United States–European Union relations

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

European Union

United States

Relations between the United States of America and the European Union are the bilateral relations between the United States of America and the European Union.


The EU and US are the biggest economic and military powers in the world, despite the lack of a common EU 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.[1] 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. Due to the European Union not having a fully integrated foreign policy, relations could be more complicated where the EU did not have a common agreed position e.g. EU foreign policy was divided during the Iraq War. Understanding the relationship today means reviewing developments that predate the creation of the European Economic Community (precursor to today's European Union).


 European Union  United States of America
Population 506,913,394[2] 326,267,000
Area 4,324,782 km2 (1,669,808 sq mi)[3] 9,826,630 km² (3,794,066 sq mi )
Population Density 115/km² (300 /sq mi) 31/km² (80/sq mi)
Capital Brussels (de facto) Washington, D.C.
Global Cities London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Dublin, Madrid, Amsterdam, etc. New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Miami, etc.
Government Supranational parliamentary democracy based on the European treaties[4] Federal presidential republic based on the United States Constitution
First Leader High Authority President Jean Monnet President George Washington
Current Leader Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker President Barack Obama
Current Vice Leader Vice Commission President Frans Timmermans Vice President Joe Biden
Official languages Languages of the EU English (de facto national language only)
Main Religions 72% Christianity (48% Roman Catholicism, 12% Protestantism, 8% Eastern Orthodoxy, 4% Other Christianity) 23% non-Religious, 3% Other, 2% Islam 75% Christianity, 20% non-Religious, 2% Judaism, 1% Buddhism, 1% Islam
Ethnic groups Germans (ca. 65 million), French (ca. 60 million), British (ca. 60 million), Italians (ca. 60 million), Spanish (ca. 47 million), Poles (ca. 46 million), Romanians (ca. 16 million), Greeks (ca. 15 million), Dutch (ca. 13 million), Portuguese (ca. 11 million), and others 74% White American, 20.8% Hispanic and Latino Americans (of any race), 13.4% African American,
6.5% Other, 4.4% Asian American, 2.0% Two or more races, 0.68% American Indian or Alaska Native, 0.14% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
GDP (nominal) $18.881 trillion ($37,262 per capita) $18.287 trillion ($57,045 per capita)


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 candidate 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;[5]

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 US. 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.[6][7]


See also: NATO

NATO Quint

Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, Matteo Renzi, David Cameron and Francois Hollande participating in a video teleconference.

The Quint (or NATO Quint) is an informal decision-making group consisting of five leading western nations: the US and the EU big four (France, Germany, Italy and the UK).[8][9] It operates as a "directoire" of various entities such as NATO and the G8/G20.[10][11]

The idea of a trilateral axis on foreign policy issues was proposed by French President Charles de Gaulle to his British and American counterparts (see Fouchet Plan). However, that plan was never implemented. Meetings between the foreign ministers of these three countries and West Germany became known as Quad meetings around 1980. They were largely symbolic and led to no real decision.[12] The Quint in its current form seems to have begun as the Contact Group excluding Russia. Nowadays, Quint leaders discuss all major international topics participating in video conferences once every two weeks or meeting one another in various forums such as NATO, the OSCE, the G20[13] and the UN. The Quint meets also at ministerial and experts' level.[14] [15][16]

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.

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.[17][18]

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".[19]


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.[20] 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.[21] 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.[20]


Relations with
member states
Czech Republic
United Kingdom

EU-US Summits

Annual Summits are held between United States and European Union 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:[22]

  • March 26, 2014 Brussels, Belgium
  • November 28, 2011 Washington, D.C.
  • November 20, 2010 Lisbon, Portugal
  • April 25, 2010 Washington, D.C.[23]
  • 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,

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[24] 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.

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. 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.[25][26][27][28][29]

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.[30][Broken Citation]

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[31][32] on the one hand, who were against military action, and the United States with United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Poland, among others.[33]

Kyoto protocol

The European Union is one of the main backers of the Kyoto protocol, which aims to combat global warming. The United States which initially signed the protocol at its creation during the Clinton Administration, never had the measure ratified by the United States Senate, an essential requirement to give the protocol the force of law in the United States. Later, in March 2001, under President George W. Bush, the United States removed its signature from the protocol, leading to much acrimony between the United States and European nations. In 2008, President Barack Obama said that he planned on setting annual targets to reduce emissions,[34][35] although this doesn't include the Kyoto protocol—likely because developing nations are exempt.[36]

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, five out of 28 EU members (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania) lack such access.


In the autumn of 2015, in the wake of the Snowden revelations in Europe in particular Reactions_to_global_surveillance_disclosures#Europe, the dissimilar interpretations of privacy prevailing in the U.S. and Europe came to the surface in an upset of the International Safe Harbor Privacy Principles by a court ruling of the European Court of Justice.

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.[37][38] 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 favored local producers in former colonies of EU member-states, over U.S.-owned corporations in Latin America. The Clinton administration responded by imposing heavy tariffs on luxury goods created in the EU.[39] Such goods included cashmere from Scotland and French Cognac brandy, made in the original constituency of then Prime Minister of France Jean-Pierre Raffarin. The Clinton administration then took the banana wars to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1999, when Chiquita made a $500,000 donation to the Democratic Party.[37] The two sides reached an agreement in 2001.[40]

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.


Diplomatic relations are maintained between the US and the EU, as an independent body, as well as all EU member states.

The EU is represented in the US by the Delegation of the European Union to the United States in Washington, D.C. Opened in 1954, it was the first overseas delegation of the EU's forerunner, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).[41] The current EU ambassador to the United States, since 2014, is David O'Sullivan.[41] Additionally, all 28 EU member states have an embassy in Washington, D.C.[42]

The United States' diplomatic mission to the EU is the United States Mission to the European Union in Brussels. The current US ambassador to the EU, since 2014, is Anthony Gardner.[43] The United States established a diplomatic mission to the ECSC in 1956 in the city of Luxembourg and, in 1961, the United States Mission to the European Communities in Brussels.[44] The US has embassies in all 28 EU member states.[45]

The Transatlantic Economic Council is a bilateral forum for economic cooperation between the EU and US established during the 2007 US-EU Summit. It meets at least once per year and is jointly headed by the U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs and the EU's Commissioner for Trade.[46]

See also


  1. "The European Union and the United States: Global Partners, Global Responsibilities' " (PDF). Delegation of the European Union to the United States. Retrieved January 5, 2012. 
  2. "Eurostat-Tables,Graphs and Maps Interface(TGM)table". European Commission. Retrieved 9 March 2015. 
  3. Field Listing – Area "Field Listing – Area" Check |url= value (help). The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 9 March 2015. 
  4. Parliamentary democracy and the Treaty of Lisbon
  5. "European Commission". Ec.europa.eu. Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  6. Merkel for EU Agreement with US Der Spiegel
  7. A Transatlantic Free Trade Area? ECIPE
  8. The Quint Acknowledging the Existence of a Big Four-US Directoire at the Heart of the European Union
  9. https://books.google.it/books?id=-HlbZgdaa94C&pg=PA323&lpg=PA323&dq=NATO+Quint&source=bl&ots=V9HnRBeW13&sig=1BIk6u6-d9H0pu8YQUbIg2vdWLA&hl=it&sa=X&ved=0CDIQ6AEwBzgKahUKEwil3pD2mZDHAhVHHh4KHUd7AGs
  10. Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide
  11. White House Press Briefing, G8 Summit Preview
  12. Supporting the Revolution: America, Democracy, and the End of the Cold War ...
  13. [1]
  14. Great Powers in the Balkans
  15. "Obama discusses further Syrian intervention with European leaders". CNN. 15 June 2013. Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  16. "Telefonata Renzi-Obama-Merkel-Cameron-Hollande su Gaza, Ucraina, Libia". Europa Quotidiano. Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  17. "Northrop and EADS exit tanker bid". BBC News. March 9, 2010. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  18. "EU concern over end of tanker bid". BBC News. March 9, 2010. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  19. US attack on Iran 'inconceivable' BBC News
  20. 20.0 20.1 Haynes, Jonathan (30 June 2013). "EU demands clarification over US spying claims". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 June 2013. 
  21. McGeough, Paul (1 July 2013). "US actions spook European allies". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  22. EU-US Summits
  23. High Level Consultative Group on Development Meeting
  24. 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. 
  25. "EU warned on 'secret CIA jails'". BBC News. November 28, 2005. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  26. "Nordic states probe 'CIA flights'". BBC News. November 18, 2005. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  27. "Spain probes 'secret CIA flights'". BBC News. November 15, 2005. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  28. [2][dead link]
  29. Auteur: (belga) (December 2, 2005). "De Standaard Online - Regering onderzoekt CIA-transport van gevangenen". Standaard.be. Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  30. "U.S. Engagement With The International Criminal Court and The Outcome Of The Recently Concluded Review Conference". June 15, 2010. 
  31. Polls find Europeans opposed to the Iraq war BBC News
  32. Review of the translatantic rift at the time Brookings Institution
  33. "Coalition Members". Georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov. March 27, 2003. Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  34. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0fMr2iJR3M.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  35. Doyle, Leonard; McCarthy, Michael (November 20, 2008). "US in from the cold". The Independent. London. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  36. http://www.american.com/archive/2009/november/the-quiet-yet-historic-death-of-the-kyoto-protoco.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  37. 37.0 37.1 Barkham, Patrick (March 5, 1999). "The banana wars explained". The Guardian. London. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  38. / 05:00 CET (January 14, 2010). "Myths about ‘banana wars'". European Voice. Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  39. "US imposes tariff sanctions on European luxury goods". Wsws.org. March 5, 1999. Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  40. "EU and US end banana war". BBC News. April 11, 2001. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  41. 41.0 41.1 "History of the Delegation". Delegation. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  42. "European Union Embassies' Open House: May 9, 2015" (PDF). EU Open House. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 8, 2015. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  43. "About the Ambasador". US Mission to the European Union. United States Department of State. Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  44. "US-EU Relations". United States Mission to the European Union. United States Department of State. Archived from the original on 6 December 2013. Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  45. "Europe-Eurasia: Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions". USEmbassy.gov. US Department of State. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  46. "About the Transatlantic Economic Council". Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, US Department of State. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 


  • 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