Manfred Weber, who has served as leader of the European People’s Party – the centre-right group – in the European Parliament since 2014, highlighted several of the EU’s flaws on Thursday night. Speaking on the eve of the Munich Security Conference, the German politician attended a panel of diplomats, including Richard Grenell, US President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Germany and Margaritas Schinas, the European Commission vice president. In his opening remarks, Mr Weber commented that “Europe is quite weak” in many areas, and proceeded to list off a series of the bloc’s shortcomings.
The MEP said the EU is not coordinated enough to properly fight terrorism or strong enough to deter an increasingly aggressive Russia.
He also hit out at the bloc’s lack of unity and said because of this the EU struggled to carry out an effective foreign policy.
Mr Weber said: “What I want to have is a Europe that is capable of defending itself.”
Next to speak was Mr Grenell, who suggested Europe needed to act “faster” when it came to foreign policy decisions.
He said: “I think we would like to see a faster Europe.
“We love the idea of a unified Europe.
“But what we really need is a Europe that’s innately with the West, that doesn’t take nine days to think about which side they are on in Venezuela, but that immediately looks at the situation and says, ‘Iran is a terrorist regime.’”
The US ambassador then took the opportunity to praise the US President for one of his controversial diplomatic moves.
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He said: “I love Munich so much. And I sometimes harass our US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who is my friend.
“And I tell David, ‘you know it’s just not fair because when you arrived in Israel, you quickly got to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and I really like Munich.’
“And I thought could there be a way maybe the US embassy could just move.”
In 2018 President Trump officially moved the embassy to Jerusalem and officially recognised the city as Israel’s capital, which broke with decades of official US policy.
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He said the move would increase stability and the chance of peace.
But the relocation was heavily criticised as it put the US in the centre of a longstanding conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, who both claim Jerusalem as their capital.
Many commentators, including Middle East expert Ilan Goldenberg said the decision significantly undercut the US’s credibility as a neutral part in the conflict.
He told American news site Vox the US is supposed to act “like the fireman” but “instead we’re acting like the arsonist – we’re making things worse.”
The Munich Security Conference 2020 officially kicks off today, as world leaders meet to discuss geopolitical concerns.
35 heads of state will attend the three-day summit, who will be joined by more than 500 politicians and officials.
This year’s theme is “restlessness” and points to continued unease about the identity and purpose of the West.
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