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Trump’s Dismissal of EU Brings Call for Unity

Posted by hkarner - 17. Januar 2017

Date: 16-01-2017
Source: The Wall Street Journal

German foreign minister say president-elect’s weekend comments ‘caused astonishment’

President-elect Donald Trump says the European Union is a vehicle to promote German interests.

BRUSSELS—European foreign ministers on Monday pushed back at weekend criticism from President-elect Donald Trump, saying the bloc would stand together and calling on the new U.S. administration to respect its international obligations.

In a weekend interview, Mr. Trump said other countries would follow the U.K. in exiting the European Union and said he was indifferent to the fate of the EU, which he described as a vehicle for German interests.

He also said the U.S. would move quickly to agree to a free-trade deal with the U.K., which, as an EU member for the next two years, cannot conclude independent trade agreements. And he said that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was, in its current form, obsolete, although he said it could have an important role.EU foreign ministers had already met in November and discussed their concerns about a Trump administration. Among their concerns, Mr. Trump’s hopes for some form of grand bargain with Russia, his criticism of the Iranian nuclear deal and his protectionist trade rhetoric.

Until now, however, EU officials had stressed the importance of engaging the new U.S. president and hoped that Mr. Trump would moderate his stances as he prepared to take office on Jan. 20.

On his way into the monthly meeting of EU foreign ministers, Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Mr. Trump’s comments had “caused astonishment and excitement, and I’m sure not just in Brussels.”

Mr. Steinmeier said he had just come from a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and that it was clear that the president-elect’s remarks about the alliance had caused concerns there.

“First, it goes against the statements of the nominated defense secretary a few days ago. We have to see what it will yield in terms of U.S. foreign policy. The same goes for the statements on trade policy,” he said. “We count on the U.S. to stick to its international obligations, including in the World Trade Organization.”

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said that while Mr. Trump wasn’t yet speaking as president, his remarks offered no “pretty picture” either on trade or foreign policy,

“We can only hope that from Friday on, the statements of candidate Trump will lead in a different direction,” he said.

Mr. Asselborn insisted on the importance of the trans-Atlantic partnership, saying that “it would be a pity if the U.S., as the world’s largest democracy, would act in a destructive manner.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Mr. Trump’s comments were an invitation to the bloc to stand united.

“As is the case with Brexit, the best way of defending Europe, which is rather what Mr. Trump has invited us to do, is to remain united, to remain as a bloc, not to forget that the strength of the Europeans lies in their unity,” he said.

Mr. Ayrault says he is eager to meet nominated U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson so that they can begin discussing the myriad foreign-policy challenges facing the U.S. and Europe: from the conflict in Syria to relations with Russia.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini made no mention of Mr. Trump but made clear the bloc’s view that, one year after its implementation, the nuclear agreement with Iran was something to be safeguarded. Mr. Trump has described the accord as a “horrible” deal.

“The European Union will continue to work for the respect and the implementation of this extremely important deal, most of all for our security,” she said.

Mr. Trump’s remarks on a U.S.-U.K. trade deal were however welcomed by U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

“I think it’s very good news that the U.S.A. wants to do a good free trade deal with us and wants to do it very fast, and it’s great to hear that from President-Elect Donald Trump,” he said. “Clearly it will have to be a deal that’s very much in the interests of both sides, but I have no doubt it will be.”

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