Saturday

24th Feb 2024

EU-US summits to take place 'only when necessary'

  • Barack Obama (l) met EU leaders in Prague last year (Photo: eu2009.cz)

EU-US summits will no longer be organised automatically every year, but only when there are particular issues to be decided, foreign policy officials from Washington and Brussels said Friday (26 March).

"The EU is our equal partner and we have an ongoing working relationship. I simply reject the idea that we need summits to get things done, as it may be the case with other countries," Anne-Marie Slaughter, policy director within the US state department said during the Brussels Forum, a transatlantic conference organised by the German Marshall Fund, an American think-tank.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Ms Slaughter said she was baffled to read the news about the attempts earlier this year to "put something on the agenda" of a planned EU-US summit in Madrid, which was cancelled after US President Barack Obama declined to participate. She stressed that the ties with Europe were so strong that the EU should not have to feel the need to "attract" the US to come to its events.

Initially scheduled to take place in May, the EU-US summit was widely seen as little more than a photo-opportunity between Spanish Prime Minister Jose Rodriguez Zapatero and Mr Obama, as there was nothing of substance on the agenda.

Speaking at the same event, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said that while summits were important to "strengthen relations" that needed it or to decide particular matters, they will now no longer take place automatically.

"We will have a summit when we both feel the need for one. Meanwhile, the relationship goes on," Ms Ashton said.

US-EU summits have been held once or twice a year since 1991, with the venue usually alternating between the continents. The most recent meeting took place in Washington on 3 November last year, with Mr Obama devoting three hours to the meeting itself and sending vice-president Joe Biden to have lunch with EU officials.

In an interview with the EUobserver earlier this month, US ambassador to the EU William E. Kennard suggested that the meeting was a diplomatic nicety rather than a venue for pressing decisions.

"All of our political leaders have incredible demands on their time, we have to be careful in deploying their time to make sure there are defined outcomes," he said.

When declining the invitation, the US also pointed to the EU's new legal framework – the Lisbon Treaty – and the fact that it no longer should be the rotating presidency, currently held by Spain, chairing these events.

The Madrid summit was seen as a concession to the Spanish government, who started preparing this six-month programme long before it was clear that the new treaty was going to come into force. The treaty came into being on 1 December.

A summit with Morocco was meanwhile chaired by the standing president of the EU council, Herman van Rompuy.

Obama to skip EU-US summit in Madrid

US President Barack Obama is likely to skip this year's EU-US summit to be held by the Spanish presidency in Madrid, as he is focusing more on the domestic agenda, according to press reports.

US diplomat soothes EU nerves after summit debacle

The US ambassador to the EU has brushed aside speculation that the ascendance of China or confusion arising from the Lisbon Treaty have undermined the special relationship between the two sides.

US blames Lisbon Treaty for EU summit fiasco

The US State Department has said that President Barack Obama's decision not to come to an EU summit in Madrid in May is partly due to confusion arising from the Lisbon Treaty.

Frustration on eurozone crisis to mark EU-US summit

EU and US leaders will gather for a bilateral meeting on Monday with little of substance likely to be agreed and against a backdrop of exasperation in Washington over the handling of the eurozone crisis.

Russian oligarchs failed to get off EU blacklist

Hungary failed to get three Russian and three Chinese names deleted, as the EU approved its 13th package of sanctions ahead of an anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Feature

Only Palestinians paying thousands of dollars leave Gaza

Despite the high risk of dying from war, starvation or disease, Gazans are still not allowed to enter Egypt. Except those who bribe the authorities. And the EU mission EUBAM Rafah cannot be deployed due to security reasons.

Latest News

  1. EU rewards Tusk's Poland on rule of law with €137bn
  2. UK-EU relations defrosting ahead of near-certain Labour win
  3. EU paid Russia €420-per-capita for fossil fuels since war began
  4. After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports
  5. Creating the conditions for just peace in Ukraine
  6. Energy and minerals disputes overshadow new EU-ACP pact
  7. Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns
  8. How Amazon lobbyists could be banned from EU Parliament

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us