Saturday 20 January 2018

EU foreign ministers to discuss Trump election win at Brussels gathering

Donald Trump's election victory is to be discussed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers
Donald Trump's election victory is to be discussed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers

European Union (EU) foreign ministers are gathering in Brussels to discuss the impact of Donald Trump's election on trans-Atlantic ties and whether it will complicate relations with Russia.

At informal dinner talks, the ministers will debate how many of Mr Trump's campaign announcements - like isolationist positions on security, his 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.

Giovanni Grevi, senior fellow at the European Policy Centre think tank, said that "co-operation between Europe and the US will not become impossible, but it will become much more difficult".

Mr Grevi added: "Donald Trump has been putting America first ... in defining his foreign policy and it seems he is taking a very transactional approach to international affairs.

"This is very likely to apply also to trans-Atlantic relations. He will value Europeans in so far as they can match his priorities."

Given Mr Trump's clear opposition to major trade pacts, EU officials are all but certain the massive Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will have to be renegotiated, if any life remains in the project at all.

"With the new president-elect we don't really know what will happen. There is strong reason to believe that there would be a pause in TTIP, that this might not be the biggest priority for the new administration," EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said on Friday.

Perhaps the most pressing problem, though, is to understand how Mr Trump wants to deal with Mr Putin.

The EU has imposed sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea and destabilising role elsewhere in Ukraine.

Some of those measures, including asset freezes on individuals and organisations, come up for renewal in January.

EU leaders are due to discuss them at a summit in Brussels on December 15 and 16, but any signal from Mr Trump about a softening of US relations with Russia is likely to embolden already-reluctant countries like Germany, Italy and others to push for an end to the sanctions regime, diplomats said.

The EU foreign ministers will meet again formally on Monday to discuss strained ties with membership candidate country Turkey, the conflict in Syria and Libya, and defence co-operation with the Nato military alliance.


Press Association

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