The president of the European Council has torn into Donald Trump, warning that the US president is a bad friend who acts with “capricious assertiveness”.
Speaking on Wednesday Donald Tusk said he was “grateful” for Mr Trump because he had “made us realise that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm”.
The EU leader told reporters at a summit in the Bulgarian capital Sofia that Europe had to be prepared to go it alone in some circumstances because the new shift in American politics made the US an unreliable ally.
European heads of state and government are gathering at the Western Balkans summit to discuss the region’s future, but they will also hold talks about how to respond to renewed US aggression on trade and foreign affairs.
The warning comes after the US pulled out of a key deal on Iran’s nuclear programme, unilaterally moved its Israel embassy to the disputed city of Jerusalem, and threatened new tariffs against European steel and aluminium producers.
Mr Tusk said he wanted Europe to “stick to our guns” against Mr Trump’s new policies, and called for a permanent exemption from the metals tariffs. He branded a US move to use national security grounds to justify the protectionism as “absurd” and not based in “reality”.
“Besides traditional political challenges, such as the rise of China or the aggressive stance of Russia, we are witnessing today a new phenomenon: the capricious assertiveness of the American administration,” Mr Tusk said at the start of the summit.
Frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful for President Trump because thanks to him we have got rid of all illusions
Donald Tusk, European Council president
“Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, someone could even think: with friends like that, who needs enemies? But frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful for President Trump because thanks to him we have got rid of all illusions. He has made us realise that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm.”
He continued: “Europe must do everything in its power to protect, in spite of today’s mood, the transatlantic bond, but at the same time we must be prepared for those scenarios where we have to act on our own. We have enough potential to rise to the challenge, but what we need is more political unity and determination.”
The EU has taken a tough rhetorical line against the US in response to Mr Trump; earlier this year Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, threatened to impose retaliatory tariffs on US goods such as Levi’s jeans, Harley-Davidson motorbikes, and Bourbon whiskey if Europe was hit by protectionist measures.
The US president has for his part said that trade wars are “good, and easy to win”, and has characterised EU trade policies as “very unfair” on the US.
On Monday evening Boris Johnson met with his French and German foreign minister counterparts, as well as the EU’s foreign policy chief, in Brussels to work out a way to preserve the Iran nuclear deal, which Mr Trump has said he is “embarrassed” about “as a citizen”. The EU says it will try to preserve the deal despite the US breaking the agreement.
The bloc has won a temporary exemption from US steel tariffs but European leaders want to make the deal permanent.