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European Parliament Leaders Question Trump's Likely EU Ambassador


Diplomatically speaking, the Trump administration's first two weeks have been rough. Perhaps that's even a diplomatic way to describe the administration's first stabs at diplomacy. Last week, the leader of Mexico canceled a visit to the White House. On a call, the president berated the prime minister of Australia, one of the closest U.S. allies. And now, President Trump faces fury in Europe for something he hasn't even done yet. A potential nominee for U.S. ambassador to the EU has so angered lawmakers there that most say they don't want him. NPR's Frank Langfitt has the latest from London.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Ted Malloch is an American professor who lives outside the British capital. A supporter of Brexit, Malloch has been making the rounds with European media recently. He says President Trump has interviewed him for the job of American ambassador to the European Union, a 28-nation trading bloc that Malloch doesn't seem too keen on.

In a recent BBC interview, he said, quote, "I had in a previous career a diplomatic post where I helped bring down the Soviet Union. So maybe there's another union that needs a little taming." Officials in Brussels were livid. Here's Gianni Pittella of Italy speaking in the European Parliament earlier this week.


GIANNI PITTELLA: (Through interpreter) If this ambassador were appointed, well, then he wouldn't be welcome 'cause I can't welcome someone who, even before they're appointed, says, I'm going there to destroy the European Union.

LANGFITT: Jo Leinen of Germany wasn't happy, either.


JO LEINEN: Mr. Malloch has shown extreme hostility...


LEINEN: ...Towards the European Union. I think he should be persona non grata in Brussels.

LANGFITT: Some key points to remember here - the White House hasn't actually named its choice for EU ambassador and has declined to say if it plans to tap Malloch. The EU has never rejected an ambassador before. But it can. Reached by phone last night, Malloch suggested parliamentarians should pause before condemning him.

TED MALLOCH: It concerns me that they don't know me, and they made some judgments based on parts of two comments. It would be useful to have a longer conversation.

LANGFITT: Earlier this week, Malloch, who teaches at Britain's Henley Business School, spoke with NPR over Skype and explained how he sees the European Union.

MALLOCH: Philosophically, I think President Trump - and I would include myself in that category - are suspicious of multilateral organizations.

LANGFITT: Malloch said his stint working with the UN soured his view on bodies with lots of country members.

MALLOCH: I saw all the shortcomings that has to do with high degree of bureaucracy, unaccountable budgets, lots of political cronyism.

LANGFITT: And, Ted, do you like the EU?

MALLOCH: Do I like the EU in its present state? I would say, from an American point of view, it is actually quite an anti-American institution.

LANGFITT: Malloch says the EU is too protectionist. And the White House doesn't want a trans-Atlantic trade deal like the one former President Obama was pursuing.

MALLOCH: That kind of multilateral U.S.-EU agreement is more or less dead, which means the U.S. would like to deal with these countries bilaterally.

LANGFITT: Which threatens the cohesion of the trading bloc, which already has one member, United Kingdom, headed for the exits. EU leaders meet in Malta today. With such distrust of Trump, they're already deeply suspicious of an ambassador he hasn't even named. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.