New U.S. Ambassador to EU Anthony Gardner Lays out Priorities (6/26)     Print Email
Thursday, 19 June 2014 Jon Ferris

By Lauren Gieseke, Editorial Assistant

U.S.  Ambassador to the European Union, Anthony Luzzatto Gardner gave a major speech (full text) last week in Brussels, outlining his four top priorities in furthering relations between the United States and the European Union.  The first two require immediate focus, he said, while the latter two have a longer term perspective.

  1. To conclude a Data Privacy and Protection Agreement, update the Safe Harbor Framework agreement and restore mutual trust on privacy and data matters.
  2. To ensure strong relations with the European Union’s institutions: the European Parliament, Commission and Council as well as the EU’s diplomatic arm, the European External Action Service.
  3. To support the U.S. Departments of State and Energy to enhance the energy security of the EU and Ukraine
  4. To fully engage in ongoing TTIP negotiations and to promote aggressively the positive case for this potentially transformative agreement.

Gardner identified data privacy “as the single most critical issue today in U.S.-EU relations”:  critical not only because of its implications for transatlantic commercial relations and law enforcement cooperation, but also because of its potential to damage the transatlantic relationship if not resolved to mutual satisfaction. He pledged to back efforts to strengthen the Safe Harbor Framework and make it  comply with the EU Data Protection Directive.  He also expressed support for the development of a means of judicial redress for privacy breaches against EU citizens, and will work for the extension of certain U.S.  privacy rights to non-US citizens (as announced by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on June 25).

While Ambassador Gardner will seek to repair post-Snowden  damages, he cautioned against using privacy to create unnecessary hurdles.    He emphasized the importance of transatlantic information-sharing and “cooperative law enforcement to prevent and counter violent extremism.”  He called the Passenger Name Record agreement and the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program “critical tools in our transatlantic cooperation.”

Gardner’s second priority is to ensure strong working relationships with EU institutions and their new leadership and members, including the European Parliament, Commission, Council and the European External Action Service.   He will seek to strengthen connections between comparable transatlantic institutions through staff exchanges and US Senate participation the Transatlantic Legislators Dialogue

Stating that Europe “cannot be an effective partner of the US if it remains subject to Russian energy blackmail”, Gardner pledged support for European efforts to insure energy security  and diversification, and emphasized key areas of potential US-EU cooperation, including increased LNG exports from the US and mobilization of private capital to build up Europe’s energy infrastructure.

Finally, Gardner  highlighted both the practical and symbolic importance of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership  Agreement (TTIP)trade agreement.  He stressed “the geostrategic importance of setting a template” for future regional and global agreements based on shared transatlantic values, as well as the potential for job and economic growth. Gardner said he would take aggressive action to counter negative chatter about TTIP  in the social media.  For example he said: “We stand accused of wanting to force European consumers to eat hormone treated beef and genetically modified foods.”   The truth, he said, “is that we simply want the EU to follow the advice of its own scientific bodies … rather than allow some member states to block decisions, and abuse for political ends clearly defined decision-making procedures.”