The European Union's Response to 9/11 and its Aftermath

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The European Union's Responseto 9/11 and its Aftermath

The Conflict

On September 12, the day after the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, DC, U.S. president George W. Bush declared to the world, "Make no mistake—the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts." The European Union pledged its support. The United States, together with the European Union and other nations, responded quickly to the attacks. After defeating Afghanistan's Taliban, which had harbored Osama bin Laden and his terrorist group al-Qaeda, friction began to arise in the coalition over treatment of prisoners and continued U.S. actions.


  • Although the Taliban faced a massive attack by the United States and its allies, it was unwilling to hand over Osama bin Laden for his alleged participation in the September 11 attacks. Al-Qaeda was assisting the Taliban in fighting a civil war for control of Afghanistan against the Northern Alliance. Additionally, al-Qaeda remained militarily stronger than the Taliban. The Taliban feared that if it acted against bin Laden, al-Qaeda would remove it from power.
  • U.S. president George W. Bush fingered North Korea, Iran, and Iraq as an "axis of evil," alarming European and other allies, who feared the United States might begin to act unilaterally in its war against terror.


  • Afghanistan's economy was already devastated by Soviet occupation in the 1980s and the subsequent civil war in the 1990s. Given Afghanistan's poor economic state and the lack of central authority, terrorist groups have found the country to be an effective sanctuary from hostile governments.
  • British prime minister Tony Blair argued that Afghanistan had become a terrorist haven largely because the West did not assist Afghanistan after the Soviets withdrew in the early 1990s. To prevent Afghanistan from reverting to a terrorist haven after the military campaign against the Taliban, the United States and the European Union recognized that billions of dollars would be needed to rebuild Afghanistan's infrastructure and government capacity.

Although terrorism has been a fixture of everyday life for European states since the 1960s, the attacks on September 11, 2001, against the United States shocked the European Union. Two hijacked civilian jets smashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, killing and injuring thousands. A third hijacked jet crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, near Washington, DC, while a fourth plane went down in a Pennsylvania field, further adding to the casualties. In addition to being the single deadliest terrorist episode experienced by the United States, the attack demonstrated the potential of terrorist groups to inflict massive amounts of damage on the industrialized world. The leaders of the European Union were quick to recognize that if a terrorist group could devastate the United States, the groups could just as easily conduct catastrophic attacks against the countries of Europe.

The citizens of Europe extended an outpouring of sympathy to the United States. British Prime Minister Tony Blair (1997-) stated in his speech following the September 11 attack, "The atrocity was an attack on us all." The World Trade Center was home to companies and citizens from all over the globe. Given the international composition of the World Trade Center, the attacks killed more Europeans than any previous terrorist attack on European soil. In response to the calls from U.S. president George W. Bush (2001-) for an international coalition to fight international terrorism, the members of the European Union announced their determination to assist the United States. According to Tony Blair, "The world understands that whilst, of course, there are dangers in acting the dangers of inaction are far, far greater."

Shortly after the attacks, terrorist experts pointed to exiled Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden as the terrorist mastermind. Operating from within the borders of Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization had previously engaged in attacks against the U.S. military in Saudi Arabia, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the USS Cole in the port of Yemen. Experts argued that the only terrorist group with the capability to execute such a complicated and coordinated attack was the al-Qaeda network. Due to bin Laden's vast finances, al-Qaeda was believed to have a worldwide reach. The investigation conducted by the United States and subsequent intelligence reached similar conclusions. After receiving the evidence of bin Laden's involvement from the U.S. authorities, the European Union (EU) joined calls from the United States for Afghanistan's Taliban leadership to hand over Osama bin Laden, who was residing within that country. After the Taliban's initial refusal, the United States and its European allies threatened that if the Taliban did not hand over bin Laden, the allies would respond with military force.

Upon the Taliban's refusal, the United States and EU began a military campaign against Afghanistan. The European Union made the pledge to stand side by side with the United States through the campaign against terrorism. In a few short weeks, Taliban and al-Qaeda forces within Afghanistan were routed by an Afghan opposition group known as the Northern Alliance. With air and ground support from allied aircraft and special forces, the Northern Alliance quickly took control of the capital city of Kabul. Peace talks soon began regarding the future reconstruction of the country and the provisions for an interim government. Though the alliance has yet to capture bin Laden himself, the United States and its allies successfully killed or captured hundreds of al-Qaeda's members.

Although the EU remained committed to fighting terrorism, EU support of U.S. actions following the victory against the Taliban began to decline. Many of the EU states were only willing to support limited action against terrorist groups. These countries believed that the fall of the Taliban would be the end of the military phase against terror. U.S. president George W. Bush, however, stated that the United States might continue the military phase of the campaign into other states sponsoring terror. In particular, the United States began suggesting that Iraq was next on the target list. The EU worried that success in the Afghan war made the United States more likely to unilaterally employ force against any state it deemed to be a supporter of terrorism. In addition, the EU grew worried about U.S. treatment of terrorist prisoners, particularly whether these prisoners may face the death penalty. Although the EU continues in its support for U.S. anti-terrorist efforts, the strength of the coalition has declined as fears of U.S. unilateralism increase on the European continent.

Historical Background

The countries of the European Union have a long history in dealing with political terrorism. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria by a Serbian terrorist became the catalyst for World War I (1914-18). Although terrorist events have not led to interstate wars following World War II (1939-45), terrorism has been a destabilizingforce in several prominent European Union member nations.

Due to the instability in Northern Ireland, colonial legacy, and British involvement in world affairs, the United Kingdom became a frequent target of terrorism. Violence in Northern Ireland increased after 1969 as a result of increased activity by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The IRA demanded a withdrawal of British forces from Northern Ireland and the eventual reunification of Northern Ireland with the state of Ireland. Terror tactics used by the IRA and counter-tactics used by Loyalist (pro-British) forces made terrorism a significant internal security problem for the United Kingdom. Even after a ceasefire with the IRA in the late 1990s, terrorism remains a threat in Northern Ireland due to groups such as the Real IRA, a splinter group of the IRA. The British further faced threats from abroad, particularly from the Middle East. In 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing hundreds of British and American citizens. It was widely believed that the Abu Nidal Organization, with ties to the Libyan government, was responsible for the deadly attack. Similarly, British citizens and peacekeepers have repeatedly been seized and taken hostage by other Middle Eastern and South Asian groups.

Though Britain remains one of Europe's most prominent targets of terrorism, France has also experienced threats from terrorism for similar reasons. French involvement in world affairs has made it a constant target for terrorist organizations. French citizens have been seized by several Middle Eastern terrorist organizations, including Abu Nidal, HAMAS, and Hizballah. France has also suffered attacks within its borders, however, largely as a result of continued instability in Algeria. The legacy of French colonialism in Algeria has led several extremist Islamic groups to target French citizens. In 1995 France experienced a wave of terrorist attacks by the Armed Islamic Group (GIA). The GIA attacked targets throughout Paris, resulting in hundreds of French casualties.

Although Britain and France remain prominent targets of international terrorism, the level of terrorism against other EU countries reduced following the collapse of the Soviet Union. During the Cold War, leftist groups such as the Red Army Faction in Germany and the Red Brigades in Italy engaged in repeated attacks against both European and U.S. citizens and military personnel. After the fall of the Soviet Union these groups largely died out due to declining membership and participation. Additionally, the termination of funding and political support from the Soviet Union decreased the ability of such groups to operate.

The formation of the European Union allowed the governments of Europe to coordinate efforts directed against common terrorist threats faced by all countries. Through common internal security policies, cooperation, and shared intelligence the EU became more effective at fighting terrorism within its borders. For example, both Britain and France faced potential threats from extremist Islamic groups. During the GIA campaign of 1995 the UK arrested several GIA suspects within Britain with ties to the campaign against France. Similarly, cooperation between France and Spain against the Basque Homeland and Freedom Movement (ETA) dramatically reduced the effectiveness of ETA's terrorist campaign.

Cooperation within the European Union allowed individual EU countries to get help from their fellow nations when faced with internal terrorist threats as well. Intelligence sharing between the United States, Britain, France, Italy, and Germany allowed these governments to better address threats from nation-specific groups, such as the IRA and the Red Army Faction. Cooperation and multilateral measures have become the preferred response of the European Union against hostile terrorist groups. The recent formation of EU institutions has increased the effectiveness of multilateral counterterrorist measures. The success of multilateralism would affect the European Union's reactions to the attacks on September 11 and the war that followed.

The Attack on September 11, 2001

On September 11, 2001, the world experienced the worst terrorist attack in history. The strikes against the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, resulted in thousands of American deaths and casualties. In addition to American casualties, a large number of European countries lost citizens in the attack. According to some estimates, the number of Europeans killed made the attacks the deadliest terror attack ever against EU countries. Like the American public, the citizens of Europe reacted to the terrorist events with shock and horror. EU external relations commissioner Chris Patten stated in the Daily Star on September 12, 2001, that September 11 was "one of those few days in life that one can say will change everything." The consensus of the EU was that the attack on the United States was a crime against humanity that presented a threat to the security of all states. Simply put, if the strongest power in the world could experience such devastation, a similar attack was possible against any of the European states.

The individual countries of the European Union immediately reacted to the attack with an extension of support and condolences to the United States. The majority of the countries supported the call by U.S. president George W. Bush (2001-) to hunt down and punish the terrorist perpetuators wherever they may be. Almost all of the members of the EU promised to support Bush and stand by the United States. On September 12, the members of the European Union and the United States began discussions of whether Article Five of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) should be invoked. Article 5 stipulated that any attack against any one of the treaty's signatories represented an attack on all of the countries of NATO.

Although NATO was designed to provide common defense for the United States, Canada, and western Europe in the face of Soviet aggression, Article 5 was now being discussed in response to the September 11 attack. Soon after the meeting of NATO ministers, Article 5 was invoked, stipulating that the countries of the European Union would assist the United States against the terrorists. NATO Secretary-General George Robertson stated NATO's position, "These barbaric acts constitute intolerable aggression against democracy and underlie the need for the international community and the members of the alliance to unite their forces in fighting the scourge of terrorism." In addition to the invocation of Article 5, the United States and the European Union drafted a UN declaration condemning in strongest terms the attacks upon the United States. On September 13, the UN Security Council passed resolution 1368, condemning the attacks and authorizing all necessary steps to respond to them and to combat all forms of terrorism. EU and U.S. counterterrorist agencies began sharing intelligence and coordinating counter-terrorist efforts in response to the attack.

The European response to September 11 in many ways mirrored the EU's previous efforts against terrorism. To combat the various problems experienced by each country, the EU designed institutions in which intelligence could be shared and responses could be coordinated. After September 11, the EU immediately moved to invoke Article 5 of NATO, making the response against terrorism a multilateral effort. The EU began sharing and coordinating intelligence activities with the United States. Additionally, the EU and the United States moved through the United Nations to further coordinate the campaign and establish legitimacy to the coming response. These efforts made for a truly international response to September 11, promoting multilateral measures and cooperative efforts against terrorism worldwide.

The Military Campaign and Its Aftermath

Although some early speculation existed that the hijackers of the aircraft used in the attacks were Palestinian, U.S. officials quickly fingered exiled Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network for the attacks. Bin Laden had been deemed responsible by the United States for several other attacks against Americans. U.S. officials believed bin Laden was responsible for the attacks on September 11 due to intelligence gathered shortly afterwards. The September 11 attacks involved the hijacking of four civilian aircraft. After taking control of the aircraft, the hijackers flew the passenger jets into each of the designated targets. U.S. officials believed that the attack required high level of coordination, planning, and complexity. The perpetrators needed adequate intelligence on aviation security and pilot training to fly the commercial jetliners. The intelligence reports, as well as bin Laden's involvement in the bombing against the U.S. military at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia and the USS Cole in Yemen, the previous attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, contributed to the conclusion that the attacks on September 11 were the handiwork of al-Qaeda.

The immediate response from the EU was one of caution. EU leaders called for a thorough investigation into the attacks to determine exactly which group bore responsibility. British prime minister Tony Blair stated that any retaliation plans must be based on hard evidence. France and Germany also made statements suggesting that plans for retaliation did not need to be military in nature and that thorough investigations needed to be conducted. Although support for a military reprisal remained tentative in the European Union, the EU was quick to move against al-Qaeda cells operating on the continent. Hundreds of arrests were made in the UK, France, and Germany of suspected members of the terrorist organization. The governments of Europe further enacted anti-terrorist legislation to bolster the ability of the states to fight terrorist groups and outlawed some political groups associated with Islamic terror.

Although initially reluctant to release evidence against bin Laden due to concerns over intelligence breaches and conclusive evidence, the United States continued to place the blame for the attack on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. In late September 2001 the United States privately released evidence of bin Laden's complicity to its European allies in NATO. After receiving the evidence, several of the European allies became convinced of bin Laden's responsibility. On October 4, the United Kingdom claimed it had reached the "clear conclusion" that al-Qaeda carried out the attacks against the United States. The U.S. report made the claim that the government of Afghanistan, known as the Taliban, had allowed bin Laden to operate within Afghanistan and therefore was partially responsible for the attacks. The United States and the international community demanded that the Taliban hand over bin Laden unconditionally to the United States or face immediate military strikes. The Taliban refused to comply with the demands, stating that bin Laden remained a guest of Afghanistan.

On October 7, 2001, the United States and the United Kingdom began Operation Enduring Freedom, the military campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. In the early stages of Enduring Freedom, the United States and United Kingdom attacked Afghani air defenses throughout the country. These attacks focused heavily on targets near the capital city of Kabul and Taliban strongholds in the southern city of Kandahar. Additionally, U.S. special forces and British Special Air Service (SAS) troops were deployed into Afghan territory to search for al-Qaeda forces, including Osama bin Laden.

The United States justified its attack on Afghanistan to the UN Security Council as self defense. The countries of Europe responded to the U.S. led attacks on Afghanistan with support and promises of assistance. Although European leftist parties remained critical of Operation Enduring Freedom, the governments of Europe were steadfast in their support. French president Jacques Chirac (1995-) committed France to providing military assistance to the campaign against Afghanistan. France agreed to provide fueling vessels to the campaign and announced that French ground troops would be deployed. Similarly, Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroder (1998-) announced that Germany would provide military support to the United States. To allow for maximum U.S. air power in the Afghan campaign, NATO agreed to provide early warning surveillance aircraft (AWACs) to the United States to monitor U.S. airspace.

Although several EU countries planned to send ground troops to assist in the war effort, the Taliban's grip on Afghanistan was cracking quickly under the U.S.-UK bombing campaign. On the ground, the Taliban was losing ground to rival political groups. The anti-Taliban United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, also known as the Northern Alliance, had been engaged in a civil war against the Taliban throughout much of the 1990s. After destroying the air defenses of the Taliban, the bombing campaign began assisting Northern Alliance commanders by attacking Taliban ground troops throughout Afghanistan. The air support provided by the United States and United Kingdom allowed the Northern Alliance to make rapid advances against the Taliban army, resulting in massive Taliban defections. On November 12, Northern Alliance troops entered the capital city of Kabul. Soon after, Pashtun rebels moved against Taliban troops in the south. Despite fears that Enduring Freedom would take months and last into the summer months, the campaign had virtually ended in early December with the dramatic defeat of the Taliban at the southern city of Kandahar.

As the Taliban was collapsing, the United States and the European Union hosted a meeting of several rival Afghani political groups in Bonn, Germany. On December 5, the factions agreed to the Bonn Accords to form a provisional government in Afghanistan. The factions appointed Pashtun leader Hamad Karzai as interim president. Although the Taliban had been defeated and al-Qaeda faced severe attacks from U.S. forces in the mountains of Tora Bora, the stability of Afghanistan was still in doubt. Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar remained at large. The U.S. and EU intelligence communities claimed that Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters could possibly regroup in the mountains of Afghanistan or Pakistan and attempt a guerrilla counterattack against the new government. Although the political factions agreed to Karzai's interim rule, Karzai's ability to form a successful, functioning, and viable government remained in question.

Given the unstable political situation on the ground in Afghanistan, the UN Security Council approved resolution 1386, calling for a British-led multinational peacekeeping force to be inserted into Afghanistan. Although the United States remained committed to its goal of finding bin Laden and preventing Afghanistan from reverting to a terrorist haven, President Bush was reluctant to commit U.S. troops to peacekeeping duties. One of Bush's campaign promises during the 2000 U.S. presidential election was that the involvement of the U.S. military in nation-building would decrease.

While the United States was reluctant, the countries of the European Union saw a concrete opportunity to involve themselves in the campaign against terror. Despite commitments to assist militarily in the war against terror, none of the EU, with the exception of Britain, had yet participated in the campaign due to the brevity of the military phase of the Afghan military campaign. The EU therefore decided to contribute substantially to the peacekeeping force designed to promote stability in the shattered country. Contributions of military troops were made from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Spain.

The goals of the peacekeepers were to maintain civil peace throughout the country, assist in the establishment of authority for the new government, and continue to root out terrorist groups. A fear amongst the coalition was that if the Karzai government lacked the political capacity to monopolize the legitimate use of violence, Afghani warlords would emerge to terrorize civilians, as had happened in the past. The peacekeepers were to assist in the rebuilding of Afghanistan as well as establish authority and train an Afghan military and police force to maintain the government's strength over competing power centers, including the old tribal warlords. The peacekeepers additionally would participate in operations, such as Operation Anaconda in March 2002, designed at rooting out al-Qaeda cells remaining in Afghanistan. Anaconda consisted of U.S., Afghan, Canadian, and European troops heading into the mountains in the east of the country to attack remaining al-Qaeda pockets.

The Coalition Under Strain

By the beginning of 2002 the coalition had achieved several of its objectives in Afghanistan. The Taliban had been toppled, a new interim government was in place, and al-Qaeda was fleeing the country. Additionally, U.S. and EU police and intelligence services successfully broke up several al-Qaeda cells throughout western Europe. The cooperative efforts of NATO led Lord Robertson to conclude in his speech to American Pilgrims political group on January 31, 2002, that Operation Enduring Freedom was "a high point in the Atlantic relationship" and that the "bond between the United States and Europe was as strong as ever."

Although Robertson was correct that the coalition achieved success against the Taliban, many observers noticed the countries of the EU shifting policy lines away from the United States. One of the first areas of friction to emerge between the United States and Europe involved the treatment of Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners. After capture, several of the prisoners under U.S. control were sent to a detention facility known as Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, a U.S. naval base in Cuba. Many EU countries believed that these prisoners should be treated under the Geneva Convention's definition of prisoners of war. Since these fighters were captured in wartime, Europeans believed the Geneva Convention was applicable to the prisoners. The United States, however, refused to classify the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay as prisoners of war. Instead, the United States used the term "detainees" to describe the prisoners' status. According to the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war, the United States had no right to interrogate the prisoners and was obligated to send them back after the end of the war. Despite the end of the war in Afghanistan, no prisoners have been returned.

In addition to the U.S. refusal to classify the Afghan detainees as prisoners of war, the European public heard rumors of maltreatment at the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay. Several reports indicated that the prisoners had been beaten and subject to humiliation. Although the United States fervently denied these charges, U.S. commanders acknowledged that the prisoners were required to shave their beards and were subject to extensive searches. The United States claimed that since the captives were hardened fighters, such measures were necessary to protect the soldiers guarding the prisoners. The Europeans, however, believed that not only was the United States violating the Geneva Convention, but also it was subjecting the prisoners to cultural humiliation. Since growing beards was a part of the detainees' practice of Islam, the EU countries felt the United States was violating the religious rights of the prisoners. The United States countered that it allowed the prisoners access to the Qur'an, the ability to exercise and pray together, and culturally specific meals. Many Americans, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, argued that the prisoners were receiving better treatment at Guantanamo Bay than they would receive if they had stayed in Afghanistan.

Many European human rights groups, including the British-based Amnesty International, demanded access to the prisoners and the right to inspect the base at Guantanamo. The United States initially refused the right of any non-governmental organization to inspect the base. Under growing international pressure, however, the International Red Cross and a contingent of British inspectors were allowed into Guantanamo to inspect conditions. After making several suggestions to the U.S. command there, the Red Cross and the British inspectors concluded that no violations of human rights were taking place at the detention facility. Images of prisoners in shackles and bright red outfits walking through the barbed wire structure horrified the European public. Despite the conclusions of the inspectors, many Europeans believed that Guantanamo was a symbol of the unwillingness of the United States to comply with international law. Although the United States decried the Taliban's violations of international law, the European public perceived U.S. actions as a signal that the Bush administration felt it was above the law.

In addition to alleged human rights violations at Guantanamo, European civilians and their governments remained concerned that the United States would use the death penalty against European citizens extradited to the United States. For several years European countries had condemned the use of the death penalty in the United States. A provision for joining the EU is the abolishment of capital punishment. In particular, Europeans were disturbed at President Bush's death penalty history, which included a record number of executions while Bush served as governor of Texas. The fears that European citizens would be subject to the death penalty were exacerbated by President Bush's call for the use of military tribunals against suspected terrorists. Military tribunals are expected to increase the speed of trials and, by reducing the evidentiary requirements for prosecution necessary in a civilian trial, decrease the possibility that terrorist suspects would escape conviction. Europeans feared that extradited suspects would face improper trials resulting in death penalty punishments.

Due to fears of the new U.S. trial system and application of the death penalty, both the United Kingdom and France called for a guarantee from the United States that suspects would not face capital punishment. To prevent its citizens from being subject to the death penalty, the United Kingdom asked that prisoners with British citizenry held at Guantanamo Bay be extradited back to the UK for trial. Similarly, France asked the United States to refrain from using the death penalty against extradited French citizens. In particular, France asked that death penalty charges against Zacarias Moussaoui, a suspected terrorist with ties to the September 11 attack, not be pursued. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft stated that extradition involving the possibility of the death penalty would be determined on a case by case basis. In March 2002 Ashcroft announced that if Moussaoui was convicted, prosecutors would pursue the death penalty. Ashcroft's announcement greatly disturbed the members of the European Union. Despite their repeated requests for the United States not to apply the death penalty, it indicated that it would continue to do so. Ashcroft's decision to pursue the death penalty prompted French officials to threaten to cease cooperation in the war on terror.

While the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo and the lingering cloud of the death penalty represented the beginnings of friction between the United States and Europe, the State of the Union Address by President Bush in January of 2002 sent shock waves throughout the countries of the EU. In his address President Bush claimed that the United States would act against an "axis of evil" comprised of North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. According to President Bush these countries were active sponsors of international terrorism directed against the United States. Although Afghanistan had been defeated, Bush declared that the war was only beginning and that the United States would target any nation guilty of sponsoring international terrorism: "I will not wait on events while dangers gather. I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."

Although Bush did not explicitly call for military action against the "axis of evil," the governments of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea believed that Bush's statement indicated that war might be imminent. The bellicose nature of the speech greatly alarmed EU member states. Bush indicated that if the United States believed that any country sponsoring terror posed a threat to U.S. national security, the United States was prepared to destroy it as it had destroyed Afghanistan. Even more alarming, the speech indicated that the United States was prepared to act unilaterally. Given the superpower status of the United States, the EU interpreted Bush's statements as stating that the United States would attack any country it wishes if it deemed a threat was present, regardless of the views of the international community.

After the State of the Union Address the European allies were quick to challenge the Bush administration's strategy for conducting the war on terror. French prime minister Lionel Jospin and his foreign minister Hubert Vedrine criticized the simplistic nature of Bush's foreign policy. According to Jospin, all foreign policy should not be viewed according to the war on terrorism and the use of military threats. Jospin argued that instead of uni-lateral measures, the United States should work within a coalition to help solve the problems of the world together. In a press conference on February 8, 2002, Jospin argued that "cooperation means members of the international community can tackle together the roots of problems, since none of us can hope to resolve them alone."

Germany also indicated a growing sense of isolation from the United States and its foreign policy. Like France, Germany envisioned a more multilateral approach to solving the terrorism problem and addressing the root causes of terrorism. In response to the apparent ignoring of German viewpoints, German foreign minister Joschka Fischer argued that the United States should not treat its allies like satellite countries. Instead of expecting the EU to follow the lead of the United States, Fischer believed that the United States should consult with its allies before taking initiatives. Even the United Kingdom, the staunchest supporter of the United States, expressed reservations about classifying North Korea, Iraq, and Iran as a unified bloc of terror and using military threats to achieve foreign policy goals against terrorism. EU external affairs chief Chris Patten articulated the position of the entire European Union when he stated that the United States should curb its unilateralist instinct.

Although North Korea and Iran were also mentioned in the State of the Union Address, the EU and the nations of the Middle East were particularly worried that the State of the Union signaled the coming of a U.S. attack against Iraq. Since the Gulf War (1991) hostilities between the United States and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein remained extremely high. The United States and the United Kingdom remained committed to preventing Iraq from obtaining weapons of mass destruction. The United States placed Iraq on the U.S. State Department's list of sponsors of international terrorism as a result of Iraq's sponsorship of anti-Iranian groups and a failed assassination attempt against U.S. president George H. Bush (1989-93) in the early 1990s. While Iraq had no visible connections to al-Qaeda, many U.S. planners believed that the threat was too great to ignore. Although Hussein did not fit the traditional definition of a terrorist, some U.S. policymakers are presenting the issue as if he was no different from Osama bin Laden in terms of threats to the national security of the United States. As a result, some EU members felt that the United States intended to use the war on terrorism to target Iraq and end the ten-year stalemate with the Iraqi dictator.

The countries of the EU were particularly concerned about a U.S. invasion of Iraq. With the exception of Britain, the members of the EU favored beginning negotiations with Saddam Hussein. In particular, France was very critical of the U.S.-UK enforcement of the no fly zones over northern and southern Iraq and the continuation of devastating economic sanctions stemming from the 1991 war. The Europeans worried that the United States would seize the opportunity to attack Iraq under the guise of the war on terrorism. If this occurred, the United States could potentially threaten regional stability in the Middle East. The threat of U.S. force prompted many EU countries to declare that they would not support American actions against Iraq if the United States were to invade the country. Although the EU was concerned about the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq, it remained committed to solving this problem through negotiation instead of American calls for the use of force.

Aside from fears of U.S. unilateralism, the EU believed that military action was not the most effective way of fighting international terrorism. Although it supported military action in Afghanistan, the majority of the EU felt that it was time to end the military phase of the war on terror. Instead of using military power, the EU believed that international institutions should be used to combat some of the world's problems associated with terror, such as the persistent Arab-Israeli conflict and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. While the United States did not believe that negotiations were possible with regimes such as Iraq and Iran, the countries of Europe were more inclined to use incentives, such as promises of investment, to induce compliance with international law. Fears of unilateralism and the continued use of military force continue to be a source of friction between the United States and the European Union to the present in the war on terrorism.

Recent History and the Future

After September 11, 2001, the European Union stood side by side with the United States. The EU supported U.S. efforts in Afghanistan politically and assisted in the peacekeeping efforts following the fall of the Taliban. The EU's response to the United States was one of cooperation. Currently, several observers have noticed that friction within the coalition between the EU and the United States threatens the continuation of European-American cooperation in the war on terrorism. Some have warned that increasing U.S. unilateralism threatens to damage the relationship between the United States and its European allies and threatens multilateral efforts against terrorism. A study by Jon Cauley and Todd Sandler suggests that cooperation between countries is most likely to achieve successful results in combating terrorism. If this is true, a deterioration in U.S.-EU cooperation in the war on terrorism suggests that efforts against terrorist organizations will decrease in effectiveness due to coalitional strain.

The rift between the United States and the EU is most on the question of where to use military force. While the Bush administration remained keen on applying the use of military power to defeat terrorist groups, the EU argued for the use of international institutions and multilateral agreements. The EU seemed more inclined to support diplomatic initiatives as opposed to the Bush administration's calls for military force. According to the EU, the roots of terror must be addressed before terrorism can be eradicated. The United States, on the other hand, made the case that while addressing the core factors associated with the breeding of terrorism was necessary, the danger from existing terrorist groups was too great to ignore. The United States therefore believed that to guarantee the security of the United States and the European Union, terrorist groups must first be defeated.

Although the debate over the use of force and U.S. unilateralism continues, the future of EU involvement against terrorism remains in its commitment to assist the United States in terms of intelligence and law enforcement. Following September 11, the EU and the United States took steps to share intelligence and harmonize anti-terrorism measures in order to improve coordination against terrorist groups. In several EU countries such as Britain, France, and Germany, U.S. law enforcement officials have worked with their European counterparts in an effort to destroy al-Qaeda cells operating throughout the EU. The EU countries have moved to close legal loopholes that allow suspected terrorists to escape incarceration. The EU also continues to strengthen cooperation between its police agencies EUROPOL and EUROJUST and U.S. law enforcement. Despite disagreements in the application of the death penalty, the EU remains committed to pursuing terrorist networks throughout Europe and assisting the United States in breaking up terrorist organizations.

The countries of the European Union have long experienced the consequences of terrorist activities. In addition to the current threat from al-Qaeda, several other terrorist groups and the potential for new groups remain threats to stability within the European Union. September 11 brought to the world's notice what the potential consequences of terrorism may be. After defeating the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the EU discovered that al-Qaeda was attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Plans were also discovered for potential attacks throughout Europe, such as an attack in the heart of London. These discoveries and the September 11 tragedy demonstrated to the EU that terrorism remains a particularly dangerous threat. Although friction exists on how to conduct the campaign against terror and on some of the methods used, the partnership of the European Union and the United States should remain through the sharing of intelligence and police coordination. Both the EU and the United States recognize the dangers of terrorism and have made commitments to work together to prevent another catastrophe like September 11.


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"A Peace to Keep?" Economist, December 15, 2001.

Robertson, Lord. "NATO After September 11." Speech given to the Pilgrims of the United States, January 31, 2002.

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Navin A. Bapat


1998 After U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania are bombed by al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden publicly issues a declaration of war against the United States and its allies for supporting Israel and "illegitimate" Arab governments.

September 11, 2001 Hijackers aboard four civilian jetliners engage in a coordinated attack on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, DC. Although it is believed that the fourth target may have been the White House, the fourth civilian jet crashes in Pennsylvania.

September 12, 2001 U.S. president George W. Bush vows to hunt down those responsible for the attack. The members of the European Union announce that they will assist the United States in any way possible. Article Five of the NATO treaty is invoked, signifying that the attack on the United States was an attack on all of the NATO allies.

October 4, 2001 The United States presents evidence to its NATO allies that Osama bin Laden was the mastermind of the September 11 attack. The allies proceed to demand that Afghanistan's Taliban government hand over bin Laden to the United States.

October 7, 2001 The United States and the UnitedKingdom begin Operation Enduring Freedom, a sustained bombing campaign of Taliban targets throughout Afghanistan. U.S. and British special forces enter Afghanistan to search for al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

Late October 2001 The air campaign shifts its focus fromTaliban air defenses to assisting Northern Alliance commanders fighting the Taliban. U.S. and British warplanes attack Taliban troops to assist the Northern Alliance in defeating the Taliban on the ground.

November 11, 2001 Northern Alliance forces enter theAfghan capital of Kabul. The Taliban relinquishes control of the capital and flees.

December 5, 2001 Talks between Afghan political factions begin in Bonn, Germany, to discuss the future of Afghanistan and form an interim government to replace the Taliban.

About the European Union

The European Union (EU) is a federation of 15 countries dedicated to economic integration and the strengthening of cooperation between its member states. Those member states delegate authority to common institutions representing the Union as a whole. This system is the only one of its kind in the world today.

The genesis of the EU was on May 9, 1950, with the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), proposed by France and also signed by Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. The treaty dealt with tariffs and quotas on iron ore, steel, coke, and coal trade between the ratifying countries. In 1957 the participants in the ECSC signed two other treaties, the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community—commonly called Euratom, which provided for development of peaceful uses for atomic energy—and the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community (EEC).

In July 1967 the EEC, ECSC, and Euratom merged into the European Community (EC), and in 1968 all tariffs between member states were eliminated. By the mid-1980s membership in the EC had increased to 12 with the additions of Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom in 1973, Greece in 1981, and Spain and Portugal in 1986. The Treaty on European Union, signed in Maastricht, the Netherlands, on February 7, 1992, transformed the EC into the EU and was intended to expand political, economic, and social integration between member states. The treaty—often referred to as the Maastricht Treaty—also committed the EU to adapting a single currency by 1999. Three years after the treaty was signed, Austria, Finland, and Sweden were accepted into the EU, bringing the total membership to 15 countries.

The EU has four principal objectives: 1) to establish European citizenship; 2) to ensure freedom, security, and justice for its members; 3) to promote economic and social progress; and 4) to assert Europe's role in the world. It seeks to attain these objectives through its five primary institutions. The European Parliament is elected by universal suffrage every five years and is the expression of the democratic will of the Union's citizens. It shares legislative and budgetary authority with the Council of the European Union, which is the EU's main decision-making body. The European Commission is the Union's executive body, upholding the general interest of the federation. The Commission is responsible for initiating draft legislation and implementing directives, decisions, budgets, and programs adopted by Parliament and the Council. The Commission also represents the Union on the national stage. The Court of Justice ensures that Community law is uniformly interpreted and effectively applied. The fifth institution, the Court of Auditors, oversees the financial management of the EU.

The two most major recent goals of the EU have been to create a single market, where the economies of the member states would be completely integrated, and to establish a universal currency for Europe. Progress has been made with both, from the signing of the Single European Act in 1986, removing physical, technical, and fiscal barriers between countries to help establish the single market, to the introduction of the euro (currency) into circulation in 1999, but coins and notes were not introduced until January 2002, when they were phased in.

Incidents of Terrorism in the European Union, 2000

CountryTerrorist Incidents
Northern Ireland12

Al-Qaeda and the European Union

The original fatwa issued by Osama bin Laden in 1996 was only directed at the United States. However, bin Laden extended the fatwa to include the European Union in 1998. Although al-Qaeda has yet to specifically target European civilians or cities, it has used Europe as a staging ground against the United States. The investigation into the September 11 attacks revealed that several al-Qaeda activists, some of whom participated in the attacks, had European citizenry. Several al-Qaeda cells have also been found throughout the countries of western Europe, including the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, and threats have been made against American targets in Europe.

After the attacks on September 11, the European Union began actively harmonizing intelligence sharing throughout Europe and with the United States. The countries of the European Union further began passing anti-terrorism legislation to disrupt the ability of terrorist cells to operate on the continent. Additionally, European police forces became active in cracking down on European-based al-Qaeda cells. In addition to the military campaign, the European Union remains determined to prevent terrorists from using Europe as a sanctuary and denying terrorist groups the finances needed to conduct terrorist operations.

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The European Union's Response to 9/11 and its Aftermath

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The European Union's Response to 9/11 and its Aftermath