EU foreign ministers gather to discuss Trump impact on US ties
BRUSSELS // European Union foreign ministers gathered on Sunday to discuss the impact of Donald Trump’s election on trans-Atlantic ties and whether it will complicate relations with an increasingly belligerent Russia.
At informal dinner talks in Brussels, well away from the media, the ministers were to debate how many of Mr Trump’s campaign positions – such as an isolationist approach to security, rejection of international trade pacts and refusal to criticise Russian president Vladimir Putin – might translate into policy.
Before the talks, Nato’s secretary-general appealed for trans-Atlantic unity and warned that “going it alone” was not an option for either Europe or the United States.
Barack Obama also made an indirect appeal for Mr Trump to maintain ties with the EU, saying, “our best chance for progress is to resist the urge to turn inward and instead reinvigorate our shared values and work together”.
“Europe is our largest economic partner and we have a profound economic interest in a Europe that is stable and growing,” Mr Obama told Greece’s Kathimerini newspaper ahead of his final trip to Europe as US president this week.
Giovanni Grevi, senior fellow at the European Policy Centre think tank, said cooperation between Europe and the US “will not become impossible, but it will become much more difficult”.
“Donald Trump has been putting America first ... in defining his foreign policy and it seems he is taking a very transactional approach to international affairs. This is very likely to apply also to trans-Atlantic relations. He will value Europeans in so far as they can match his priorities,” Mr Grevi said.
Given Mr Trump’s clear opposition to major trade pacts, EU officials are all but certain that the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, will have to be renegotiated, if any life remains in the project at all.
“There is strong reason to believe that there would be a pause in TTIP, that this might not be the biggest priority for the new administration,” the EU trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmstroem, said on Friday.
Perhaps the most pressing problem though is to understand how Mr Trump wants to deal with Mr Putin.
The EU has imposed sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea and destabilising role elsewhere in Ukraine. Some of those measures, including asset freezes on individuals and organisations, come up for renewal in January.
EU leaders are to discuss them at a summit in mid December, but any signal from Mr Trump about a softening of US relations with Russia is likely to embolden already-reluctant countries such as Germany, Italy and others to push for an end to the sanctions, diplomats said.
The EU foreign ministers will meet again formally on Monday, to discuss strained ties with membership candidate Turkey, the conflict in Syria and Libya, and defence cooperation with the Nato military alliance.
Writing in Britain’s Observer newspaper on Sunday, Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg insisted that Europe and the US must work together in the face of security challenges.
Mr Trump has suggested during his campaign that Washington could abandon its Nato commitments, which include mutual defence in case of attack.
“We face the greatest challenges to our security in a generation. This is no time to question the value of the partnership between Europe and the United States,” Mr Stoltenberg wrote.
Meanwhile, Britain distanced itself from the European meeting, suggesting it intends to take a different approach to Mr Trump. Officials said foreign secretary Boris Johnson – who has told his EU counterparts to snap out of the “general doom and gloom” and “collective whinge-o-rama” following the US election result – would skip Sunday’s talks.
“We do not see the need for an additional meeting on Sunday because the US election timetable is long established,” the foreign office said. “We will work with the current and future administrations to ensure the best outcomes for Britain.”
* Associated Press
Published: November 13, 2016 04:00 AM