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The E.U.’s Chief Executive on Trump, Populism and Russia

3 minute read

President Trump has been openly critical of the E.U. and said in a recent interview that “others will leave” after Britain’s vote to quit the bloc. What was your reaction?

We were a little bit disappointed listening to President Trump’s first declaration when he was congratulating the British for having taken that decision, and more or less inviting others to do the same. That was highly unfriendly and not helpful at all.

What is the best way for Europe to respond?

Do we have to respond? If we invited Ohio to leave the United States, would they respond? I don’t think so, so we don’t have to respond to that. We have to show the world–as far as the future of the European Union is concerned–that we are united.

How do you argue that to a skeptical U.S. Administration?

The unity of Europe is a precondition for a better-organized world, and if the European Union would fail or decompose, or other members left, the U.S. would have a more difficult role to play in the world.

There are elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands this year, and in all three countries populists are making gains. Why are they finding support?

I think this is largely due to our faults. I think the European Union gave the impression that we are in command of everything. We were trying to have influence in so many things that are better in the hands of national, local and regional authorities.

Are you concerned about Russian meddling in the upcoming elections?

I’m certain that the Russians are trying to have a propaganda influence on European and international affairs. We have to react to this. Fake news has to be countered by real facts.

How damaging would it be if the U.S. removed its sanctions on Russia now?

There is no other way than having the U.S. and the European Union acting and moving together. That will happen. I don’t think there will be a unilateral decision of the U.S. without having consulted the Europeans.

Are there opportunities for the E.U. in the current global uncertainties?

The supposed stepping away by the Trump Administration when it comes to international trade relations, and the fact that the British are leaving the E.U., is opening new avenues [in trade]. We have oceans of opportunities before us. Nobody should believe that we will not use these opportunities. We will use them fiercely.

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