Written by Carmen-Cristina Cîrlig,
The area of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA), including the fight against terrorism, has emerged as a priority for transatlantic cooperation.
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Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the partnership between the European Union (EU) and the United States (USA) on JHA matters has continuously evolved. New priorities were added to the areas of cooperation – such as countering terrorism and violent extremism, personal data protection, migration and border control, cybersecurity and cybercrime, money laundering and terrorism financing. Additionally, both the high-level political dialogue and operational cooperation between law enforcement agencies and judicial, customs or transport authorities on both sides of the Atlantic have been strengthened. Moreover, a series of binding agreements on information exchange for the purpose of fighting crime and terrorism, on legal assistance in judicial proceedings, and on border controls and transport security have been concluded by the USA and the EU.
While these closer transatlantic links in the field of JHA have led to hundreds of successful operations against serious crimes annually, including terrorism, as well as to mutual learning processes, many challenges still remain due to the different approaches on each side of the Atlantic towards some fundamental rights questions. In particular, data protection and privacy issues represent the main bone of contention in the transatlantic relationship, with many in the EU criticising the USA for inadequate protection of privacy rights. The main EU-US agreements on information-sharing (for law enforcement but also for commercial purposes), have constantly come under fire from this point of view, and US mass surveillance activities in Europe have further diminished European trust in the transatlantic relationship. In this context, the European Parliament uses its extended powers in the area of JHA to call for higher levels of data protection as a precondition for restoring trust in the EU’s relationship with the United States.