German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Macron met in Aachen to discuss pertinent European issues, including the threat to its economy posed by the recent actions of Washington. Both have spoken in favor of making Europe stronger and less dependent on the US, on which they believe they can no longer rely.
If Foreign Powers Decide Our Diplomacy, We Are No Longer Sovereign — Paris
The French president expressed his opinion that no other country should have power over a state's sovereign matters.
"If we accept that other major powers, including allies […] put themselves in a situation to decide our diplomacy, security for us, and sometimes even make us run the worst risks, then we are no more sovereign and we cannot be more credible to public opinion," Macron said.
As if US threats to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum from Europe to improve the trade balance were not enough, the US has announced its withdrawal from the JCPOA (also known as the Iran deal). This means not that only will the US impose sanctions against Iran, but it will also impose them against companies (for example European ones), that have business ties with the Islamic Republic.
A number of European companies have invested millions in Iran and now they stand before a tough choice — lose their investments or be punished by the US. French giants like Airbus, Total, Renault and Peugeot are among those that have invested much after the Iranian market was opened in 2015. The French foreign minister has slammed Washington for its decision to impose sanctions against not only Iran, but also against those that deal with Iran.
"We feel that the extraterritoriality of their sanction measures is unacceptable, [and will] do everything to protect the interests of their companies," he told Le Parisien newspaper.
He added that Europe must not pay for the US withdrawal from the Iran deal and insisted that Washington should negotiate with the EU on possible sanctions against its companies.
France's Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire sounded in tune with the foreign minister's statements.
"Do we accept extraterritorial sanctions? The answer is no. Do we accept that the United States is the economic gendarme of the planet? The answer is no," Le Maire said.
He also stressed the need for European countries to work on countermeasures and that he is going to propose a sanctions-blocking initiative to the European commission.
"We have to work among ourselves in Europe to defend our economic sovereignty. At the end of May I will meet with the British and German finance ministers and the three of us will look at what we can do," Le Maire said.
The French finance minister also urged US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to come up with exemptions or delays for French companies, but had little hopes that his words would have any effect.
Europe Must Take its Fate into its Own Hands — Berlin
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is confident that instead of relying on the US, the EU must work out its own policy, including in the security sphere.
"It is no longer such that the United States simply protects us, but Europe must take its destiny in its own hands, that's the task of the future," she said.
She noted, however, that European foreign policy is still in its "infancy" and requires a lot of upgrading, especially considering the fact that the nature of conflicts has drastically changed since the Cold War.
US Has "Lost Its Vigor"
Both the German chancellor and the French president have expressed their adherence to the Iran deal, despite the US decision to withdraw from it. In order to cement their vows, they called the Iranian president and assured him that they remained committed to the deal and announced their intention to keep it.
President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker on his part suggested that Europe must replace the US as a global leader, since Washington "has lost its vigor."
High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini stressed the fact that the European Union will act considering its own interests and urged other signatories of the JCPOA to uphold the deal.
US President Donald Trump announced on May 8 that the US was withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA; also known as the Iran nuclear deal), an international agreement reached in 2015 by Iran, the United States, Russia, France, China, the United Kingdom, Germany and the EU. The deal was designed to prevent Iran from acquiring its own nuclear weapons and to ensure the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.
Trump has consistently been a harsh critic of the Iran deal, calling it "the worst" and "defective at its core." He demanded to "fix" it, threatening otherwise to withdraw the US from the deal. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attempted to convince Trump to stick with the deal, but these efforts ultimately failed.
Iranian officials warned the US against the move, claiming the deal won't work without it, despite EU efforts. Russia has expressed its regret about the US decision to abandon the JCPOA and promised that it will remain committed to the Iran deal.