Berlin (CNSNews.com) – Europe must be “united” in the wake of President Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from a G7 leaders’ communique, a senior European Union official told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday.
“It is the first time since 1945 that an American president has not seen it as an American strategic interest to work hard to ensure a vibrant and unified Europe and a robust transatlantic relationship,” said Frans Timmermans, first vice-president of the E.U.’s executive Commission.
“This means that the E.U. needs to take its destiny more into its own hands,” he continued. “And we should be confident about our ability to do so, because our foundations are strong. Our union is built upon member states that voluntarily and democratically decided to link their destinies and shape their future together.”
Shortly after leaving the G7 summit in Quebec at the weekend, Trump withdrew his support for the joint communique agreed upon hours earlier by the leaders of the group of leading economies (the U.S., France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Canada and Japan).
On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that the Trump administration’s tariffs on aluminum and steel imports has placed multilateralism “in a complicated and difficult phase.”
She was speaking at a meeting in Berlin bringing together officials from the IMF, World Bank, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, International Labor Organization, World Trade Organization and African Development Bank.
The meeting agreed in a joint statement “increasing protectionist tendencies” meant trade policy cooperation and coordination were of utmost importance, now “more than ever.”
Trump has accused the E.U., and Germany in particular, of unfair trade policies toward the U.S., citing a $64 billion trade deficit with Germany.
In an interview with ARD after the summit, Merkel said the E.U. would move ahead with retaliatory tariffs, with details expected to announced on July 1.
This did not spell the end of the relationship, however, she said.
“There are still good reasons to fight for the transatlantic partnership.”
How the uproar will affect the future of the G7 remains unclear, but some German politicians, at least, appear to feel the E.U. should close ranks.
Economy Minister Peter Altmaier (a member of Merkel’s Christian Democrats) said in a radio interview Europeans should focus on internal bonds, and that the G7 summit has “brought the E.U. even closer together.”
Andrea Nahles, leader of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) said the answer to “America first” could only be “Europe united.”
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned it would take a long time for the U.S. to rebuild lost trust.
“In a matter of seconds, you can destroy trust with 280 twitter characters,” he said, referring to Trump’s post-G7 Twitter posts.
Merkel, did, however, seemingly concede on Trump’s long-running criticisms of German defense spending. The president’s post-G7 summit tweets included a dig, again, at the amount Germany dedicates to defense, well short of the two percent of GDP NATO partners have committed to work towards.
“We have to do more for our own security,” Merkel told ARD. “This also means increasing the defense budget - even if for some it is an unpopular view.”
The chancellor also said she was ready to amend E.U. treaties to facilitate a common European defense policy.
While that may sound like a shift away from NATO, Joshua Stowell, editor of Global Security Review, said a common European defense policy does not spell the end of the U.S.-E.U. security and defense relationship.
“NATO will remain the dominant security actor in Europe, despite the E.U.’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) policy,” he said, referring to a proposed framework that will allow member states to cooperate more closely on security operations and enhancing military capability..
“PESCO will serve to complement, rather than impede, NATO,” Stowell said.