The Daily Telegraph

Juncker: US rhetoric risks conflict in the Balkans

- By Gordon Rayner

JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER, president of the European Commission, has delivered a blunt warning to Donald Trump against encouragin­g countries to copy Brexit, arguing that a break-up of the EU could trigger war in the western Balkans.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Juncker said the US president’s enthusiasm for Britain’s departure from the EU was “annoying” and showed he was unaware of the complicate­d history of Europe.

The Luxembourg­er delivered his warning to US vice-president Mike Pence when he visited Brussels last month. “I told the vice-president, ‘ Do not say that, do not invite others to leave, because if the European Union collapses, you will have a new war in the western Balkans,” Mr Juncker said.

In 1991, at the end of the Cold War, the break-up of former Yugoslavia led to a brutal ethnic war between Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims.

Mr Juncker also said that the total Brexit bill for the UK would be up to €60 billion, according to Brussels calculatio­ns, and he anticipate­d complex and tough negotiatio­ns. “Every day we discover new problems we did not even know about or imagine,” Mr Juncker said. “People think [Brexit] is the end. No it is just the beginning.”

The commission president also accused Mr Trump of frightenin­g Europeans with his “America first” rhetoric.

“For the first time in postwar history we have an American president giving the impression he is not interested in European affairs,” he said.

Mr Juncker plans to visit Washington next month, but he is uncertain about whether he will meet Mr Trump.

“They’re trying to fix it, but he has other priorities. By the way, he does not understand anything about Europe,” he said.

“He had Tusk [Donald Tusk, president of the European Council] on the phone and he thought it was me.”

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