“Federica Mogherini, Top EU Diplomat, Says Bloc Is Prepared for Trump”. Interview with the Wall Street Journal

Interview by Laurence Norman and Julian E. Barnes. Read on the WSJ website

The European Union is prepared for a more deal-oriented relationship with the U.S. once President-elect Donald Trump takes office, the bloc’s chief diplomat said Wednesday, adding that approach won’t prevent cooperation on a broad range of issues, including the Iranian nuclear deal.

“We are ready for a transactional way of working….one more based on an analysis of where our interests coincide,” Federica Mogherini said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in Brussels. “I believe that going through the list of global conflicts and regional issues, we would come out with a very long list of things where we have an interest in either a division of labor or a common approach.”

The bloc’s foreign-policy chief suggested a new trans-Atlantic relationship could have upsides for the EU, playing down the prospect that Mr. Trump’s interest in warmer ties with Russia would necessarily counter Europe’s interests. Indeed, she said a more independent EU might line up with Russia against any efforts on the Trump administration’s part to scuttle the Iran accord, shake up Middle East policy, or reduce the role of the United Nations.

Senior European officials have openly worried about the possible impact of the Trump administration’s foreign policy on Europe. They have expressed concerns not only about his stance toward Russia, but also that he will demand a higher price for underwriting the region’s security and will be less committed to working with the EU to press for democracy and the rule of law in Europe’s neighborhood.

However, Ms. Mogherini pointed to a range of shared interests where the EU and U.S. are bound to work closely, including counterterrorism, crisis prevention in key regions and fighting migrant-smuggling gangs. Since taking her job, the 43-year-old former Italian foreign minister has also made it a priority to deepen the bloc’s defense and security structures to allow it to start deploying hard power more effectively in its neighborhood.

Ms. Mogherini said she believed such common interests could lead the new U.S. administration to work with Europe in implementing the Iranian nuclear deal. During the electoral campaign, Mr. Trump trashed the agreement, which seeks to bloc Iran’s route to a nuclear weapon in exchange for lifting a broad range of economic, energy and banking sanctions.

But European diplomats have said that in recent discussions, Trump aides have signaled he is unlikely to scrap the pact. EU officials have also warned that if the U.S. walks away from the agreement, the bloc won’t feel obliged to reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

Asked if the agreement can survive, Ms. Mogherini said, “Yes, I think it is in the interest of the United States that the deal continues to be implemented.”

“The President-elect seems inclined to define his choices…on the basis of American interests,” she said. “The fact that the deal is fully implemented by both sides has delivered on the impossibility for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”

Ms. Mogherini, who chairs the international body that settles disputes on the deal and oversees its implementation, said it was impossible for Mr. Trump to demand fresh concessions from Iran on its nuclear program.

“It is an international agreement in the framework of the United Nations,” she said. “There is no way the agreement can be reopened bilaterally.”

Ms. Mogherini warned that one of the first fallouts of a U.S. decision to walk away from the Iran deal would be a clash with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who helped secure it.

She expressed skepticism that the U.S. would strike a grand bargain with Russia on issues like Ukraine and Syria, cutting the Europeans out. She said Republican lawmakers “might be more worried than the Europeans” about the incoming president’s plans to improve ties with Mr. Putin.

Ms. Mogherini said Iran might not be the only issue on which the U.S. may find itself on the opposite side from Russia and Europe if the new administration seeks to go it alone.

“In a transactional manner…case by case, you will find issues where I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Europeans and the Russians on the same side—Iran deal, Middle East peace process, possibly the role of the U.N.”

For now, that prospect seems some way off. Ms. Mogherini confirmed the EU is set to extend sanctions on Russia for the next six months over the Ukraine crisis. That decision is expected on Monday, officials say.

She also said that whatever decisions the Trump administration makes on U.S. sanctions on Russia, the bloc would continue to link economic restrictions to progress in implementing the Minsk peace agreements between Moscow and Kiev.

“So here again, European decisions are not linked to political decisions in Washington,” she said.