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Playing peacemaker

Pence promises “strong commitment” to Europe during a visit

Pence promises “strong commitment” to Europe during a visit

Vice President Mike Pence visited European Union headquarters Monday, seeking to reassure lawmakers there that the White House has “a strong commitment” to work with the region on trade and security. However, one EU leader argued that too much had happened during the first month of the new administration to “pretend that everything is as it used to be.”

Pence was in Brussels to meet with a number of EU leaders, hoping to reassure skeptics that President Trump was committed to keeping the union together post-Brexit. “Whatever our differences, our two continents share the same heritage, the same values, and, above all, the same purpose to promote peace and prosperity through freedom, democracy, and the rule of law,” Pence said.

Despite Pence’s overtures, European Council President Donald Tusk — who has previously called Trump a “threat” to Europe — made a number of pointed remarks reflecting the feeling in Europe that the Trump White House had expressed a negative attitude toward the region.

“Thank you for this meeting. We all truly needed it,” Tusk said. “Too much has happened over the past months in your country, and in the EU; too many new and sometimes surprising opinions have been voiced over this time about our relations – and our common security – for us to pretend that everything is as it used to be.”

Tusk did concede that Pence had given commitments in three specific areas — international order, security, and the U.S. stance toward the EU — but made it clear that the relationship would need work.

“In reply to these three matters, I heard today from Vice President Pence three times ‘yes,’” Tusk said. “After such a positive declaration, both Europeans and Americans must simply practice what they preach.”

Part of the unease in Europe over its relationship with the new administration comes from Trump’s support of Brexit and previous comments where he suggested that other countries may decide to leave the EU in the future.

During his election campaign, Trump dubbed himself “Mr. Brexit,” and welcomed former UKIP leader Nigel Farage to his Trump Tower home shortly after his win — suggesting Farage would be an ideal candidate for U.K. ambassador to the U.S.

Nerves also surround future U.S.-EU relations because Trump has yet to appoint an ambassador to the region. One of the names floated as a possible candidate, Ted Malloch, recently said he had been involved in bringing down the Soviet Union and suggested that there might be “another union that needs a little taming” in reference to the EU.

Even though he since characterized the comments as “tongue-in-cheek,” Malloch is unlikely to be warmly welcomed if appointed. Earlier this month, European Parliament leaders condemned Malloch’s possible appointment in a letter, saying his views represent “outrageous malevolence.”

Cover: ASSOCIATED PRESS

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