EU offers to work with Trump but stands firm on policy

BRUSSELS • The European Union (EU) promised to cooperate with United States President-elect Donald Trump while vowing to stand by international agreements he has questioned, including United Nations deals to curb climate change and easing sanctions on Iran.

After a dinner in Brussels to discuss future EU-US relations in the wake of Mr Trump's victory in the Nov 8 election, European foreign ministers also signalled a determination to maintain their opposition to Russia's encroachment in eastern Ukraine.

"We are looking forward to a very strong partnership with the next administration," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters late Sunday after hosting the gathering.

"For us, it's extremely important to work on the climate change agreement implementation, but also on non-proliferation and the protection of the Iranian nuclear deal."

Mr Trump's win last week threatens to upend eight years of EU-US cooperation during the tenure of President Barack Obama and decades of trans-Atlantic relations underpinned by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato).

As the Republican Party's presidential candidate, Mr Trump raised doubts about UN accords on global warming and Iran's nuclear programme that the Obama administration helped to forge, and about the benefits of US-led Nato.

He also had praiseworthy words for Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea in 2014 and support for pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine prompted the US and EU to impose sanctions that remain in place.

"The European Union has a very principled position on the illegal annexation of Crimea and the situation in Ukraine," Ms Mogherini said. "This is not going to change regardless of possible shifts in others' policies."

Some EU ministers signalled hopes that Mr Trump, a real estate developer who had no political experience before his run for the White House, would be less confrontational as president than he was as a candidate.

"There is always a distance between a candidate and an elected president," Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak of Slovakia, which holds the 28-nation EU's rotating presidency, told reporters.

"We will see the practical steps of the new administration. We will try to convey our messages about our expectations."

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who did not attend Sunday's dinner, said yesterday: "It's very important not to prejudge the President-elect or his administration... We should regard it as a moment of opportunity."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2016, with the headline 'EU offers to work with Trump but stands firm on policy'. Print Edition | Subscribe