With friends like Trump, who needs enemies: EU chief

With friends like Trump, who needs enemies: EU chief

The EU should also be "grateful to President Trump", Tusk said, "because thanks to him we have got rid of all illusions".

"Europe should do everything possible to protect the transatlantic link".

And for the Europeans, the problem is made more acute by the fact that the disorder is largely created by their closest historical ally, the United States.

Tusk's public comments on Wednesday also touched on the new U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum that are set to bite on June 1 unless Trump grants a reprieve.

The options include protecting European companies dealing with Iran from USA sanctions, allowing the European Investment Bank to invest in Iran and coordinating euro-denominated credit lines from EU states.

Reiterating the position of France, Germany and the United Kingdom, the three European powers that helped broker the Iran nuclear agreement, Tusk said that the EU would remain committed to the deal as long as Tehran fulfilled its obligations. Tusk said he wanted Europe to "stick to our guns" and described Trump's justification of tariffs on the basis of national security as "absurd". "As Europe, we already have a major leading role in the world", Rutte sad to NOS. The bloc would also discuss WTO-compatible ways to improve reciprocal market access for industrial products including cars to avoid a trade war.

The EU's top energy and climate official, Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete, is heading to Iran on May 18-21 for talks on energy cooperation, a symbolic gesture from the EU that it wants to stay engaged despite the USA withdrawal.

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The EU has discussed instituting a so-called blocking statute, which would shield European companies doing business with Iran.

They backed plans to offer concessions if the United States gives Europe a permanent exemption from the tariffs, but added that the "EU will not negotiate with a gun at its head".

As the European Union scrambles to salvage an accord they see as a key element of worldwide security and a diplomatic success, they also wonder about their ties with Washington.

Earlier in the day, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also stressed the importance of preserving relations with Washington despite what she called "all the difficulties we have had in the past few days". It foresees the possibility of hitting 2.8 billion euros ($3.3 billion) of US goods imported into the European Union with a reciprocal 25 percent levy as of June 20.

As Europeans have lost the guarantee that Trump would activate article 5 - the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation clause for mutual defence - they are focusing more on EU's own security policies, the two officials noted.

Iran said the new US sanctions were an attempt to derail efforts to save the nuclear deal.

"Should we be the only one that continue to follow the rules?" asked the official.

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