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Pence shows support for EU; Tusk reassured but says relations not the same

By
Ed Adamczyk
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) and European Council President Donald Tusk (R) leave a brief joint news conference following their meeting in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday. Pence in his statement ensured a continuous close cooperation and partnership with Europe. Photo by Olivier Hoslet/EPA
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) and European Council President Donald Tusk (R) leave a brief joint news conference following their meeting in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday. Pence in his statement ensured a continuous close cooperation and partnership with Europe. Photo by Olivier Hoslet/EPA

Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Vice President Mike Pence on Monday pledged the United States's commitment to the European Union during a trip to Brussels.

Pence met with European Council President Donald Tusk as part of his first trip as vice president to Europe.

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"It is my privilege on behalf of President [Donald] Trump to express the strong commitment of the United States to continued cooperation and partnership with the European Union," Pence said during a joint statement. "Whatever our differences, our two continents share the same heritage, the same values and above all the same purpose, to promote peace and prosperity through freedom, democracy and the rule of law, and to those objectives we will remain committed."

Tusk reaffirmed the EU's commitment to the United States as well, but acknowledged the relationship between the two bodies had changed.

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During the presidential campaign Trump repeatedly expressed his approval of Britain's exit from the EU and predicted a further splintering of the bloc. In January, Trump said the EU was "basically a vehicle for Germany."

Tusk, too, has had pointed words for the U.S. leader, saying Trump's rhetoric is a potential threat to European unity.

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"Thank you for this meeting. We all truly needed it," Tusk said Monday after meeting with Pence. "Too much has happened over the past months in your country, and in the EU; too many new and sometimes surprising opinions have been voiced over this time about our relations and our common security for us to pretend that everything is as it used to be."

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Referring to commitments from Pence in three critical areas -- international order, security, and the U.S. position on the EU, Tusk added, "In reply to these three matters, I heard today from Vice President Pence three times 'yes.' After such a positive declaration, both Europeans and Americans must simply practice what they preach. The reports of the death of the West have been greatly exaggerated. Whoever wants to demolish that order, anticipating a posy-west order, must know that in its defense we will remain determined."

Earlier in the week in Munich, Pence expressed the U.S. commitment to NATO while acknowledging the United States seeks to establish stronger ties with Russia. He reaffirmed that commitment Monday after meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, and repeated Trump's stance that other NATO members must pay their share.

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"As our country continues to make investments in Europe's security, we see European countries falling behind," Pence said Monday. "I don't know what the answer is to 'or else,' but I know that the patience of the American people will not endure forever."

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