Trump a ‘boon’ for European unity, says Mogherini adviser

Brexit talks ‘poison’ will harm EU/UK security co-operation, IIEA think tank hears

British prime minister Theresa May talks to US president Donald Trump:  “Thank God for Donald, that he’s reminded us how important it is to be together as Europeans,” Dr Nathalie Tocci said at the Institute of International and European Affairs.  Photograph: Matt Dunham/Reuters

British prime minister Theresa May talks to US president Donald Trump: “Thank God for Donald, that he’s reminded us how important it is to be together as Europeans,” Dr Nathalie Tocci said at the Institute of International and European Affairs. Photograph: Matt Dunham/Reuters

 

Donald Trump’s election as US president has been good for European unity, a special adviser to European Commission vice-president Federica Mogherini has told a Dublin audience.

Speaking at an event at the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA), Dr Nathalie Tocci suggested Mr Trump’s public pronouncements on global security and defence issues had brought clarity to Europe’s position in the world.

Donald Trump, in my view, has been an incredible boon for Europe. Thank God for Donald, that he’s reminded us how important it is to be together as Europeans,” she said.

“There is, I think, a long-term structural trend that is disentangling the United States from European security, including in places like the Middle East, and I think there is something structural behind it. It started with Obama, it’s going on with Trump and it will go on.

“Trump makes that message clearer, for good and for real, so it’s simply something that cannot be denied anymore; the idea of being more responsible for our own security.

“The political salience of this has increased dramatically again because of the Trump phenomenon, and so the general sense of ‘if it’s not the European Union that defends multilateralism, that defends the United Nations, then who is?’”

Brexit negotiations

Dr Tocci, who addressed the IIEA on Friday, played an instrumental role in drafting the recently published EU global strategy paper in her role as special adviser to Ms Mogherini, who is also the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy.

Meanwhile, Dr Tocci said the “poison” at the core of Brexit negotiations may threaten foreign and security co-operation between the EU and UK.

She described the 2016 Brexit referendum vote as having “unleashed a new dynamic” in regards to EU security policy, and said she “cannot see a good way out” of the negotiations for the UK in particular.

“It’s going to be extremely difficult to find a win-win agreement because the bargaining power between the two sides is so unequal, and we’ve understood how unequal it is since the referendum. We actually thought it was far more balanced than it is.

“I hope – this is a hope, unfortunately I’m not sure it’s going to materialise – that the poison that is already affecting the core Brexit negotiation, and this poison is there because those bargaining powers are so unequal, is not going to filter through and touch foreign and security policy.

Hope vs expectation

“It’s a hope, and not an expectation.”

She acknowledged Ireland has had a “complicated internal discussion” regarding defence co-operation, and said small EU states must work together to have a coherent impact on a global level.

Anywhere between €25-€100 billion of the €250 billion of annual defence spending between bloc countries is currently wasted, she said.

“I think the European conversation about defence is not the Nato conversation about defence, it is not about spending more on defence.

“That’s the Nato conversation and it regards 22 EU member states, but that’s the Nato conversation. But the EU conversation about defence is about spending together,” Dr Tocci told an audience which included the chief of staff of the Defence Forces, Vice-Admiral Mark Mellett.