Saturday

1st Oct 2016

Ukraine crisis expected to dominate EU-US summit

  • Techau: 'Ukraine overshadows everything' (Photo: whitehouse.gov)

US leader Barack Obama has come to the EU capital for the first time since he took office in 2009.

The good-will visit revolves around four events: a morning ceremony at a US military cemetery on the outskirts of Brussels to commemorate the 100th anniversary of WW1; a lunch with top EU officials; a visit to Nato headquarters; and a town-hall-type speech for 2,000 students and young people at Bozar, an arts centre.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

He landed late on Tuesday (25 March), to be greeted by the Belgian king and the Belgian PM, and takes off again late on Wednesday to Rome.

His trip involves an unprecedented level of security, even by Brussels' standards of almost monthly summits of EU leaders.

The US delegation has 700 officials and 200 security guards. He will move around in his Marine One helicopter accompanied by a dozen military helicopters and in an armoured cadillac known as The Beast in a convoy of 40 vehicles.

Belgian police has deployed almost 1,500 officers to keep him safe, including snipers around The Hotel, where he slept on Tuesday. It has closed down parts of the city to traffic and cut public transport. Belgium also closed down parts of its airspace for his flights.

The cost of the operation is unclear: Brussels mayor Yvan Mayeur first told press it is €10 million. Then he said it is €500,000.

The EU-US summit is supposed to take place each year. But it last took place in Washington in 2011, prompting anxiety in EU circles the US leader thinks EU institutions are less important than Berlin, London, or Paris.

Unlike many EU summits, it will not involve the signature of any agreements or treaties, but will produce a “joint statement.”

The show of solidarity comes at a testing time in trans-Atlantic relations.

Obama’s visit to the WWI site stands amid a major security crisis after Russia invaded Ukraine last month, in events compared by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to antecedents of the First World War, and by other European leaders to the preludes of World War II.

Both the EU and US have imposed sanctions on Moscow. But the US sanctions are tougher, with US diplomats privately voicing dismay on the EU’s handling of the situation.

Obama’s visit also comes amid US complaints that Europe is not spending enough on its own defence and EU complaints the US is spying on its allies.

The two sides recently launched talks on a free-trade treaty which the EU says can boost its economy by €119 billion a year. The treaty also has a strategic dimension - to cement the trans-Atlantic allies’ status as the world’s most powerful economic bloc and to counter China.

But the US snooping scandal has seen some MEPs, who will, one day, have to ratify the treaty, call for trade talks to be frozen.

The European Commission said on the eve of Obama’s visit he should give EU citizens the right to “judicial redress” in America if their privacy has been violated in order to “restore trust and maintain the continuity of data flows between the EU and US."

Other items on the summit agenda include: asking the US to drop visa requirements for the five EU countries which still need travel permits; seeing how far the US is willing to match EU goals on cuts to CO2 emissions; and seeing to what extent the US is willing to open up its monopoly on internet governance.

For his part, Jan Techau, the director of Carnegie Europe, a think tank in Brussels, said they are also likely to talk about exports of cheap US shale gas to Europe to lower dependence on Russia.

“Some Europeans don’t want ‘dirty American energy’ coming from the shale revolution and some Americans say that we shouldn’t cross-subsidise European [energy] complacency,” he noted.

But he added: “Ukraine overshadows everything … this show of trans-Atlantic unity, I think that will dominate everything.”

Techau said EU grumbles on details of the free trade talks and on US espionage have shrunk due to the confrontation with Russia: “It’s very, very interesting to see how in times of real crisis, existential crisis, the trans-Atlantic relationship boils down to its essence … a security relationship."

“Europeans cannot live without the American protective umbrella, extended deterrents, and the Americans cannot let their geostrategic counterpart in Europe basically to fall into disarray.”

Opinion

The EU’s new offer to Africa

The European Commission’s plan for a multi-billion African investment vehicle is mainly another incentive for African leaders to give higher priority to border management.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFAEFA Supports a YES Vote in the Hungarian Referendum
  2. ACCAFinTech Boom Needs Strong Guidance to Navigate Regulatory Hurdles
  3. Counter BalanceWhy the Investment Plan for Europe Does not Drive the Sustainable Energy Transition
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region Seeks to Make Its Voice Heard in the World
  5. Taipei EU OfficeCountries Voice Support for Taiwan's Participation in ICAO
  6. World VisionNew Tool Measuring Government Efforts to Protect Children Released
  7. GoogleDid You Know Europe's Largest Dinosaur Gallery Is in Brussels? Check It Out Now
  8. IPHRHuman Rights in Uzbekistan After Karimov - Joint Statement
  9. CISPECloud Infrastructure Providers Unveil Data Protection Code of Conduct
  10. EFAMessages of Hope From the Basque Country and Galicia
  11. Access NowDigital Rights Heroes and Villains. See Who Protects Your Rights, Who Wants to Take Them Away
  12. EJCAppalled by Recommendation to Remove Hamas From EU Terrorism Watch List