Pence Pledges U.S. Commitment to EU on Last European Tour Stop

  • The U.S. vice president visits Brussels on European Trip
  • Pence met with the European Union’s Tusk, Juncker, Mogherini

Vice President Mike Pence said the U.S. commitment to the European Union remains strong and the new administration would seek ways to bolster the relationship, just a month after Donald Trump questioned the bloc’s viability and said NATO was “obsolete.”

“It is my privilege on behalf of President Trump to express the strong commitment of the United States to continued cooperation and partnership,’’ Pence said Monday in Brussels. “Whatever our differences, our two continents share the same heritage, the same values and above all the same purpose -- to promote peace and prosperity through freedom, democracy and the rule of law.”

Mike Pence in Brussels on Feb. 20.

Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

On the final day of his first trip overseas since taking office, Pence sought to allay concern that the trans-Atlantic partnership was beginning to fray by giving reassurances to European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU’s foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini. Pence’s trip capped Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s own international debuts in Europe as the administration tries to set its foreign policy agenda.

Tusk, standing next to Pence after their meeting at the European Council, told reporters that the two leaders did not try to paper over their differences. “The idea of NATO is not obsolete, just like the values that lay at its foundation are not obsolete,” Tusk said. Pence was expected to meet with Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, later on Monday.

NATO Commitment

While Pence’s address Saturday at the Munich Security Conference described an “unwavering’’ U.S. commitment to NATO, it didn’t specifically mention the EU, a point that was noticed by European leaders.

"In Munich, Vice President Pence renews America’s commitment to the Atlantic alliance,’’ French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault wrote on Twitter. “But not a word on the EU."

European officials have expressed concern about Trump’s rhetoric targeting immigrants and criticizing Europe’s handling of the refugee crisis.

In an interview published in two European newspapers Jan. 15, Trump slammed the EU by branding it a vehicle for German domination and predicted other countries would soon follow the U.K. in leaving the bloc. Trump has voiced implicit support for the nationalist agendas of Europe’s far-right parties, often linking his surprise electoral win to the Brexit vote.

‘Take Back Control’

At a campaign rally in Melbourne, Florida, on Saturday, Trump said: “People want to take back control of their countries and they want to take back control of their lives and the lives of their family.”

At the same rally, Trump criticized European countries including Germany, France and Sweden for accepting large numbers of refugees from the Middle East.

The 28-nation EU faces a busy election year, with the Netherlands, France and Germany all going to the ballots in 2017 with surging populist movements threatening establishment parties. During a visit to Washington earlier this month, Mogherini called for the U.S. to remain neutral in those and other races.

“We do not interfere in U.S. politics,” Mogherini told reporters in Washington. “And Europeans expect that America does not interfere in European politics.”

— With assistance by Jonathan Stearns

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