The Brief: Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ raises doubts over EU’s unity

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

TRUMP’S ‘MUSLIM BAN’ RAISES DOUBTS OVER EU’S UNITY

There is already a special place reserved in Hell for Donald Trump. If Theresa May isn’t careful she will find herself next to him, his hand clasping hers, as they endure an eternal, infernal press conference.

May’s refusal to condemn Trump’s US travel ban on people from seven Muslim majority countries, which, like Peter denying Jesus, she repeated three times, ruined the afterglow of her visit to Washington DC.

May makes great play of being a vicar’s daughter. What would her father think of such squirming appeasement?

Faced with outrage back home, including an anti-Trump petition that racked up 900,000 signatures in a day, Theresa executed yet another U-turn in a premiership already peppered with them. It’s clear this new prime minister is not ready to have her training wheels taken off just yet.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel quickly and clearly condemned the ban as “not justified”. She even explained the Geneva Convention to Trump.

Trump, no fan of strong and successful women, has described Merkel’s refugee policy as a “catastrophic mistake” and claimed the EU is run largely for Germany’s benefit.

His fatwa on Syrian refugees coming to the US is particularly heartless and damaging. It gives succour to those member states bridling under the EU’s migration policy and its quota system.

Today, the European Commission said it would never discriminate on grounds of race, religion or nationality. The executive’s migration chief is considering calling the US government to demand clarification on the status of EU citizens with dual nationality.

This week’s summit in Malta should bring strong condemnation for Trump from EU leaders and, in an ideal world, a reassertion of the bloc’s commitment to Syria’s refugees.

The FT’s Gideon Rachman explains why Trump is a disaster for Brexit. But, frankly, why should the European Union care?

Britain, after all, is heading to the exit door, and if “Theresa the appeaser” is indecisive and vacillating, so much the better.

But if Trump does move to lift US sanctions on Russia, Britain’s weakness could cost the EU. The UK has historically been hawkish on sanctions but its influence has never been lower.

The EU is divided over existing sanctions on Russia for the annexation of Crimea and possible measures for the bombing of Aleppo. If Trump lifts US sanctions, will the EU stand firm or splinter?

One day, May may have to pick sides between Merkel and the EU or Putin and Trump. If she makes the wrong decision, she could end up on the wrong side of history.

THE ROUNDUP

Georgi Gotev has this exclusive interview with Rumen Radev, the new president of Bulgaria. He fears that the new US government will mend bridges with Russia, leaving the EU hostage to a sanctions war. Radev meets Jean-Claude Juncker and European Parliament President Antonio Tajani today.

The French election race is heating up. Benoit Hamon, France’s answer to Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders, was the clear victor in the race to be the Socialist candidate for president.

Republican candidate François Fillon has demanded the mean old press leaves his wife alone. Unfortunately for the Fillons, it is said he paid his wife half a million euros in public money for work she allegedly never bothered doing. Incredibly, Fillon has said he won’t submit himself to the “court of public opinion”.

Meanwhile in Berlin, Martin Schulz launched his campaign to become the next chancellor of Germany. The former European Parliament president took the chance to have a swipe at Donald Trump.

EURACTIV media partner Milano Finanza reports that the Italian government will up spending to deal with the recent earthquakes, regardless of the Commission’s call for it to reduce its structural deficit.

The European Commission’s Energy Union boss has warned that the controversy over the Opal pipeline is “highly technical and very complex.”

In yet more election news, car bombs have rocked Montenegro’s capital before voters there head to the polls.

There was a demonstration against Trump’s ban at the Bourse in Brussels today. The Bourse was the site of spontaneous vigils held in the aftermath of last year’s terror attacks. Even US diplomats believe the ban is “counterproductive”, according to this leaked memo.

Trump is famously fond of accusing his detractors in the press of being “fake news”. We asked if the Commission wanted to expose any failing news organisations in Brussels at today’s midday press briefing

LOOK OUT FOR…

The annual European Parliamentary Week began today. MEPs and other policymakers will debate that old Brussels perennial…jobs and growth. Unemployment is also on the agenda. Jean-Claude Juncker meets European Parliament President Antonio Tajani for a working lunch in Brussels tomorrow before holding a pow-wow with Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel of Germany. Gabriel will meet US Vice-President Mike Pence later this week. Expect photos of white men in suits awkwardly shaking hands.

Views are the author’s. 

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