Europe has been destabilized by Trump, who is out on the offensive to detonate the EU and conclude bilateral trade agreements.
Yesterday afternoon in Malta, the 27 countries met without Great Britain. The latter has already concluded a bilateral agreement with Washington for the after Brexit era, Theresa May only attended half summit. The 27 sought an answer, which should materialize between the summit in early March, and the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, to be held on March 25th in the Italian capital.
There is the issue of the Ambassador Trump wants to send to Brussels, Ted Malloch. He dreams of detonating the EU, as he claims to have done with the USSR.
There is the issue of Iran, which for now remains pending. Later this month, vice-president Mike Pence will be received in Brussels.
There are several fault lines. The Franco-German tandem holds for now, but it shows signs of weakness. East and West are increasingly distant, but some countries, like the Netherlands, ask for prudence in the first approaches with the new US administration.
Poland’s Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, had sent a letter to member countries in preparation to the Malta Summit, evoking the “threat” posed by Trump, but yesterday he eased on the criticism, under Warsaw’s pressure.
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the Commission, thinks that there is still “a space to explain” to Trump, who “does not know the details of the EU, while in the EU, the details are important.”
The Maltese host, Joseph Muscat, is prudent (“the rejection of Trump should not result in anti-Americanism”). This position is shared by Mrs.Pesc and Federica Mogherini: “We are and we remain friends of the American people and its administration, based on the our strong values, our principles and interests”. For the values and principles, it is better to overlook them, in view of the agreement to block the landings from Libya; in regards to the interests, the EU is effectively seeking to exploit opportunities (like speeding up a free trade agreement with Mexico).
François Hollande, who is at the end of the race, tried to drive a hard line: he spoke of “external threats” affecting the EU, other than terrorism, “the will of a number of powers to weigh on our destiny.” He directly mentioned “the new US presidency,” which “pretends” to determine “what the EU should, or should no longer be.”
But Hollande only proposes defense to the partners: “France has a defense policy,” he pointed out, and Europeans now have to “defend themselves,” certainly “within the framework of NATO.”
It is the line agreed with Germany. Angela Merkel said “Europe has its own destiny in its hands.” For Hollande, “those who want to establish bilateral relations with the US must understand that there is no future with Trump, if it is not defined together.”
Belgium is more practical. It proposes a two-speed Europe, including euro zones and others. Charles Michel, Belgian Prime Minister, said: “Thinking that the 27 can reach an agreement is dreaming in technicolor, but down to 19, it is more achievable.” According to Charles Michel, we must not be “blind and deaf” in front of Trump: “it means creating a new model for international relations and we must not become a toy in the hands of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.”
The Austrian Prime Minister, Christian Kern, qualified Trump’s Muslim ban as “extremely problematic” and recalled the “responsibility of the US in causing the flow of migrants because of military interventions”: we need “these countries as allies in the fight against terrorism, not as adversaries.” There is an appeal by ministers and former ministers of the EU in favor of the protection of European citizens banned from the U.S. for religious reasons.
Theresa May did not participate in the afternoon. The 27 partners still have a few weeks to develop a response to London’s “strategy,” defined on the White Paper, which aims to “an ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreement” for goods and services, emphasizing the role of the City as a “unique world platform from which the EU will continue to depend on,” without saying anything about the freedom of movement of workers.
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