Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

Trump's anti-Nato views 'astonish' Europe

  • Foreign ministers met in the EU Council's new building for the first time (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Germany has said Donald Trump’s remarks on the EU, Nato, and Russia in an interview have caused “astonishment” in Europe.

The German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said on Monday (16 January) that Trump’s comments would dominate talks by foreign ministers in Brussels.

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  • Steinmeier (l) and Ayrault in Brussels on Monday (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

“This day will be influenced if not determined by the statements of the American president-elect, which caused here in Brussels astonishment and agitation”, he said.

The German minister spoke after Trump, who takes office on Friday, criticised Nato and the EU and praised Russia.

Trump told Germany’s Bild newspaper and British daily The Times at the weekend that Nato was “obsolete”, that he expected more countries to leave the EU, and that he might drop US sanctions on Russia.

Steinmeier said Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg, whom he had met earlier on Monday, had also reacted with “concern”.

He added that Trump’s remarks were “in contradiction with what the American defence minister said in his hearing in Washington only some days ago and we have to see what will be the consequences for American policy”.

Monday's meeting was Steinmeier’s last in his current post before he becomes Germany’s new president.

The French foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said on Monday that “the best response to the [Trump] interview … is European unity”.

He said that when he meets with his new US counterpart, Rex Tillerson, he would ask him where Trump stood on Russia, on the Iran nuclear deal, and on the Paris climate accord.

He added that France would oppose “a return to nationalism, and each man for himself” in world affairs.

Luxembourg's Jean Asselborn said that the Trump interview was "not a nice picture" of what to expect from the new US president.

"One must hope that declarations of candidate Trump will lead, after Friday, in another direction," he said, referring to Trump's inauguration.

"It would be a pity that America - the world's biggest democracy as it depicts itself - were to act destructively," he added.

Iran and Israel

Trump, in his interview, also called the Iran nuclear non-proliferation accord “one of the dumbest deals I have ever seen".

But Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, who helped to conclude the pact, said on Monday that the deal “had delivered” and that Europe would “continue to work for its … implementation”.

Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary said the Iran deal, while “controversial”, had stopped it from acquiring some types of nuclear technology, that it had “great merit”, and that Britain wanted to “keep it going”.

In another potential flashpoint, Trump has said he might move the US embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv, its internationally recognised capital, to Jerusalem, which Israel seized by force in 1967.

EU ministers plan to restate their commitment to the two-state solution on Monday.

France’s Ayrault, who hosted a summit on the two-state solution in Paris over the weekend, said those who did not take part should “regret it”, referring to Israel’s boycott of the event.

Miroslav Lajcak, the Slovak foreign minister, said Trump’s election was a good time for the EU to “be visible” and to restate its “principles” on the conflict.

Mogherini said ministers would hold a “brainstorming on the EU role” in the Middle East Peace Process on Monday.

Libya

Monday’s meeting was also to cover Syria, but the situation in Libya, where the EU-recognised government in Tripoli, the GNA, is under siege, was to be discussed in February, she said.

She said that if the EU’s naval mission, Sophia, received the GNA’s permission to operate in Libyan waters, it could help Libyan fishermen to work in safe conditions by getting rid of migrant-smuggler gangs.

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said the EU executive would not comment on Trump’s views on the disintegration of Europe.

"We have read this interview with interest," he said.

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