President Donald Trump arrived Wednesday in the political heart of Europe, Brussels, which he once referred to as a “hellhole” because of issues stemming from Muslim immigration.
European officials, however, seem confident they will be dealing with a scripted leader who will be “presidential” during the visit.
“I don’t expect any major statement. I don’t think the skies will break and thunders will hit us,” a senior European official, who didn’t want to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, told CNBC on Wednesday.
“There’s a difference between candidate Trump and President Trump,” the official added.
After arriving in Brussels, Trump met with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, vowing to work together on “various problems.” “Number one is terrorism,” Trump said two days after the deadly bombing at a concert in Manchester, England. “We will win, 100 percent,” Trump said of the fight against terrorism.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump had harsh words for Brussels. “You go to Brussels- I was in Brussels a long time ago, 20 years ago, so beautiful, everything is so beautiful- it’s like living in a hellhole right now,” Trump told Fox Business Network at the time.
Trump is to meet EU representatives Thursday morning. The stop is part of the president’s first big trip abroad, which has taken him to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican.
So far, Trump has avoided disruptive comments, both when addressing the press and online.
“The most likely scenario is that he will do the same in Brussels,” a second European official, who also did not want to be named, told CNBC.
However, the official warned, “You can’t predict that guy.”
The relationship between the European Union and the United States has definitely taken a less predictable path since the November U.S. election. Apart from the president’s comments supporting Brexit and asking other EU countries to leave the political union, Trump has also confused key European figures, including European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk.
Those leaders will meet Trump on Thursday morning.
“The news tomorrow is that they are meeting. We weren’t sure that Trump would come,” the first official told CNBC about such an encounter.
On the agenda, expect issues such as the fight against terrorism, security and the Paris climate agreement, but not detailed conclusions, including on a trade deal that had been in the making with Obama’s administration.