The Central and Eastern European candidate countries have come under pressure from the US to give American peacekeepers immunity from the International Criminal Court. While Washington is using military aid and its consent to NATO enlargement as leverage, the EU has warned the candidates not to sign any agreements with the US before the EU has taken its position on the issue.
Romania is the only candidate country so far to sign such a bilateral agreement with the US. The Romanian Government has been criticised by the Commission which said that Romania should have consulted the EU before signing the agreement.
The US is concerned that the International Criminal Court (ICC) could be used as a political instrument against American peacekeepers serving abroad. Washington is seeking permanent immunity from prosecution by signing bilateral agreements with ICC signatory countries. Washington has warned that it would cut US military aid to countries who refuse to sign the immunity agreement under the new US antiterrorism law.
The Foreign Ministers of the 15 Member States will discuss the issue at their informal meeting in Elsinore on 31 August. The EU, which is in favour of the ICC, wants all the candidate countries to wait until a common EU decision on the issue is made. The US State Department warned that it was inappropriate for the EU to put the candidate countries under pressure not to sign the agreement.