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European Union

EU ministers meet to talk strategy after Trump's electoral victory

European foreign ministers have met in Brussels to determine the best course of action for a Trump presidency. Trade deals, relations with Russia and the US commitment to NATO all hang in the balance.

Foreign ministers from around the European Union met informally in Brussels on Sunday to discuss what role the United States should have in European politics after US President-elect Donald Trump's victory on Tuesday.

Trump made several comments over the course of the campaign that caught the EU's attention, praising Russia, suggesting the US leave NATO and recommending the EU should strengthen its own military defenses.

After Sunday's meeting, EU ministers agreed the United States and Europe should continue to foster a strong relationship. "Both sides should start at zero and give each other a chance," said European Parliament President Martin Schulz, speaking with German newspaper "Bild am Sonntag."

"President Trump will be a different man than candidate Trump," added Schulz.

Potential changes

Should the United States abandon NATO  obligations, which include a mutual defense in case of attack, Europe could potentially be forced to further develop its defense forces.

Trump has also said he is opposed to major trade pacts, including the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), meaning the agreement will probably need to be renegotiated if there is any chance of its survival.

EU sanctions on Russia, in reaction to the annexation of Crimea and Moscow's military presence in eastern Ukraine, are up for renewal in January. With Trump potentially warming relations with Russia, there may be a push to end these sanctions.

Amid the looming uncertainty before Trump takes office in January, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Europe and the US must come together. "We face the greatest challenges to our security in a generation. This is no time to question the value of the partnership between Europe and the United States," wrote Stoltenberg in British newspaper "The Observer" on Sunday.

Notable absences

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson did not attend Sunday's talks in Brussels, suggesting the UK plans to take a different approach to the president-elect.

Earlier, Johnson told fellow foreign ministers in the EU to drop the "general doom and gloom" and "collective whinge-o-rama" after the US election.

Johnson was one of the main campaigners for the successful "Leave" vote in the referendum for the UK's withdrawal from the EU in June.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault also did not attend Sunday's meeting. Other EU ministers did not personally attend but were represented, while German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with his fellow foreign ministers late Sunday after an unexpected delay in Berlin.

Too early?

Speaking to the press, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders denied that Sunday's talks were anything out of the ordinary. "What would be bizarre would be talk about the American elections around the world, but not among foreign ministers," said Reynders.

Sebastian Kurz (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Lecocq)

Austria's Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz called the talks premature

Paolo Gentiloni, Italy's top diplomat, pointed out that Trump does not take office until January and "Europe should be taking care of its own problems and not worrying what is happening on the other side of the Atlantic."

Austria's Sebastian Kurz, meanwhile, also called the meetings premature, preferring to wait until Trump was in office before making any policy decisions.

"We do not know how the government will look, what measures it will take, and what announced plans it will take from the election campaign and what will simply stay in the campaign," he said.. 

The foreign ministers will meet formally on Monday to discuss strained ties with membership candidate Turkey, the Syrian and Libyan conflicts and defense cooperation with NATO.

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kbd/cmk (AFP, AP, dpa)

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