German foreign minister calls for revamp of EU-US ties

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called on Wednesday for Europe to reshape its relationship with the United States, saying the two sides had been drifting apart even before Donald Trumps presidency and urging the EU to play a bigger global role.

“The fact that distance between the two sides of the Atlantic has become politically wider is by no means solely due to Donald Trump,” Maas wrote in an opinion piece published by German business daily Handelsblatt on Wednesday.

“The U.S. and Europe have been drifting apart for years. The overlapping of values and interests that has shaped our relationship for two generations is decreasing.”

To “renew and preserve” the historic relationship, Germany, alongside France and its European partners, should seek a “balanced partnership” with Washington in which they “form a counterweight where the U.S. crosses red lines” and advance “where America retreats,” according to Maas.

He called on European allies to “strengthen the European pillar” of NATO — “not because Donald Trump is always setting new percentage targets [for defense spending], but because we can no longer rely on Washington to the same extent as before” — and to move forward with plans for closer security and defense cooperation among EU members.

Maas urged European countries to talk about “fair taxation” of U.S. internet giants operating in Europe and called for the creation of a European Monetary Fund as well as international payment channels independent from the U.S. in order to “strengthen European autonomy.”

Maas also defended Europes efforts to legally protect its companies from U.S. sanctions linked to Iran. “It is of strategic importance that we say clearly to Washington: We want to work together. But we will not allow you to act over our heads at our expense,” he wrote.

He also outlined plans to establish an “alliance of multilateralists” that would commit to upholding “binding rules and fair competition.”

Maas said he had held talks with Canada, Japan and South Korea on forging a closer alliance, and reiterated the “door is wide open — above all to the U.S.”

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