EU and US celebrate 50 years of partnership amid transatlantic tensions

Transatlantic relations still under strain as a CEPS symposium and a reception by the US Mission on 25 November mark 50 years of EU-US partnership.

Leaders including Romano Prodi and US former ambassadors to the EU have voiced their opinions on the state of transatlantic relations at various events held to celebrate fifty years of EU-US partnership.

At a CEPS symposium on the “Achievements and Challenges in the Transatlantic Partnership”, the general consensus was that EU-US relations have delivered considerable mutual benefits as the speakers all pointed to a genuine friendship – based on shared democratic values – between the EU and US both among citizens and politicians.

However several speakers regretted that EU-US relations were at such a low ebb on a number of issues and expressed their ideas on how transatlantic initiatives could be re-activated. Disagreements range from issues such as the Kyoto protocol on climate change, the International Criminal Court to how to deal with the Iraq crisis and ‘rogue States’. Trade relations have also suffered from the failure of the WTO Summit in Cancun.

Elsehwere, Commission President Romano Prodi inaugurated the new residence of the US Mission to the EU (featuring a photographic exhibition on EU-US relations). Prodi paid tribute to the constant support of the US to European unity and made a toast to the ‘next 50 years of successful co-operation’.


Elmar Brokunderlined the way in which the US had contributed to the EU before the European institutions were created (by helping to liberate and reshape Europe after World War II and by providing a federal model). Brok is chairman of the Parliament's Relex committee [Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy].

Quoting from a report of his from 1976, former Belgian PrimeMinister Tindemansregretted that, even 20 years after the Treaty of Rome, the US was still seldom taking the Community seriously (for example by discussing trade with Member States without involving the Commission).

Mr Wayne(deputy Head of the US Mission) stressed the constant rise of investment to and from the US, and advocated a fact-based, targeted security tracking of flight passengers. One of his opposite numbers, Mr Faull (Director General of DG JAI), stated that co-operation on justice and home affairs matters was flourishing.

Mr Eisenstat(former US Ambassador to the EU) stated that 'things have gone fundamentally wrong', noting that the strong sympathy with the US following 9/11 had largely dissipated. In an allusion to the pre-Iraq tensions, he called for Washington to resist the temptation of trying to divide Europe after enlargement. On the basis that "it is not a zero sum game and we don't have to agree on everything", he also listed numerous reasons for hope. These include re-launching the Doha trade round, and joint action on peace, health and human rights. He also raised the idea of 'launching a transatlantic market place within 10 years'.

Mr Morningstar(former US Ambassador to the EU) wondered whether understandable doubts by the Bush administration about Kyoto and the International Criminal Court were not in fact undermining the national interest given that the US was so central to the international "chess board". He also speculated as to what might happen to the Doha trade negotiations after the departure of Mr Lamy and Mr Z oellick.


Transatlantic relations have been under a considerable amount of strain over the last few years. Disagreements include the following issues:

  • how to deal with the present situation in Iraq;
  • how to deal with 'rogue States';
  • trade dispute over US subsidies to steel industry;
  • the EU's de facto moratorium on the import of GMOs;
  • the Kyoto protocol on climate change;
  • the International Criminal Court .

Trade relations have also suffered from the failure of the WTO Summit in Cancun.


Co-operation and exchanges of ideas/views will continue between EU and US representatives.  

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