Thursday

2nd Feb 2023

Interview

Trump did not misspeak on EU, says commission VP

  • Maros Sefcovic in Washington in June (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Donald Trump's anti-EU jibes were not slips of the tongue, but signs of a "conflictual" new era in world affairs, a Slovak politician who would lead Europe has said.

"The words are harmful. If it was a kind of slip of the tongue it would be OK. Anybody can make a mistake, but here we see it's a consistent approach of being harsh on the European Union," Maros Sefcovic, a European Commission vice-president, told EUobserver on Wednesday (18 July).

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

  • Sefcovic with Germany's Peter Altmeier in Berlin on Tuesday (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

"One reason is [Trump's] dislike of the [EU] institutions and the European Union, but [another] one is to weaken what's become a very strong economy [the EU], a very strong political and global player," he said.

Sefcovic spoke after Trump, the US president, called Europe, America's oldest ally, a "foe" last week.

Trump has also started a trade war with the EU, threatened to quit Nato, and berated Germany over its "horrible" plan to build a gas pipeline with Russia.

He is wont to reverse what he previously said or to claim that he misspoke, as he did on Russia's US election meddling at a summit in Helsinki on Monday.

But for Sefcovic the EU-bashing was a systematic attack.

"I'm very unhappy with what's happening … it's not good for us, not good for the Americans, not good for global stability," he said.

Sefcovic addressed Trump amid his own ambition to become the next commission president, the most powerful job in the EU.

The 51-year old ex-diplomat, who has worked as an EU commissioner for nine years, hopes to get there as the top candidate of the centre-left bloc in European Parliament elections in 2019.

The transatlantic clash was part of a wider shifting of power on the world stage, he said.

Europe ought to ask itself, he said: "Will this century be American or Chinese? Are we in a position to be in a strategic balance with Russia? And can we rely more on ourselves, which I think is an absolute necessity?".

President Sefcovic?

A Sefcovic commission would make the EU into an industrial powerhouse, he said.

It would also be strong on values, he added.

"When I meet people outside the EU, what I hear is that we need a strong Europe, that you're responsible when it comes to climate change, you're fair to the developing world, you support a rules-based international system, that you represent a beacon of fairness," Sefcovic said.

EU industrial policy should give Europe "geostrategic independence in high-technologies", he said.

"Megatrend" sectors, such as electric cars, robotics, and supercomputers needed help to compete with US and Chinese "state-sponsored giants" who "don't always treat us fairly", Sefcovic said.

Permitting state aid for strategic sectors and curbing technology transfer to China could give Europe an edge, he added.

Speaking out

The Slovak commissioner looked to Donald Tusk, a former Polish PM who now chairs EU summits, as a model of conduct on European affairs.

"He [Tusk] is very much respected. He's a very bold politician who speaks his mind," Sefcovic said.

Sefcovic also spoke out on Trump's attack on Germany and its Russia gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2 (NS2).

The US should not usurp EU energy policy by imposing fines on European investors in the project, he said.

"We're capable of taking our own decisions in Europe and we definitely wouldn't like it if our ally targeted companies from the EU," the Slovak commissioner, who is currently in charge of EU energy affairs, said.

"It adds a conflictual approach to EU-US relations," he added.

The pipeline is seen as a threat by central European and Nordic countries, who say it will allow Russia to cut gas supplies to Western allies, such as Ukraine, at a time of geopolitical tension.

Russian muscle

Sefcovic has, despite his remarks, also fought to enforce EU law on NS2 in order to soften Russia's energy muscle.

"I've never seen a pipeline debated so hotly at the highest political levels whether here in the EU Council, or in EU-US forums," he told EUobserver.

But German economy minister Peter Altmeier and Russian energy chief Alexander Novak promised to uphold Ukraine gas supplies when Sefcovic met them in Berlin on Tuesday, he said.

"We've moved on from that very disturbing possibility that they would just close down what's currently the most important route of Russian gas to Europe," he said.

"Yesterday, at lunch with Mr Altmeier, he was very clear and forceful on how gas transit through Ukraine was of strategic importance for Europe," Sefcovic said.

US mauls Germany over Russia pipeline

US leader Donald Trump, backed by Poland, has begun the Nato summit with a tirade against Germany's plan to build a pipeline with Russia.

Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president

Europe must have a robust foreign policy and nurture high-tech industries, Slovak EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic has said in his bid to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the next EU commission president.

Opinion

Europe is giving more aid to Ukraine than you think

'Europeans need to pull their weight in Ukraine. They should pony up more funds.' Such has been the chorus since the start of the war. The problem is the argument isn't borne out by the facts, at least not anymore.

Column

Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?

Countries that were once democratising are now moving in the other direction — think of Turkey, Myanmar, Hungary or Tunisia. On the other hand, in autocracies mass mobilisation rarely succeeds in changing political institutions. Think of Belarus, Iran or Algeria.

Latest News

  1. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  2. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  3. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  4. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  5. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU
  6. EU green industry plan could spark 'dangerous subsidy race'
  7. Wolves should be defended, EU ministers urge
  8. EU Commission wants drones for Bulgaria on Turkey border

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us