European Union chief Tusk chides Trump for 'capricious' policies

Frederick Owens
May 17, 2018

The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, has said the European Union should be grateful to US President Donald Trump, for forcing it to rid itself of all illusions.

The European leaders said they would be ready to also work with the USA to reform the World Trade Organization (WTO) - a nod to address concerns over Chinese trade practices and over a more technical issue with the WTO's Appellate Body.

"Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump someone could even think: with friends like that who needs enemies".

'But frankly, European Union should be grateful. "Now we understand that if we need help, we can get only from ourselves", wrote Tusk.

European ministers met a top Iranian official in Brussels on Tuesday in a bid to save the Iranian nuclear accord after Trump chose to pull out.

Listing the traditional problems facing Europe, ranging from the expanding power of China to the belligerence of Russia, Tusk said: "We are witnessing today a new phenomenon, the capricious assertiveness of the American administration".

"I have no doubt that in the new global game", Tusk said, "Europe will either be one of the major players or will be a pawn". This is the only real alternative.

With member states yet to agree on how to handle the challenges, Mr Tusk called on leaders gathering in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, to unite behind the tough line being taken by key European actors in response to the White House's actions.

The EU's hopes have been complicated by the fact that European companies would also be exposed to USA sanctions imposed on anyone doing business in Iran.

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German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, a former head of Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet, has acknowledged that finding a common stance with France and formulating an offer to the United States were "equally difficult".

"Despite all the difficulties we have these days, the transatlantic relations are and will remain of outstanding importance", Merkel told the German parliament.

The EU will continue to support the Iran deal "as long as Iran respects the deal" but will address United States concerns over Iran's role in the Middle East crisis and its ballistic missile programme.

Tusk's comments came as the European Union heads of state meet in the Bulgarian capital Sofia on Wednesday and Thursday to explore options to keep the Iran nuclear deal afloat and respond to possible U.S. tariffs on aluminum and steel.

"Here again, unity is our greatest strength and my objective is simple - we stick to our guns".

The EU has called for "utmost restraint" after Israeli forces killed 60 Palestinians during clashes and protests along the Gaza border against the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, the conflict's bloodiest day in years.

The EU view is that the first step would be an assessment of what both parties wish to negotiate, and then it would need EU members to approve a mandate.

After the talks, a European source told AFP the leaders agreed on a "united EU approach" on the Iran deal, including continued support for the agreement if Tehran abides by it.

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