EU should work harder to foil US disruptive policies
After learning that my new assignment is to cover the European Union, an economist friend, who holds Dutch and US dual citizenship, told me that the EU, with all its current problems and uncertainties, remains one of the more hopeful and positive political forces in today’s broken world.
That was my hope, too, when I landed in Brussels on Wednesday. The border control and customs officers at the airport were very friendly and efficient, disproving frequent complaints about EU inefficiency.
The local weather, which I had also heard a lot about before coming to Brussels, changed from beautiful fall sunshine in the morning to strong winds and rain in the afternoon — synonymous with the world we are living in. I was thinking about heading to Paris this weekend to cover a possible meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will be among many world leaders attending an event in Paris to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
I am no longer sure about the trip, though, after Trump said on Wednesday that he would not meet Putin this weekend, contradicting the message from Moscow.
The Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki in July was a positive step toward improving relations between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. But the new US sanctions against Russia that followed are a great leap backward in US-Russia ties — as is Trump’s threat to pull the US out of 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, if it were to become reality.
The EU, which is at the heart of the treaty, is opposed to Trump’s move, and has urged the US and Russia to remain engaged in constructive dialogue to preserve the treaty. And it warned that a new arms race would benefit no one; on the contrary, it would cause even more instability.
The EU has also lashed out at the US for re-imposing full sanctions on Iran, effective on Nov 4, following Trump’s decision to withdraw Washington from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
In stark contrast to the US move, French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire reiterated the plan for a special financial channel, known as Special Purpose Vehicle, to continue EU-Iran trade and maintain the EU’s economic sovereignty.
Also, he emphasized that “Europe refuses to allow the US to be the trade policeman of the world.” And German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Wednesday that Europe must respond to Trump’s “America first” agenda of trade protectionism and unilateral diplomacy with “Europe United”.
Advocating an EU payment system independent of the US, in order to save the Iran nuclear deal, Maas said Europe should form a “counterweight” to the US whenever Washington “crosses red lines”. Writing in the German newspaper Handelsblatt, Maas said: “Single-handedly, we will fail in this task. The main goal of our foreign policy is therefore to build a sovereign, strong Europe.”
Back in July, the EU and Japan inked their free trade agreement sending a clear message about their trade intentions to Trump at a time when he imposed high tariffs on imports from the US’ major trade partners. Although the EU faces many tough challenges of its own, such as migration, Brexit and growing populism in some member states, it has proved to be a rational and important force on global issues in contrast to the US. Thanks to Trump’s “America first” policy, the US has been quitting international treaties, neglecting its obligations, abusing its superpower status and acting unilaterally and disruptively.
So Brussels has to work even harder to prove it no longer dances to Washington’s tune.