By GARDINER HARRISFEB. 10, 2017
The New York Times
WASHINGTON — The weather, and her reception here, were far colder than when she visited last summer during the Obama administration, but Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign minister, made it clear that she can handle a chill in the air.
“I think we are entering into a different phase of our relationship,” Ms. Mogherini said Friday in a 30-minute interview, adding, “A more transactional approach means Europeans will be more transactional, and we will base our approach on our interests.”
But Ms. Mogherini said she had received important reassurances from top administration officials on the Iran nuclear deal and on Russian sanctions.
“I was reassured by what I heard in my meetings on the intention to stick to the full strict implementation of the agreement in all its parts,” Ms. Mogherini said of the Iran deal.
On Russian sanctions, she said President Trump’s policy was essentially identical to former President Barack Obama’s and to Europe’s.
Ms. Mogherini met on Thursday at the State Department with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson; at the White House with Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser; and with Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to Mr. Trump who is also the president’s son-in-law.
Ms. Mogherini said she and Trump administration officials remained in disagreement on some issues, including refugees and migration, climate change and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I will go back to Brussels clearly with the sense that, yes, we have differences,” she said.
More broadly, Ms. Mogherini said that an administration that has made “America First” its guiding principle will find that Europe can be equally self-interested. And she politely reminded everyone just how vital Europe is to the economy and security of the United States.
Mr. Trump has a jaundiced view of the European Union, seeing it as a trading rival and predicting that other member nations will follow Britain in voting to leave. His attitude is such a stark contrast with that of Mr. Obama that the European Council president, Donald Tusk, recently placed Mr. Trump on a list of threats to the union alongside radical Islam.
Ms. Mogherini said she sensed a gradual shift in the administration’s attitudes. “I think that it is becoming more and more clear that the European Union is an indispensable partner in some fields,” she said.
But she is not counting on a complete transformation. “In international relations, you don’t base your work on hope,” she said.
She bluntly warned the administration not to nominate an ambassador to the European Union who is critical of the bloc, as has been rumored, or attempt to negotiate a bilateral trading agreement with Britain for years.
“The European Union is here to stay,” she said, adding that even though Britain may leave, “the other 27 will stick together and stay together because it’s in their interests to do so. I’ve never seen them more determined.”
Ms. Mogherini implied that the European Union could start picking off some of the United States’ most likely free-trade partners.
Among Mr. Trump’s first actions was to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trading pact. China is already hoping to replace the United States as a trading partner in Asia, and Ms. Mogherini suggested that her bloc could do the same elsewhere.
A deal between the European Union and Canada is scheduled to be finalized next week, and other deals could be in the offing “as our partners in the world are looking more and more to Europe as a reliable partner.”
Follow Gardiner Harris on Twitter @GardinerHarris.