US Vice President Mike Pence began talks with EU officials on Monday in the face of anti-Trump protests and calls from his Belgian hosts to oppose any breakup of the European Union.
Pence was in Brussels at the end of a European trip aimed at reassuring allies fearful that US President Donald Trump might abandon them.
“No question of allowing the European Union’s breakup. That message was given,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told Belga news agency after a dinner with Pence on Sunday. “I feel that it was heard,” he said.
Pence began talks Monday with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini at the US embassy as scores of protesters gathered outside, criticising the Trump administration’s attitude toward women, gays and climate change.
“We are here to protest against the visit of Pence because we are revolted by the decision of the US administration to undermine women’s rights worldwide,” Irene Donadio, who works for the International Planned Parenthood Federation, told AFP.
Pence will also meet European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
The Brussels trip follows a visit to the Munich Security Conference, where Pence told European leaders and defence experts: “The United States is and will always be your greatest ally.
“President Trump and our people are truly devoted to our transatlantic union.”
Trump’s criticism of NATO as “obsolete”, his praise for Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, and his apparent tilt to Russian President Vladimir Putin have unnerved US allies.
And they continue to seek reassurance from Washington even though Pence, US Defence Secretary James Mattis and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stuck close to established policy during their foray into Europe.
Pence said Washington would push Russia to honour the Minsk ceasefire accords in Ukraine, while Tillerson said the US would only cooperate with Moscow if it benefits the American people.