New EU treaty worries US intel services

January 17, 2008

As EU governments focus on securing ratification of the proposed Lisbon Reform Treaty in 2008, United States policymakers are concerned its provisions could present serious challenges to transatlantic intelligence and homeland security co-operation. The main US reservation is that, by transferring additional law and justice functions from the individual EU member states to EU institutions, the treaty could disrupt existing bilateral relations between US and EU governments without establishing anything better.

Since the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the US, its intelligence and homeland security officials have prioritised the strengthening of collaboration with European governments against the mutual threat of Islamist-inspired terrorism.

Despite periodic expressions of discontent, which naturally attracted the most media attention, US intelligence community officials, US law enforcement agencies and the Department of Homeland Security routinely praise their European counterparts for using various bilateral mechanisms to pursue joint initiatives encompassing non-proliferation, immigration and other counterterrorism-related issues.

In contrast, Washington-based policy makers regularly criticise EU-wide bodies for proving at best ineffectual – and at worst downright disruptive – in their efforts in the ‘global war on terrorism’. Common criticisms include an inability to determine an appropriate point of contact for US officials in Brussels – a perception that many Europeans are misguidedly seeking a negotiated solution to the ‘war on terrorism’ and excessive preoccupation on the part of EU lawmakers with protecting the privacy of EU nationals suspected of engaging in terrorist-related activities.

US intelligence and security officials have been able to circumvent EU institutions in many cases so far by relying extensively on formal and informal arrangements with the individual member governments. In addition, Washington has felt confident that its European allies would use their powers to veto unwelcome EU-wide proposals in areas related to security and defence. If adopted, the Lisbon treaty could threaten many of these arrangements.

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