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EU Balkan meeting thrown off track | The Brief from Brussels

Jean-Claude Juncker at the EU- Western Balkan summit
Jean-Claude Juncker at the EU- Western Balkan summit Copyright Reuters
Copyright Reuters
By Bryan Carter
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It was supposed to tackle big issues like the role of the EU in south-east Europe, immigration, security, crime but there was an elephant in the Balkan summit meeting room.

What was the EU Balkan summit supposed to be about?

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EU heads of state are meeting the leaders of Balkan countries - Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo - in Bulgaria. The meeting was supposed to be all about strengthening diplomatic relations between the EU and southeast Europe, planning out future ties and dealing with big issues like security, immigration, crime and the environment.

What happened?

Donald Trump. Every week the US president seems to pick a major fight with Brussels. Whether on trade, climate, relations with Iran or the status of Jerusalem.

"With friends like these, who needs enemies," asked Donald Tusk, the president of the EU Council on Twitter.

How are others reacting?

German newspaper Der Spiegel wrote in an editorial that Trump "has adopted a tone that ignores 70 years of trust" 

Former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt described Trump's position on Iran as a "massive assault on the sovereignty of the European states and the EU" 

And the New York Times said Europeans feel that "America will do what it wants without giving a damn for the interests of its closest allies." 

Former US ambassador to the EU Anthony Gardner told Euronews

"I do think a lot of damage is being done to this core important relationship...

"The reality is there is a misunderstanding about the tools the EU can bring to the table in helping us to address joint challenges...It shouldn't be negotiating with a gun to its head. That's not the way you treat allies."

So it's the EU against Donald Trump?

Not quite. As always, EU leaders are attempting to organise a united front, but some nations feel their own interests are not exactly aligned. Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic and Austria, as well as aspiring EU members like the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania, all attended the opening ceremony for the new US embassy in Jerusalem last week.

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