European Affairs

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Europe, COVID-19, and U.S. Relations

The European Union: Questions and Answers

Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress

Ukraine: Background, Conflict with Russia, and U.S. Policy

NATO: Key Issues for the 117th Congress

Spain and Its Relations with the United States: In Brief

Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19): Q&A on Global Implications and Responses

In December 2019, hospitals in the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei Province began seeing cases of pneumonia of unknown origin. Chinese health authorities ultimately connected the condition, later named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), to a previously unidentified strain of coronavirus. The disease has spread to almost every country in the world, including the United States. WHO declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30, 2020; raised its global risk assessment to “Very High” on February 28; and labeled the outbreak a “pandemic” on March 11....

Transatlantic Relations: U.S. Interests and Key Issues

For the past 70 years, the United States has been instrumental in leading and promoting a strong U.S.-European partnership. Often termed the transatlantic relationship, this partnership has been grounded in the U.S.-led post-World War II order based on alliances with like-minded democratic countries and a shared U.S.-European commitment to free markets and an open international trading system. Transatlantic relations encompass the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union (EU), close U.S. bilateral ties with most countries in Western and Central Europe, and a massive,...

European Energy Security: Options for EU Natural Gas Diversification

As a major energy consuming region, Europe faces a number of challenges in addressing its future energy needs. For member states of the European Union (EU), challenges include rapidly rising global demand and competition for energy resources from countries such as China and India, tensions with Russia, efforts to integrate the EU’s internal energy market, and a growing need to shift fuels in keeping with the EU’s climate change policy goals. As a result, energy supply security has become a key concern for the EU. European energy security is also of significant interest to the United...

Brexit: Status and Outlook

The United Kingdom (UK) formally withdrew from membership in the European Union (EU) on January 31, 2020. Under the withdrawal agreement negotiated by the two sides, the UK is to continue applying EU rules during a transition period scheduled to run through the end of 2020. During the transition period, the UK and the EU are expected to begin negotiating the terms of their future relationship, including trade and economic relations as well as cooperation on foreign policy, security, and a range of other issues.

Overview of Developments

After the 2016 referendum in which 52% of voters in...

Indo-Pacific Strategies of U.S. Allies and Partners: Issues for Congress

China’s growing confidence in asserting itself regionally and internationally, combined with longstanding concerns about whether the United States has the capacity or commitment to remain the region’s dominant actor, is leading U.S. allies and partners to adjust their strategic posture. This report seeks to outline some of these changes and to outline the perspectives of Indo-Pacific nations seeking to navigate a changing geopolitical environment, including by recasting their conception of the region to draw in new potential counterweights to China such as India, prioritizing new defense...

U.S. Sanctions on Russia

Sanctions are a central element of U.S. policy to counter and deter malign Russian behavior. The United States has imposed sanctions on Russia mainly in response to Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, to reverse and deter further Russian aggression in Ukraine, and to deter Russian aggression against other countries. The United States also has imposed sanctions on Russia in response to (and to deter) election interference and other malicious cyber-enabled activities, human rights abuses, the use of a chemical weapon, weapons proliferation, illicit trade with North Korea, and support to Syria...

U.S. Killing of Qasem Soleimani: Frequently Asked Questions

The January 2, 2020, U.S. killing in Iraq of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) Commander Qasem Soleimani, generally regarded as one of the most powerful and important officials in Iran, has potentially dramatic implications for the United States. For Congress, it raises possible questions about U.S. policy in the Middle East, broader U.S. global strategy, U.S. relations with partners and allies, the authorization and legality of U.S. military action abroad, U.S. measures to protect its servicemembers and diplomatic personnel, and congressional oversight of these and...

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania: Background and U.S.-Baltic Relations

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, often referred to as the Baltic states, are close U.S. allies and considered among the most pro-U.S. countries in Europe. Strong U.S. relations with these three states are rooted in history. The United States never recognized the Soviet Union’s forcible incorporation of the Baltic states in 1940, and it applauded the restoration of their independence in 1991. These policies were backed by Congress on a bipartisan basis. The United States supported the Baltic states’ accession to NATO and the European Union (EU) in 2004.

Especially since Russia’s 2014...

Holocaust-Era Insurance Claims: Background and Issues for Congress

In November 1998, U.S. insurance regulators, six European insurers, international Jewish organizations, and the State of Israel agreed to establish the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC). ICHEIC was tasked with identifying policyholders and administering payment of hundreds of thousands of Holocaust-era insurance policies that had never been honored by European insurance companies. It ended its claims process in March 2007, having offered payments totaling about $306 million to 48,263 claimants. An additional $169 million was allocated to a “humanitarian...

Poland: Background and U.S. Relations

Over the past 30 years, the relationship between the United States and Poland has been close and cooperative. The United States strongly supported Poland’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1999 and backed its entry into the European Union (EU) in 2004. Poland has made significant contributions to U.S.- and NATO-led military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Poland and the United States continue to work together closely on a range of foreign policy and international security issues.

Domestic Political and Economic Issues

The 2015 Polish parliamentary...

Assessing NATO’s Value

On April 4, 2019, foreign ministers from the 29 member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are to gather in Washington, DC, to mark the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty (also known as the Washington Treaty). NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is to address a joint session of Congress on April 3, 2019, the first ever to do so. Congress was instrumental in creating NATO in 1949 and has played a critical role in shaping U.S. policy toward the alliance ever since.

A key goal of the 70th anniversary meeting will be to highlight NATO’s past successes and...

Northern Ireland Peace Process: Background and Challenges

Between 1969 and 1999, almost 3,500 people died as a result of political violence in Northern Ireland, which is one of four component “nations” of the United Kingdom (UK). The conflict, often referred to as “the Troubles,” has its origins in the 1921 division of Ireland and has reflected a struggle between different national, cultural, and religious identities. Protestants in Northern Ireland (48%) largely define themselves as British and support remaining part of the UK (unionists). Most Catholics in Northern Ireland (45%) consider themselves Irish, and many desire a united Ireland...

The European Union: Ongoing Challenges and Future Prospects

The European Union (EU) is a unique partnership in which member states have pooled sovereignty in certain policy areas and harmonized laws on a wide range of economic and political issues. The EU is the latest stage in a process of European integration begun after World War II, initially by six Western European countries, to promote peace, security, and economic development. The EU currently consists of 28 member states, including most of the formerly communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

The EU is largely viewed as a cornerstone of European stability and prosperity. For much...

The Islamic State and U.S. Policy

The Islamic State (IS, aka the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL/ISIS, or the Arabic acronym Da’esh) is a transnational Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group that controlled large areas of Iraq and Syria from 2014 through 2017. The group attracted a network of global supporters and its leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, received pledges of affiliation from groups in several other countries. A series of terrorist attacks attributed to the group or to individuals it has inspired have claimed hundreds of lives on four continents since November 2015, including in the United States....

Kosovo: Background and U.S. Relations

Following the conflicts in the late 1990s in the countries of the former Yugoslavia (Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia), the prospect of membership in the Euro-Atlantic community, and the active presence of the United States in the region referred to as the Western Balkans, provided a level of stability that allowed most of the countries of the region to pursue reform and adopt Western values. During this time, Slovenia (2004) and Croatia (2013) joined the European Union (EU). These countries, along with Albania (2009), also joined the North...

FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act

The Trump Administration’s initial FY2018 budget request, released on May 23, 2017, included a total of $677.1 billion for the national defense budget function (Budget Function 050), which encompasses all defense-related activities of the federal government. Of that amount, $659.8 billion was for appropriation accounts for which authorization is provided in the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The remainder of the request was either for mandatory funds not requiring annual authorization or for discretionary funds outside the scope of the NDAA.

That initial Administration...

France and U.S.-French Relations: In Brief

French President Emmanuel Macron took office in May 2017 promising to shake up a political system he characterized as out of touch, revive the stagnant French economy, and revitalize French leadership of the 28-member European Union (EU). Since that time, he has sought to advance a centrist, reform-oriented domestic agenda while pursuing a “traditional” French foreign and defense policy that emphasizes European integration and a strong French presence in global affairs.

Although Macron has the support of a solid majority in the French parliament, he faces challenges in advancing his...

Russia: Background and U.S. Policy

Over the last five years, Congress and the executive branch have closely monitored and responded to new developments in Russian policy. These developments include the following: increasingly authoritarian governance since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidential post in 2012; Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and support of separatists in eastern Ukraine; violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty; Moscow’s intervention in Syria in support of Bashar al Asad’s government; increased military activity in Europe; and cyber-related influence...

Argentina: Background and U.S. Relations

Argentina, a South American country with a population of almost 44 million, has had a vibrant democratic tradition since its military relinquished power in 1983. Current President Mauricio Macri—the leader of the center-right Republican Proposal and the candidate of the Let’s Change coalition representing center-right and center-left parties—won the 2015 presidential race. He succeeded two-term President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, from the center-left faction of the Peronist party known as the Front for Victory, who in turn had succeeded her husband, Néstor Kirchner, in 2007. Macri’s...

France’s 2017 Presidential Election: In Brief

French voters will elect France’s next president in a runoff election scheduled for May 7, 2017. They will choose between the top two finishers of the presidential election’s first round, held on April 23—Emmanuel Macron of the centrist En Marche! (Moving Forward) political movement and Marine Le Pen of the far-right, nationalist Front National (National Front).

The presidential campaign has exposed apparent wide-scale public dissatisfaction both with the presidency of outgoing President François Hollande and, more broadly, with a French political establishment perceived by many as...

The Greek Debt Crisis: Overview and Implications for the United States

Crisis Overview

Since 2009, Greece has grappled with a serious debt crisis. Most economists believe that Greece’s public debt, 180% of Greek gross domestic product (GDP), is unsustainable. The ramifications of the debt have been felt throughout the Greek economy, which contracted by 25% from its pre-crisis level. A fifth of Greeks are unemployed, with youth unemployment at nearly 50%, and the Greek banking system is unstable. Although other Eurozone governments, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Central Bank coordinated a substantial crisis response, Greece continues...

NATO’s Warsaw Summit: In Brief

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO’s) 2016 summit was held in Warsaw, Poland, on July 8-9, 2016. The summit was the second meeting of the alliance’s 28 heads of state and government since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and began providing large-scale military support to separatist forces fighting in Ukraine. Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Eastern Europe more broadly have upended NATO’s post-Cold War transformation from a military alliance focused solely on deterring Russia to a globally oriented security organization. Over the last two years, NATO has taken major steps to...

Economic Implications of a United Kingdom Exit from the European Union

This report provides an analysis of the possible economic implications for the United States and the global economy of an exit from the European Union (EU) by the United Kingdom (UK), commonly referred to as Brexit. It offers background information on possible implications of the vote to leave the EU, an overview of U.S.-UK trade and investment relations, and various estimates of Brexit’s financial implications for the U.S. and global economies. For Members of Congress, economic fallout from Brexit could increase the risks of a slower rate of economic growth and potentially complicate...

U.S.-EU Data Privacy: From Safe Harbor to Privacy Shield

Both the United States and the European Union (EU) maintain that they are committed to upholding individual privacy rights and ensuring the protection of personal data. Nevertheless, data privacy and protection issues have long been sticking points in U.S.-EU economic and security relations, in part because of differences in U.S. and EU data privacy approaches and legal regimes. In the late 1990s, the United States and the EU negotiated the Safe Harbor Agreement of 2000 to allow U.S. companies and organizations to meet EU data protection requirements and permit the legal transfer of...

Poland and Its Relations with the United States

Over the past 25 years, the relationship between the United States and Poland has been close and cooperative. The United States strongly supported Poland’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1999 and backed its entry into the European Union (EU) in 2004. In recent years, Poland has made significant contributions to U.S.- and NATO-led military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Poland and the United States continue working together on issues such as democracy promotion, counterterrorism, and improving NATO capabilities.

Given its role as a close U.S. ally...

U.S.-EU Cooperation Against Terrorism

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States and the subsequent revelation of Al Qaeda cells in Europe gave new momentum to European Union (EU) initiatives to combat terrorism and improve police, judicial, and intelligence cooperation among its member states. Other deadly incidents in Europe, such as the Madrid and London bombings in 2004 and 2005, respectively, injected further urgency into strengthening EU counterterrorism capabilities. Among other steps, the EU has established a common definition of terrorism and a common list of terrorist groups, an EU arrest warrant,...

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) Negotiations

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) is a potential reciprocal free trade agreement (FTA) that the United States and the European Union (EU) are negotiating with each other. Formal negotiations commenced in July 2013. Both sides initially aimed to conclude the negotiations in two years, but more recently have updated their timeline and aim to conclude the T-TIP by the end of 2016. Twelve rounds of T-TIP negotiations have occurred to date.

The United States and EU seek to enhance market access and trade disciplines by addressing remaining transatlantic barriers to...

The Islamic State—Frequently Asked Questions: Threats, Global Implications, and U.S. Policy Responses

In the wake of the deadly November 13, 2015, terrorist attacks in Paris, U.S. policymakers are faced with a wide range of strategy and operational considerations related to the activities of and threats emanating from the Islamic State (IS). A terrorist attack such as this prompts an examination of U.S. domestic security precautions; the role of allies and coalition partners; the appropriate military and diplomatic reactions; the safety and security of infrastructure and that of travelers; and numerous additional discrete issues that require the active involvement of dozens of federal,...

Pope Francis and Selected Global Issues: Background for Papal Address to Congress

Pope Francis (born Jorge Mario Bergoglio) assumed the papacy on March 13, 2013, following the surprise resignation of Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger), who had served as pope since the death of St. Pope John Paul II (Karol Józef Wojtya) in 2005. The pope, respectfully referred to as “Your Holiness,” serves as head of the Holy See (diocese) of Rome and as the leader of the world’s roughly 1.2 billion Catholics. He is the first pope elected from Latin America, the first Jesuit pope (an order of priests founded by Ignatius Loyola), and the first pope in recent times who spent much of his...

Iran Nuclear Agreement: CRS Experts

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R44139 Summary Congress is currently in a period of formal review, being conducted on the basis of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (P.L. 114-17), of the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA) nuclear agreement concluded between Iran and six negotiating powers (“P5+1”) on July 14. The period for initial congressional review under the Act is to conclude on September 17. The agreement has raised a wide variety of questions in Congress. Issues include the specific terms of the deal; the implications for inspections, proliferation,...

European Fighters in Syria and Iraq: Assessments, Responses, and Issues for the United States

The rising number of U.S. and European citizens traveling to fight with rebel and terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq has emerged as a growing concern for U.S. and European leaders, including Members of Congress. Several deadly terrorist attacks in Europe over the past year—including the killing of 17 people in Paris in January 2015—have heightened the perception that these individuals could pose a serious security threat. Increasingly, terrorist suspects in Europe appear to have spent time with groups fighting in the Middle East, especially with the Islamic State organization (also known...

NATO: Response to the Crisis in Ukraine and Security Concerns in Central and Eastern Europe

Russia’s actions in Ukraine and its alleged role in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 have caused observers and policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic, including Members of Congress, to reassess the role of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in upholding European security. The security concerns of NATO’s Central and Eastern European member states and non-NATO member states such as Moldova and Ukraine are of particular concern.

NATO has strongly condemned Russian actions in Ukraine and has taken steps aimed both at reassuring allies and...

Iraq Crisis: CRS Experts

The table below provides names and contact information for CRS experts on various policy concerns of interest to Congress relating to the ongoing crisis in Iraq. Policy areas identified include the conflict in Iraq, al Qaeda affiliates, embassy security, military operations, war powers, sanctions, energy security, humanitarian issues and displaced persons, issues in the Middle East region, the United Nations, and other international actors.

The European Parliament

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov RS21998 Summary Between May 22 and May 25, 2014, the 28 member states of the European Union (EU) will hold elections for the next European Parliament (EP). The Parliament is a key EU institution that represents the citizens of the EU. It works closely with the two other main EU bodies, the European Commission (the EU’s executive) and the Council of the European Union (also known as the Council of Ministers, in which the national governments of the EU’s 28 member states are represented). Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) serve...

Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests

Russia made uneven progress in democratization during the 1990s, but this limited progress was reversed after Vladimir Putin rose to power in 1999-2000, according to many observers. During this period, the State Duma (lower legislative chamber) became dominated by government-approved parties, gubernatorial elections were abolished, and the government consolidated ownership or control over major media and industries, including the energy sector. The Putin government showed low regard for the rule of law and human rights in suppressing insurgency in the North Caucasus, according to critics....

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics: Security and Human Rights Issues

The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on July 4, 2007, that Sochi, Russia, had been selected as the host city for the Olympic Winter Games and Paralympics. The Olympic Games, which will be held February 7-23, 2014, are the first to be hosted by Russia as a successor state to the former Soviet Union. Reportedly, some 230 U.S. athletes out of approximately 2,900 from some 88 countries, and about 10,000 U.S. visitors, are expected in Sochi. Olympic events will take place at two main locations: a coastal cluster along the Black Sea and a mountain cluster in the...

European Union Enlargement: A Status Report on Turkey’s Accession Negotiations

October 2013 marked the eighth anniversary of the European Union’s decision to launch formal negotiations with Turkey toward full membership in the Union. Throughout all of 2012 and the first half of 2013, little or no progress was made on any open chapters of the EU’s rules and regulations known as the acquis communautaire, as formal accession talks between Turkey and the EU seemed to have reached a political and technical stalemate.

In February 2013, France, which has been part of a group in the EU that has expressed doubts about Turkey’s EU membership, signaled that it was prepared to...

Chemical Weapons: A Summary Report of Characteristics and Effects

The potential for terrorist use of chemical agents is a noted concern highlighted by the Tokyo sarin gas attacks of 1995. The events of September 11, 2001, increased congressional attention towards reducing the vulnerability of the United States to such unconventional attacks. The possibility that terrorist groups might obtain insecure chemical weapons led to increased scrutiny of declared Libyan chemical weapon stockpiles following the fall of the Qadhafi regime. Experts have expressed similar concerns regarding the security and use of Syrian chemical weapons, reportedly including stocks...

Possible U.S. Intervention in Syria: Issues for Congress

Reports of a mass casualty chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus are reshaping the long-running and contentious debate over possible U.S. intervention in Syria’s bloody civil war. Obama Administration officials and some foreign governments report that on August 21, 2013, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al Asad attacked opposition-controlled areas in the suburbs of the capital with chemical weapons, killing hundreds of civilians, including women and children. The Syrian government has denied the accusations categorically and blames the opposition for the attack. United...

Possible Intervention in Syria: CRS Experts

The table below provides names and contact information for CRS experts on various policy concerns of interest to Congress relating to the prospect of international military responses to the suspected use of chemical weapons in Syria. Policy areas identified include the conflict in Syria, chemical weapons, military operations, intelligence issues, war powers, the humanitarian response, issues in the Middle East region, the United Nations, other international actors, and other foreign policy instruments.

The U.S. Congress and the European Parliament: Evolving Transatlantic Legislative Cooperation

The United States and the European Union (EU) share an extensive, dynamic, and mutually beneficial political and economic partnership. A growing element of that relationship is the role that the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament (EP)—a key EU institution—have begun to play, including in areas ranging from foreign and economic policy to regulatory reform. Proponents of establishing closer relations between the U.S. Congress and the EP point to the Parliament’s growing influence as a result of the EU’s 2009 Lisbon Treaty which increased the relative power of the EP within the EU, and...

Nuclear Weapons R&D Organizations in Nine Nations

Seven nations—China, France, India, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—possess nuclear weapons. North Korea tested a nuclear explosive device in 2006, and announced that it had conducted a test in 2009 and another in 2013. Israel is widely thought to have nuclear weapons. As an aid to Congress in understanding nuclear weapons, nuclear proliferation, and arms control matters, this report describes which agency is responsible for research and development (R&D) of nuclear weapons (i.e., nuclear explosive devices, as distinct from the bombers and missiles that deliver...

The Eurozone Crisis: Overview and Issues for Congress

Crisis Overview

What started as a debt crisis in Greece in late 2009 evolved into a broader economic and political crisis in the Eurozone and European Union (EU). The Eurozone faces four major, and related, economic challenges: (1) high debt levels and public deficits in some Eurozone countries; (2) weaknesses in the European banking system; (3) economic recession and high unemployment in some Eurozone countries; and (4) persistent trade imbalances within the Eurozone.

The economic crisis also turned into a political crisis. A combination of deep cuts in public spending, rising...

Recent Protests in Muslim Countries: Background and Issues for Congress

Muslims in a number of countries have responded in recent days with anger at the United States that many observers describe as a response to a privately produced film circulating on the Internet that denigrates Islam and the prophet Mohammed. In some cases, this outrage has taken the form of public expressions by relatively small groups of demonstrators, and in other countries the demonstrations have been larger. In the most extreme cases, such demonstrations have been accompanied by violent attacks against U.S. diplomatic personnel and diplomatic facilities. Pre-existing anti-U.S....

Afghanistan: U.S. Foreign Assistance

The U.S. program of assistance to Afghanistan is intended to stabilize and strengthen the Afghan economic, social, political, and security environment so as to blunt popular support for extremist forces in the region. Since 2001, nearly $83 billion has been appropriated toward this effort.

Since FY2002, nearly two-thirds of U.S. assistance—roughly 62%—has gone to the training and equipping of Afghan forces. The remainder has gone to development and humanitarian-related activities from infrastructure to private sector support, governance and democratization efforts, and counter-narcotics...

Transatlantic Regulatory Cooperation: Background and Analysis

Commercial ties between the United States and the 27-member European Union are substantial, growing, and mutually beneficial. However, differences in regulatory approaches limit an even more integrated marketplace from developing. To deal with this situation, a variety of government-to-government efforts have been created to dismantle existing regulatory barriers and to prevent new ones from emerging. These efforts fall under the rubric of transatlantic regulatory cooperation (TRC) and are at the heart of today’s U.S.-EU economic relationship.

This report is intended to serve as an...

Muslims in Europe: Promoting Integration and Countering Extremism

Many European countries have large and growing Muslim minorities. This is particularly true for the countries of Western Europe that have experienced influxes of Muslim immigrants over the last several decades from a variety of Middle Eastern, African, and Asian countries, as well as Turkey and the Balkans. Today, although some Muslims in Europe are recent immigrants, others are second- or third-generation Europeans. While expanding Muslim communities pose significant social and economic policy questions for European governments, the realization that some segments of Europe’s Muslim...

Greece’s Debt Crisis: Overview, Policy Responses, and Implications

The Eurozone is facing a serious sovereign debt crisis. Several Eurozone member countries have high, potentially unsustainable levels of public debt. Three—Greece, Ireland, and Portugal—have borrowed money from other European countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to avoid default. With the largest public debt and one of the largest budget deficits in the Eurozone, Greece is at the center of the crisis. The crisis is a continuing interest to Congress due to the strong economic and political ties between the United States and Europe.

Build-Up of Greece’s Debt Crisis

In...

U.S. Policy Towards Burma: Issues for the 112th Congress

A robust discussion has arisen around U.S. policy towards Burma. Some Members of Congress, senior officials in the Obama Administration, noted Burma scholars, and representatives of various interest groups have weighed in on this discussion, offering their views on the merits of current U.S. policy towards Burma and what policy changes ought to be made.

Among the commentators, there is general agreement that more than 20 years of political and economic sanctions, and nearly two years of “pragmatic engagement,” have not led to the achievement of the stated goals of U.S. policy towards...

Côte d’Ivoire Post-Gbagbo: Crisis Recovery

Côte d’Ivoire is emerging from a severe political-military crisis that followed a disputed November 28, 2010, presidential runoff election between former president Laurent Gbagbo and his, former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara. Both claimed electoral victory and formed opposing governments. Their rivalry spurred a full-scale civil military conflict in early March 2011, after months of growing political violence. Armed conflict largely ended days after Gbagbo’s arrest by pro-Ouattara forces, aided by United Nations (U.N.) and French peacekeepers, but limited residual fighting was...

Operation Odyssey Dawn (Libya): Background and Issues for Congress

This report provides an overview of military operations in Libya under U.S. command from March 19 to March 29, 2011, and the most recent developments with respect to the transfer of command of military operations from the United States to NATO on March 30.

The ongoing uprising in Libya against the government of Muammar al Qadhafi has been the subject of evolving domestic and international debate about potential international military intervention, including the proposed establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya. On March 17, 2011, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution...

Russian Energy Policy Toward Neighboring Countries

The Russian oil and natural gas industries are key players in the global energy market, particularly in Europe and Eurasia. Another trend has been the concentration of these industries in the hands of the Russian government. This latter phenomenon has been accompanied by an authoritarian political system, in which former intelligence officers play key roles.

Russian firms have tried to purchase a controlling stake in pipelines, ports, storage facilities, and other key energy assets of European countries. They need these assets to transport energy supplies to lucrative western European...

NATO in Afghanistan: A Test of the Transatlantic Alliance

The mission of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Afghanistan is seen by many as a test of the alliance’s political will and military capabilities. Since the Washington Summit in 1999, the allies have sought to create a “new” NATO, capable of operating beyond the European theater to combat emerging threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Afghanistan is NATO’s first “out-of-area” mission beyond Europe. The purpose of the mission is the stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan. The mission has proven difficult, an...

North Korean Counterfeiting of U.S. Currency

The United States has accused the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) of counterfeiting U.S. $100 Federal Reserve notes (Supernotes) and passing them off in various countries, although there is some doubt by observers and other governments that the DPRK is capable of creating Supernotes of the quality found. What has been confirmed is that the DPRK has passed off such bills in various countries and that the counterfeit bills circulate both within North Korea and around its border with China. Defectors from North Korea also have provided information on Pyongyang’s...

Cyprus: Status of U.N. Negotiations and Related Issues

Cyprus has been divided since 1974. Greek Cypriots, 76% of the population, live in the southern two-thirds of the island and lead the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus. Turkish Cypriots, 19% of the populace, live in the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (TRNC), recognized only by Turkey, with about 36,000 Turkish troops providing security. United Nations peacekeeping forces (UNFICYP) maintain a buffer zone between the two. Since the late 1970s, the U.N., with U.S. support, has promoted negotiations aimed at reuniting the island as a federal, bicommunal, bizonal republic....

NATO Enlargement: Albania, Croatia, and Possible Future Candidates

At the April 2-4, 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, a principal issue was consideration of the candidacies for membership of Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia. The allies agreed to extend invitations to Albania and Croatia. Although the alliance determined that Macedonia met the qualifications for NATO membership, Greece blocked the invitation due to an enduring dispute over Macedonia’s name. After formal accession talks, on July 9, 2008, the foreign ministers of Albania and Croatia and the permanent representatives of the 26 NATO allies signed accession protocols amending the North...

Russia’s Accession to the WTO

In 1993, Russia formally applied for accession to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Its application was taken up by the World Trade Organization (WTO), the successor organization of the GATT, in 1995. Russia’s application has entered into its most significant phase as Russia negotiates with WTO members on the conditions for accession.

Accession to the WTO had been critical to Russia and its political leadership. President, now Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin had made it a top priority. However, in the last year, Russian leaders have sent mixed signals regarding their...

Enlargement Issues at NATO’s Bucharest Summit

NATO held a summit in Bucharest on April 2-4, 2008. A principal issue was consideration of the candidacies for membership of Albania, Croatia, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM, or the Republic of Macedonia). These states are small, with correspondingly small militaries, and their inclusion in the alliance cannot be considered strategic in a military sense. However, it is possible that they could play a role in the stabilization of southeastern Europe. The allies issued invitations only to Albania and Croatia.

At Bucharest NATO decided not to offer a Membership Action...

The European Union’s Energy Security Challenges

Recent increases in energy prices and a steady escalation in global energy demand—expected to rise by nearly 60% over the next 20 years—have led U.S. policy-makers to engage in a wide ranging debate over how best to address the country’s future energy requirements. Similarly, energy security has become a policy priority for the European Union (EU) and its 27 member states. The EU imports about 50% of its energy needs. Barring significant changes, the European Commission expects this figure to rise to 65% by 2030. About half of the EU’s natural gas imports and 30% of its imported oil come...

Islamist Extremism in Europe

Although the vast majority of Muslims in Europe are not involved in radical activities, Islamist extremists and vocal fringe communities that advocate terrorism exist and reportedly have provided cover for terrorist cells. Germany and Spain were identified as key logistical and planning bases for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. The March 2004 terrorist bombings in Madrid have been attributed to an Al Qaeda-inspired group of North Africans. UK authorities have named four British Muslims as the perpetrators of the July 2005 terrorist attacks on London; in August 2006,...

Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade: Key Issues for the 110th Congress

The 110th Congress will face a number of pressing foreign affairs, defense, and trade issues in the opening days of its tenure. This report identifies major issues most likely to be on the legislative agenda, discusses critical policy choices at stake, and summarizes some of the major alternatives that Congress may consider. The report lists Congressional Research Service reports that address these issues, and it identifies key analysts and their areas of responsibility.

A major issue confronting the new Congress is what to do in Iraq. The Baker/Hamilton-led Iraq Study Group recommended...

European Approaches to Homeland Security and Counterterrorism

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and the subsequent attacks on European countries such as the United Kingdom and Spain have prompted both sides of the Atlantic to reinvigorate their respective efforts to ensure homeland security and combat terrorism. However, U.S. and European approaches to these issues differ. While the United States has embarked on a wholesale reorganization of its domestic security and border protection institutions, European countries have largely preferred to work within their existing institutional architectures to combat terrorism and...

Removing Terrorist Sanctuaries: The 9/11 Commission Recommendations and U.S. Policy

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission) issued its final report on July 19, 2004. A major recommendation in the report was that the U.S. government should identify and prioritize actual or potential terrorist sanctuaries and, for each, to employ a realistic strategy to keep possible terrorists insecure and on the run, using all elements of national power. U.S. strategy to combat global terrorism, even prior to 9/11, included efforts to deny sanctuary to terrorist groups by isolating and applying pressure on states that sponsor or...

Transnational Organized Crime: U.S. Policy, Programs, and Related Issues

Transnational organized crime presents a serious threat to U.S. national security and global stability. Organized criminal groups have benefitted from the demise of legal structures following the collapse of the Soviet Union and in many failed states. They have been able to expand their networks across national borders. Globalism serves these groups which increasingly rely upon advanced technology and the global financial system to accumulate wealth from their illicit activities. These groups engage in a wide array of criminal activities across national borders that include the illicit...

Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade: Key Issues for the 108th Congress

The 108th Congress will be faced early on with a number of pressing foreign affairs, defense, and trade issues. This report provides background information on the issues most likely to be taken up in the first session, analyzes the congressional role in shaping U.S. policy on these key issues, and lists CRS products that provide more detailed discussion and analysis. The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon dramatically altered the U.S. political environment, pushing issues of war and homeland security to the top of the policy agenda. Of particular concern to...