Donald Trump identified as major threat to European stability

Council president issues letter ahead of May’s briefing on meeting with US president

Theresa May will brief EU leaders on Friday about her meeting with Donald Trump, and urge Nato members to fulfil their commitment to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence.

The British prime minister said after their meeting in Washington that the US president had assured her of his “100 per cent” commitment to Nato, despite having recently dismissed the alliance as obsolete.

Ms May will tell her EU counterparts at a Malta summit that Mr Trump's recognition of Nato as the bulwark of their collective defence underlines the importance of strong cooperation on defence and security.

In a letter to EU leaders ahead of the summit, European Council president Donald Tusk identified the new US administration as among the most significant threats to European stability.


"The first threat, an external one, is related to the new geopolitical situation in the world and around Europe. An increasingly, let us call it, assertive China, especially on the seas, Russia's aggressive policy towards Ukraine and its neighbours, wars, terror and anarchy in the Middle East and in Africa, with radical Islam playing a major role, as well as worrying declarations by the new American administration all make our future highly unpredictable," he wrote.

Friday's one-day meeting is an informal summit. Leaders discuss strategy but issue no formal conclusions. The first part will focus on migration, particularly on EU efforts to reduce the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy.

Close sea route

After a meeting with Libyan prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Brussels on Thursday, Mr Tusk said it was time to close down the route, which was used by more than 180,000 people to reach Europe last year.

“I have spoken at length with the Italian prime minister [Paolo] Gentiloni about it yesterday, and I can assure you that it is within our reach,” Mr Tusk said. “What we need is the full determination to do that. We owe it first and foremost to those who suffer and risk their lives. But we also owe it to Italians and all Europeans.”

Mr Al-Serraj's UN-backed government is struggling to assert control over Libya in the face of challenges from various militias and warlords, notably Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by neighbouring Egypt and is being courted by Russia.

He said the EU would have to come up with more money for his government to co-operate effectively in shutting down the migrant route.

“We hope that the EU mechanisms to help Libya will be more practical. We are not going to mention the amount of money . . . dedicated to Libya for this help because they are very humble, very small amounts,” he said.

The second part of the Malta summit, which Ms May will not attend, is billed as an opportunity for the other 27 leaders to reflect on “the future of Europe” ahead of next month’s 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.

With the British prime minister out of the room, it will also give them a chance to discuss tactics ahead of the start of formal negotiations on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is London Editor of The Irish Times