Gardner: EU must count on support of business leaders in Trump administration

  • 2017-05-11
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Hopefully the experienced business leaders in Trump's administration will ensure some continuity in the seven decades of bipartisan support for European integration, Anthony Gardner, former U.S. ambassador to the European Union, said in an interview with BNS.

"Although the rhetoric of the Trump administration toward the European Union has indeed improved after a disastrous start, we have to wait to see whether sustained engagement now follows the good words expressed during the visits of Vice President [Mike] Pence and Secretary [Rex] Tillerson to Europe," Gardner, who will be one of the speakers at the Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn at the end of this week, said.

Although the president has recently said that he is "all of favor" of the EU if the Europeans are for it, he has repeatedly expressed skeptical, even hostile, views about the European Union -- clearly reflecting advice he has received from Nigel Farage and his White House adviser Steve Bannon, Gardner said.

"Trump was a supporter of Brexit and thought that other European countries should follow Britain's lead. Fortunately, Prime Minister [Theresa] May told him in the Oval Office that, while she must deliver Brexit, a prosperous, stable, integrated and democratic Europe is in the fundamental national interests of the UK and that the UK does not desire a breakup," the former diplomat said.

Gardner said that he is concerned that this administration clearly disdains multilateralism and undervalues the contributions of the EU. At the same time, "I remain cautiously hopeful that the experienced business leaders in this administration will ensure some continuity in the seven decades of bipartisan support for European integration," he added.

He said that the business community understands well what the EU has done for European growth, stability and prosperity and especially how it has promoted US jobs, exports and investments in Europe.

This year's Lennart Meri Conference, entitled "Darkest Just Before the Dawn?: The War on Trust and How To Win It", will take place from May 12 to 14. The conference will consider the severe challenges the West is facing and will seek to identify the opportunities that may arise in these bleakest moments.

Among the speakers who will help find solutions to strategic challenges the West is facing at the Lennart Meri Conference are Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, EU high representative for foreign affairs Federica Mogherini, Italy's former Prime Minister Enrico Letta, Italy's European Affairs Minister Sandro Gozi, Georgia's Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek, Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis, Deputy Secretary General of NATO Rose Gottemoeller and India's former Foreign Minister Kanwal Sibal.

In addition to politicians and think tank representatives, the list of participants includes civil society activists from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Leading journalists active on social media, Michael Weiss and Ahmed Rashid, will help to give meaning to the topics of post-truth era and information warfare. Stephen E. Biegun, corporate officer and vice president of International Governmental Affairs for Ford Motor Company, and writer and journalist Sarah Kendzior will be among the speakers to speak about the foreign policy of the new US administration.

Other topics to be discussed include the future of the European Union, the impact of populism on democracy, Russia's growing militancy in the information space and cyberspace, the conflict in Syria, China's growing influence -- the topics that demand not only answers but also fundamental readjustment and changes in the present world order.

The conference will kick off on May 12 at 4:30 p.m. at Radisson Blu Sky Hotel in Tallinn and end on the afternoon of May 14. The discussions will be streamed live on the website of the event.

The conference is organized by the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) and the Lennart Meri European Foundation. The conference's media partner is BNS. The organization of the conference is supported by the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Elering, Wihuri, NATO, Milrem, BAE Systems, Estonian Center of Eastern Partnership, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Defendec and Hanwha.