The U.S. and the EU: From Transatlantic Relationship to Global Partnership

Thank you, Fabian, for that introduction.  I appreciate EPC hosting me today, and I thank you for your work and that of Elizabeth Bisland and the rest of your team in putting together this morning’s event.  Like many diplomatic missions in this town, we at USEU deeply value the work that EPC does to provide a platform for different perspectives to be heard and debated on important current issues.

I’d also to recognize [Ukrainian] Ambassador Yeliseyev. Our meeting was my first meeting in Brussels on the very day of my arrival. I look forward to continuing the close coordination between our embassies during this crisis. The Ukrainian people have acted with remarkable courage and self-restraint in the face of increasingly blatant Russian aggression.

Today I want to talk about how the U.S. and the EU are cooperating in many countries and across many continents in response to international crises: Ukraine and Iran are just two of the many examples of where the relationship between us has evolved into a global partnership. Prior to the wave of democratic transformations that swept through Central and Eastern Europe twenty-five years ago, Washington’s engagement with Europe was almost exclusively with individual states, or collectively with NATO.

The Lisbon Treaty provided the EU with the tools to be a credible player on the international stage. Secretary of State John Kerry need not repeat Kissinger’s lament: he knows Cathy Ashton’s phone number and values her perspective. They have frequently collaborated on a host of global issues that previously lay outside the trade and economic focus of the U.S.-EU relationship. We look forward to continuing that relationship with Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini. And we also look forward to continuing with Prime Minister Tusk the excellent relations we have enjoyed with President Van Rompuy. We congratulate both of them sincerely and wish them well at this historic moment.

A glance at the EU-U.S. Summit joint statement from March of this year reveals a full agenda; less than a third of it is related to the traditional suite of economic, trade and development issues. Most of it focuses on foreign policy and security matters of mutual concern. I expect the European Union’s role in global affairs to continue to grow, and with it, the U.S.-EU global partnership. Therefore, this morning I will first focus on this partnership, above all concerning Ukraine, before going on to address several priorities in the bilateral transatlantic relationship that will remain important.

A Global Partnership

When I began my job at the National Security Council during President Clinton’s first administration, I declared that I wanted to focus on EU affairs. My interest reflected the fact that I had served as a stagiaire in the European Commission and subsequently as an anti-trust lawyer here in Brussels. No one else was interested in that focus because at the time the NSC was largely concerned with issues of “hard power,” specifically in dealing with the conflict in Bosnia.

In my time at the NSC, my friend and mentor Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat was our Ambassador to the EU. Together we pushed for the conclusion of the New Transatlantic Agenda, signed in December 1995. That document helped to shift the perception in Washington that the EU was not as effective a partner as individual member states on foreign policy issues. The focus of that new foreign policy cooperation was primarily on increasing peace, democracy, and stability in Central and Eastern Europe and the states of the former Soviet Union; but it also specifically included Middle East peace, human rights, non-proliferation, and development and humanitarian assistance. Moreover, the Agenda called for the U.S.-EU relationship to move from joint consultation to joint action in a number of areas. These steps served to promote President Kennedy’s vision of a transatlantic partnership of equals.

Since the signing of that Agenda twenty years ago, there has been a growing appreciation of the importance of “soft power,” of the impact of the EU’s domestic policies on U.S. interests, and the of the growing potential to collaborate on shared foreign policy concerns. This is reflected in the fact that our staff at the USEU Mission comes from a wide cross-section of the U.S. Government. While the breadth of the U.S.-EU partnership is constantly growing, some of the same issues still remain priorities for us. Ukraine and Russia, important concerns in 1990, topped the agenda at the U.S.-EU Summit in March of this year, as well as at the G7 Summit hosted by the European Council two months later.


Today we face a serious crisis in Ukraine. It is worth reminding ourselves that it started with Russia’s refusal, which continues to this day, to allow the Ukrainian people to choose their own destiny, including a free trade agreement with the EU. The EU and the U.S. are standing up for the principle of territorial integrity, the rejection of changes of borders through the use of force and respect for international law. Russia’s actions represent a fundamental challenge to our shared values and the rules-based international order; they require a steadfast response and a willingness to bear the costs.

Sometimes a picture can be worth a thousand words. In late March The Economist published an article entitled “Putin’s Arrow: The Crisis in Ukraine is Reinvigorating Transatlantic Ties.” The cartoon featured Putin as cupid, bare chested and wearing army fatigues, just after firing his arrow at a tree where the U.S. and EU have carved their initials in the shape of a heart. In the distance, President Obama and a woman dressed in the EU flag are walking hand in hand.

I am not revealing any state secrets when I say that U.S.-EU relations were in a difficult phase when I arrived in Brussels, in large part due to the Snowden allegations and concerns about data privacy. As the Economist article argued, “Russia is reminding both sides of the ties that bind.” At a time when Russia is supplying troops and equipment (including tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and multiple rocket launchers) to the separatists in Ukraine, and bears responsibility for the slaughter of European citizens in the skies above Ukraine, it would be appropriate to put peripheral issues which are attracting significant media attention into some perspective. Russia’s actions may remind us again of the geostrategic and economic importance of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement. And Russia’s actions may also assist in wrapping up several negotiations we have under way related to data privacy. I’ll refer to both T-TIP and data privacy in greater detail in a moment.

European integration and transatlantic cooperation have always been forged in moments of crisis, specifically at times of external threat. Over the last few months I have frequently been in the Justus Lipsius building where, on the ground floor, one can see photographs of the founding fathers of the EU: Jean Monnet, Walter Hallstein, Robert Schuman and Konrad Adenauer, for example. One person who played a key role in the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, the kernel of what was later to become the European Economic Communities, is not on the wall: Joseph Stalin. The Soviet threat accelerated Europe’s integration and was an important reason for strong U.S. support for that process. While I am not suggesting that we are back to the days of the Cold War, Vladimir Putin may unwittingly be acting as the midwife of a new era in European integration and transatlantic cooperation.

For now Putin basks in the glow of high popular approval due to his near total control over the Russian media. Banging the nationalist drum and engaging in Soviet-style agitprop bring short-term dividends, but it is safe to say that Putin has done more than any other Russian leader to set back Russia’s strategic interests. Consider the following: Russian actions accelerated the timetable for Ukraine’s signature of its DCFTA and alienated the vast majority of the Ukrainian population, which for historical and cultural reasons had every reason to desire strong relations with its Eastern neighbor; they accelerated the signature of EU association agreements with Georgia and Moldova; they led the U.S. to deploy paratroopers in Poland, Estonia and Latvia and led our NATO partners to send fighter jets to Estonia and Poland; they resulted in NATO conducting air policing operations over the Baltic states and increase military exercises and training in Eastern Europe; the NATO Summit may decide to pre-position troops in Poland and the Baltics; European defense spending, which has been on a downward trajectory for years may stabilize and perhaps even reverse; and some neutral countries are reexamining their potential membership in NATO. Today no one questions the relevance of NATO as was the case just a few years ago. These are remarkable developments.

And perhaps most importantly, Russian actions (including the shutoff of gas to Ukraine) have focused minds on Russia’s unreliability as an energy exporter and on the importance of an EU energy policy; such a policy would include diversification of supply; the creation of a true internal market where energy can flow more freely; and the ability of Europe to negotiate as one in order to resist Russian efforts to use energy as a political weapon against the weak. At the same time, Russia is vigorously opposing fracking; it claims it does so out of concern to protect the health of European citizens. That is about as likely as the claim that several thousand Russian soldiers lost their bearings and mistakenly crossed into Ukraine over the past few weeks.

We have been busy following up on the recommendations of the U.S.-EU Energy Ministerial in Brussels last spring regarding measures to enhance energy security in Ukraine. Some medium to long term measures which could avoid Russian territory were also discussed. There are many ways in which the U.S. and EU can collaborate on energy security. These may include LNG exports from the United States, the mobilization of private capital to build the necessary infrastructure in Europe, collaboration on enhancing the transparency of Ukraine’s energy sector, assisting Ukraine to develop national hydrocarbon resources, and sharing experiences in the development of alternative energies.

I have been a front row observer of how the Ukraine crisis is strengthening the sinews of transatlantic cooperation every day. The U.S. Government and the Commission, Council and Member States are coordinating financial assistance bilaterally and through the international financial institutions, focusing aid programs where they are most needed, and working together to help Ukraine begin to address its energy needs. Our coordination on Russian sanctions has been close and productive, just as it was on Iran sanctions. The last package announced in late July was a significant step forward. I have been impressed that 28 member states have been able to take significant actions, notwithstanding differing perspectives and vulnerabilities.

President Herman van Rompuy made clear at last week’s meeting of the European Council meeting that the European Council is ready to take “significant steps” and requests the Commission to “urgently undertake preparatory work together with the Action Service” to present proposals within a week, including provisions “on the basis of which every person and institution dealing with the separatist groups in the Donbass will be listed.” This week we are discussing concrete proposals with his European counterparts, regarding the tightening of existing sanctions and the implementation of new ones with teeth by the end of this week. As you have seen, France has announced the suspension of the Mistral sale. It was the right decision; it was a principled decision and we welcome it.

We welcome the fact that Donald Tusk will play a critical role in guiding the work of the 28 member states meeting on this issue in the European Council going forward. His courage and moral compass, demonstrated ever since his Solidarity activism combating authoritarian rule, are critical assets at this time. I had the opportunity to witness the courage of those activists when I studied at the Jagiellonian University of Krakow in 1983.


While Ukraine is now a critical focus of U.S.-EU collaboration relating to third countries, it is certainly not the only one. In Iran, High Representative Ashton has shown remarkable leadership in the P5+1 talks, as we call them (E3+3 in EU parlance). The United States remains committed to working with our P5+1 partners toward a long-term, comprehensive solution that provides confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful. An initial step was taken with an interim Joint Plan of Action, which provided limited relief of certain sanctions in exchange for Iranian steps that halted its nuclear program and rolled it back in key respects. The relief agreed was limited; outside of the specific areas provided for in the Joint Plan of Action, U.S. sanctions remain in place and we continue to enforce them – an essential part of our dual-track policy to continue to maintain pressure on Iran in order to achieve a successful outcome in the negotiations over its nuclear program.

Pursuant to that policy, the Departments of Treasury and State imposed sanctions on several companies and individuals engaged in activities such as assistance to Iran’s nuclear program, support for terrorism, or aiding Iran’s evasion of international sanctions. Iran’s experience under the Joint Plan of Action has reinforced its knowledge that real economic relief can come only if it obtains comprehensive sanctions relief, and that can only come about if it is prepared to enter into a comprehensive plan of action that ensures that Iran cannot acquire a nuclear weapon and that is nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.

Countering Violent Extremism

The issue of foreign terrorist fighters who travel to and from Syria has also been a top issue for the European Union and the United States. Conclusions reached through ministerial meetings among a number of European Member States known commonly as the “EU 9” and which were held on the margins of Council Justice and Home Affairs meetings, will be discussed for the first time between the European Council and the United States at the September 18 European Union – United States Justice and Home Affairs Senior Officials meeting in Rome. High level experts from the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice and Department of State are scheduled to attend this meeting. The United States is particularly focused on building a common EU Passenger Name Record system, and in increasing the effectiveness of sharing information collected through a European PNR system with U.S. border security officials in order to prevent acts of terrorism by foreign terrorist fighters.

Cyber Security

The United States and the EU have been cooperating to increase cyber security, mainly through the U.S. – EU Cyber Dialogue which is a heightened cyber security U.S.- EU relationship announced by the President at the Brussels Summit, and which developed from the U.S.-EU Working Group on Cyber Security and Cyber Crime, which was launched in November 2010. The working group has focused its efforts on promoting public-private partnerships, with an emphasis on combating botnets; protecting industrial control systems; and addressing market access barriers, while continuing to coordinate on improving awareness of cyber issues.

Achievements include conducting the Cyber Atlantic 2011 cyber incident management exercise, the first joint cyber exercise between the U.S. and the EU. Last May the Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber Emergency Response Team participated in the annual workshop of computer security organized by the European Union’s Agency for Network and Information Security. An interagency planning meeting for the inaugural Cyber Dialogue is scheduled to take place in Washington on September 10 to prepare for the Dialogue.  The Dialogue will be chaired by Department of State Coordinator for Cyber Issues, Mr. Chris Painter, and Mr. Maciej Popowski, EEAS Deputy Secretary General and is tentatively scheduled for December 5 in Brussels.

Two Priorities for the Bilateral Agenda

At the same time as the U.S. and EU are expanding our collaboration on global threats, we continue to work intensively on key issues in our bilateral relationship. As I announced shortly after my arrival, two of these are data privacy and T-TIP.

Data Privacy

The first priority I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, data privacy, is one of the most critical issues today affecting U.S.-EU relations, because it has major implications for the way we cooperate on law enforcement, the ability of companies to do business across the Atlantic, and so much more.  World crises, as well as progress toward alleviating European concerns, have lowered the profile of this issue over the past year. However, I have no doubt that if we fail to put these concerns behind us, they could return to complicate U.S.-EU relations. That is why I have focused intently — consistent with the U.S.-EU Summit communiqué — on making progress on the negotiations underway with regard to the Safe Harbor Framework and the so-called “umbrella agreement” for data exchanges in the field of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, including terrorism.

The Safe Harbor Framework was developed to provide a mechanism allowing U.S.-based companies to receive EU citizens’ data in a manner consistent with the EU Data Protection Directive.  The Framework has proven to be of critical importance to ensuring transatlantic data flows, the life blood of transatlantic commerce. Over 3,000 companies certify their data privacy policies under this Framework. Last November, the Commission outlined thirteen recommendations for strengthening Safe Harbor. We have since embarked on discussions with the Commission on potential updates to the Framework, making good progress on eleven commercially-focused recommendations, and we are now focused on the two recommendations related to the national security exemption.

Talks on the “umbrella agreement” are well-advanced and we are working hard to resolve the remaining issues. We share the EU’s commitment to privacy and are responding to EU concerns and questions about how we protect personal data. In addition to changing the principles that govern what we do and don’t do abroad in surveillance, President Obama called for the extension of additional protections to the personal data of non-U.S. citizens, a key request of some of our European partners. He has committed to seeking passage by the U.S. Congress of legislation giving EU citizens the same rights to judicial redress that the U.S. Privacy Act gives to American citizens.


The second priority I mentioned, T-TIP, reflects the huge benefits that a transatlantic trade deal could bring.  A comprehensive, ambitious agreement that eliminates tariffs and reduces “behind the border” non-tariff barriers would create growth and jobs. T-TIP is the best debt-free stimulus available. It would also be of geostrategic importance because it would set a standard for future regional and global deals that reflect the value we place on rules-based trade, high standards, and regulatory transparency and accountability. It would enhance the U.S.-EU global partnership in the realm of trade negotiations, helping to make progress in stalled WTO talks and ensuring that world trade rules will continue to be compatible with free-market democratic systems.

The seventh round of negotiations will take place in Washington later this month. We are making steady progress in all of the working groups: important technical work has occurred that clarifies our respective positions; we have tabled offers in tariffs and on services and have consolidated draft texts in several areas.

Unfortunately, the debate in Europe on T-TIP is marred by a rising tide, in certain member states, of misinformation and scaremongering by certain social media, press and NGOs. While everyone is certainly entitled to his own interpretation of what we are seeking to accomplish in these negotiations, everyone should not be entitled to his own facts. Yesterday I testified before the International Trade Committee of the European Parliament, which will of course play a decisive role in whether these negotiations result in an agreement. In that testimony I set forth several propositions: first, that leaders should have the courage to lead and inform, not simply cater to the prevailing opinions when they are misinformed; second, the myriad of technical issues in the negotiations should be considered in the wider perspective of the economic gains to be achieved and the geostrategic context; third, both sides should seek to advance pragmatic solutions to their disagreements, and avoid rhetoric that complicates the negotiations; fourth, critics who remain deeply skeptical of what we are trying to achieve should at least wait until they see advanced text before making up their mind.


In conclusion, let me return to the cartoon in The Economist. Russia is demonstrating a cynical disdain for the ability of the United States and the EU to remain united and take meaningful actions over the duration of this crisis. Every time we have talk about a peaceful resolution, Putin engages in more provocation; while he was in Minsk he was also busy increasing Russia’s military presence in Ukraine; recently he has repeated his reference to Novorossiya and to “statehood” for East Ukraine. [He has said that he can take Kiev in two weeks]. We can live up to this challenge, just as we can respond to the challenges of Iran, foreign fighters and cybersecurity. Our ability to do so would be enhanced if the United Kingdom remains an engaged member of the EU.

I believe that the U.S.-EU relationship will continue to broaden and deepen. This is not an article of faith; our shared values are real. In the more dangerous, less predictable world in which we live, our mutual interests demand a robust global partnership. I will do my part to help its continued development.

Thank you.