US President Donald Trump walks with the President of the European Council Donald Tusk in Brussels, Belgium. May 25, 2017
US President Donald Trump walks with the President of the European Council Donald Tusk in Brussels, Belgium. May 25, 2017

The European Union and US President Donald Trump seem to have differing positions on dealing with Russia, climate change and global trade, European Council President Donald Tusk said after talks with Trump on Thursday.

Trump met the European Union's top officials on Thursday in a bid to mend ties with a bloc he deeply alarmed by backing Brexit. These are his first-ever talks with Tusk and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker.

The meeting took place at the EU's new "Europa" headquarters in Brussels, ahead of a summit of NATO leaders at the military alliance's headquarters in the city later in the day.

Tusk said in a televised statement that the two leaders agreed on countering militant violence and on relations with Ukraine.

Agree to disagree?

"We discussed foreign policy, security, climate and trade relations," Tusk said in Brussels after he and met Trump for an hour.

"My feeling is that we agreed on many areas; first and foremost on counterterrorism," Tusk said.

"But some issues remain open like climate and trade and I am not 100 percent sure that we can say today – 'we' means Mr President and myself – that we have a common position, common opinion, about Russia, although when it comes to the conflict in Ukraine it seems that we were on the same lines."

Sharing the NATO burden

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump would press NATO leaders hard to spend more on defence and take on more of the burden of paying for the alliance, a message Trump has reiterated repeatedly before and after entering the White House.

NATO bowed to his demands that it join the US-led coalition against Daesh. During his election campaign Trump dismissed NATO as "obsolete" for focusing on Russia instead of terrorism,

"This will send a strong political message of NATO's commitment to the fight against terrorism," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a press conference ahead of the summit.

Trump also met European Parliament President, Antonio Tajani and EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini.

The visit with Tusk and Juncker is a victory of sorts for the EU, as they worked behind the scenes to secure a first encounter with Trump.

Trump on Brexit

In the heat of the US election campaign in 2016, Trump rankled European leaders by predicting that other countries "will leave" the EU after Britain voted to do so in June.

Juncker quipped in response that he was ready to encourage independence movements by states in the US if Trump failed to tone down his Brexit support.

And on January 16, while he was president-elect, Trump called EU a "vehicle for Germany," the bloc's economic powerhouse.

However, after becoming president, Trump appeared to warm to the European bloc. He told the Financial Times newspaper that the EU was "getting their act together," though he maintained Brexit would be "really, really good" for the EU and for Britain.

Protests upon Trump's arrival

Earlier on Wednesday, thousands in Brussels protested against the arrival of Trump.

The rally filled the central Bourse square of the city just hours after Trump touched down in Air Force One for high-stakes talks with allies.

Trump sparked fury by deriding the Belgian capital as a "hellhole" ruined by Muslim immigration in January 2016, two months before suicide bombers killed 32 people in the city.

The NATO summit will, however, be full of pomp and symbolism, with the keen-to-impress alliance showing off its new $1.2 billion (1.1 billion euro) HQ and staging a flypast.

At a ceremony with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump will unveil a memorial to the September 11, 2001 attacks featuring part of the destroyed World Trade Center, while Merkel does the same for a fragment of the Berlin Wall.

There Trump, in his only scheduled public remarks before a dinner with NATO leaders, is expected to pledge his full support to the alliance he once called "obsolete".

Source: TRTWorld and agencies