Despite the current tensions between Europe and the United States, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said in New York on Thursday that he was satisfied at having been able to meet with U.S. Permanent U.N. Representative Nikki Haley. Among the many bilateral encounters on the Foreign Minister’s agenda, the meeting with Ms. Haley had been identified as crucially important on the eve of a vote of confidence on Belgium’s candidature for a non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.
The historic ties between the United States and Europe have suffered in recent times because of U.S. President Donald Trumps’ decisions to pull out of the global agreement on climate change and the Iran nuclear deal, to transfer the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and to hike customs duties on European steel and aluminum entering the U.S.
“Even on these difficult issues, there is no reason not to cooperate,” said Reynders. Citing the example of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, he said there was no doubt that “it will be complicated for the United States to achieve anything alone. Why not try to have a joint proposal from the United States and the European Union?”
On the Democratic Republic of Congo, the analyses of the United States and Belgium seem to converge once again, he said. Belgium could well be given a special role with regard to children in armed conflicts, especially because of its expertise in Central Africa, he explained, adding that the country would not shy away from its responsibilities regarding the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. A role in the sanctions committee, for example on North Korea, would also not been ruled out.
The United Nations’ main detractors accuse it of being powerless to do anything beyond making speeches, but “it is always very useful to have a place where you can talk to each other,” Reynders noted. “Without that place – the only one where everyone can sit around the same table – it would be impossible to achieve results. Sometimes that works, sometimes you come up against a veto.”
“In Belgium, too, we do not always agree, but we try all the same to form coalitions,” he added. “That’s also true of the European Union, where it’s difficult to arrive at a unanimous agreement.” For its UN bid, Belgium has an advantage, he pointed out: “We’re going to the Security Council without a national agenda.”