissioner for Trade. However, it is yet to produce solid results. A Transatlantic Free Trade Area had been proposed in the 1990s and later in 2006 by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in reaction to the collapse of the Doha round of trade talks. However, protectionism on both sides may be a barrier to any future agreement.[4][5]


Relations with
member states
Czech Republic
United Kingdom

EU-U.S. Summits

Annual Summits are held between EU and U.S. policy makers. When these take place in Europe, they have historically taken place in the country that holds the rotating Presidency of the European Union.

List of EU-US Summits:

  • April 25, 2010 Washington, D.C. (High Level Consultative Group on Development Meeting)
  • May 24–25, 2010, Madrid, Spain
  • November 3–4, 2009,Washington, D.C.
  • April 5, 2009, Prague, Czech Republic (informal summit)
  • 2008 – Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • 2007 – Washington, D.C.
  • 2006 – Vienna, Austria
  • 2005 – Washington, D.C.
  • 2004 – Shannon, Ireland
  • 2003 – Washington, D.C.
  • 2002 – Washington, D.C.
  • 2001 – Göteborg, Sweden
  • 2000 – Queluz, Portugal
  • 1999 – Washington, D.C.
  • 1998 – Washington, D.C.
  • 1998 – London, UK
  • 1997 – Washington, D.C.
  • December 3, 1995 – Madrid, Spain,

Arms embargo on the People's Republic of China

Both the United States and the European Union as of 2010 have an arms embargo against China (PRC), put in place in 1989 after the events of Tiananmen Square. The U.S. and some EU members continue to support the ban but others, spearheaded by France, have been attempting to persuade the EU to lift the ban, arguing that more effective measures can be imposed, but also to improve trade relations between China and certain EU states. The United States strongly opposes this, and after the PRC passed an anti-secession law against Taiwan the likelihood of the ban being lifted diminished somewhat.

Boeing and Airbus subsidies

The two companies are the major competing aircraft manufacturers, and both Boeing and Airbus are accused of receiving forms of subsidy from the United States[6] and from some of the European Union member states respectively, which both sides have criticised each other for doing so. The pressure for this issue to be resolved has increased as Airbus and Boeing are now nearly equal in commercial aircraft market share.

Defence contracts

In March 2010 EADS and its U.S. partner pulled out of a contract to build air refuelling planes worth $35 billion. They had previously won the bid but it was rerun and EADS claimed the new process was biased towards Boeing. The European Commission said it would be "highly regrettable" if the tendering process did prove to be biased. There was substantial opposition to EADS in Washington due to the ongoing Boeing-Airbus (owned by EADS) dispute.[7][8]

Genetically modified food

Genetically modified food is another significant area of disagreement between the two. The EU has been under domestic pressure to restrict the growth and import of genetically modified foods until their safety is proven to the satisfaction of the populace. On the other hand, the United States is under pressure from its agricultural businesses to force the EU to accept imports, seeing the EU's restrictions as alarmist and protectionist.


The Washington Post claimed on November 2, 2005, that the United States was maintaining several secret jails (or "black sites") in Eastern Europe (also called black sites). Poland and Romania, however, have denied these allegations. Also, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) planes carrying terror suspects would have made secret stopovers in several West European countries since 2001. Belgium, Iceland, Spain, and Sweden have launched investigations. The Guardian calculated on November 30 that CIA planes landed about 300 times on European air ports. Most planes would have landed in Germany and the United Kingdom as a transit point to East Europe, North Africa (possibly Morocco and Egypt), or the Middle East (possibly Syria and Jordan). In the meanwhile, the European Commission, on behalf of the European Union, asked the United States for a clarification. The EU has refused to confirm or deny the reports.[9][10][11][12][13]

Extraordinary rendition flights through Europe were investigated over a number of years by the European Parliament and it held a temporary committee on the matter. The EU has also opposed the use of Guantanamo Bay detention camp and offered to host some former inmates when its closure was announced by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

Death penalty

In the United States, capital punishment is a legal form of punishment, whereas all European member states have fully abolished the death penalty, and consider its use to be a violation of fundamental human rights. This occasionally causes problems with EU-US relations, because it is illegal in the EU to allow the extradition of a citizen to a country where the death penalty is a legal punishment, unless a guarantee is given that such punishment will not be used.

International Criminal Court

Positions in the United States concerning the ICC vary widely. The Clinton Administration signed the Rome Statute in 2000, but did not submit it for Senate ratification. The Bush Administration, the US administration at the time of the ICC's founding, stated that it would not join the ICC. The Obama Administration has subsequently re-established a working relationship with the court.[14][Broken Citation]

Arab-Israeli conflict

In the Arab-Israeli conflict, both sides of the Atlantic usually act more or less in tandem, in regard to the approach to the Palestinian territories as well as other issues (such as the recent conflict in Lebanon). However, in general, the European Union is often more critical of Israel, particularly in issues of policy (such as the West Bank barrier), and has criticized Israeli military actions that the United States has supported. The United States has historically been a much more supportive ally, going so far as to even use its veto at the United Nations Security Council in Israel's support.

Iran's nuclear program

The United States has not ruled out the use of force against Iran regarding the Iranian nuclear program. France, Germany and the United Kingdom have taken the lead to solve the issue diplomatically, while representing the interests of the United States in negotiations with Iran since the United States has had no official diplomatic relations with the country since 1979. Former UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described military action against Iran as "inconceivable".[15]

Iraq War

The Iraq War divided opinions within European nations and within the U.S., with some states supporting of military action, and some against. The European public opinion was staunchly opposed to the war. This caused a major transatlantic rift, especially between the states led by France and Germany[16][17] on the one hand, who were against military action, and the United States with United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Poland, among others.[18]

Kyoto protocol

The European Union is one of the main backers of the Barack Obama said that he planned on setting annual targets to reduce emissions,[19][20] although this doesn't include the Kyoto protocol—likely because developing nations are exempt.[21]

Visa waiver reciprocity

The EU is requesting from the U.S. reciprocity regarding the visa waiver program for all its members. The European Union has threatened with the possibility of imposing visas for American citizens that would extend to the entire EU. In 2008, many of the EU's new Central European members were granted visa-free access to the US, and currently, only five EU members (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania) lack such access.


Secret documents obtained by German news magazine Der Spiegel in 2013 state that European Union offices in the United States and United Nations headquarters have been targeted for spying by the National Security Agency, an intelligence office operated by the United States government. The reports revealed that the United States bugged offices, accessed internal computer networks, obtained documents and emails, and listened to phone calls.[22] Subsequent reports from the media further state that domestic European Union offices in Brussels have also been targeted; along with EU offices, embassies of India, Japan, Mexico, South Korea and Turkey are also listed as targets in the documents.[23] On June 30, 2013, the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz demanded for a full clarification from Washington and stated that if the allegations were true, EU and U.S. relations would be severely impacted.[22]

Resolved issues

EU-US summit at Brdo Castle near Kranj in 2008

Banana wars

The EU and United States have had a long-running dispute over the EU's banana imports.[24][25] As part of their international aid, the EU offered tenders on a first-come-first-served basis for bananas from countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. The United States argued that this favoured local producers in former Chiquita made a $500,000 donation to the Democratic Party.[24] The two sides reached an agreement in 2001.[27]

U.S. steel tariffs

In 2002, the U.S. imposed steel tariffs to protect its steel industry. The European Union and other countries took up the issue with the WTO, which ruled that such tariffs breach its regulations. Subsequently, by December 2003, the tariffs had been lifted by the U.S. administration.


The current EU ambassador to the United States is João Vale de Almeida and the EU's embassy in Washington, D.C., was the first overseas delegation of the EU to open.

The U.S. ambassador to the EU is William Kennard.[28] The United States was the first third-country to recognise the EU's earliest forerunner, the European Coal and Steel Community, and first appointed an observer in 1953: David E. Bruce. Their first mission opened in 1956.[29]

The Transatlantic Economic Council is headed by the U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs and the EU's Commissioner for Trade.

See also


  1. ^ "EU-US Facts & Figures". European Union External Action. Retrieved July 7, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Global Partners, Global Responsibilities'"The European Union and the United States: . Delegation of the European Union to the United States. Retrieved January 5, 2012. 
  3. ^ "European Commission". Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  4. ^ Merkel for EU Agreement with US Der Spiegel
  5. ^ A Transatlantic Free Trade Area? ECIPE
  6. ^ For specific subsidies, see "Industrial Subsidies and the Politics of World Trade: The Case of the Boeing 7e7" (PDF). Canada-United States Trade Center. p. 17. 
  7. ^ "Northrop and EADS exit tanker bid". BBC News. March 9, 2010. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  8. ^ "EU concern over end of tanker bid". BBC News. March 9, 2010. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  9. ^ "'"EU warned on 'secret CIA jails. BBC News. November 28, 2005. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  10. ^ "'"Nordic states probe 'CIA flights. BBC News. November 18, 2005. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  11. ^ "'"Spain probes 'secret CIA flights. BBC News. November 15, 2005. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ Auteur: (belga) (December 2, 2005). "De Standaard Online - Regering onderzoekt CIA-transport van gevangenen". Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  14. ^ "U.S. Engagement With The International Criminal Court and The Outcome Of The Recently Concluded Review Conference". June 15, 2010. 
  15. ^ US attack on Iran 'inconceivable' BBC News
  16. ^ Polls find Europeans opposed to the Iraq war BBC News
  17. ^ Review of the translatantic rift at the time Brookings Institution
  18. ^ "Coalition Members". March 27, 2003. Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  19. ^ 
  20. ^ Doyle, Leonard; McCarthy, Michael (November 20, 2008). "US in from the cold". The Independent (London). Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  21. ^ 
  22. ^ a b Haynes, Jonathan (30 June 2013). "EU demands clarification over US spying claims".  
  23. ^ McGeough, Paul (1 July 2013). "US actions spook European allies".  
  24. ^ a b Barkham, Patrick (March 5, 1999). "The banana wars explained". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  25. ^ January 14, 2010 / 05:00 CET (January 14, 2010). "'"Myths about ‘banana wars. European Voice. Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  26. ^ "US imposes tariff sanctions on European luxury goods". March 5, 1999. Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  27. ^ "EU and US end banana war". BBC News. April 11, 2001. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  28. ^ "About the Ambassador | United States Mission to the European Union". October 12, 2011. Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  29. ^ [2]


  • Luca Bellocchio,“Il futuro dei rapporti euro-americani e la fine del sistema internazionale”, in S. Giusti e A. Locatelli (ED.), L’Europa sicura. Le politiche di sicurezza dell’Unione Europea, Milano, Egea Bocconi, 2008, 185-205
  • Luca Bellocchio, Anglosfera. Forma e forza del nuovo Pan-Anglismo, Il Nuovo Melangolo, Genova, 2006.
  • Luca Bellocchio, L'eterna alleanza? La special relationship angloamericana tra continuità e mutamento, Franco Angeli, Milano, 2006

Further reading

External links

  • European Union Institute for Security Studies: Research on EU-US Relations
  • Delegation of the European Commission to the United States
    • European Commission: relations with the United States
  • FAES A case for an open Athlantic Prosperity Area
  • United States Mission to the European Union
  • Transatlantic Business Dialogue
  • The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership - Defensive Move or Constructive Engagement A Research Based Documentary placing the TTIP negotiations in a global context - Produced by the Institut d'Etudes Européennes of the Université Libre de Bruxelles
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