EU Commissioner Says Joe Biden's Actions Have 'Eroded' Trust of U.S.

European Union Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton has said that recent actions by President Joe Biden's administration have "eroded" trust in the U.S.

Breton spoke to the Atlantic Council on Tuesday as he visits the U.S. amid tensions over a recent defense agreement between the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, known as AUKUS. Australia canceled a $65 billion contract for French-made submarines last week in favor of the new agreement.

The commissioner, who served as France's minister for the economy, finance and industry from 2005 to 2007, said some EU member states were saying "maybe we need to pause" following recent events including the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Breton said that he had planned his trip to the U.S. weeks in advance but acknowledged it was "timely."

Though he did not criticize Biden directly, Breton made reference to some of the administration's recent actions

"I did not anticipate this, but it's after the withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Afghanistan and the AUKUS deal between the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom—which, by the way, happened on the very same day that Europe announced its own Indo-Pacific strategy," Breton said.

"I think nothing happens by [accident] in our world. It is true that some see this in Europe as a wake-up call."

Breton said that trust between the U.S. and the EU had been damaged.

"There is, indeed, a growing feeling in Europe—and I say this with regret—that something is broken in our transatlantic relations," he said.

"A partnership works when both parties are honest and truthful with each other, when both parties treat each other with respect, and when both partners are strong—and, of course, when there is trust," Breton said.

"But, of course, we are not naïve. Trust is not a given. And after the latest events, there is, I should say, a strong perception that trust between the EU and United States has been eroded. So it is probably time to pause and reset our EU-U.S. relationship."

Breton welcomed the decision to lift a U.S. travel ban on fully vaccinated Europeans but suggested it should have come earlier because "Europe is the first continent in terms of people being vaccinated, so it's true that we did not understand very well why we were in the same list as Iran, Brazil, China, and so on."

Later in the interview, Breton was asked to elaborate on the question of a "pause" in the transatlantic relationship.

"Well, there is a growing feeling in Europe that something is wrong. It's a feeling. It's a feeling within our citizens. It's a feeling within some member states. And the strength of our partnership is extremely important and paramount," he said.

Breton pointed to the U.S.-EU partnership on vaccines and efforts to tackle climate change as key areas of cooperation.

"I hear that some of our member states in Europe say that maybe we need to pause after Afghanistan, after the ban that nobody understood, after what happened last week, or this new AUKUS," Breton went on.

"I mean, there are these voices, and that's a political reality. Of course, personally, I regret it. I hope that we'll be able to work again in good spirit and in trust. Because at the end of the day, we are allies. We have been allies for decades. We will be allies for decades. But we want everybody to be reminded of this on both sides of the Atlantic. And by the way, regarding China, we know that China is our systemic rival," he said.

Despite this apparent criticism, Breton also emphasized the importance of the U.S.-EU relationship throughout the interview and stressed the need to deepen cooperation.

France recalled its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia for consultation in response to the AUKUS deal, in a very rare move between allies in modern times.

EU officials have demanded that Australia apologize to France over the matter. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told CNN: "One of our member states has been treated in a way that is not acceptable, so we want to know what happened and why."

Newsweek has asked the White House for comment.

Commissioner Thierry Breton Speaks to the Media
EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton talks to the media in the Berlaymont, the EU Commission headquarters on September 16, 2021 in Brussels, Belgium. Breton has said trust in the U.S. has been "eroded." Thierry Monasse/Getty Images