EU hopes for unity, strength amid tensions with Trump

  • Petr Boháček
  • 17.5.2018 10:10

Europeans combine concessions on trade with tougher stance over Iran nuclear deal in disputes with the US, as the EU hopes to gain more strength and autonomy in dealing with Trump.

The ongoing EU Summit in Bulgarian Sofia is just half-way through but is already considered successful after the 16 May dinner of EU leaders. Czech Secretary for European Affairs Ales Chmelar hailed the dinner as unprecedently successful and showing unity in the EU response to EU-US trade disputes and the rift following the American unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. To generate more momentum EU Council President Donald Tusk even took a shot at Trump on Twitter, thanking him for ridding Europe of illusions and realising it needs to rely only on itself.

 

Europe is trying to find unity on how to balance its answer between flexibility and a tougher hand.

 

The ongoing value-based divergence between the EU and the US intensified as the US dropped Europe’s biggest diplomatic achievement last week in a demonstration of its unilateral foreign policy, something unacceptable for the old continent constructed on multilateralism, diplomacy and cooperation. Instead of lamenting, Europe is trying to find unity on how to balance its answer between flexibility and a tougher hand.

A compromise between France, Spain and the Dutch, who called for a tougher response to Mr. Trump, and others led by Germany, tasked the Commission with dealing with Washington on trade. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reportedly pointed that the EU is ready to eliminate reciprocal tariffs on industrial products, deepen LNG imports, make product safety regulations voluntary and address some of Donald Trump’s anger over the World Trade Organisation (WTO). All of this would come in exchange for an unconditional exemption from the US tariffs on aluminium and steel and an unblocking of judges’ renewal in the WTO’s appellate body by the US.

 

The 28 EU leaders seem to be in line to offer alternatives to maintain the Iran nuclear deal.

 

The concessions on trade are made up by a tougher stance on the Iran nuclear deal. While on trade, the Commission is clearly the entity to handle such issue, foreign policy is still in the hands of national governments with a de-facto veto power. Surprisingly, the 28 EU leaders seem to be in line to offer alternatives to maintain the Iran nuclear deal. This can include Europe’s unilateral disregard of US sanctions, capital flow from European Investment Bank into Iran or euro payments for Iranian oil. As the US sanctioned Iran’s Central Bank governor, readies for more isolation of Teheran and who-knows-what-else with the National Security Advisor John Bolton calling for a regime change in Iran by 2019 – European capitals are in a direct foreign policy conflict with Washington.


May 8, 2018 - Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America: John Bolton and Mike Pence. Copyright Profimedia.cz.

Eventually, European NATO members will have to decide whether to satisfy the Alliance or EU requirements.

 

While diplomatic ties and day-to-day relations remain unchanged, the ideological change from the US is palpable. Europe is sensing the need for autonomy more than ever, a sentiment that requires political capitalisation. In the area of defence cooperation, the fear of any prioritisation of EU over NATO in security matters is leading to an illusion about synchronisation and complementary military planning of the two organisations. In some areas this is possible, but the difference in capacities, ambitions, resources and goals requires some clear lines. Eventually, European NATO members will have to decide whether to satisfy the Alliance or EU requirements.

A key drawback in European security and foreign policy unity remains Russia. With the new populist Italian coalition likely weakening the unprecedented consensus on EU sanctions over actions in Crimea and Ukraine against Moscow, scepticism of some Eastern European countries about an adequate European foreign policy will hinder progress on defence and security cooperation. Germany’s support of Nord Stream 2 pipeline in face of strong rejection by other European members further splits the club as well as its reluctance to assume its European defence responsibility with appropriate defence spending. Tougher stance on Russia by new German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass offers some hope.


European top diplomats on Tuesday agreed to follow through the landmark Iran nuclear deal despite U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw last week, Federica Mogherini told reporters on Tuesday. Copyright Profimedia.cz

Meanwhile, French defence ambitions are clearly missing another strong military ally in the Union, a role that would fall to the UK. Yet, don’t take Brexit for granted. London is reportedly prepared to offer to stay in the common market beyond 2021, which would certainly imply more concessions this way. Great Britain’s diminished relevance outside of the EU is increasingly obvious. Mark Zuckerberg is willing to come to the European Parliament, not the UK Commons, and Brussels does have a better leverage on Washington than sole London in trade disputes.

Trump’s realpolitik is making even Europe more pragmatic, which means it is realising the need to generate political and military heft behind its diplomatic and economic might. This is not possible without more unity and mutual national concessions. Stronger EU would help strengthen and equalise Transatlantic relations and maybe even bring the UK back.

About author: Petr Boháček

Partners

Tento web používá k analýze návštěvnosti soubory cookie. Používáním tohoto webu s tím souhlasíte. Další informace