The EU on the Verge of Breaking Up
UK, France, Hungary are no-shows as EU foreign ministers gather to consider ramifications of US election
EU foreign ministers insisted Sunday they expected good relations with Donald Trump, after a crisis meeting that Britain, France and Hungary snubbed in a move that exposed rifts over the US President Elect.
The ministers said they wanted more details about Donald Trump’s plans following his election win, which has sparked anxiety in Europe due to his campaign-trail rhetoric questioning US commitment to the Continent.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called the special dinner on the eve of a scheduled meeting of the ministers, but some capitals criticized the decision to have an emergency meeting on a democratic election result in a Key ally.
“We are looking forward to a very strong partnership with the next administration, we’ve decided together to engage with the incoming administration even from this very 1st week of transition,” Ms. Mogherini told reporters afterwards.
“It’s not up to us… it’s up to the next US administration to define their own position,” she said following the 2.5 hour meeting.
“For the moment it’s not a wait-and-see attitude we can afford having, because the world goes on, Europe goes on, crisis goes on, but also opportunities we can take go on,” she said.
Ms. Mogherini slammed British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s decision to sit out the meeting, linking it to Britain’s referendum vote in June to leave the 28-nation EU, which has left London needing US support for new trade deals.
“I guess it’s only normal for a country that has decided to leave not to be so interested in our discussion on the future of our relations,” she said.
Britain’s Foreign Office said Saturday, explaining Mr. Johnson’s absence, that “we do not see the need for an additional meeting on Sunday because the US election timetable is long established.
“An act of democracy has taken place, there is a transition period and we will work with the current and future administrations to ensure the best outcomes for Britain.”
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, another no-show, said Friday that the meeting was “completely premature” and hit out at “frustrated and hysterical statements that have been made in Europe” on the theme.
“Until we know who will be in charge of the direction of US diplomacy, until the White House officially makes public its economic and foreign policy priorities, this is a complete waste of time. I do not know what we have to talk about,” he said.
In Paris, the French foreign ministry said Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault was unable to attend the dinner as he had a “very important meeting” early Monday with incoming UN chief Antonio Guterres.
The 3 were replaced at the dinner table by their respective EU ambassadors.
Meanwhile NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned of the dangers of American isolationism.
In an article in Britain’s Observer newspaper Sunday, Mr. Stoltenberg warned: “This is no time to question the partnership between Europe and the United States.
“Going it alone is not an option.”
Donald Trump’s coolness on Europe has caused nervousness throughout a bloc grappling with a migration crisis, a stalled economy and a resurgent Russia on its eastern border.
But his win is also being seen by some in the EU as a chance to push ahead with their bid to build unity after the shock of Brexit.
Monday, the foreign ministers discussed plans to boost defense cooperation, a move that Britain had long blocked including a controversial proposal for a European military headquarters.
“Let’s stop talking about disarray. Isn’t this a chance for Europe to pull itself together?” Mr. Ayrault told the French radio station Europe 1.
Britain has traditionally led opposition to stronger European defense initiatives, arguing that these could weaken the US commitment to NATO. Washington shoulders 67% of the 28-nation alliance’s military expenditures.
Britain is now on particularly tricky ground as it plans to leave the EU yet also needs Donald Trump’s backing for special trade status after Brexit.
By Danny Kemp
Paul Ebeling, Editor