Johannes Thimm

Inseparable, but Not Equal

Assessing U.S.–EU Relations in the Wake of the NSA Surveillance Affair

SWP Comment 2014/C 04, January 2014, 4 Pages

The revelations about the data collection and espionage activities of the National Security Agency (NSA) have left their mark on transatlantic relations. In the beginning of 2013, the future of relations between the United States and the European Union looked bright, fueled by optimism about the negotiation of a transatlantic free trade area. Since then, tensions have risen over leaked information about the NSA’s actions. The dispute is significant beyond the immediate issue of surveillance because it draws attention to the enduring asymmetries in the transatlantic relationship. Discussions about its decline notwithstanding, the U.S. upholds its claim to global leadership and continues to rely on controversial security measures in the name of fighting terrorism. Despite their initial indignation at the revelations, the leaders of European governments have offered conflicting and ineffective responses. In the intelligence field as well as the EU’s broader relationship with the U.S., Europe does not seem prepared to challenge the status quo. This poses questions about the nature of future transatlantic cooperation.