This page was archived on October 2020.


Cooperation on European security issues

31 - Relations with the US on counter-terrorism and human rights

Grade: C+
Unity 3/5
Resources 2/5
Outcome 5/10
Total 10/20

A disunited Europe went from hope in 2009 to disillusion in 2010 about the possibility of getting the US to change its legal practices.

Europeans want Americans both to assist them in fighting terrorism and to recommit to the rule of law in their counter-terrorism policies. In the recent years, this latter point has included the closing of the Guantánamo prison, protest against extraordinary rendition and the CIA secret prison network, as well as increased oversight of the use of personal data coming from Europe (see component 28).

Evaluating the quality of transatlantic cooperation on counter-terrorism information and operations is inevitably very difficult because of its secret nature. All major players in this field, including member states, are reluctant to share information with smaller countries, and always prefer strictly bilateral exchanges, some of which are very significant. A good sign of cooperation and solidarity was given in the second half of September, when, based on American intelligence, terrorism-threat alerts were raised in France and Germany.

In 2009, Europeans had been heartened by President Obama's decision to close the Guantánamo prison. However, 2010 brought a major setback. In May, the US Congress effectively blocked any possible relocation of detainees to the mainland US in the future, making it awkward for Europeans to help by admitting inmates themselves. This increased divisions and confusion among member states: some refused to take Guantánamo prisoners out of principle (including Austria and Denmark) or for legal reasons (including Poland and Romania); others asked for help or compensation on other issues in return (including Bulgaria and Latvia); and others still took some inmates to show solidarity for or encourage the new administration (including Belgium and Italy). More generally, Obama has found it very difficult to break with the Bush legacy (for example, on the use of military tribunals). The joint declaration signed in Luxembourg on 3 June, which reaffirmed the transatlantic partnership in combating terrorism while respecting the rule of law, falls short of the binding set of principles sought by Europeans.