Tuesday 6 December 2016

EU ministers scramble to find response to Trump's wildest proposals

Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 13/11/2016 | 21:50

Finance Minister Michael Noonan, Minister of State for European Affairs Dara Murphy and Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Fine Gael’s annual party meeting at the Keadeen Hotel, Newbridge, Co Kildare. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Finance Minister Michael Noonan, Minister of State for European Affairs Dara Murphy and Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Fine Gael’s annual party meeting at the Keadeen Hotel, Newbridge, Co Kildare. Photo: Gareth Chaney

EU foreign ministers have discussed the impact of Donald Trump’s election on trade links with the US and the impact on relations with an increasingly belligerent Russia.

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At informal dinner discussions in Brussels, the ministers discussed whether Mr Trump’s campaign announcements – on security, rejection of international trade pacts and refusal to criticise Russian President Vladimir Putin – might translate into real policy.

Before the dinner, EU diplomats were at a loss to explain Mr Trump’s stunning victory or understand yet what it might really mean. As Foreign Affairs Minister, Charlie Flanagan is in the Middle East, Ireland was represented by EU Minister, Dara Murphy.

Mr Murphy said the EU fully accepted the democratic choice of the US people. “We agreed we must work together to promote our many shared values,” he said.

At the same time, Finance Minister Michael Noonan will offer reassurances on Ireland’s enduring appeal when he meets potential investors in the United States this week.

The visit was planned following the outcome of the UK referendum on Brexit, which Mr Noonan said presented an important challenge for the Irish economy.

As well as representatives from large US companies which have bases in Ireland, the minister will also meet US treasury secretary Jack Lew and officials from the IMF and World Bank.

Mr Noonan said: “Ireland has strong ties with the US and this is most evident in terms of inward investment from American companies.”

President Barack Obama will seek to reassure European leaders panicked by the American presidential election during a farewell tour to mark the end of his time in the White House.

He will also look to preserve his legacy before Donald Trump begins to tear it up.

Mr Obama will fly to Greece, before meeting other European allies in Germany in a trip designed to bolster his foreign policy ahead of the Republican presidency of Mr Trump.

The trip will “signal our solidarity with our closest allies in the world”, Ben Rhodes, a national security adviser to Mr Obama, said last week. Mr Rhodes added that the visits would “reinforce our support for the approaches that have been taken over the last eight years to try to promote economic growth, economic security, and global co-operation on a whole range of issues”.

European leaders and senior former military officers called on Mr Trump to clarify his position on Nato, after he called the body “expensive and obsolete” and said its members were too reliant on America to fund their defence. But Mr Obama will counter Mr Trump’s criticism by implying that he would be unable to undo an alliance that has “endured for decades” and that his own administration has taken steps to “reinforce”.

Making his first stop in Greece, Mr Obama will deliver a speech on the economy and trade aimed at finding common ground between his positions and those of the president-elect.

The president will then travel to Germany where he will meet Angela Merkel, the chancellor, whom the White House described as “his closest partner” during the entire presidency.

He will also meet British Prime Minister Theresa May and the leaders of France, Italy and Spain. The talks will focus on topics such as how to deal with Russia and the war in Syria.

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