EU negotiator: Trump, Putin, Islamic extremism threaten bloc

AP News
Posted: Jan 30, 2017 12:35 PM
EU negotiator: Trump, Putin, Islamic extremism threaten bloc

LONDON (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump poses a serious threat to the continued existence to the European Union because he is working with far-right groups on the continent to engineer the bloc's disintegration, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator said Monday.

Guy Verhofstadt, a former prime minister of Belgium and now a liberal member of the European Parliament, said the EU had "fewer friends than ever in the United States today."

Trump and his political advisers had joined with European far-right movements in undermining the EU, he said in a speech at London think-tank Chatham House. Trump himself had spoken "very favorably of the fact that other countries will want to break away" from the 28-member bloc.

Under the "enormous political influence of his chief political adviser Steve Bannon, he has sent people to Berlin, to Paris to prepare the ground for similar referenda as Brexit" Verhofstadt said, referring to the 2016 British vote to leave the EU.

Asked about what he referred to as Trump's "anti-Muslim" policy to ban refugees and citizens of selected Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., Verhofstadt said Trump has been influenced by the European far-right, rather than the other way round.

"We invented nationalism in the 19th Century in Europe but we apparently have forgotten what disaster, what atrocities that so-called national identity thinking and nationalism has created in Europe. The problem is not national identity itself, it's when national identity is based on ethnicity and not values, that the problems start in Europe.

"Twenty million people have died because of nationalism in Europe. So putting your political thinking and the future organization of Europe on nationalist ideas is the most stupid thing that you can do. It's playing with fire, knowing what it has created in the past," he said.

Verhofstadt said Trump is just one of three serious existential threats to the EU, alongside "radicalized political Islam" and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin, he said is trying to undermine the EU from inside with cyberattacks and financing anti-European far-right political parties including the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands and France's National Front.