Wed, Jan 18, 2017 - Page 6 News List

EU does not need ‘outside advice’: French president

AFP, PARIS

French President Francois Hollande, right, awards outgoing US Ambassador to France Jane Hartley with the Legion d’Honneur at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Monday.

Photo: Reuters

French President Francois Hollande replied bluntly on Monday to US president-elect Donald Trump’s criticism of the EU, saying Europe “has no need for outside advice” on its affairs.

“I say it here, Europe will always be willing to pursue transatlantic cooperation, but it will determine its path on the basis of its own interests and values,” Hollande said at a ceremony in Paris for outgoing US Ambassador to France Jane Hartley.

“It has no need for outside advice to tell it what it has to do,” he said.

In a hard-hitting interview published on Sunday by Britain’s Times and Germany’s Bild, the US president-elect praised Britain’s vote to leave the EU and said Europe had been weakened by its policy on refugees.

He criticized as “catastrophic” Germany’s decision to open its borders to Syrian refugees, hailed Brexit as “a great thing” and predicted other nations would follow Britain in leaving the EU.

“If refugees keep pouring into different parts of Europe... I think it’s gonna be very hard to keep it together because people are angry about it,” Trump said.

Trump also said NATO was “obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago... [and it is not] taking care of terror.”

He also noted that only a small number of its 28 members met a commitment on military spending.

Taking aim at Trump, but without naming him, Hollande said relations between Europe and the US “have always been founded on in the same principles and values.”

“These values are called respect, mutual support at times of danger, but also commitment to democracy, the defense of freedoms, equality between men and women, the dignity of being a human being,” he said.

The principle of offering asylum to those fleeing persecution is a core value shared in Europe and the US, he added.

NATO “will only become obsolete when threats become obsolete too,” he said. “We are committed to our alliances, but we are also able to be self-sufficient strategically. This is what France has always defended, in the name of its independence, in total complementarity with NATO.”

Separately, former French prime minister Manuel Valls said Trump’s remarks amounted to a “declaration of war on Europe.”

“Many people thought that Donald Trump, after his election, would calm down, but they forget that a populist may want to implement his program,” Valls told BFMTV. “The only response to Donald Trump is European unity. Europe is far too divided, but there is a joint awareness... we need a very strong response from Europe, France and Germany.”

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