Canada–European Union relations

European Union Canada Common Security and Defence Policy
Canada–European Union relations
Map indicating locations of European Union and Canada



Relations between Canada and the European Union (EU) and its forerunners date back to the 1950s. While the relationship is primarily an economic one, there are also matters of political cooperation. In addition, Canada and the EU members have similar forms of government, and Canadians speak European languages (English and French are official and majority languages). Canada had achieved full independence from the United Kingdom following the Patriation in 1982 but maintains numerous constitutional ties with its former host nation. They share the same head of state (Elizabeth II), same systems of government (the Westminster system), and a similar culture. Between the province of Quebec and France, they speak the same language (French), the majority of residents of Quebec are of French descent, and ties between that province and France are close. Although the UK is no longer a member of the EU since 2020, Canada's strong bilateral relations with France (an EU member) helps bring Canada diplomatically closer to the union.

Two overseas territories of EU members, Greenland and Saint Pierre and Miquelon, lie adjacent to Canadian territorial waters.


Canada's relationship with Europe is a consequence of the historical connections generated by colonialism and mass European immigration to Canada. Canada was first colonized by Norse Vikings on the shores of Baffin Island plus those of Newfoundland and Labrador in the Middle Ages. However, centuries later in the Modern Age, it would be mainly colonized by France and, after 1763, it formally joined the British Empire after its conquest in the Seven Years' War. In addition, it also had colonial influence from Spain in British Columbia plus southern Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The United Kingdom has extremely close relations with Canada, due to its British colonial past, and both being realms of the Commonwealth. Historically, Canada's relations with the UK and USA were usually given priority over relations with continental Europe. Nevertheless, Canada had existing ties with European countries through the Western alliance during the Second World War, the United Nations, and NATO before the creation of the European Economic Community.


The history of Canada's relations with the EU is best documented in a series of economic agreements:

In 1976 the European Economic Community (EEC) and Canada signed a Framework Agreement on Economic Co-operation, the first formal agreement of its kind between the EEC and an industrialized third country. Also in 1976 the Delegation of the European Commission to Canada opened in Ottawa.

In 1990 European and Canadian leaders adopted a Declaration on Transatlantic Relations, extending the scope of their contacts and establishing regular meetings at Summit and Ministerial level.

In 1996 a new Political Declaration on EU-Canada Relations was made at the Ottawa Summit, adopting a joint Action Plan identifying additional specific areas for co-operation.

Areas of conflict

There is an ongoing tension over the EU ban on the import of seal products. This was thought to be motivating factor in Canada's efforts to block the EU's efforts to join the Arctic Council.[1]

Canada has also had bilateral territorial disputes with EU member states (see Turbot War, Hans Island/Territorial claims in the Arctic and Canada–France Maritime Boundary Case).

Canada–EU Free Trade Agreement

Since as early as June 2007, the Government of Canada led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper have been pressuring the EU and its member countries to negotiate a Canada-EU free trade agreement[2][3] Former French prime minister Edouard Balladur has supported the idea, while former Canadian trade negotiator Michael Hart called the idea "silly." [4] The Canada Europe Roundtable for Business (CERT), founded in 1999, has been a principal advocate for a free trade agreement and is supported by more than 100 Canadian and European chief executives. CERT is co-chaired by former Canadian trade minister Roy MacLaren and former editor of The Economist magazine Bill Emmott.[5]

In June 2009, EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton and Canadian Minister of International Trade Stockwell Day released a joint statement regarding the start of negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).[6] Minister Day stated "This first meeting represents a solid step toward a historic economic agreement between Canada and Europe. These negotiations are a priority for our government."[6]

Canada and the EU remained at odds over an EU ban on importing seal products and Canada's visa requirement for the EU citizens of the EU member states of Romania and Bulgaria.[7][8][9]

CETA has been provisionally applied since September 2017. See the article Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement for details of compromises made.

Potential EU membership

It has been proposed as early as 2005 that Canada could join the European Union.[10] Proponents argue that the cultural and political values of Canadians and Europeans have much in common unlike the rest of the American countries, and that Canadian membership would strengthen both sides politically and economically. While conceding that Canada, located in North America, and Europe are over 3,000 km (1,900 mi) distant, being separated by the North Atlantic, proponents note that the EU already has a member, Cyprus, that is geographically outside Europe. In addition, Canada is the closest American sovereign country to the European continent, specifically to Northern Europe. This fact can be much more relevant if Greenland joins the European Union again.[11][12] In 2019, Canada was proposed to join the EU's Horizon Europe scientific research initiative.[13]

In addition, CETA is possibly the farthest-reaching FTA between the EU and a foreign country. Because of the nature of CETA, some[who?] have said that it wouldn't be that far of a leap to EU membership. There have not been any polls conducted on the opinions of Europeans or Canadians regarding closer relations and EU membership. The province of Quebec and francophone minorities in New Brunswick and Manitoba would help to strengthen the Francophone bloc in the EU, with Francophone nations such as France, Luxembourg and Belgium likely to support Canadian membership. EU membership may also help to curb separatist sentiments in Quebec. Canada can also bring an English/Anglophone bloc to the EU after Brexit. In addition, it may decrease Canadian dependence on the United States regarding trade and security. It would also easily meet the Copenhagen Criteria for EU membership. Additionally, the EU is Canada's second-largest trading partner. Canadian and EU officials have not yet commented on this.[10][14][15] Recently, the constant trade disputes with China and between the North American coutries, plus the social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, have opened a debate about the possibility of Canada's membership to the EU.[16]


 European Union  Canada
Population 447,206,135[17] 37,061,728
Area 4,324,782 km2 (1,669,808 sq mi)[18] 9,984,670 km2 (3,855,103 sq mi)
Population Density 103/km² (268/sq mi) 3.7/km2 (9.6/sq mi)
Capital Brussels (de facto) Ottawa
Global Cities Paris, Rome, Berlin, Vienna, Madrid, Brussels, Amsterdam, Athens, Dublin, Helsinki, Warsaw, Lisbon, Nicosia, Budapest, Copenhagen, Sofia, Stockholm, Prague, Zagreb Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Halifax, Québec City
Government Supranational parliamentary democracy based on the European treaties[19] Federal parliamentary democratic
constitutional monarchy
First Leader High Authority President Jean Monnet Prime Minister John Alexander Macdonald
Current Leader Council President Charles Michel
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
Queen Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Official languages 24 official languages, of which 3 considered "procedural" (English, French and German)[20] English and French
Main Religions 72% Christianity (48% Roman Catholicism, 12% Protestantism,
8% Eastern Orthodoxy, 4% Other Christianity),
23% non-Religious, 3% Other, 2% Islam
67.3% Christianity, 23.9% Unaffiliated, 3.2% Islam, 1.5% Hinduism, 1.4% Sikhism, 1.1% Buddhism, 1.0% Judaism
Ethnic groups Germans (ca. 80 million), French (ca. 67 million),
Italians (ca. 60 million), Spanish (ca. 47 million), Poles (ca. 46 million),
Romanians (ca. 16 million), Dutch (ca. 13 million), Greeks (ca. 11 million),
Portuguese (ca. 11 million), and others
74.3% European
14.5% Asian
5.1% Indigenous
3.4% Caribbean and Latin American
2.9% African
0.2% Oceanian
GDP (nominal) $16.477 trillion, $31,801 per capita $1.793 trillion, $50,577 per capita

Canada's foreign relations with EU member states

See also


  1. ^ "Canada signals new era for Arctic Council". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. 15 May 2013.
  2. ^ "EU and Canada Seek to Reach Trade Agreement". The Wall Street Journal. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2008-10-23.
  3. ^ "Canada and Quebec Unite on EU Free Trade Accord", Paul Wells, Maclean's, July 30, 2007
  4. ^ "French push on for EU-Canada free trade".
  5. ^ "CERT - Canada Europe Round Table for Business".
  6. ^ a b "European Commission - PRESS RELEASES - Press release - EU and Canada start negotiations for economic and trade agreement".
  7. ^ "Canada-Europe trade deal risks derailment over visa spat". The Star. Toronto.
  8. ^ ENBlogger. "How Visa Restrictions Impede CETA Progress".
  9. ^ "This Country Is Threatening To Block The Canada-EU Trade Deal".
  10. ^ a b "German Papers: It's Time For Canada to Join the EU". Der Spiegel. 3 March 2005. Retrieved 26 January 2014. Canada shares the longest undefended border in the world with the United States. Their economies are deeply intertwined with hundreds of billions in trade. But this week's decision by Ottawa to reject Washington's missile defense plan shows that politically, Canadians are from Venus and Americans from Mars.
  11. ^ "EUobserver Review 05 January 2007 (Greenland could re-join the EU)". EUobserver. 2007-01-05. Archived from the original on 2008-01-20.
  12. ^ "Greenland's exit warning to Britain". Politico. 2016-06-22.
  13. ^ "Canada eyes new funds and collaborations to boost international science". ScienceBusiness. 2019-06-20.
  14. ^ Garton Ash, Timothy (28 June 2006). "I've found a perfect new member for the EU. If only it were in Europe Canada shares nearly all the values of the new Europe - as well as the most characteristic of its weaknesses". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  15. ^ Johal, Am. "Why doesn't Canada join the European Union". Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  16. ^ "Painful Truth: Should Canada join the European Union?". BC Local News. 2020-05-15.
  17. ^ "Population on 1 January". Eurostat. European Commission. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  18. ^ "Field Listing – Area". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 21, 2015. Retrieved 2015-01-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ "European Commission - PRESS RELEASES - Press release - Frequently asked questions on languages in Europe". Retrieved 2017-06-24.