EU Offers Trump Cooperation While Signaling Policy Firmness

  • Europe draws red lines on climate, Iran, Russia positions
  • European foreign ministers discuss future ties with U.S.

How U.S. International Relations and Policies May Change

The European Union promised to cooperate with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump while vowing to stand by international agreements he has questioned including United Nations deals to curb climate change and ease sanctions on Iran.

After a dinner in Brussels to discuss future EU-U.S. relations in the wake of Trump’s victory in the Nov. 8 American election, European foreign ministers also signaled a determination to maintain their opposition to Russia’s encroachment in eastern Ukraine.

“We are looking forward to a very strong partnership with the next administration,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters late Sunday after hosting the gathering. “For us, it’s extremely important to work on the climate-change agreement implementation but also on non-proliferation and the protection of the Iranian nuclear deal.”

Trump’s win last week threatens to upend eight years of EU-U.S. cooperation during the tenure of President Barack Obama and decades of trans-Atlantic relations underpinned by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. As the Republican Party’s presidential candidate, Trump raised doubts about UN accords on global warming and Iran’s nuclear program that the Obama administration helped to forge and about the benefits of U.S.-led NATO.

‘Principled Position’

Trump also had praiseworthy words for Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea in 2014 and support for pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine prompted the U.S. and EU to impose sanctions that remain in place.

“The European Union has a very principled position on the illegal annexation of Crimea and the situation in Ukraine,” Mogherini said. “This is not going to change regardless of possible shifts in others’ policies.”

Some EU ministers signaled hopes that Trump, a real-estate developer who had no political experience before his run for the White House, would be less confrontational as president than he was as a candidate.

“There is always a distance between a candidate and an elected president,” Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak of Slovakia, which holds the 28-nation EU’s rotating presidency, told reporters. “We will see the practical steps of the new administration. We will try to convey our messages about our expectations.”

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said the EU would judge Trump by his actions. Meanwhile, Mogherini and ministers including Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders stressed the need for Europe to bolster its defense clout.

‘Important Issue’

“We need to enhance our capacity in defense and security,” Reynders told reporters on Monday before the start of a regularly scheduled meeting with his EU counterparts. “It’s an important issue for the European Union in the months to come.”

U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who didn’t attend Sunday’s dinner, on Monday expressed support for the EU defense-cooperation push as a complement to NATO, saying “it’s a good thing if everybody steps up to the plate and spends a bit more on defense themselves.”

Johnson also said there’s “a lot to be positive about” regarding Trump, calling him a “dealmaker” who could prove to be “a good thing” for Britain and Europe as a whole.

“It’s very important not to pre-judge the president-elect or his administration,” Johnson told reporters in Brussels. “We should regard it as a moment of opportunity.”

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