All together now: in a fairly rare show of unity, European Union leaders gave a simultaneous welcome to US president-elect Joe Biden, perhaps belying an eagerness to turn the page on the Donald Trump era.
The outgoing US president made few friends across the pond as he labelled the European Union a “foe,” cheered for Brexit and said he had a “big problem with Germany’’, the continent’s largest economy.
On Saturday, EU Council President Charles Michel got in touch with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders “to communicate simultaneously” on Biden’s victory, and agreed to react at “7 pm,” a European Union official said.
In her message, Merkel said the “transatlantic friendship is irreplaceable if we are to meet the great challenges of this time’’, while Macron said Europe and the US “have a lot to do to overcome today’s challenges. Let’s work together!” Michel listed “COVID-19, multilateralism, climate change and international trade” as areas of future cooperation, while EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, spoke of a “great day for US and Europe,” and of the need to “rebuild our partnership.”
The wide consensus is that things can only get better. “The picture (of the current transatlantic relationship) is really disastrous, I don’t know what else to call it’’, Nathalie Tocci, Director of the IAI think-tank in Rome and a special adviser to Borrell, said.
Trump ripped up EU-backed international agreements like the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal, pulled out of the Geneva-based World Health Organization in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and called the Nato alliance into question. The outgoing US president also wrong-footed Europe by leaving arms control treaties with Russia and with unilateral steps in the Middle East, such as the pullout of US troops from Syria and the transfer of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Biden — a former chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and two-term vice president under the Obama administration, with decades of foreign policy experience — is expected to be far more attuned to European sensitivities.
“The Biden foreign policy agenda will place the United States back at the head of the table, in a position to work with its allies and partners to mobilise collective action on global threats’’, the Democratic president-elect wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine. — DPA