EUs Charles Michel turns guns on Joe Biden as Brussels chief vows China move

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The European Council President also criticised the American leader’s predecessor Donald Trump for his failure to consult with European allies over his negotiations with the Taliban. In a scathing assessment of the recent US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Mr Michel said the incident proved that the EU needs to step up its efforts to build its strategic autonomy. Ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, he said most European countries had shown solidarity with the US, when Nato’s Article 5 clause was involved for the first time.

But Mr Michel suggested this was thrown back in their face when the Trump and Biden administrations made little effort to consult with European nations over the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

He criticised the White House for making “very few – if any – consultations with their European partners” when Washington first reached out to the Taliban and announced the summer withdrawal.

He said: “The events of the past few days draw a tragic toll. We must recognise that, despite our best efforts, this is a failure for the international community.

“Taking a step back, what is striking for the European that I am is to note that when the United States made the choice to negotiate with the Taliban under the Trump administration, then to confirm their withdrawal, they offered very few consultations with European partners – actually they offered none.”

Asked what lessons Europe could learn from the Afghan farce, Mr Michel said: “The Afghan crisis only reinforces and consolidates a conviction that I have had for some time now and that I share with many others, namely the idea of a strategic autonomy of the European Union which aims to strengthen our capacity to influence according to our interests and of our values, while also emphasising our capacity for action.”

“Faced with the accelerating impression of chaos at the time of the withdrawal of the American troops, one can only be stunned,” Mr Michel went on.

“To see one of the most solid economic powers in the world like the European Union, a democratic power which carries extremely strong values, a military power made up of twenty-seven states, not being able to ensure alone, without the support of the US, the assistance necessary to evacuate its nationals and the Afghans who supported them, that calls for a reaction from us.”

The EU’s most senior official added: “It seems to me that a structural trend in the United States, which existed before Donald Trump even though he made it much more visible, is to prioritise American interests.

“We must be clear about this reality, which is also legitimate. I can understand the domestic arguments that lead President Biden to confirm the withdrawal. I can hear this sovereign and a legitimate decision made by the United States.”

But Mr Michel insisted he wasn’t ready to give up on Washington just yet.

Discussing his recent talks with President Biden at the G7 summit, he said: “I found him to be very engaged and sincere. His political record attests to this.

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“This is very different from the Trump administration which had a binary and simplistic world view: ‘I’m strong, you’re weak. And if you’re strong, then I’m weak.’”

In a move that is likely to be ill received in Washington, Mr Michel used his interview to suggest the EU is ready to forge its own path on China.

“We share the same democratic values and the same political model as the United States,” he said.

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“At the same time, we must develop as Europeans our own strategy regarding China.”

According to the EU Council President, this involved three main elements.

He said Brussels must make demands over the standards of human rights, engage “when we feel that dialogue is necessary” in areas such as climate change and coronavirus and “rebalancing access to our respective markets”.

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