Fri, Jun 30, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Merkel takes aim at Trump before G20

FRACTURED:East-west divisions are growing again in the EU due to the issue of refugees, and each member has its own unique relationship with the US president

AFP, BERLIN

From left, demonstrators wearing masks of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chinese President Xi Jinping and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker protest prior to a meeting of European leaders at the chancellery in Berlin yesterday.

Photo: AP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday appeared headed for a collision course with US President Donald Trump after vowing to make a stand next week for climate protection and open markets at what is expected to be the most fractious G20 summit in years.

Discussions at the gathering of world leaders in Hamburg, Germany, on Friday and Saturday next week would be difficult given Trump’s climate skepticism and “America first” stance, Merkel said, but added that she was determined to seek a clear commitment for the Paris accord against global warming and a pledge against protectionism.

When Trump earlier this month announced that he would withdraw the US from the Paris deal, “we knew that we could not expect discussions to be easy” at the G20 summit, Merkel told the German legislature.

“The differences are obvious and it would be dishonest to try to cover that up. That I won’t do,” she said, adding that the US’ exit from the 2015 Paris pact had made Europe “more determined than ever” to make the accord a success.

Without naming names, she also warned that “those who think that the problems of this world can be solved with isolationism or protectionism are terribly wrong” and pledged to seek a “clear signal for open markets and against sealing off” at the summit.

Trump’s divergent stance has left Western allies struggling to find a common front for the G20 gathering — unlike previous summits, when differences were drawn along global north-south and east-west lines.

With Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi Arabian King Salman in the volatile mix for the power meet, the list of potential minefield issues also includes the Syrian war, the Ukraine conflict and the diplomatic shutout of Qatar.

Trump’s anti-immigration stance has also emboldened many of the EU’s formerly communist members in the east, which have staunchly opposed Merkel’s pleas to accept larger shares of the refugees who have flocked to Europe.

With the fault lines multiplying, Merkel was later yesterday to meet with her western European allies to draw up a common battle strategy.

Besides the transatlantic differences, “there is also a new European division growing between east and west,” said Jean-Dominique Giuliani, president of the Fondation Robert Schuman, a Paris-based think tank.

The problems were buried when wealthier EU members supported the east with “financial flows towards central and eastern Europe,” he said, adding that “they are reappearing again on the question of refugees.”

Threatening to deepen divisions, Trump will head to Warsaw for a summit of central and eastern European leaders, likely to include Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a day before the G20 summit.

European affairs online journal Euractiv warned that “as some EU countries shun him and others welcome him with open arms, Trump could become the wedge that drives the union apart.”

Even Merkel’s European guests — the leaders of G20 members France, Britain and Italy, as well as the Netherlands, Spain and Norway — have significantly different relationships with Trump.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, who is leading her country out of the EU, has been derided at home for seeking to curry favor with the US leader after she invited him for a state visit that sparked a national outcry.

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