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Thursday, July 28, 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 27 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 bolster its counterterrorism capabilities, the EU has also made promoting 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 strengthen aviation and transport security. Despite the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011, both the United States and the EU maintain that continued vigilance against terrorism remains essential.

Nevertheless, some challenges persist in fostering closer U.S.-EU counterterrorism and law enforcement cooperation. 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 have negotiated some 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.

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.


Date of Report: July 18, 2011
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: RS22030
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

United Nations System Efforts to Address Violence Against Women


Luisa Blanchfield
Specialist in International Relations

The United Nations (U.N.) system supports a number of programs that address international violence against women (VAW). These activities, which are implemented by 36 U.N. entities, range from large-scale interagency initiatives to smaller grants and programs that are implemented by a range of partners, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), national governments, and individual U.N. agencies. U.N. member states, including the United States, address VAW by ratifying multilateral treaties, adopting resolutions and decisions, and supporting U.N. mechanisms and bodies that focus on the issue.

Many U.N. activities and mechanisms address VAW directly, while others focus on it in the context of broader issues such as humanitarian assistance, U.N. peacekeeping, and global health. U.N. entities do not specifically track the cost of programs or activities with anti-VAW components. As a result, it is unclear how much the U.N. system, including individual U.N. agencies, funds, and programs, spends annually on programs to combat violence against women.

The U.S. government supports many activities that, either in whole or in part, work to combat international violence against women. Some experts argue that when considering the most effective ways to address VAW on an international scale, the United States should take into account the efforts of international organizations such as the United Nations. Were the 112
th Congress to decide to use U.N. mechanisms to combat VAW, a number of programs and options might be considered. Congress has appropriated funds to the U.N. Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence Against Women, for example, as well as to U.N. agencies, funds, and programs that address types or circumstances of violence against women and girls. These include the U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), World Health Organization (WHO), U.N. Development Program (UNDP), U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The Senate has also provided its advice and consent to U.S. ratification of treaties that address international violence against women and girls—including the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.

At the same time, however, some policymakers contend that U.N. anti-VAW activities may not always align with U.S. foreign assistance priorities. They emphasize that rather than focusing on multilateral efforts, the U.S. government should focus on its own anti-VAW activities. Additionally, others may suggest that the U.S. government reconsider its efforts to combat international VAW in light of the global economic crisis, economic recession, and consequent calls to lower the U.S. budget deficit.

This report provides an overview of recent U.N. efforts to address VAW and highlights key U.N. interagency efforts. It also discusses selected U.N. funds, programs, and agencies that address international violence against women. It does not assess the extent to which VAW is directly addressed or is part of a larger initiative or program.

For information on international violence against women, including its causes, consequences, and U.S. policy, see CRS Report RL34438, International Violence Against Women: U.S. Response and Policy Issues.



Date of Report: July 12, 2011
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: RL34518
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

The U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW): Issues in the U.S. Ratification Debate


Luisa Blanchfield
Specialist in International Relations

The Senate may consider providing its advice and consent to U.S. ratification of the United Nations (U.N.) Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, or the Convention) during the 112th Congress. CEDAW is the only international human rights treaty that specifically addresses the rights of women. It calls on States Parties to take measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all areas of life, including political participation, employment, education, healthcare, and family structure. CEDAW has been ratified or acceded to by 187 States Parties. The United States is the only country to have signed but not ratified the Convention. Other governments that have not ratified the treaty include Iran, Nauru, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, and Tonga.

President Jimmy Carter signed the Convention and transmitted it to the Senate in 1980. The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (SFRC) held hearings on CEDAW in 1988, 1990, 1994, and 2002. It reported CEDAW favorably, subject to certain conditions, in 1994 and 2002. To date, however, the Convention has not been considered by the full Senate.

The election of President Barack Obama has focused renewed attention on the possibility of U.S. ratification of CEDAW. The Obama Administration called the Convention an “important priority,” and in May 2009 identified it as a treaty on which it “supports Senate action at this time.” At a November 2010 hearing on CEDAW held by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, Administration officials expressed further support for U.S. ratification. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer stated that ratification is critical to U.S. efforts to promote and defend women’s rights worldwide.

U.S. ratification of CEDAW is a contentious policy issue that has generated considerable debate in Congress and among the general public. Supporters of ratification hold that the Convention is a valuable mechanism for fighting women’s discrimination worldwide. They argue that U.S. ratification will give CEDAW added legitimacy and empower women who fight discrimination in their own countries. Opponents of the Convention maintain that it is not an effective mechanism for addressing discrimination against women internationally or domestically, emphasizing that countries widely believed to have poor women’s rights records have ratified the treaty. Critics further contend that U.S. ratification could undermine U.S. sovereignty and impact the private conducts of U.S. citizens. Some are particularly concerned with CEDAW’s possible effect on U.S. laws and policies relating to the definitions of discrimination, education, parental rights, and health care.

This report provides an overview of CEDAW’s background, objectives, and structure, including the role of the Convention’s monitoring body, the CEDAW Committee. It examines U.S. policy and issues in the U.S. ratification debate, including the Convention’s possible impact on U.S. sovereignty, its effectiveness in combating discrimination, and its role as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy.



Date of Report: June 28, 2011
Number of Pages: 29
Order Number: R40750
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

United Nations Reform: U.S. Policy and International Perspectives


Luisa Blanchfield
Specialist in International Relations

Since its establishment in 1945, the United Nations (U.N.) has been in a constant state of transition as various international stakeholders seek ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the U.N. system. Controversies such as corruption of the Iraq Oil-For-Food Program, allegations of sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers, and instances of waste, fraud, and abuse by U.N. staff, have focused renewed attention on the need for change and improvement of the United Nations. Many in the international community, including the United States, have increased pressure on U.N. member states to implement substantive reforms. The 112th Congress will most likely continue to focus on U.N. reform as it considers appropriate levels of U.S. funding to the United Nations and monitors the progress and implementation of ongoing and previously approved reform measures.

In September 2005, heads of U.N. member states met for the World Summit at U.N. Headquarters in New York to discuss strengthening the United Nations through institutional reform. The resulting Summit Outcome Document laid the groundwork for a series of reforms that included establishing a Peacebuilding Commission, creating a new Human Rights Council, and enlarging the U.N. Security Council. Member states also agreed to Secretariat and management reforms including improving internal U.N. oversight capacity, establishing a U.N. ethics office, enhancing U.N. whistle-blower protection, and reviewing all U.N. mandates five years or older.

Since the World Summit, U.N. member states have worked toward implementing these reforms with varied degrees of success. Some reforms, such as the creation of the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission, have already occurred or are ongoing. Other reforms, such as mandate review and U.N. Security Council enlargement, have stalled or not been addressed. U.N. member states disagree as to whether some proposed reforms are necessary, as well as how to most effectively implement previously agreed-to reforms. Developed countries, for example, support delegating more power to the U.N. Secretary-General to implement management reforms, whereas developing countries fear that giving the Secretary-General more authority may undermine the power of the U.N. General Assembly and therefore the influence of individual countries.

Congress has maintained a significant interest in the overall effectiveness of the United Nations. Some members are particularly interested in U.N. Secretariat and management reform, with a focus on enhanced accountability and internal oversight. In the past, Congress has enacted legislation that links U.S. funding of the United Nations to specific U.N. reform benchmarks. Opponents of this strategy argue that tying U.S. funding to U.N. reform may negatively impact diplomatic relations and could hinder the United States’ ability to conduct foreign policy. Supporters contend that the United Nations has been slow to implement reforms and that linking payment of U.S. assessments to progress on U.N. reform is the most effective way to motivate member states to efficiently pursue comprehensive reform.



Date of Report: July 7, 2011
Number of Pages: 32
Order Number: RL33848
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

The United States and Europe: Current Issues

Derek E. Mix
Analyst in European Affairs

Due to extensive cooperation on a wide range of issues, the relationship between the United States and Europe is often called the transatlantic partnership. In many areas, the two sides share common values and overlapping interests, and have grown increasingly interdependent in terms of security and prosperity.

The majority of Europeans warmly welcomed President Barack Obama to office, and his popularity suggested opportunities for the United States and Europe to address the common set of global challenges they face. In dealing with this difficult agenda, however, observers note that the constructive tone of the relationship does not necessarily translate into tangible foreign policy results. Overall, transatlantic cooperation is strong on many key issues, but some concerns and points of tension also persist. As the United States and Europe deal with changing geopolitical realities, some new anxieties are surfacing about the future of the transatlantic partnership.

The list of issues representing significant areas of shared interest is long. This report selects five major issues to illustrate the nature of the transatlantic relationship and cooperation: 

  • Despite the substantially increased commitment of troops and resources during 2009-2010, the likely outcome of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan is a subject of debate. Afghanistan continues to pose a test of alliance cohesion, and Europe’s commitment to maintaining its participation will be an important tone setter in transatlantic relations. 
  • Europe remains both a primary target of radical Islamist terrorists and a potential base for those seeking to carry out attacks against the United States. Transatlantic counterterrorism cooperation has been strong since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, but challenging differences exist over issues such as data privacy that could hinder or complicate efforts to jointly combat terrorism. 
  • The global financial crisis has affected the transatlantic economic relationship and challenged the political relationship. Promoting financial stability and restoring economic growth are major priorities for leaders on both sides. The United States and Europe have the largest trade and investment relationship in the world. While some disputes persist, most of the relationship is mutually beneficial, and efforts are ongoing to reduce non-tariff barriers and increase regulatory convergence. 
  • The United States and the European Union (EU) continue to seek a way to halt Iran’s nuclear program. After the approval of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929 in June 2010, the EU applied strict new sanctions against Iran. While the new measures bring U.S. and EU sanctions into broad alignment, differences remain over issues such as the sale of refined petroleum products. 
  • Lastly, relations between the West and Russia grew increasingly tense in recent years. While the Obama Administration’s “reset” initiative appears to have contributed to an improved atmosphere, common approaches to Russia—among U.S. policymakers, within Europe, and across the Atlantic—have proven difficult to formulate. 
This report examines the current state of the transatlantic relationship and discusses the key issues outlined above, which are likely to have implications for U.S. interests during the 112th Congress.


Date of Report: June 20, 2011
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: RS22163
Price: $29.95

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