European Union and United States: Problems and Perspectives of the Transatlantic Dialogue

Seminar Paper, 2003

11 Pages, Grade: 1


The recent developments in the Middle East, particularly the American war with Iraq and the European lack of unity, led to a deterioration of U.S. relations with the European Union. It is the goal of this term paper to explain the historic aspect of the transatlantic dialogue in general and discuss the recent developments.

The paper is split up into three parts. At first, it tries to give an historical overview about the transatlantic relations from 1948 to 1990. The second part discusses the changes in the nineties and the most important documents in the dialogue between the U.S. and the EU. The third and concluding part analyses the status quo of transatlantic relations and explains the reasons of the “new crisis”.

I. Historical Development

Roy Ginsberg divided contacts between the United States and the European Union into four periods:[1] the first, 1948-1958, was one of general harmony; the second, 1958-1969, was a period when General Charles de Gaulle was in power in France and contacts became contentious; the third, 1971-1982, witnessed a further deterioration of this relationship; and the fourth, after 1985, has been characterized by an awareness on both sides of the Atlantic that transatlantic cooperation must be strengthened and deepened.[2]

There is no doubt that we have to add other periods after the recent developments, which will be discussed in the second and third parts of the paper.

Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the European Community were initiated in 1953 when the first US observers were sent to the European Coal and Steel Community. The Delegation of the European Commission to the United States in Washington, D.C. was established in 1954, and the United States Mission to the European Communities, now the United States Mission to the European Union, was established in 1961 in Brussels.[3]

The period from 1948 to 1958 was characterized by an asymmetrical relationship. After World War II, the U.S. emerged as a superpower and was active in creating a post-war economic and political order. The European Community, on the other hand, “possessed neither the political might nor the economic wherewithal to challenge the economic dominance of the U.S.”[4] Babarinde mentions two examples for the U.S. dominance: the Suez and the Vietnam crises, and in both cases prevailed the U.S. policies.[5] In these times the European countries did not have the power to challenge U.S. policies.

This asymmetrical period ended with Charles de Gaulle’s return to the French political scene in 1958. The next decade was characterized by strong tensions between the European Community and the United States of America.

.S. President John F. Kennedy’s policies towards the European Economic Community (EEC) were very positive, and in the early sixties he wanted to grant the EEC an equal status in the relationship with the United States. This confession came too late: There were various disagreements between Europeans and the U.S. during the next decade. The best known economic disagreements were the establishment of the infamous Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the EEC and the notorious “chicken war” of 1963-1964.[6] In both cases the imposed import levies and following economic difficulties for the U.S. were the activators for the crisis. The implementation of the customs union in 1968 resulted also in economic problems. The Common External Tariff (CET) had effects on U.S. exports to the EEC.

There were not only economic problems between the U.S. and Western Europe. The biggest political crisis evolved because of France’s withdrawal from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1966. The U.S. as “patron” of the NATO was affected very deeply because of de Gaulle’s actions. France withdrew mainly because of two reasons: At first, de Gaulle was not convinced that the U.S. would defend Europe in case of a Soviet nuclear attack; and second, he wanted to develop an independent, but of course French-led, European power in the global arena.[7] Another problem for U.S. relations with the EEC was de Gaulle’s veto against a British EEC arrangement. The U.S. supported the efforts of the United Kingdom to join the EEC.

After a brief respite, the period from 1971 to 1982 brought even more problems in the transatlantic dialogue. Important events of this decade were for example the collapse of the US-led Bretton Woods international monetary system, leading to more economic difficulties, but also international conflicts, for example in the Middle East. “The most vivid of illustrations of these differences was the pro-Israeli stance of the U.S., judged by the active participation of the U.S. in resupplying the Israeli war effort.”[8] The EC, in contrast, had a pro-Arab position in this conflict and demanded an answer to the Palestinian question. The transatlantic dialogue was confronted with many problems, and U.S. President Nixon wanted to reverse this trend with implementing “A New Atlantic Charter.” The main idea was to anchor EC foreign policies to the transatlantic relationship.[9] But despite of these measures, U.S.-EC relations did not improve. With the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, new international conflicts emerged. Once more, U.S. views differed considerably from European perspectives.


[1] Roy Ginsberg, “US-EC Relations”, in: The European Community and the Challenge of the Future (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986)

[2] Olufemi A. Babarinde, “Transatlantic Relations in the Global Arena”, in: Norman Levine, ed., The US and the EU: Economic Relations in a World of Transition (New York: University Press of America, 1996), p. 3

[3] The United States Mission to the European Union, Brussels,, last access April 30, 2003

[4] Babarinde, p. 3

[5] Ibid., p. 3

[6] Babarinde, p.4

[7] Ibid., p. 4; see also Anne Daltrop, Political Realities: Politics and the European Community (London: Longman, 1988)

[8] Babarinde, p. 6

[9] Ibid., p. 6

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European Union and United States: Problems and Perspectives of the Transatlantic Dialogue
University of New Orleans  (Political Science)
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Bernhard Hagen (Author), 2003, European Union and United States: Problems and Perspectives of the Transatlantic Dialogue, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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