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Mike Pompeo grabs a jacket in Brussels. Europeans are resisting US lobbying. Until when ?

(B2) The very visible US pressure on Europeans in recent days has failed on two key issues: the Iran nuclear deal and European defence. The Europeans refused to bend. Mike Pompeo left empty-handed. US diplomacy defeated by Europeans. Rare enough to be noticed

Behind the smiles, a little humiliation... for Mike Pompeo (source: Council of the EU / selection: B2)

Until when will the Europeans manage to remain united in this way? This is a question we can ask ourselves. Everyone knows that the American war machine is implacable, multiplying backhanded alliances, seeking to divide the European continent, pitting member states against each other. Surprisingly, despite Brexit, the intense political divergences and divisions between member countries, Europeans are playing more or less as a group. This is a new phenomenon that should be followed with attention. The battle is not over.

First case: Iran

Let's be clear. It's a small diplomatic humiliation that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has inflicted. Coming unexpectedly to Brussels to meet his European counterparts, he hoped to come out with a photo of the E3 (France, Germany, United Kingdom) greeting him together. History of being able to justify a community of views between Europeans and Americans on the sensitive file of the Iranian nuclear power. He was at his expense.

Mike Pompeo had to meet each of the ministers separately. No supporting photo. He was reduced, after a detour by NATO, to returning to greet the High Representative of the EU to obtain – this time photo in support – a handshake from the head of European diplomacy. A courtesy rather than a surrender.

NB: Even if the two sides of the Atlantic share a certain community of views on the Iranian danger at the regional or ballistic level (Paris being closer to Washington on this point than Berlin), they totally diverge on the way of arriving at their purposes. The United States broke the international agreement to exert pressure. The Europeans believe that the Iranians are respecting the 'deal' and that we should rather continue the dialogue with them to get them to negotiate other points.

Second dossier: European defense

As a direct result of the pressures of all kinds exerted by the Americans both on MEPs and on Commissioners or Member States (read: The United States launches a lobbying operation to undermine the European Defense Fund), two under-secretaries (Defense and Foreign Affairs) stammered threateningly to EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, with a copy to European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen .

A letter in the form of an ultimatum and threats of all kinds. Object of their wrath: mainly, the European Defense Fund (FEDef) accused of favoring the European industrial base. Americans want their companies to be treated as equals and to receive European funding too. European structured cooperation (PESCO) is also in the sights, the Americans believing that opening up to third countries (meaning the United States or the United Kingdom) is too 'exceptional' and subject to several conditions. The Americans want to enter the square as a privileged actor without the sword of Damocles of the right of veto (read: The United States reprimands the Europeans for their defense initiatives. The American Letter Decrypted (V2)).

A deadline until June 10 is thus given to the Europeans to respond with an injunction to modify European legislation, under penalty of seriously tainting the NATO-EU pact... We are already trembling. More concretely, the pressure is exerted on the companies: any company which would receive European financing would be exposed to being closed to the American markets if it fully respected the provisions (in particular on intellectual property). Clearly, a very concrete threat of retaliatory measures.

Here again, the Europeans did not let themselves be dismantled and are preparing to send back a very polite answer to the Americans... but very firm.

Comment: A very annoying American double game

The United States is playing a double game on the question of European defense. Washington, Donald Trump in the lead, storms on all tones, complaining of bearing the entire burden of the continent's defense, mocking the lack of material investment and finance of Europeans. And when the Europeans take themselves in hand, decide to put in place instruments to remedy this, the Americans play the indignant virgin, the attack on the free market and the Euro-Atlantic agreements.

The Americans are rather badly placed to give lessons to the Europeans on this point. The European defense market could not be more open, while the Americans have lined their market with various protections in all directions: markets reserved for US firms, ITAR technological reserve clause for export, etc. (read : Defense protectionism? The United States practice it with talent… and efficiency). Moreover, these initiatives in no way threaten EU-NATO cooperation, and do not duplicate it. On the contrary, they will make it possible to feed this cooperation with new capacities and additional funding...

Washington is actually claiming to have full decision-making power, on an equal footing with the members of the European Union, without paying a penny. However, there is a small problem: the United States, a founding and essential member of NATO, is not a member of the European Union, and never will be. The British departure helping, they realize that their companion, and faithful ally of always, seeks to emancipate itself and fly with its own wings. What they do not accept. Americans have a problem: they fail to conceive that we can have a European pillar by ourselves ” confided, quite rightly, a diplomat to B2.

In fact, one can wonder whether behind this eager interest in European defense initiatives, " there are no other interests at stake, of a more industrial and commercial nature than political. The Americans are thus especially afraid of seeing a captive market escape... as during the creation of Airbus which allowed the emergence of a world giant, able to carve croupiers from Boeing.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

A symbolic pas de deux

We can watch on the images taken by the audiovisual service of the Council, this admirable pas de deux of the head of European diplomacy, showing the way to Mike Pompeo, then turning back, in a right half-turn worthy of the most beautiful steps dance, to tell him the opposite direction... Mike Pompeo being obliged to follow the direction given by the Europeans (from the 20th second). Some must have laughed up their sleeves... at this symbolic pas de deux.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

One thought on “Mike Pompeo grabs a jacket in Brussels. Europeans are resisting US lobbying. Until when ?"

  • Parakeet John Paul

    This is not new, concerning the feelings of our American “friends” with regard to Europe, but which appears more clearly in broad daylight. (the words of Gal de Gaulle who justified France's exit from the NATO command system in the 60s are surprisingly topical!). The ostriches are going to have to stick their heads out of the sand!
    Let's be positive (without being naïve); it will perhaps come out a clarification on the desire for strategic autonomy, however affirmed by all the Heads of State of the EU, and on the solidity of European solidarity. Resistance fighters will be the hard core of a renewed and clarified European project.

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