Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Wednesday urged the European Union to rally urgently behind a rules-based international order against threats from Russia and even the United States.
‘Even the relationship with our most important ally is no longer self evident,’ Rutte said in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France which won a standing ovation.
Rutte echoed EU alarm over US President Donald Trump's decisions to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement and the Iran nuclear deal as well as to impose tariffs on European steel and aluminium.
But he urged the 28-nation bloc to ‘keep working as closely as possible with the United States,’ which he said remained an ally nevertheless.
He said he stood before the parliament, the EU's only directly elected body, with ‘a real sense of urgency’ because the bloc's way of conducting international relations can no longer be taken for granted.
‘The multilateral order is being challenged in a way that we haven't seen in decades, and the geopolitical balance of power is shifting,’ Rutte warned.
‘We must deal with the fact that Russia has chosen to distance itself from the neighbours in the West,’ said Rutte, whose country last month formally accused Moscow of being responsible for the shooting down of flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014.
The Malaysia Airlines flight was en route from Amsterdam.
Rutte also said the rise of economic powers China and India brought both challenges and opportunities for the ‘EU as the world's biggest trading bloc and as a leading force for peace, stability and development.’
European Commission vice president Frans Timmermans, a fellow Dutchman, underscored Rutte's points on the threat from the United States.
‘For the first time since 1945, we now have a president in the United States who apparently believes that a disunited Europe is more in the interests of the United States than in a United Europe,’ Timmermans.
‘Again this calls for Europe to be united,’ Timmermans, a former Dutch foreign minister, told the parliament.
Praising past presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan for fighting for European freedom, Timmermans said shared European and US values cannot be destroyed by one US president.
‘The more unity Europe has on the basis of international rules, on the basis of our values, the more chance we will have to help the Americans return to the same path,’ Timmermans said.
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