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EU calls for non-interference from America

14 février, 2017
New Brief
Hajnalka Vincze

During a discussion at the Atlantic Council in Washington, the European Union’s High Representative was quite adamant, repeating the same words three times, in calling for America to not interfere in European affairs. Nothing could be more legitimate, one would say. Provided that Europeans stick to it as a general rule (and not a mere case by case grievance, this time triggered by controversial statements from president Trump).

Asked about what she expects from the new administration, Federica Mogherini’s reply was forthright: "No interference. No interference. We don’t interfere in US domestic policies, and there’s plenty of US domestic politics these days, it’s not for me or for any other European to comment on domestic political choices or decisions in the US. The same goes with Europe. No interference."[1]

Photo credit: Atlantic Council

Slightly surprised, his interlocutor, the president of the Atlantic Council, found this approach rather "minimalist". Ms. Mogherini retorted that rumors, voices and signs were all indicating that “some” call these days for the dismantling of European integration. In fact, in his recent interview with The Times/Bild, D. Trump himself stated that he did not "really care whether the EU will break up or remain united", and that "other countries will follow" the example of the Brexit, which he had, by the way, praised and applauded.[2]

In so doing, he seems to have touched upon a sensitive point. For it is certainly not the first time that an American president has openly interfered in the internal affairs of the EU, nor is it the first time that he receives a clear rebuttal. Except that up to now, it has always been France who assumed this task every time. Take, for instance, President Chirac. Irritated to hear his US counterpart, George W. Bush, declare before a Turkish audience that "you should get a date from Brussels for your entry into the European Union", his response was scathing. In his eyes, the US president "not only went too far, but he went into territory that isn't his. It is not his purpose and his goal to give any advice to the EU, and in this area it was a bit as if I were to tell Americans how they should handle their relationship with Mexico"[3]

In the same vein, President Hollande did not much appreciate B. Obama's statements about the upcoming Brexit negotiations. On the sidelines of the NATO summit in Warsaw in July 2016, he said: "I always find it amicable that Barack Obama tell us what to do for Europe. In the same way, on the same friendly level, I can also advise the Americans to make the right choice when the time comes."[4] His advice obviously not having been listened to, and following the now-famous interview of the new president-elect, F. Hollande reiterated: "Europe does not need external advice to tell her what she has to do."[5]

For once, under what can be called the Trump effect, others also begin to openly express themselves, and now the High Representative in person followed in those French steps. Federica Mogherini made clear that she rejects any attempt at interference from America and said that "we are grown-ups, we are responsible for ourselves." Except that, judging by the spectacle of European leaders living at the rhythm of the quasi-daily U-turns of the new White House, and hanging on to each half-sentence coming from US officials - American "interference" in Europe still has good days ahead.


[1] A conversation with Federica Mogherini, Atlantic Council, Washington D.C., 10 February 2017. Starting at 37:20 minutes.
[2] Full transcript of interview with Donald Trump, The Times, 16 January 2017. See also: Donald Trump se lâche sur l’Europe, Le Temps, 16 January 2017
[3] Conférence de presse de Jacques Chirac, at the NATO summit, Istanbul, 28 June 2004.
[4] Conférence de presse de François Hollande, at the NATO summit, Warsaw, 9 July 2016.
[5] Propos du président Hollande à l’occasion de la décoration de Jane Hartley, ambassadrice des Etats-Unis, 16 January 2017.



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