Ahead of a summit of EU leaders, Donald Tusk criticizes Trump for US actions. He asked "with friends like that who needs enemies," apparently in response to the US scrapping the Iran deal and planning steel tariffs.
In remarkably frank terms, EU commission President Donald Tusk squared off against US President Donald Trump in Sofia on Tuesday.
"Looking at the latest decisions of Donald Trump, someone could even think: with friends like that who needs enemies. But frankly, EU should be grateful. Thanks to him we got rid of all illusions. We realize that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm," Tusk said in Sofia, also posting the comments in a Tweet tagging the US president.
Tusk's comments came ahead of a gathering of heads-of-state of the EU in the Bulgarian capital Sofia on Wednesday. Leaders explored options to keep the Iran nuclear deal afloat after US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw and reimpose sanctions on Iran.
The summit comes after Iran gave the EU "between 45 and 60 days to give the necessary guarantees to safeguard Iranian interests and compensate the damages caused by the US pullout."
The EU is hoping that Iran will continue to obey the rules of the agreement as long as enough of the economic benefits promised in the deal are preserved. The Iran nuclear deal aims to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.
"I would like our debate to reconfirm without any doubt that as long as Iran respects the provisions of the deal, the EU will also respect it," Tusk said.
But the EU's hopes have been complicated by the fact that European companies would also be exposed to US sanctions imposed on anyone doing business in Iran.
Steel and aluminium tariffs also a sore spot
US President Donald Trump has placed import duties of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminium on grounds of national security, but has temporarily exempted EU producers until June 1, depending on the outcome of talks.
"Here again, unity is our greatest strength and my objective is simple — we stick to our guns. This means a permanent exemption from US tariffs on aluminium and steel if we are to discuss possible trade liberalization with the US," Tusk said.
"The EU and US are friends and partners. Therefore US tariffs cannot be justified on the basis of national security. It is absurd to even think that the EU could be a threat to the United States," he continued.
European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said the EU was willing to use legislation that would make it illegal for European companies to comply with US sanctions imposed on Iran.
The blocking statute was developed in 1996 to counter US sanctions on Cuba, Iran and Libya, but has not been tested yet.
The statute would enforce legal penalties on EU companies complying with US sanctions on Iran, while providing compensation for any costs and losses suffered as a result.
"We notably discussed concrete practical solutions to make sure the EU can continue to live up to its commitments under the deal and protect our economic operations," said Avramopoulos, the EU's migration commissioner. "We did discuss the possibility of applying our blocking statute. We are ready to do so, if needed."