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ICC: Transatlantic gulf widening

The row over the International Criminal Court is just one of issues that has caused disarray between the United States and European countries. CNN's Robin Oakley looks at the transatlantic relationship.

Is the gulf across the Atlantic widening?

Bush administration is affraid of malicious prosecutions of American soldiers
Bush administration is affraid of malicious prosecutions of American soldiers  

There's been the whole range of issues, where the U.S. and Europe are now pulling apart.

There's been resentment about the U.S. refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol against global warming, the American decision to introduce steel quotas and its pulling out from a convention on chemical and biological warfare.

U.S. President George W. Bush's determination to go after Saddam Hussein in Iraq has also caused unease among European countries.

The two sides came together for a while after September 11 with common objectives and a common cause but the tensions that had been creeping into their relationship before are taking off again.

The latest row over the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a very clear example of how wide the gulf is.

As far as the ICC is concerned, is the U.S. setting a precedent by saying that it will withdraw its forces if other countries do not comply with its demands?

That is certainly the worry among a number of European states that the U.S. could say "we're going to take our bat home" on other occasions as well.

The United Nations approved a 72-hour extension for the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia after the U.S. vetoed a six-month extension. CNN's Brian Palmer reports (July 1)

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Peacekeeping in Bosnia 
Text of U.S. letter to U.N. 
Brief reprieve for Bosnia mission 

The UK Prime Minister Tony Blair tried to release tensions on Monday by saying that the European Union countries understand the U.S. reservations about the ICC but they don't agree with them.

European states are saying that given the way the ICC has been set up and is going to function, the U.S. needn't be taking this kind of action.

According to the ICC statute, you can't take a case into the ICC except as a nation state. And the ICC will not take a case if a country is investigating any complaints about its own personnel.

British Government believes there's perfect immunity for its nationals serving in any peace keeping force and can't understand why the U.S. doesn't see that too.

If the U.S. eventually withdraws it troops, is Europe prepared to take up the slack that will be left?

Almost certainly Europe will do that.

The EU is trying to build up its own Rapid Reaction Force of 16,000 men. The difficulty is that they have not been able to agree the terms with NATO on this peacekeeping force.

There is not sufficient military spending across the countries of the EU either.

There are only 3,000 U.S. troops involved in 17,000 NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR) in Bosnia at the moment, so numerically Europe should be able to do that in the short term.

However, Europe had already planned to take over the NATO operation in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and there have been doubts as to whether it can do that.

A rift between Greece and Turkey over the EU forces making use of NATO assets is going to be one of the major obstacles to unified action.

So there will be considerable doubts in the long-term as to whether Europe can pick any burden dropped by the United States.

What do European leaders think about Bush and his administration?

There is a deterioration and a widening gulf across the Atlantic.

Blair in particular is facing a difficult position because he's been trying to be a bridge between the U.S. and EU countries, which are becoming increasingly irritated by what they call American unilateralism.

EU states see a contrast between what the U.S. president says and what he does.

He came to the office, for instance, as a free-trader and now he's imposing steel quotas and subsidising the agricultural sector to the detriment of other countries.

EU feel the action over the ICC is a sign of refusing to accept the rule of international law when 74 other countries have signed to it, including all 15 EU countries.


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