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EU High Rep on Working With Trump: Come Early, Stand Firm Often

EU High Rep on Working With Trump: Come Early, Stand Firm Often

“I would not pretend we do not have different views on some issues.”

So said Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, on the difference between the EU and U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration on Friday. Her remarks came at an event on Friday, a day after meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, several members of Congress, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and presidential senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

There has been much speculation as to how the European Union would deal with U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration — indeed, European Council President Donald Tusk identified it as a threat to the EU.

But if Tusk’s reaction to Trump was to issue a warning to European leaders, Mogherini tried to take a more positive approach, attempting to shape priorities with the new administration while it’s still early enough to do so — even if it’s in more of a transactional way.

“Policies in Washington are still in the making,” Mogherini said, speaking at the Atlantic Council, a think tank in Washington. She noted it is the EU’s policy to work with the United States at these early stages on issues where there is common ground — for example, in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East and Africa, on the issue of Syria, and on the fighting in eastern Ukraine. She added she was glad to hear that those with whom she met are committed to making sure all parties are fulfilling their commitments to the nuclear deal with Iran.

But common ground with which to work may be hard to find if Trump’s administration doesn’t see the EU as worth working with. In a move reminiscent of Canada’s foreign minister on Wednesday, Mogherini said she is prepared to remind America’s administration why it needs the EU if need be. She noted, for example, that 80 percent of foreign investment in the United States comes from the EU, which created American jobs across the country. And the EU is working to get more out of its defense and security through new investments and coordination individual European countries couldn’t do on their own.

And this brought Mogherini to the point on which she is most forceful. “The state of our union,” she said, “is strong and good.” She noted that the EU would stay united in keeping sanctions on Russia until the Minsk agreement was implemented (“Those who have bet on Europeans to divide ourselves have been wrong”), on holding together during and after elections in the Netherlands, Germany, and France this year, and in the wake of Brexit (“I do not see others following”).

And, when asked what her best and worst case scenarios for working with the Trump administration are, Mogherini replied, “I only have one case: no interference” in the strength of the union (Trump, after all, was cheering for Brexit). There is plenty at home with which the administration could occupy itself, she said. “Maybe free time to dedicate to European politics is not that much.”

Still, there is at least one issue on which Mogherini and Trump see eye to eye.

“I also tweet,” she said, adding, “I also do it myself.”

Photo credit: Leon Neal-Pool/Getty Images