Europeans received support from Americans in the fight against terrorism, but their efforts at imposing stricter rules and norms have met with limited success.
Transatlantic cooperation on counter-terrorism is mostly conducted on a bilateral basis, with some coordination provided by the European Commission’s DG Home Affairs and the EEAS. Operational exchanges are hard to evaluate, but they are reputed to be dense and fruitful. On the other hand, European efforts at establishing common norms in the fight against terrorism met mixed success.
The renegotiated PNR (“Passenger Name Record”) agreement on the transfer of airline data to US authorities approved by the European Council in late 2011 was ratified by the European Parliament in April 2012. While some MEPs criticised the long retention period of data and insufficient judicial redress, the new agreement strikes a much better balance between security and privacy than the 2007 one. There was some concern, however, regarding the implementation of the SWIFT agreement of 2010, as the transfer of financial data to the US for counter-terrorism purposes didn’t follow the procedure it was supposed to, according to a EUROPOL report.
In early 2012, the EEAS gathered comments from member states regarding the new provisions for military detention and trials of suspected terrorists signed by President Barack Obama in December 2011. These comments influenced the implementing guidelines so as to minimise the negative impact on transatlantic cooperation, for example by making sure that the normal criminal-justice track was preferred over the military track when the suspect is a citizen of an allied country.
Lastly, while the new aspects of the war on terrorism such as the use of drones often present the same type of legal and moral dilemmas as Guantanamo or extraordinary rendition, Europeans have remained much more silent and their normative ambitions seem muted. A majority of people in many European states disapprove of drone strikes, but the issue has simply not gotten much attention and European governments do not have an official position on the issue. There is quiet diplomacy with the US, for example through the bi-annual dialogue of the legal advisers, but it is restricted to an exchange of views.