US Vice-President in Brussels: Business as usual until next Tweet?
Tuesday, 21 February 2017
The EU leadership received Vice-President Mike Pence to ask for clarifications about the course of the new American administration and the transatlantic relationship with EU. Notwithstanding President Trump’s Eurosceptic statements, Pence did his best to assure EU that US will continue its traditional policy and honor its commitments to Europe.
EU could feel relieved but for how long time?
Pence visited Brussels yesterday (20 February) where he met among others European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk. Before the meeting, EU had reason to feel concerned about the future of its relations with US.
Juncker said in a press statement that he did not think “that the moment has come to divide the US and the EU. We are partners for so many decades in the world. The global stability is heavily depending on the good relations between the United States of America and the European Union.”
In an effort to convince Pence about the importance of good EU-US relations, he added “that US needs a strong and united European Union on all possible issues – defense, where we want to step up our own defense efforts, including in a broader understanding of what stability in the world means: defense expenditure and humanitarian aid and development aid.
With a reference to Pence’s home state, Juncker claimed that the “US economy is depending more than some in the US do think on the exchanges, the trade volumes – including Indiana, by the way – between the US and the European Union.”
Donald Tusk was even more frank in his remarks after meeting the American Vice-President: “Too much has happened over the past months in your country, and in the EU; too many new, and sometimes surprising opinions have been voiced over this time about our relations – and our common security – for us to pretend that everything is as it used to be.”
He said that he had asked Pence “directly if he shared my opinions on three key matters: the international order, security and the attitude of the new American administration towards the European Union.”
“We are counting, as always in the past, on the United States’ wholehearted and unequivocal, let me repeat, unequivocal support for the idea of a united Europe. The world would be a decidedly worse place if Europe were not united,” Tusk said referring to his third question.
He concluded: “In reply to these three matters, I heard today from Vice President Pence three times “yes”! After such a positive declaration, both Europeans and Americans must simply practise what they preach.”
In his response, Pence seemed to address the issues which had been of concern to EU.
“Whatever our differences, our two continents share the same heritage, the same values and above all the same purpose to promote freedom, democracy and the rule of law,” Pence said. “My message very simply was that the US is committed to continuing its partnership with the EU and I wanted to make that very clear.”
“We understand the relationship between our economies,” Pence said.
On security he said that “The US is committed to continuing and expanding our collaboration on the collective security of all of our peoples. The safety and security of your Union and our people depends on that increased collaboration in the global fight against terrorism and the US will remain a full partner with the EU and with all of our European allies to accomplish that.”
It remains to be seen if and how Pence will be able to influence President Trump in changing attitude towards EU. More anti-EU Tweets and statements will unnerve markets and damage the EU-US relationship that Pence apparently tried to strengthen yesterday in Brussels.