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Thursday, May 26, 2011

The European Union: Leadership Changes

Derek E. Mix
Analyst in European Affairs

Changes introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, the European Union’s (EU’s) reform treaty that took effect on December 1, 2009, have a significant impact on EU governance. The EU is an important partner or interlocutor of the United States in a large number of issues, but the complicated institutional dynamics of the EU can be difficult to navigate.

The Lisbon Treaty makes substantial modifications in the leadership of the EU, especially with regard to the European Council, the Council of Ministers, and the EU’s rotating presidency. Every six months, the “EU Presidency” rotates among the 27 member states. Under the treaty, however, the leader of the presidency country no longer serves as the temporary chair and spokesman of the European Council, the grouping of the EU’s 27 national leaders. This duty now belongs to the newly created President of the European Council, who serves a once-renewable two-and-a-halfyear term.

In addition, the foreign minister of the presidency country no longer chairs the meetings of EU foreign ministers in the Council of the EU (commonly known as the Council of Ministers). This duty is now performed by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, another newly created position whose holder serves a five-year term and is both an agent of the Council of Ministers and a Vice President of the European Commission. Many of the day-to-day duties of the rotating presidency country, however, will continue under the Lisbon Treaty.

Ministers of the presidency country will still chair all of the meetings of the Council of Ministers other than in the area of foreign policy. The presidency country is expected to continue preparing and arranging these activities, and playing a leading role in the Council of Ministers to forge agreement on legislative proposals. The presidency country is also expected to help formulate a few broad policy priorities for its tenure. The EU remains in an extended phase of institutional transition as the new arrangements of the Lisbon Treaty are implemented, and the rotating presidency country is expected to support the development of the new institutions and positions. Hungary holds the rotating presidency for the first half of 2011, and Poland will hold it for the second half of the year. Spain and Belgium held the rotating presidency in 2010.

EU foreign policy decisions of a political or security-related nature require unanimous intergovernmental agreement among the 27 member states. In many other issues which may relate to external affairs, however, EU members have agreed to pool their decision-making sovereignty. A number of additional EU actors often have particular relevance in these matters. The President of the European Commission represents the EU externally on issues that are managed by the Commission, including many economic, trade, and environmental issues. Many of the issues in which the European Parliament acts as a “co-legislator,” such as trade and data protection, relate to external affairs. Some observers also suggest that the Parliament has become an increasingly important forum for debating international issues.

Changes in the structure of EU governance may be of interest to the 112
th Congress. For more information, also see CRS Report RS21372, The European Union: Questions and Answers, by Kristin Archick and Derek E. Mix and CRS Report RS21618, The European Union’s Reform Process: The Lisbon Treaty, by Kristin Archick and Derek E. Mix.


Date of Report: May 16, 2011
Number of Pages: 10
Order Number: R41088
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

U.S.-EU Cooperation Against Terrorism


Kristin Archick
Specialist in European Affairs

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks gave new momentum to European Union (EU) initiatives to combat terrorism and improve police, judicial, and intelligence cooperation among its member states. Since the 2001 attacks, the EU has sought to speed up its efforts to harmonize national laws and bring down barriers among member states’ law enforcement authorities so that information can be meaningfully shared and suspects apprehended expeditiously. Among other steps, the EU has established a common definition of terrorism and a common list of terrorist groups, an EU arrest warrant, enhanced tools to stem terrorist financing, and new measures to strengthen external EU border controls and improve aviation security.

As part of its drive to improve its counterterrorism capabilities, the EU has also made improving cooperation with the United States a top priority. Washington has largely welcomed these efforts, recognizing that they may help root out terrorist cells and prevent future attacks against the United States or its interests abroad. U.S.-EU cooperation against terrorism has led to a new dynamic in U.S.-EU relations by fostering dialogue on law enforcement and homeland security issues previously reserved for bilateral discussions. Contacts between U.S. and EU officials on police, judicial, and border control policy matters have increased substantially since 2001. A number of new U.S.-EU agreements have also been reached; these include information-sharing arrangements between the United States and EU police and judicial bodies, two new U.S.-EU treaties on extradition and mutual legal assistance, and accords on container security and airline passenger data. In addition, the United States and the EU have been working together to clamp down on terrorist financing and to improve aviation and transport security.

Despite U.S.-EU strides to foster closer counterterrorism and law enforcement cooperation, some challenges remain. Data privacy has been and continues to be a key sticking point. In February 2010, the European Parliament (EP) rejected a U.S.-EU agreement—known as the SWIFT accord—that would have continued allowing U.S. authorities access to financial data stored in Europe to help combat terrorism on the grounds that it did not contain sufficient protections to safeguard the personal data and privacy rights of EU citizens. Although the EP approved a revised U.S.-EU SWIFT agreement in July 2010, some Members of the European Parliament—for many years and for similar reasons—have also challenged a U.S.-EU agreement permitting airlines to share passenger name record (PNR) data with U.S. authorities. U.S. and EU officials are currently negotiating revisions to the existing PNR accord in an effort to assuage EP concerns. Other issues that have led to periodic U.S.-EU tensions include terrorist detainee policies, differences in the U.S. and EU terrorist designation lists, and balancing border security with legitimate transatlantic travel and commerce.

Nevertheless, both the United States and the EU appear committed to fostering closer cooperation in the areas of counterterrorism and other homeland security issues. Congressional decisions related to improving border controls and transport security, in particular, may affect how future U.S.-EU cooperation evolves. In addition, given the European Parliament’s growing influence in many of these policy areas, Members of Congress may be able to help shape Parliament’s views and responses through ongoing contacts and the existing Transatlantic Legislators’ Dialogue (TLD). This report examines the evolution of U.S.-EU counterterrorism cooperation and the ongoing challenges that may be of interest in the 112
th Congress. For additional background, also see CRS Report RL31509, Europe and Counterterrorism: Strengthening Police and Judicial Cooperation, by Kristin Archick.


Date of Report: May 2, 2011
Number of Pages: 19
Order Number: RS22030
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

The European Union: Questions and Answers


Kristin Archick
Specialist in European Affairs

Derek E. Mix
Analyst in European Affairs


The European Union (EU) is an economic and political partnership that represents a unique form of cooperation among its 27 member states. The Union is the latest stage of a process of integration begun after World War II to promote peace, stability, and economic prosperity in Europe. The United States has strongly supported the EU and its progenitors as a means to foster democratic states and robust trading partners.

The EU has been built through a series of binding treaties, and EU member states have committed to a process of integration by harmonizing laws and adopting common policies on an extensive range of issues. For most economic and social issues, EU member states have largely pooled their national sovereignty, and EU decision making has a supranational quality. Decisions in other areas, such as foreign policy, require unanimous consensus among member states.

EU member states work together through common institutions to set policy and to promote their collective interests. The three main institutions of the EU are the European Commission, which upholds the common interest of the Union as a whole and functions as the EU’s executive; the Council of the European Union (also known as the Council of Ministers), which represents the national governments; and the directly elected European Parliament, which represents the citizens of the EU. The Lisbon Treaty, which took effect in December 2009, is the EU’s latest attempt to reform its governing institutions and decision-making processes in order to enable an enlarged EU to function more effectively. The Lisbon Treaty also seeks to give the EU a stronger voice in the foreign policy realm and to increase democratic transparency within the EU.

The EU has a strong common trade policy and has been developing a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) to make it a more coherent actor on the world stage. It has also been seeking to build a Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) in order to improve its military capabilities. Although some shortcomings exist in EU-NATO relations, the two institutions continue to seek a more cooperative and complementary relationship. Over the last decade especially, the EU has been working to forge common internal security measures in the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) field, including by boosting police and judicial cooperation and enhancing the Union’s ability to combat terrorism and other cross-border crimes.

The United States and the EU have an extensive and dynamic political partnership and share a large, mutually beneficial trade and investment relationship. The global financial crisis has challenged both sides to forge a common response. The United States and the EU have a number of lingering trade disputes, but have led the push to liberalize world trade, and have sought to reduce non-tariff and regulatory barriers in the transatlantic marketplace.

This report provides a brief overview of these issues, many of which may be of interest to the 112
th Congress. For more information, also see CRS Report RS21618, The European Union’s Reform Process: The Lisbon Treaty, by Kristin Archick and Derek E. Mix; CRS Report R41088, The European Union: Leadership Changes Resulting from the Lisbon Treaty; by Derek E. Mix, and CRS Report RS21998, The European Parliament, by Kristin Archick and Derek E. Mix.


Date of Report: May 4, 2011
Number of Pages: 12
Order Number: RS21372
Price: $29.95

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Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.