EU/US Transatlantic Relationship: The Indispensable Partnership

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015
Christoph Herrmann, Bruno Simma and Rudolf Streinz (eds.)Trade Policy between Law, Diplomacy and ScholarshipEuropean Yearbook of International Economic Law10.1007/978-3-319-15690-3_12

The EU/US Transatlantic Relationship: The Indispensable Partnership

Günter Burghardt 

Vossenlaan 12, 3080 Tervuren, Belgium



Günter Burghardt


HGK (as Horst Günter Krenzler used to be referred to in the fashion of Commission in-house acronyms) had been a personal friend and close colleague during our largely parallel careers of almost four decades with the European Commission, and the EU/US transatlantic relationship, from trade to foreign policy, has continuously been at the top end of our respective priorities and agendas.

When I first joined the Commission as a trainee in May 1968, I was assigned to a small desk placed inside HGK’s office, which he already shared with two other officials, altogether in charge of implementing the EC’s Association Agreements with Greece and Turkey, an administrative unit in the Commission’s External Relations Directorate-General, at the historic, however overpopulated, “Avenue de la Joyeuse Entrée”, close to the offices President Hallstein had left a year ago. HGK was my early mentor. Our paths crossed again many times from my joining the Commission as a permanent official in 1970 until HGK’s retirement in 1996.

When I succeeded HGK as the Commission’s Political Director under President Jacques Delors in 1987, he became the Director-General of the DG External Affairs under successively Commissioners Willy De Clercq, Frans Andriessen and Sir Leon Brittan. And when I took charge in 1993, as Director-General for External Political Relations (DG IA), HGK continued at the helm of the traditional external economic and trade relations DG I, from the third Delors Commission (1993/1994) to his retirement in 1996 under the Santer Commission, with DG IA under the responsibility of Commissioner Hans van den Broek and DG I under Sir Leon Brittan. During all those years, we both were part of the Commission President’s team for European Council meetings, bilateral summits with third countries, including with the US, and multilateral summits, such as the G7/G8. I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to HGK’s legacy with a few thoughts on the transatlantic relationship, the theme of one of our major, if not the most important, common foreign policy endeavours we had the privilege to embark upon side by side. Later on, while I served as the EC’s Ambassador to the US from November 1999 till the end of President Bush Junior’s first term in December 2004, HGK and his wife Nina were our visitors at the European Commission’s Kalorama Residence in Washington DC.

The “Indispensable Partnership”1

Any assessment of the European Union’s external relations would be incomplete without paying tribute to the vital partnership between the EU and the US, the oldest and strategically most important chapter of the EU’s gradually evolving external policies. European integration and the EU/US relationship are like the two sides of one medal: As the late President Walter Hallstein formulated it, “America is a child of Europe”,2 and Einstein stated at Princeton “America and Europe are family”. Those “sound bites” not only describe the close historical and cultural roots between the “old” and the “new” world, but the US also stood at the cradle of the very beginnings of Europe’s post-World War II unification process. Hallstein was a regular visitor to Washington. His Clayton lectures at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and his many speeches, were an early contribution to the understanding by the Washington constituencies of the transformative process in Europe, and his conversations with President Kennedy, in particular in April 1962,3 had inspired the latter to deliver his visionary speech on 4 July Independence Day in Philadelphia with the twin proposal of a “transatlantic partnership of equals” and a “Declaration of Interdependence” between the “New World” and the “New Europe”, should the European Agenda successfully materialise.

Earlier on, Jean Monnet, the first President of the European Coal and Steel Community’s (ECSC) High Authority, had closely cooperated with the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations, based on their common experience in Washington during World War II, and benefitted from active US support from his first day in office in August 1952. George Ball, an American lawyer and Undersecretary of State during the Kennedy Administration, had an office at the French Commissariat au Plan advising Monnet on the ECSC Treaty negotiations.4 One of Monnet’s immediate aims after taking office was to obtain international recognition of the new Community as an independent player in the world. The US obliged when Secretary Dean Acheson,5 in the last year of the Truman Administration, on August 11, 1952, the day after Monnet’s inaugural ceremony, sent a diplomatic note assuring the ECSC “strong support… The US will now deal with the Community on coal and steel matters.” And 3 months later, at the start of the Eisenhower Administration, Secretary Dulles nominated David Bruce6 as the first US Ambassador to the ECSC7 and followed up with an official visit to Monnet’s Headquarters in Luxemburg on February 8, 1953.8 Dulles informed Monnet, who was planning an informal trip to Washington that Eisenhower proposed to turn this into an official visit. On 3 June 1953, Monnet was housed like a Head of State at Blair House, the Presidential Guest House, and was welcomed as the representative of the new Europe.9

The “Big Picture”

Since those early beginnings the EU–US relationship has remained the most powerful, the most comprehensive and the strategically most important relationship in the world, despite the rise of new power centres on other continents.10

Most powerful: The EU and the US combine roughly half of the global GDP, with around 17 trillion USD each. They stand for some 40 % of world trade in goods and even more in services. They hold 80 % of the global capital markets. They are each other’s main trading partner and source, as much as recipient, of foreign direct investment. And since the introduction of euro notes and coins on January 1, 2002, the by now 18 member states of the Eurozone with a combined GDP of around USD 13 trillion share the second most important world currency in terms of global foreign reserves, international bond issues and money market demand.11

Most comprehensive: There is scarcely an issue that does not involve the transatlantic relationship—from Afghanistan to Ukraine; from WTO to counter-terrorism; from aircraft to data privacy; from bananas to GMOs—the EU and the US are involved bilaterally, regionally or globally.12

Strategically most important: Europe matters to America and America matters to Europe because of major converging concerns, largely compatible values and overlapping interests. “When we quarrel we make headlines, when we work together, we make progress.”13

Trade Policy: An Early Backbone of the Overall EU/US Relationship—From the Torquay to the Kennedy Round

Although the ECSC Treaty had not formally mandated the High Authority to conduct trade negotiations in the areas of its sectoral responsibilities for coal and steel, its successful start and the prospect of wider economic integration among the Six after the failure to ratify the European Defence Community Treaty in the French Assembly on 30 August 1954 created an early dynamic on both sides of the Atlantic to engage in successive rounds of multilateral trade negotiations within the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). For the US, although supportive of the political process in Europe, this was a means to participate in its economic benefits, while Monnet and Hallstein were anxious to mitigate the effects of liberalisation within the Six on the UK, notably after De Gaulle’s veto suspending accession negotiations in January 1963.

Until the end of the 1960s, transatlantic trade liberalisation was essentially pursued within the multilateral setting of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Regular rounds of multilateral negotiations inside GATT mirrored important stages in European economic integration: the 1950 to 1951 Torquay Round coincided with German accession to GATT and the negotiation and ratification of the ECSC Treaty; the 1955 to 1956 Geneva Round was driven by the decision of the Six at the Messina conference to start negotiations leading to the EEC and Euratom Treaties; and the 1960 to 1962 Dillon Round accompanied the first stage of the implementation of the customs union within the EEC. Those three rounds centred on important tariff reductions among, at the time, around 40 GATT member states. Immediately after the crisis triggered by De Gaulle’s veto against UK membership, Hallstein, in a speech at New York’s Columbia University on 8 March 1963, responded to the US Trade Expansion Act with the proposition to reenergise the transatlantic partnership by preparing what later became known as the “Kennedy Round”, which lasted from 1964 to 1967 and brought together an enlarged GATT membership of more than 60 countries. The EEC participated as such, and the Commission signed the Final Act on behalf of the Community. In addition to further tariff cuts, negotiations entered into new territory, covering non-tariff barriers and trade in agriculture.

From the 1969 EC Summit in The Hague to “1992”: The Completion of the EC’s Internal Market

The December 1969 Summit meeting at The Hague marked the successful end of the transitional period under the European Economic Community Treaty with the completion of the EC’s Customs Union, reopened the process leading to the January 1973 enlargement from six to nine members, including the UK, Denmark and Ireland and agreed on first steps on cooperation in the area of foreign policy. Thus, Europe “graduated” into a fuller player able to propel the transatlantic partnership into higher orbit in terms of both process and substance, at a time when the relationship had reached a low point because of, inter alia, US President Nixon’s unilateral decision in August 1971 to end the direct convertibility of the US Dollar to gold, a decision that greatly complicated the on-going preparations of a new multilateral round of trade negotiations. Robert Schaetzel, the retiring US Ambassador to the EC, described the overall situation as “a dialogue of the deaf across the Atlantic”.14

When, in January 1973, Sir Christopher Soames joined the Ortoli Commission (1973–1977) as Vice President in charge of external relations, his reputation and personal authority provided a further boost to the Community’s international role.15 Relations with the US hugely benefitted from his tenure, bilaterally and globally, on process and on substance.

Soames from the outset succeeded in increasing the level and substance of regular consultations between the Commission and the US Administration, which had begun in 1970 under the “Dahrendorf/Samuels formula”.16 Under Soames’ leadership other Commissioners would accept to join the team, such as Haferkamp (Economy and Finance), Gundelach (Internal Market), Lardinois (Agriculture), Cheysson (Less Developed Countries (LDCs) and Simonet (Energy). The US responded by fielding a team at Undersecretary level of the corresponding government departments, as well as from the White House, such as the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors. As a result, the substance of the “High Level Consultations” as they were henceforth called covered the whole range of policies gradually being implemented at Community level.

Energy was a case in point. Following the first energy crisis in 1973, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had invited the Commission, the EC Member States and other industrialised countries at foreign minister level for a 3-day crisis meeting in February 1974 at the State Department, only to become extremely frustrated by quarrels over competences among the Europeans.17 Similarly, the Nixon/Kissinger “Year of Europe” initiative failed in 1974 because the “Nine” were unable to agree on a joint response within the intergovernmental context of “European Political Cooperation”,18 while the Commission moved on to intensify the dialogue in its areas of community competence.

Concerning trade, Soames reached a crucial agreement with US Treasury Secretary Shultz at the September 1973 GATT conference in Tokyo on the launch of what became known as the Tokyo Round (1973–1979).19 Bilaterally, disputes on non-tariff barriers,20 agriculture, the EC’s Mediterranean policy and its relations with the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), as well as the EC regime of generalised preferences were among the recurring agenda items.

From 1977 to 1980, Commission President Roy Jenkins continued raising the Commission’s external profile, both as a partner in the EC’s relationship with the US and globally. Jenkins took office simultaneously with the start of US President Carter’s term. Carter sent Vice President Mondale on an early European tour, which Mondale started off with a visit to the Commission in January 1977, and invited Jenkins for a first visit to the White House in April. While the discussions with Mondale in Brussels centred on European fears of US protectionism, which threatened to increase an already sizeable EC trade deficit with the US, Jenkins secured President Carter’s commitment for a strong role of the US in the on-going round of multilateral trade negotiations (MTN) in Geneva. Carter was the first US President to visit the Commission Headquarters in Brussels in January 1978. The biannual high-level consultations between the Commission, led by Vice-President Wilhelm Haferkamp, and the US Administration became a regular and broader exercise, and the “Tokyo Round” was successfully concluded in November 1979 with more than 100 countries around the table.21 As to the Commission’s global role, President Jenkins managed to become part of the privileged circle of world leaders, which had started off in Rambouillet in 1975 and became known as the yearly World Economic Summit. He first joined the third such meeting in July 1978 at London, mainly in order to introduce the discussions on the state of play at the MTN.22 Jenkins had to endure a staunch fight with France’s President Giscard d’Estaing to obtain a place at the table for the Commission to represent the European Community at an “Economic” conference.23 Later on, the Commission became an officially invited full member of the G7, as from the fourth meeting at Bonn in 1979.

The 1981 to 1984 Commission under President Gaston Thorn coincided with the first term of the Reagan Administration. Despite President Reagan’s liberal philosophy, US protectionism took the upper hand against the background of a sputtering world economy and growing US trade deficits. US anti-dumping and anti-subsidy action against steel and agricultural imports from the EC and the Russia pipeline dispute are cases in point, and required increased conflict management. In 1981, President Thorn visited Washington and US Secretary of State Haig travelled to Brussels twice in the company of his colleagues from Commerce, Baldridge, Agriculture, Block, and USTR, Brock, for meetings with their Commission counterparts Haferkamp, Davignon and Gundelach (replaced by Dalsager after Gundelach’s passing away in office in 1981). When Secretary Shultz took over from Haig in 1982, he agreed with Thorn to bolster the traditional biannual consultations at sub-cabinet level by adding an annual cabinet level meeting with the Commission at the Berlaymont in December each year to coincide with the NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels. On the foreign policy front, the transatlantic climate deteriorated as a consequence of the June 1980 Venice Declaration of the European Council on the situation in the Middle East (“land for peace”), in addition to policy differences in relations with the Soviet Union. While France resisted regular meetings at ministerial level in the framework of European Political Cooperation (EPC) because of fear of US interference with EPC decision-making, and the Commission, for its part, wanting to avoid duplication of contacts, the European Council agreed in March 1982 to hold regular, at least once during each Presidency, Political Directors Troika (former, present and incoming Council Presidencies) meetings at the level, on the US side, of the Assistant Secretary for Europe at the State Department.24

At the end of the Thorn Commission, a host of unfinished transatlantic business remained on the table. Multilaterally, the remainder of the GATT work programme (such as on quantitative restrictions and trade in agriculture) had started to merge into the preparations for a new round of talks. The EC position since the London Economic Summit was to be ready to join in preparatory work, without in principle to be able to agree to the formal launching of such a round, in the absence of agreement of subject matters and without having secured the support of LDCs. More generally, multilateral trade issues were increasingly dealt with in informal meetings of trade ministers in the run-up to the Bonn G7 Summit, as well as within OECD, partly because of certain disillusionment with the operations of the GATT system and the perceived need for further measures to “roll back” protectionism.

Bilateral relations with the US had become an area of intense activity, across the board of a growing number of policies, hand in hand with the process of deepening of the EC’s economic union and its enlargement negotiations with Spain and Portugal, after Greece had joined in 1981. The Reagan Administration had become known for “tough noises” on trade policy and major bilateral issues could blow up overnight, such as the unilateral restrictions imposed on EC exports of pipes and tubes and the October 1984 US Trade and Tariff Act, a piece of protectionist legislation by the US Congress. On process, at the end of 1984, the Commission could look back with some satisfaction to having established a pretty efficient crisis management system with the US Administration, hinging principally on the—since 1981 regular—December Ministerial conference between a team of US Ministers led by Secretary Shultz and a corresponding team of Members of the Commission.

The transition from the Thorn to the first Delors Commission was marked by two somewhat humoristic anecdotes not entirely uncharacteristic of the general atmosphere of transatlantic relationship as explained above. When Secretary Shultz arrived for his last meeting with the Thorn Commission at the Berlaymont in December 1984 and the two Delegations were seated around the table in the Commission’s meeting room on the 13th floor, he pointedly pulled a banana out of his briefcase and laid it squarely on the table in front of him. His gesture was an unusual protest against a recent speech by Roy Denman, the Commission’s Ambassador in Washington at the time, and of course a greatly embarrassed participant of the gathering, in which he had compared the US with a “Banana Republic”, because of the US protests against preferential imports of bananas into the EU from the associated ACP countries to the detriment of American trading companies. Even more embarrassing was a second incident, when Shultz, after Thorn’s opening remarks, asked whether it was true that Jacques Delors, the incoming Commission President, had made a speech in Paris the day before, in which he was quoted by the press to have said that Americans had a revolver in one hand and a bible in the other.25

During the decade (1985–1994) of Jacques Delors’ Commission Presidency, the European Communities evolved into a fully-fledged European Union with the internal market almost completed; the institutional system reinforced through the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty setting up the European Union; Economic and Monetary Union with a common currency, the euro, well on its way; enlargement from 10 to 15 members with a European Economic Area around the EU successfully completed; a pre-accession process with the new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean launched and a normalisation with Russia and the former Soviet republics achieved with the help of Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Internationally, the EU/US relationship was the key factor to make all this possible, with 9/11, the fall of the Berlin wall on 9 November 1989, the historic turning point, and the November 1990 Paris Conference, transforming CSCE into OSCE, the symbolic event of the consolidation of the Greater Europe.

1985 was a difficult starting point. Internally, Delors needed to turn euro-pessimism (“I want my money back” policies) into a new dynamism. The way to achieve this was the early announcement, in his programme speech to the European Parliament in January, of the “1992” programme to complete the internal market; the conclusion in March of the enlargement negotiations with Spain and Portugal, which had dragged on for 6 years; and an institutional reform via an Intergovernmental Conference leading to the Single European Act (SEA) launched in June and completed in December. All this went not unnoticed on the other side of the Atlantic, although increasingly virulent protectionist initiatives by the US Congress, partly vetoed by President Reagan, and unilateral trade policy measures enacted by the Administration prompted Commissioner Willy De Clercq to visit with Commerce Secretary Baldridge and USTR Brock in Washington in March.

Delors concluded, although unenthusiastically, that an early visit by himself to the US, including a meeting with President Reagan in the Oval Office, a week before his first G7 Summit in Bonn in early May with the US President and other world leaders in attendance, was an indispensable move to connect his ambitious European with the transatlantic and global agendas.26 From 23 to 27 April 1985, Delors visited New York, Washington and Northern California. In New York, Delors met with the world of finance and had dinner with George Ball to revisit the past and take advice on how to deal with the present.27 In California, Delors spent one day in and around Silicon Valley on technology issues (meeting with the CEOs of Hewlett Packard and Intel, and visiting their manufacturing facilities, Stanford University and the Bay Area International Business Forum) and the following day on a whirlwind tour round some of the key sectors of Californian agriculture, such as almonds, citrus, wine and dairy.28 The Washington leg, however, was to be the crucially important “plat de résistance” of the visit with a fully packed 48-hour schedule. Our US interlocutors regarded the visit with a mixture of interest and apprehension. This arose partly from Delors’ reputation as a rigorous former French minister of finance,29 and partly from the above mentioned press reports of remarks he had made in Paris in December 1984 at which Secretary Shultz had taken offence. These fears were effectively laid to rest by the speech Delors gave at the National Press Club, by the reasoned line he took in discussions with the Administration and Congress, and, above all, by the unexpectedly warm atmosphere and friendly exchange at the Oval Office meeting.

On Tuesday morning, 23 April, President Delors, in the company of Roy Denman, the Commission’s Head of Delegation in the US, and me, arrived at the North West Gate of the White House. We were greeted by Secretary Shultz and the Chief of Protocol, Selwa Roosevelt, a granddaughter of the former President. Delors signed the guest book in the Roosevelt room before being escorted to the Oval Office for the joint “public” photo opportunity with Reagan open to the accredited White House press corps, followed by the “private” meeting. Reagan and Delors sat down in the traditional two chairs next to each other in front of the chimney, while Denman and myself, assigned to the sofa on Delors’ side, found ourselves outnumbered, on the opposite side, by a long row of Reagan’s advisors including Vice President G. H. W. Bush, Secretary Shultz, Chief of Staff Don Regan, US Ambassador to the EC Middendorf, US G7 Sherpa Wallis and a bunch of additional note-takers. While the meeting was slated for 10 min as a largely ceremonial occasion, President Reagan extended it himself to half an hour, waving away anxious aides. Delors thanked for the invitation and welcome and recalled Reagan’s visit to Normandy in June 1984 and the latter’s deep moral and emotional involvement. Reagan appreciated Delors’ good, solid style and his timely visit shortly before the Bonn Economic Summit, which, he hoped, would conclude in favour of new multilateral trade talks to start in 1986. Delors said Europe was back on track and laid out his agenda, the creation of a common market of 320 million consumers, the accession of Spain and Portugal as the consecration of the return of these two countries to democracy, and the expectation of the Milan European Council in June to take decisions leading towards political union. The Bonn Summit should promote trade, financial and monetary matters, without the Commission being able, at this stage, to commit to a date for the opening of a new round. He stressed the need for Japan to open up its market and to internationalise the Yen. Reagan agreed and expected Nakasone, a courageous friend, to show leadership. Delors raised European preoccupations about steel exports to the US. Both Kohl and Mitterrand were likely to raise this issue in Bonn if a solution were not found before. Reagan said he had asked Commerce Secretary Baldridge to “find a solution right now”, which in turn triggered an intervention by Don Regan about US preoccupations with the EC’s common agricultural policy. Discussions then took a more philosophical tone, with Reagan showing sympathy for Delors’ analysis of agriculture in Europe, in particular the survival of small farmers, as a problem of society. To obvious signs of unease on his bench, Reagan concurred that agriculture was not there only “to produce big money”. The meeting ended in a relaxed atmosphere and was later described by Shultz at the lunch he offered for Delors at the State Department as “a very good one”.

Delors’ ensuing presentation, entitled “Europe should not be written off”, was well received by a packed National Press Club. At his 3-hour meeting and lunch with Secretary Shultz, he was cross-examined in some detail on his attitude to international monetary reform. He was listened to with increasing respect and was able to dispel US suspicion that his insistence on the interaction between monetary and trade policy was an excuse to delay the trade round. With Baldridge he courteously but firmly declined an—insufficient—offer to settle the steel issue. On the Hill he met with key members of the Senate Finance Committee and had breakfast with the House Ways and Means Committee. Meetings with Secretary of Agriculture Block and the Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker completed Delors’ DC tour. As a particular sign of grace, Secretary Shultz attended the dinner hosted by Denman at the Commission residence. Shultz’s habit was not to dine out often, and never before had an acting US Secretary of State attended a dinner at our residence. Shultz and Delors struck up a friendly relationship.

All in all, this “opening set” in support of the EC’s transatlantic agenda had been timely and successful, although it would not prevent some US circles suspecting Delors’ programme of completing the internal market by 1992 would create “Fortress Europe”. More importantly, the visit had inaugurated a climate of confidence and constructive cooperation between Delors and the successive Reagan, Bush and Clinton Presidencies.

The remaining term of the first Delors Commission, coinciding with President Reagan’s second term, continued to require constant trade policy crisis management bilaterally, despite the successful opening, on 20 September 1986 at Punta del Este, of what would become known as the “Uruguay Round” of multilateral trade negotiations. Negotiations were to include new subject matters, such as trade in services, intellectual property rights and investment rules, in addition to traditional items. Evolving hand in hand with the ongoing completion of the EC’s 1992 internal market programme, the Round would lead to replacing GATT with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1995. Although the negotiating mandate required “standstill” and “roll back” as to bilateral trade restrictions not in conformity with existing GATT rules during the process of the Round, the US side added new transatlantic irritants, such as Airbus and hormones, to the long list of issues under review. The 1988 US “Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act” or “Trade Bill” enacted by Congress ultimately provided the US President with formal negotiating authority at the Uruguay Round. In December 1988 at the last of the annual Delors/Shultz ministerial meetings at the Berlaymont, in that configuration, both sides were able to look back at a legacy somewhat suboptimal on results while excellent on personal chemistry.30

In addition to the consultations with the Commission becoming more “political”, the signature on 28 February 1986 of the Single European Act (SEA) and its entering into force on 1 July 1987 provided an opportunity for a major step in strengthening the dialogue with the US in the area of European Political Cooperation (EPC).31 Consistency between the external relations of the Communities and—intergovernmental—EPC policies was to be ensured by the Member State holding the rotating Council Presidency and the Commission. To this effect the Commission was “fully associated with the proceedings of Political Cooperation”.32 This, of course, included the organisation of the transatlantic relationship in all its aspects. During 1986, consultations between US Secretary Shultz and the Netherland’s Foreign Minister (and later Commissioner) Hans van den Broek under Dutch Presidency, continued under UK Presidency by Geoffrey Howe, led to agreement reached by EC foreign ministers at their informal meeting at Brockett Hall, with the participation of Jacques Delors, on a set of procedures,33 later on confirmed by Shultz.

From “Eleven Nine” (November 9, 1989)34: “Europe Whole and Free”—To the EC–US Transatlantic Declaration (TAD)

Already during Reagan’s second term, Vice President Bush had opened another channel of communication when he called on President Delors on 27 June 1985. With policy developments in the Soviet Union and the countries in Central and Eastern Europe gaining traction, the Vice President used to stop over in Brussels for meetings with NATO Secretary General Lord Carrington and Delors to discuss his visits to EC Member States and Eastern capitals, such as Warsaw and Moscow. These informal encounters would prove particularly valuable during Bush’s own Presidency (1989–1992), coinciding with the second Delors Commission, when a new chapter in the transatlantic relationship started around the fall of the Berlin wall on 9 November 1989.

President Bush made the opening set in his speech at Boston University on 21 May 1989, with French President Mitterrand at his side, who was on a state visit to the US.35

On 30 May, Bush and Secretary Baker travelled to Brussels for meetings with NATO and the Commission (Delors/Andriessen). Upon his invitation, Delors responded with a visit to the White House for lunch with Bush, meetings with Baker and the House and Senate leaderships on 14 June 1989.36 Only 4 weeks later, Bush and Delors met again with the other G7 leaders at the July “Sommet de l’Arche” in Paris, coinciding with the bicentenary of the French revolution. On his way to Paris, Bush had visited Warsaw and Budapest to arrive at the G7 dinner with a heightened sense of urgency concerning necessary support for what would be called later the “new democracies” of Central and Eastern Europe. Bush joined forces with Chancellor Kohl of Germany and Canadian Prime Minister Mulroney to convince a reluctant Mitterrand and a more than sceptical UK Prime Minister Thatcher that, in the absence of any other suitable body, the European Commission should be tasked with the coordination of a massive financial assistance programme. In a way, the subsequent EU pre-accession and later accession process leading to the EU’s May 2004 eastern enlargement had its early roots at the memorable G7 dinner on 14 July 1989 at the Hotel de la Marine overlooking Place de la Concorde, surrounded by the gorgeous festivities so ably orchestrated by Mitterrand’s Sherpa Jacques Attali.37

So, the ingredients of the menu were on the table when the political earthquake in Europe, the fall of the Berlin wall, accelerated the process and prompted action on improving the institutional mechanisms of transatlantic consultation and cooperation. What was remarkable was the deep familiarity, knowledge about and appreciation by the US leadership of the role assumed by Europe’s institutions, including the Commission, in those historic moments.

On 4 December 1989, President Bush stopped over in Brussels on his way back to Washington from a key bilateral summit with President Gorbachev in Malta to debrief NATO partners at an impromptu summit meeting. In a remarkable gesture, Bush had asked for an informal meeting with Delors before the NATO meeting. That meeting took place in the early morning in Stuivenberg Castle at the northern periphery of Brussels. Bush was accompanied by Baker, US Ambassador to the EU Niles, Chief of staff Sununu and National Security Advisor Scowcroft. Vice-President Andriessen, the two chef de cabinets Lamy and Wijnmalen, HGK and I assisted on Delors’ side. The meeting lasted for over an hour and confidentiality had been agreed on both sides. Reviewing my four pages of notes taken from the discussion, I can report, however, President Bush’s worries about what he had heard from Gorbachev about the depressing state of the Soviet economy. The US and Europe needed to encourage every action by the Soviet Union which would move the latter closer to market economy, including by offering observer status with GATT and considering granting MFN status. Andriessen described the agreement reached between the EC and the USSR. The EC was ready to open its market, but there was a problem of Soviet Union competitiveness. When Delors asked whether Gorbachev had again referred to his “Common European House” concept, Bush replied that Gorbachev had maintained his defensive attitude stating that “walls must not be moved”, which had to be understood as a substitute for warning against unwelcome dynamics, in particular in the direction of the Baltic States, while on the issue of the inner-German border he had restated that “history will judge what happens”. Bush expressed hope that European integration would not slow down after the events in Berlin. Baker asked whether the Commission detected any change in German resolve to move fully towards European unity. Delors replied that if Chancellor Kohl would not agree to Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) at the forthcoming December European Council meeting in Strasburg, this would indeed be a very bad sign. It was agreed to go into more detail at the annual Commission meeting with Baker on 15 December right after the Strasburg European Council.

At the end of that same day, Delors received a handwritten letter by Bush with the US President’s speaking notes for his afternoon intervention at the NATO Summit attached. In his remarks “on the Future of Europe”, Bush had set out the architecture of what henceforth became known as his “Europe Whole and Free” concept, based on four principles, three organisations and two processes, to allow for German unification and the consolidation of the Greater Europe, with strong US involvement at all levels. The four principles were the right for self-determination; respect for existing borders, subject to freely and voluntarily agreed changes; German unification within the context of European integration and of the NATO Alliance; and a massive coordinated effort of economic and financial support for the new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe. Three organisations and two processes were key to frame the collective effort: the European Community reinforced through a process of increased integration, together with its role, as agreed at the Paris G7 meeting, to coordinate economic assistance for the new democracies within a G24 group of donor countries; NATO, to be tasked with “New Missions” to promote greater freedom in the East; the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) to play a greater role in the future of Europe with its political and economic “baskets”, supporting human rights, free elections, allowing the reconciliation of the two principles of self-determination and the respect of borders, and helping the Soviet Union to develop its economy.

It fell on Secretary Baker to publicly present this comprehensive concept, capturing what amounted to a peaceful revolutionary momentum in Europe’s post-World War II history, in his memorable speech in Berlin, on 12 December.38 Again, the US–EC interaction was presented as a key element in the new architecture.39

Against this background, the Brussels EC/US ministerial meeting on 15 December 1989, in addition to its traditional trade and economic agenda items, responded to the foregoing events with new ideas on the organisational aspects of transatlantic interaction. Secretary Baker delivered prepared remarks following up on President Bush’s pronouncements less than a fortnight ago, and the meeting concluded, unusually, with a “Joint Declaration”. Baker, again, stressed the vital role the EC has to play in an era of extraordinary times for Europe. He quoted US statements in support of European integration from Bush back to Eisenhower. This process must go on economically, to keep the Uruguay Round moving forward, with combined EC and US leadership, and politically, in shaping, together, the transformations in Eastern Europe. Baker went on with a long paragraph on the future organisation of EC/US consultations: “Because we are firmly convinced that the EC will provide a cornerstone for the New Europe, we think it is sensible to explore a closer US-EC linkage.” This linkage should combine “the rich network of ties with the nations of the Community” with “working more closely with the Community institutions the Twelve create.” Baker went on to say that he did not have “a preconceived model of transatlantic cooperation with the EC”. Both sides should “begin a dialogue” with the aim to bring together exchanges on foreign policy within EPC with the broad range of our economic relationship “in parallel with Europe’s efforts to achieve a common internal market by 1992”. He was anxious not to be seen interfering with the EC’s own institutional evolution and ended with Bush’s leitmotiv: “By working more closely together, the US and the EC can contribute to the architecture of a New Europe, a Europe whole and free.” The Joint Declaration captured the gist of this statement.40

Early in 1990, the Commission embarked on a thorough stocktaking on both the substance and the options for procedural arrangements to strengthen the EC/US dialogue in response to the changing environment.41 While the US were perfectly able to interact with the Europeans in NATO and the CSCE,42 it was well understood that the US were looking for ways to keep track with the fast-evolving EC agenda,43 and that this was a legitimate objective to be accommodated in the interest of both sides. On the European side, the problem was to accommodate the evolving nature of the integration process, which seemed to argue against rigid transatlantic treaty commitments. On substance, issues of community competence, from trade to common economic policies, were well dealt with by the Commission at ministerial level, extended in 1990 to two sessions, in February in Washington, and in December in Brussels, as well as by individual Commissioners with their US counterparts.44 However, the US was aiming to move towards dialogue with a single European partner, presenting the EC and its Member States, the “Twelve”, with the problem of “globalising” matters of community and intergovernmental nature, and drawing into the exercise, as a more permanent feature, the Presidency of the EC Council. At the occasion of a visit to the White House on 27 February 1990 of Irish Prime Minister Haughey, under Irish Council Presidency, President Bush understandably took the view that modalities on the European side were for the Europeans to decide. After a meeting between Presidents Bush and Delors at the White House on 24 April 1990, a first set of arrangements took shape with agreement on combined Presidency of the European Council/ President of the Commission/ President of the United States meetings once every semester, to start under the incoming Italian Presidency45; an additional meeting each year between the US Secretary of State, the twelve foreign ministers and the Commission46; and increased EPC contacts in Troika format at working level. Furthermore, the June 1990 Dublin European Council agreed in principle that EC/US cooperation “could take the form of a joint transatlantic declaration”.

Negotiations on the Transatlantic Declaration on EC–US Relations (TAD)47 were conducted during the second half of 199048 and the text was agreed on November 23, 1990 in the margins of the CSCE Summit at the Centre Kléber in Paris, after final drafting sessions in the margins of the conference between EC Political Directors and US Deputy Secretary Zoellick. It saw the light at a place and at a moment coinciding with the signing of the “Charter of Paris for a New Europe”,49 which transformed CSCE, a “Conference” into OSCE, an “Organisation”, thus reinforcing another pillar of the Bush “Europe whole and free” concept. The TAD, in its introductory preamble, puts the “Year of Europe” squabbles behind it by stressing a “partnership on an equal footing” and noting the EC’s “own identity”. There follow chapters on “Common Goals”, on “Principles of US-EC Partnership”, on broad areas of “Cooperation”, from economic to cultural policies, and on “Trans-national Challenges”. While security issues, such as the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction were covered, military security was excluded at the explicit request of the US. Although the US had actively supported the European Defence Community Treaty in the early 1950s, their position henceforth was that issues of military security were matters to be discussed in NATO. This was perfectly in line with Art. 30 paragraph 6 of the Single European Act (SEA), which limited cooperation among the Twelve to “political and economic aspects of security”. However, the Europeans were only a month away from the opening of an intergovernmental conference (IGC) to negotiate a political union treaty next to the IGC on Economic and Monetary Union.50 Political union was intended to include an element of common defence through the Western European Union (WEU). The US position risked therefore to be out-dated because of the process of European integration moving forward. Had TAD acquired “treaty” quality, instead of a “declaration”, the EC’s future margin of manoeuvre might have been even more limited.51 Finally, the “Institutional Framework for Consultation” at the end of the TAD text codified the procedural arrangements agreed earlier on, namely biannual consultations at the level of the three presidents (US, EC Council Presidency and European Commission) as well as of foreign ministers (12+1+1), while adding another element of flexibility at foreign minister level by including meetings between the US Secretary of State and the EC Foreign Ministers Troika. Biannual consultations between the EC Commission and the US government at cabinet level were maintained. The already existing contacts between the European Parliament and the US Congress were encouraged. An evolutionary clause was included to allow future institutional developments to be duly reflected.52

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