Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, has delivered a blunt warning to Donald Trump against encouraging countries to copy Brexit, arguing that a break-up of the EU could trigger war in the western Balkans.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Juncker said the US president’s enthusiasm for Britain’s departure from the EU was “annoying” and “surprising”.
It showed the real estate tycoon was unaware of the complicated history of Europe. The Luxembourger, a 62-year-old veteran of European politics, delivered his warning to US vice-president Mike Pence when he visited Brussels last month.
“I told the vice-president, ‘Do not say that, do not invite others to leave, because if the European Union collapses, you will have a new war in the western Balkans,” Mr Juncker said.
In 1991, at the end of the Cold War, the break-up of former Yugoslavia led to a brutal ethnic war between Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims which only ended after a Nato-led military intervention.
Mr Juncker said it was important to offer countries in the region a prospect of EU membership: “If we leave them alone — Bosnia Herzegovina, Republika Srpska, Macedonia, Albania, all those countries — we will have war again.”
Over a two-hour lunch in his private dining room in Brussels to mark the 60th anniversary of the treaty of Rome, the European project’s founding text, Mr Juncker spoke about strains in transatlantic relations and the negative impact of Brexit.
He described it as a “tragedy” with consequences. He said that the total Brexit bill for the UK would be up to €60bn, according to Brussels calculations, and anticipated complex and tough negotiations. “Every day we discover new problems we did not even know about or imagine,” Mr Juncker said.
“People think [Brexit] is the end. No it is just the beginning.” Philip Stephens A Franco-German bargain to save Europe After a deluge of crises the next few years will confound the doubters Mr Juncker said Mr Trump was frightening Europeans with his “America first” rhetoric.
“For the first time in postwar history we have an American president giving the impression he is not interested in European affairs,” he said. The Commission president plans to visit Washington next month, but he is uncertain about whether he will meet Mr Trump. “They’re trying to fix it, but he has other priorities.
By the way, he does not understand anything about Europe,” he said. “He had Tusk [Donald Tusk, president of the European Council] on the phone and he thought it was me.” Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don’t cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.
Source: Financial Times