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 country and the supranational organization.


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 510,056,011[2] 323,680,000
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) 35/km² (90.6/sq mi)
Capital Brussels (de facto) Washington, D.C.
Global Cities London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Vienna, Madrid, Amsterdam, Athens etc. New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, 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 Donald Trump
Current Vice Leader Vice Commission President Frans Timmermans Vice President Mike Pence
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
70.6% Christianity (46.5% Protestantism, 20.8% Catholicism, 1.6% Mormonism,
1.7% Other Christianity), 22.8% non-Religious, 1.9% Judaism,
0.9% Islam, 0.7% Buddhism, 0.7% Hinduism
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
77.1% White American, 13.3% African American, 5.6% Asian American,
2.6% Two or more races, 1.2% American Indian or Alaska Native,
0.2% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander,
(17.6% Hispanic and Latino Americans (of any race))
GDP (nominal) $16.477 trillion ($31,801 per capita) $18.558 trillion ($57,220 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 and NATO Quint

Arms embargo on the People's Republic of China[edit]

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 US 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[edit]

In March 2010 EADS and its US 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.[8][9]

Iran's nuclear program[edit]

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.


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.[10] 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.[11] 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 US relations would be severely impacted.[10]


Relations with
member states
Czech Republic
United Kingdom

EU-US Summits[edit]

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:[12][edit]

Year Host Country Location
1995  Spain Madrid
1997  United States Washington, D.C.
1998  United Kingdom London
1998  United States Washington, D.C.
1999  United States Washington, D.C.
2000  Portugal Queluz
2001  Sweden Gothenburg
2002  United States Washington, D.C.
2003  United States Washington, D.C.
2004  Ireland Shannon
2005  United States Washington, D.C.
2006  Austria Vienna
2007  United States Washington, D.C.
2008  Slovenia Ljubljana
2009  Czech Republic Prague (informal summit)
 United States Washington, D.C.
2010  Spain Madrid
 United States Washington, D.C.[13]
2011  United States Washington, D.C.
2014  Belgium Brussels

Boeing and Airbus subsidies[edit]

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[14] 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[edit]

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.[15][16][17][18][19]

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 US President Barack Obama.

Death penalty[edit]

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 European Union 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[edit]

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.[20] [Broken Citation]

Iraq War[edit]

The Iraq War divided opinions within European nations and within the United States, 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[21][22] on the one hand, who were against military action, and the United States with United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Poland, among others.[23]

Kyoto protocol[edit]

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,[24][25] although this doesn't include the Kyoto protocol—likely because developing nations are exempt.[26]

Visa waiver reciprocity[edit]

The EU is requesting from the US 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 (see details), the dissimilar interpretations of privacy prevailing in the United States 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[edit]

EU-US summit at Brdo Castle near Kranj in 2008

Banana wars[edit]

The European Union and United States have had a long-running dispute over the EU's banana imports.[27][28] 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 US-owned corporations in Latin America. The Clinton administration responded by imposing heavy tariffs on luxury goods created in the EU.[29] 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.[27] The two sides reached an agreement in 2001.[30]

US steel tariffs[edit]

In 2002, the United States 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 US administration.[citation needed]


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).[31] The current EU ambassador to the United States, since 2014, is David O'Sullivan.[31] Additionally, all 28 EU member states have an embassy in Washington, D.C.[32]

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.[33] 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.[34] The US has embassies in all 28 EU member states.[35]

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 US Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs and the EU's Commissioner for Trade.[36]

Trump administration[edit]

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of the Trump cabinet meeting with EU High Representative Federica Mogherini in 2017.

In a 60-minute interview in mid-January, with Michael Gove of the Times of London and Kai Diekmann of Bild, Trump criticized the European Union as "basically a vehicle for Germany" claiming that it was a "very catastrophic mistake" on Angela Merkel's part to admit a million refugees - whom he refers to as "illegals".[37] In a letter to 27 European leaders, Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, called these "worrying declarations" and claimed that the Trump administration seemed to "question the last 70 years of American foreign policy," placing the European Union in a "difficult situation".[38]

See also[edit]


  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". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 9 March 2015. 
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 21, 2015. Retrieved 2015-01-21. 
  5. ^ "European Commission". Ec.europa.eu. Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Trans-Atlantic Free Trade?: Merkel for EU Agreement with US - SPIEGEL ONLINE". Spiegel.de. 2006-10-02. Retrieved 2016-09-10. 
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 16, 2010. Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  8. ^ "Northrop and EADS exit tanker bid". BBC News. March 9, 2010. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  9. ^ "EU concern over end of tanker bid". BBC News. March 9, 2010. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  10. ^ a b Haynes, Jonathan (30 June 2013). "EU demands clarification over US spying claims". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 June 2013. 
  11. ^ McGeough, Paul (1 July 2013). "US actions spook European allies". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  12. ^ "European Union - EEAS (European External Action Service) - EU-US Summit, Washington 3 November 2009". Ec.europa.eu. Retrieved September 5, 2016. 
  13. ^ "European Commission - PRESS RELEASES - Press release - Outcome of re-launched EU-US Development Dialogue: towards joint action on Millennium Development Goals, Food security and Climate change". Europa.eu. Retrieved September 5, 2016. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ "EU warned on 'secret CIA jails'". BBC News. November 28, 2005. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Nordic states probe 'CIA flights'". BBC News. November 18, 2005. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Spain probes 'secret CIA flights'". BBC News. November 15, 2005. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  18. ^ [1] Archived March 12, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ Auteur: (belga) (December 2, 2005). "De Standaard Online - Regering onderzoekt CIA-transport van gevangenen". Standaard.be. Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  20. ^ "U.S. Engagement With The International Criminal Court and The Outcome Of The Recently Concluded Review Conference". June 15, 2010. Archived from the original on January 12, 2012. 
  21. ^ Polls find Europeans opposed to the Iraq war BBC News
  22. ^ Review of the translatantic rift at the time Brookings Institution
  23. ^ "Coalition Members". Georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov. March 27, 2003. Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  24. ^ University of California Television (UCTV) (November 19, 2008). "Global Climate Summit: Barack Obama". Youtube.com. Retrieved September 5, 2016 – via YouTube. 
  25. ^ Doyle, Leonard; McCarthy, Michael (November 20, 2008). "US in from the cold". The Independent. London. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  26. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 26, 2010. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  27. ^ a b Barkham, Patrick (March 5, 1999). "The banana wars explained". The Guardian. London. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  28. ^ "Myths about 'banana wars'". European Voice. January 14, 2010. Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  29. ^ "US imposes tariff sanctions on European luxury goods". Wsws.org. March 5, 1999. Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  30. ^ "EU and US end banana war". BBC News. April 11, 2001. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  31. ^ a b "History of the Delegation". Delegation. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  32. ^ "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. 
  33. ^ "About the Ambasador". US Mission to the European Union. United States Department of State. Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  34. ^ "US-EU Relations". United States Mission to the European Union. United States Department of State. Archived from the original on December 6, 2013. Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  35. ^ "Europe-Eurasia: Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions". USEmbassy.gov. US Department of State. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  36. ^ "About the Transatlantic Economic Council". Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, US Department of State. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  37. ^ Donald Trump interviewed by Michael Gove and Kai Diekmann, New York: Times of London, January 16, 2017, retrieved February 1, 2017  Full-text transcript
  38. ^ EU's Donald Tusk sees Trump as threat to Europe, BBC, January 31, 2017, retrieved February 1, 2017 


  • 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[edit]

External links[edit]