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20th Aug 2022

Tillerson sacking to delay restart of EU-US energy summits

  • Rex Tillerson (l) met Federica Mogherini in Brussels last December (Photo: Council of the European Union)

US president Donald Trump's firing of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state on Tuesday (13 March) will mean EU diplomacy chief Federica Mogherini will have to restart her attempts to dust off a transatlantic forum: the EU-US energy summit.

Trump announced on Tuesday that Tillerson had been replaced by Mike Pompeo, who until then had been director of the CIA.

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It means that Mogherini will now need to convince Pompeo of the need to continue EU-US cooperation on energy issues, something which she had been trying to do with Tillerson last year.

Under Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, the US and the EU had in 2009 set up the EU-US energy council.

The aim of the forum was for the two sides to cooperate on energy policies, increasing energy security, and clean energy technologies.

They agreed to meet annually, but have not yet done so since the election of Trump in November 2016. The last EU-US energy summit was held on 4 May 2016 in Washington.

A year ago, the EU said it still assumed the annual summits would continue.

Mogherini sent Tillerson two letters, which were made public by the European External Action Service last week at this website's request.

On 22 February 2017, Mogherini wrote Tillerson that the EU-US energy council was a "vital forum for transatlantic cooperation".

"On our end, we have found the EU-US energy council to be an excellent platform for coordinating transatlantic actions on energy policy, and security and low carbon transition," she wrote.

The Italian suggested that a new summit would be held "at a mutually convenient time during 2017".

However, the two sides apparently did not manage to find a date.

On 23 November 2017, Mogherini wrote Tillerson again. In the second letter, she implied that Tillerson had expressed a positive approach to the EU-US energy summits.

"I know from our previous correspondence how much importance we both attach to transatlantic cooperation in the area of energy and energy security and to the EU-US energy council as the framework in which we can discuss these issues," she wrote.

"Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to propose dates when you and US secretary of energy [Rick] Perry would be available for a meeting of the EU-US energy council in the early part of next year," she added.

Climate change

The second letter did not mention climate change, which could be explained by the Trump administration's disinterest on cooperating on reducing greenhouse gases.

While Tillerson has said that the US may remain a party to the Paris agreement "under the right conditions", Pompeo has said that the climate treaty was a "costly burden" to the US.

Greenpeace USA on Tuesday called Pompeo a climate denier, saying that Pompeo was "even worse" than Tillerson, a former Exxon chairman.

Mogherini will have to redouble her diplomatic efforts to convince Pompeo of the value of the EU-US energy council.

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