Book chapter

Canada and the European Union (2020)

in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics

Abstract

Historically, the land known as Canada during the 21st century was colonized by the Kingdoms of France and England and was also the site of an abortive and short-lived colonization attempt by Scandinavian settlers in the 10th and 11th centuries. The early French colony of New France boasted a population in the tens of thousands but was eventually annexed and colonized by the United Kingdom following the conclusion of the Seven Years' War. As a result, the modern nation-states of the United Kingdom and France have the closest relationships with Canada, and it is through these conduits that much of the contemporary Canada–European Union (EU) relationship lies. Although Canada, being a colony of the United Kingdom, did not conduct its own diplomacy for the entirety of the 19th century and much of the 20th, it was able to establish informal ties through diplomatic attachés to British embassies and consular offices. Following the Statute of Westminster in 1931, Canada gained the ability to craft an independent foreign policy which it pursued wholeheartedly. After the Second World War, it joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alongside the United States, the United Kingdom, and numerous other European nations. Its formal relationship with the EU and its predecessors began in 1959, when it and the burgeoning European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) signed an agreement on the peaceful uses of atomic energy. Since then, its cooperation has gained breadth and depth, expanding to myriad other policy areas including agriculture, foreign policy and defense, security, and trade. There have been points of tension between the two partners in the past, most notably around issues with the Quebec independence movement, governance of the Arctic, and governance of international fisheries and the oceans. However, over time the EU has grown to become perhaps Canada's second most important partner worldwide, after the United States. This has culminated in the signing of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA), which are major milestones and cement Canada and the EU's mutually increasing importance to each other.