Thursday

6th Oct 2022

EU leaders forced to unite in new Trump reality

EU leaders pledged the need for unity and for Europe to stand on its own two feet at their meeting in Valletta on Friday (3 February), during a discussion on how to handle US president Donald Trump, whom EU council chief Donald Tusk described earlier this week as a "threat" to the EU.

Leaders emphasised the importance of the transatlantic relationship, and said they would work together with Trump on common interests, but move toward more independent European action on issues where the EU and the US administration disagree.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We work on the basis of our shared values, [...] there are areas where we agree, like fighting international terrorism, and where we don’t agree," German chancellor Angela Merkel said after lunch, which summed up the mood toward Trump among EU leaders after a turbulent week of heavy criticism from Europe and concern over the US president's first days in office.

But Merkel said that this is an opportunity for Europe to redefine itself and become more self-reliant.

"The general debate concentrated on where we stand, we have to act together," Merkel said, adding that it could lead to boosting investment in defence capabilities in the EU but also in Germany. "We have our destiny in our own hands."

Some EU leaders heavily criticised Donald Trump's decision to ban refugees and people arriving to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Others, like Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, slammed those who criticised Trump. Before arriving at the Valletta summit, Orban said that the US has the right to decide its own border control policy, and that he is puzzled at the "neurotic European reactions" over the travel ban.

May's briefing

But behind closed doors over lunch the leaders were united, sources said.

They listened to the briefing of UK prime minister Theresa May, who has already met Trump, Merkel and French president Francois Hollande, who had phone conversations with the new US president to figure out where he stands.

According to a source, May told her fellow European leaders that she made it clear in Washington that a strong EU, a strong Europe, was good for the US.

May said Trump assured her that he was 100 percent behind Nato, the transatlantic military alliance he publicly called "obsolete".

It also dawned around the table that Trump approaches policy through funding, and while he is committed to Nato, financial contributions to the military alliance and to the United Nations could come under question in Washington.

May cautioned EU leaders, and urged them to engage constructively, as division in transatlantic relations would only embolden those who want to harm Europe.

On whether the UK can act as a bridge between the US and the EU, Tusk said that despite Britain leaving the EU, there was a spirit of solidarity among the 28 member states on Friday.

"[There was] this good and strong will to protect our unique relationship with US, the translatlantic guarantee for freedom and international order," he added.

Tusk Tower

Leaders however did not get a good sense on where Trump stands on Russia, according to another source.

"Obviously there was concern among EU leaders by some decision taken and some attitudes adopted by the US administration," Joseph Muscat, Malta's prime minister whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, said at a press conference on Friday.

He added that there was no anti-American sentiment around the table of EU leaders.

However, there was a determination not to stay silent "when principles are trampled on," he said.

EU council chief Donald Tusk earlier this week in an extraordinary letter to EU leaders called Trump one of the threats facing Europe today.

While the discussion on Trump was more pragmatic than Tusk's emotional letter, the former Polish prime minister received backing from EU leaders.

"They [leaders] called me 'our Donald'," he said, referring to the US president. Muscat even joked that the new EU council building in Brussels should be renamed Tusk Tower, to replicate the Trump Tower in New York.

EU leaders to discuss migration, in Trump's shadow

New US president Trump overshadows the Malta summit of EU leaders on Friday, as they discuss the bloc's future amid new geopolitical realities, and step up efforts to stop migration via Libya from North African countries.

EU leaders must stand up to Trump, say MEPs

MEPs have urged the EU to stand up for European values, starting with rejecting Trump's presumed choice for US ambassador, who has stated that he wants to "tame" the bloc.

EU head calls Trump a 'threat' to Europe

Donald Tusk, the symbolic head of the EU, has described US president Donald Trump as a “threat” to Europe alongside Russia and China.

Opinion

The need for global cooperation in stopping Iran

Although Trump said he would tear up the Iran Nuclear Agreement, the new administration seems to want to work on a new policy toward Iran. Let's hope European leaders will respond in kind to this approach.

Podcast

How Europe helped normalise Georgia Meloni

Should Georgia Meloni be considered neofascist? She insists she's a patriotic conservative. And indeed, if she's prime minister, she's expected to respect Italy's democracy — if only to keep money flowing from the EU.

News in Brief

  1. Thousands of Hungarian students and teachers protest
  2. Swedish MEP cuts hair mid-speech to support Iran women
  3. Danish general election called for 1 November
  4. Slovenia legalises gay marriage, adoption
  5. Russia's stand-in EU ambassador reprimanded on Ukraine
  6. France warns over incoming eighth Covid wave
  7. EU adds Anguilla, Bahamas and Turks and Caicos to tax-haven blacklist
  8. Czechs warn joint-nationality citizens in Russia on mobilisation

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  2. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  4. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  5. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”

Latest News

  1. Four weeks to COP27 — key issues and challenges
  2. EU wants to see US list on Russia financing of politicians
  3. Putin's twin aim: to break Ukraine and West's consensus
  4. Putin's diamond firm off the hook in EU sanctions
  5. The Iranian regime's expiration date
  6. Let's end Bulgaria and Romania's 11-year Schengen purgatory
  7. EU debates new pandemic-type loans to deal with crisis
  8. MEPs condemn EU Commission 'leniency' on Hungary

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us