The European Union Puts the Brakes on Trump
European Union institutions on Monday welcomed Donald Trump's first envoy, Vice-President Mike Pence, with an unequivocal message: stop encouraging the disintegration of the European Union.
"The world would be a much worse place if Europe was not united" and, for that, "we will not invent anything better than the EU", warned European Council President Donald Tusk in a joint press conference with Pence, who arrived in Brussels with a conciliatory message from the White House. A few days after inauguration, Trump irritated the European institutions by celebrating the decision of UK to leave the EU and criticizing the Union for becoming an insecure territory, vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
"Thank you for this meeting, we all really needed it. Too much has happened in recent months in your country and in the EU ... to pretend that everything is still the same," Tusk said. Politicians in Brussels are concerned about the raise of extreme right populist parties in in France, Holland, Germany and Poland, which welcomed Trump's victory and encourage anti-europeist movements.
Europe was the first international visit of number two in the Trump Administration. Pence was in Munich in January to attend the security conference, but talks only concerned NATO and he did not even mention the EU, reported Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia.
Before the press conference, the US vice president held a working dinner with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel. The Belgian leader communicated to Pence the discomfort of the Europeans with Trump's praises to Brexit, which other countries could emulate. "It is not a question of letting the EU shrink. It is the message that has been transmitted and I think it has been heard, "Michel said yesterday.
On Monday, the EU Council President asked Pence if he shared his views on the need for an international order based on rules rather than brute force, transatlantic collaboration within NATO and, most importantly, US collaboration with the European Union, which Trump recently defined as a mere instrument at the exclusive service of Germany. The vice president responded "yes" three times.
“The president did ask me to come here to Brussels, to the home of the European Union, and deliver an additional message,” Mr. Pence said while standing next to Donald Tusk. “So today it’s my privilege, on behalf of President Trump, to express the strong commitment of the United States to continued cooperation and partnership with the European Union.”
Pence insisted that the US will hold on on its commitment to cooperation with the EU "regardless of our differences, we defend the same heritage, the same values and goals, and remain committed to them," he said, ignoring criticism from several European leaders of Trump's ban on travel to citizens of certain Muslim countries . Pence reassured the EU of Washington's willingness to hold Russia accountable for compliance with Minsk's peace accords for Ukraine, but reminded Europeans that Trump aspires to find "new terrain of understanding."
The frankness of Tusk before the press seemed to surprise, if not disturb, Pence, as reported in La Vanguardia. "I will never speak after you on the stage. Thanks again for your eloquence," said the vice president.
However, when asked about Trump's attack on the news media, the Vice President Mike backed up the President, vowing from Brussels that he and Trump would continue to "call out the media when they play fast and loose with the facts."
"You can anticipate that the President and all of us will continue to call out the media when they play fast and loose with the facts," Pence said. "And the truth is that we have in President Trump someone who has a unique ability to speak directly to the American people. And when the media gets it wrong, I promise you, President Trump will take his case straight to the American people to set the record straight."
Last Friday, President Trump attacked the media again, calling journalists "the enemy of the American People" and accusing them of hiding terrorist attacks attempts in Sweden.
Despite Sweden has called Trump's statement as a fake accusation, the president kept his criticism against Sweden’s migration policies, doubling down on his suggestion that refugees had caused a surge in crime there. Statistics do not support Mr. Trump’s claims, and the Swedes were flabbergasted.
Just moments before Mr. Pence held his final news conference of his first overseas trip here, Mr. Trump posted on Twitter: “The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!” (Sweden is a member of the European Union, but not of NATO.)