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Trump needs to learn about Europe: Juncker

November 11, 2016

EU Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker has warned that the election of Donald Trump presents risks, and that the president-elect has much to learn about Europe. World leaders have generally tried to be more conciliatory.

Donald Trump
Image: Reuters/C. Allegri

In an unusually candid assessment of the post-election situation, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Friday that Donald Trump was ignorant of the EU and how it worked.

Juncker said it was up to the bloc to teach the future US president about Europe and its values. He highlighted a statement made by Trump earlier this year in which he appeared to suggest that Belgium, which hosts the EU and NATO headquarters, was a city.

"The election of Trump poses the risk of upsetting intercontinental relations in their foundation and in their structure," Juncker told a gathering of students at a conference in Luxembourg.

"We will need to teach the president-elect what Europe is and how it works," Juncker said, adding that both America's political class and "deep America" had no interest in the continent. "I think we will waste two years before Mr. Trump tours the world he does not know."

Juncker also warned of the "pernicious" consequences of Trump's statements on security, in which he has questioned NATO's principle of collective defense pact and praised Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Round of calls with leaders

Juncker's words came in contrast to reactions from leaders of individual EU member states, who have said they look forward to working with the new president - who has European family roots in Scotland as well as in Germany.

Trump continued his round of telephone calls with world leaders on Friday, speaking to French President Francois Hollande.

The president-elect and Hollande have little in common politically, with the French president saying before the election that some of Trump's remarks "make you want to retch."

However, the pair were said to have sought common ground in the phone call, concentrating on shared "history and values." The two leaders spoke about terrorism and the fight against the "Islamic State" militant group in Iraq and Syria, according to one source.

On Wednesday, Hollande said Trump's election "opens a period of uncertainty," but he has also signaled a desire for good relations with the incoming US administration.

"Donald Trump has been elected. My duty is to ensure that we have the best relations but on the basis of frankness and clarity," Hollande told France 2 television.

'Close cooperation, common values'

Trump's call to Hollande came a day after he spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who congratulated Trump and said she looked forward to working with him. The two are scheduled to meet next July, when the German city of Hamburg hosts the G20 summit, although an earlier meeting is likely.

Pussy Riot takes on Donald Trump

Merkel's deputy spokesman, Georg Streiter, said the chancellor had offered the next president "close cooperation" and "stressed that Germany and the United States of America are closely tied through common values."

Comments from Trump throughout the presidential campaign - about women, Muslims and Mexicans - caused shock in Europe and prompted questions about his fitness for the office of US president.

But on Friday, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson urged Europeans not to be despondent. "I may respectfully say to my European friends and colleagues that it's time we snapped out of general doom and gloom about this election," said Johnson, after a meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic.

Last year, Johnson said he was afraid of visiting New York because of "the real risk of meeting Donald Trump," after the property mogul said parts of London were now so radicalized that police feared going there.

rc/cmk (dpa, Reuters)