August 12, 2020

Secretary Pompeo travels to Europe to discuss pressing issues

Mike Pompeo – Picture by CIA, Public Domain

By Guido Lanfranchi.

On July 20th-22nd, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travelled to the United Kingdom and to Denmark to discuss a wide range of pressing issues with his British and Danish counterparts. In his trip, Secretary Pompeo was accompanied by Ambassador Phil Reeker, Acting Assistant Secretary of State at the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, who then extended his trip to Brussels in order to hold further talks with a number of Belgian and EU officials.

While in London, Mr. Pompeo met with British PM Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, discussing a wide range of topics. On top of the list of the issues addressed by Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Raab there was the situation in Hong Kong, where the US and the UK have been aligned in condemning China’s promulgation of a new national security law, as well as broader developments in the two countries’ relations with China, including on the development of 5G infrastructure and the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The two top diplomats also discussed a host of other topics, such as the UN arms embargo on Iran, the Middle East Peace Process, the two countries’ relations with Russia, as well as their cooperation in the framework of NATO – Mr. Raab explained in a joint press conference in London. Moreover, the two officials took stock of the progress in the US-UK free trade agreement negotiations, expressing their desire to further strengthen the two countries’ (already strong) commercial relations across the Atlantic Ocean.

Secretary Pompeo then moved to Copenhagen, where he held discussions on an equally broad range of pressing issues with Danish Prime Miniser Mette Frederiksen and Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod.

At a joint press conference, Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Kofod outlined the topics discussed in their meeting. Cooperation in the Arctic was arguably one of crucial issues on the table – tackled through a quadrilateral discussion involving the foreign ministers of Greenland and the Faroe Islands too.

In addition, the US and Danish top diplomats discussed a number of other topics. On most of these, the two countries found themselves aligned. This was the case, for instance, regarding bilateral trade relations, the condemnation of China’s approach to security in Hong Kong, as well as the shared commitments to NATO. On other issues, however, the two countries expressed different views. This was clearest in the domain of climate change climate change, where Denmark still supports the Paris Agreement from which the US has instead withdrawn, as well as in that of energy security, where Copenhagen’s green light to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has reportedly angered Washington. Despite these divergences, however, the two officials used their meeting to mend ties – with Mr. Kofod stressing that “on the fundamentals, Denmark and US is closely allies.”

While after the Copenhagen visit Mr. Pompeo travelled back to the United States, Ambassador Reeker continued his Europe tour by visiting Brussels, with the aim of holding further talks with officials from the Belgian government and especially from the European Union. A central focus of the visit was set to be the initiation of a “US-EU dialogue about China” – Mr. Reeker explained. This initiative, proposed by EU High Representative Josep Borrel and accepted by Secretary Pompeo, is aimed at creating a forum for coordinating Washington’s and Brussel’s policies vis-à-vis Beijing.

The two sides have yet to come up with a framework for this initiative, with the hope that such mechanism might “advance our shared interests on both sides of the Atlantic” – Mr. Reeker said.

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About the author:

Guido Lanfranchi is a student and young professional in the field of international affairs. He has pursued his studies both at Leiden University and Sciences Po Paris, where he is currently enrolled. In parallel, he has been gaining professional experience through internships (first at the Council of the European Union, and currently at Clingendael Institute), as well as by working as reporter and associate editor for Diplomat Magazine The Netherlands. His research and work focus on the Middle East and Africa, and especially on conflict situations in these regions.

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