Strategists seek to reduce tensions over US security measures




By Mark Huband, Security Correspondent, in Brussels

Financial Times, 18 November 2003

US and European security strategists sought yesterday to reduce transatlantic tensions over the impact of US counter-terrorism measures on trade, travel and individual liberty, which have remained a main source of friction since relations soured over the war in Iraq.

Although both sides have reached agreements this year on issues ranging from extradition to the liaison between US law enforcement agencies and the European police agency Europol, distrust and resentment formed the backdrop for discussions at a conference in Brussels yesterday on worldwide security organised by the New York-based East-West Institute policy think-tank.

Criticism focused on the perceived lack of US consultation with national and international authorities on the measures that form the backbone of US homeland security strategy.

Rejecting suggestions that the US had become increasingly authoritarian, Richard Falkenrath, the White House deputy homeland security adviser, accused other countries of failing to match US security measures. He said: “I am a little concerned about the emerging gap between the US and its partners. I haven’t seen anywhere where there are as many reforms as in the US.”

Mr Falkenrath said the Bush administration had struck “a careful balance of liberty and security”.

Even so, European officials and business people emphasised the extent of European resentment at US measures they say have damaged transatlantic ties.

“Our main task is to improve the knowledge of what we are trying to do on both sides of the Atlantic, and to improve our understanding [of each other],” said Antonio Vittorino, European justice and home affairs commissioner. He said trust between the US and EU could be rebuilt if there was more intelligence-sharing on terrorism.

The differences that have emerged during the implementation of global security measures mean that even if political divergence is put aside, the potential for a clash of views on practical issues remains. “There are frictions. There is a difference of perceptions of what is security, particularly for airline travel,” said Maria Livanos Cattaui, secretary-general of the International Chamber of Commerce.

Trade organisations and companies have been critical of demands that the US bureau of customs and border protection receive advance notification of passenger lists and cargoes bound for the US.

These criticisms were rejected by Douglas Browning, US deputy customs commissioner. “I take exception to the notion that certain measures have resulted in trade distortion,” he said, arguing that pre-shipment screening in foreign ports had not created distortion.


© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008.