UK and France decline to discuss Trump over dinner

Limp start to EU foreign policy meetings on US election fallout, Syria and Turkey

EU foreign ministers gathered on Sunday evening for two days of meetings in Brussels that are expected to be dominated by the ongoing conflict in Syria and the fallout from the US presidential election.

Minister for European Affairs Dara Murphy joined ministers from across the EU for an informal dinner convened by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Sunday to assess the US presidential result. But British foreign secretary Boris Johnson and French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault were not in attendance.

“We do not see the need for an additional meeting on Sunday because the US election timetable is long established,” the UK foreign office said in a statement, noting that Mr Johnson would attend Monday’s scheduled meeting.

“An act of democracy has taken place, there is a transition period and we will work with the current and future administrations to ensure the best outcomes for Britain.”


French officials said Mr Ayrault's absence was due to agenda issues, but the absence of ministers from the bloc's two major foreign policy powers and members of the UN Security Council appeared to undermine the purpose of the meeting.

Russia and Nato

Governments across the European Union are scrambling to respond to the victory of Donald Trump in last week's US presidential election, an outcome few predicted.

Mr Trump's victory could raise problems for Europe, given his stated support for Russian president Vladimir Putin and his questioning of Washington's continued commitment to Nato during his presidential campaign.

The EU is already struggling with divisions between member states over sanctions imposed on Russia following its annexation of Crimea in the wake of the Ukraine conflict. The sanctions are up for renewal in January, but a decision is likely to be made by member states next month.

The situation in Ukraine, and EU relations with 'eastern partnership' countries such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova, will be discussed on Monday; an update on the situation in Syria and Iraq will also feature.

Ministers will also assess the state of play in Turkey in light of the continued clampdown on dissidents and journalists by the Turkish government following the attempted coup earlier this year.

Concern over Turkey

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Minister for European Affairs Dara Murphy said he was "deeply concerned" about recent developments in Turkey. While Ireland condemned the attempted coup in July, he said, the challenges facing the government "do not justify any undermining of the fundamental democratic principles of human rights and the rule of law".

"Intensified media restrictions, the closure of more media outlets and erosion of freedom of expression are a growing cause for concern," he said, noting in particular the arrests last week of the editor-in-chief and journalists of Cumhuriyet newspaper and representatives of the opposition party, HDP.

Ministers will also receive an update on Ms Mogherini's plans for security and defence under her so-called "global security" strategy. She is backed by France and Germany in calling for greater European defence co-operation, a potentially sensitive issue for countries such as Ireland.

The prospect of Washington stepping back from transatlantic defence co-operation through Nato has prompted some to accelerate their call for more EU-led action on security. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told an audience in Berlin last week that he supported the idea of a European army, but officials say this is not a possibility.

Ministers on Tuesday will also discuss the latest on EU-Nato co-operation, following the signing of a joint declaration on the issue in Warsaw in July.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent