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Brussels Rises In Revolt Against Washington

Brussels Rises In Revolt Against Washington: A Turning Point In US-European Relations

The May 16-17 EU-Western Balkans summit did address the problems of integration, but it was eclipsed by another issue. The meeting turned out to be a landmark event that will go down in history as the day Europe united to openly defy the US. The EU will neither review the Iran nuclear deal (JPCOA) nor join the sanctions against Tehran that have been reintroduced and even intensified by America. Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the JPCOA was the last straw, forcing the collapse of Western unity. The Europeans found themselves up against a wall. There is no point in discussing further integration or any other matter if the EU cannot protect its own members. But now it can.

President Trump has his own reasons to shred the Iran deal, but he needs Europe to strong-arm Tehran into signing a “better” agreement. Were it to do so, the US administration would make it look like a big victory. Washington does not shy away from threatening its allies with punitive measures but the EU is standing tall, deepening the rift. As European Council President Donald Tusk put it, “With friends like Trump, who needs enemies?” According to him, the US president has “rid Europe of all illusions.” Mr. Tusk wants Europe to “stick to our guns” against new US policies. Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the EU Commission, believes that “Europe must take America’s place as global leader” because Washington has turned its back on its allies. Washington “no longer wants to cooperate.” It is turning away from friendly relations “with ferocity.” Mr. Juncker thinks the time is ripe for Europe “to replace the United States, which as an international actor has lost vigor.” It would have been unthinkable not long ago for a top EU official to say such things and challenge the US global leadership. Now the unthinkable has become reality.

The process of shifting away from America does not boil down to just words of indignation and open defiance. Plans are underway to take practical steps. For instance, the EU is to ditch the use of the US currency in its payments for Iranian oil. It can be done. Russia and Iran have already launched an oil-for-goods exchange program in order to leave the greenback behind. The bloc plans to activate a 1996 law (the blocking statute), which bans European businesses from compliance with US sanctions on Iran. The legislation protects “against the effects of the extra-territorial application of legislation adopted by a third country.”

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