Where is Europe's answer to Trump?

Three weeks after Trump's inauguration Herman Van Rompuy, former president of the European Council, has warned against "ideological collaboration" with Trump. In an interview with the Belgian magazine Knack he explained that those who play down the danger Trump represents are causing harm. A look at Europe's commentary columns shows how politicians and society are struggling to find an adequate response to Trump.

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El País (ES) /

Join forces against arrogant autocrat

Europe must not give up its critical stance vis-à-vis Trump, Spanish jurist Baltasar Garzón warns in El País:

“From other countries, especially European ones, we are hearing sensible and brave reactions, at least in their discourse, but I doubt that this will be maintained if - or when - their economic interests are affected. They will probably become more muted and submit to political opportunism, as happened with Guantánamo when it was quickly forgotten that people are imprisoned illegally there and that this is a prison where torture was legal and could be made legal again. In 2003 we championed human rights against the war in Iraq. Will we do this again now against an arrogant autocrat who is guided solely by profit, who revokes freedoms randomly and promotes despicable practices that we believed had been eradicated?”

Sme (SK) /

Worrying applause from Central and Eastern Europe

Trump is clearly hoping to destroy the EU - and the Visegrád states are applauding his efforts, Sme complaints:

“Ted Malloch, who was a great help to Trump in the election campaign, wants to become the new American ambassador to the EU. He makes no secret of his reasons for this. He helped to bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union and now he wants to do the same with another union, the EU. He says openly that the euro must disappear within the next few months. The biggest groups in the EU parliament and also Donald Tusk have heard about this and have warned against these intentions. … The representatives of four member states - Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland - are facing a great temptation. They strongly support the policies of the US president. He meets their expectations in many respects. If they succumb to the temptation, their countries will pay the price.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Protests against US policies long overdue

Sociologist Tomaž Mastnak finds the protest against Trump hypocritical and explains why in Dnevnik:

“Instead of democratic politics what we are seeing here is a cultural war. And the liberalist left that is waging this war has lost its compass. … What's more, it has discovered its love for Muslims, and above all Muslim refugees. But where were all these people over the last 15 years, particularly during the times of the bloody Obama government when the US army routinely killed Muslims? Where were the protests when the US army drove people out of their homes, bombarding their countries and their settlements? Is killing a Muslim less evil than rejecting their visa? Is it better to destroy their country than to deny them entry to your own? Is war more acceptable than immigration policy? I don't support Trump but I cannot accept the left becoming supporters of neoliberalism.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Don't play down the Trump phenomenon!

Ideological collaboration starts with one's choice of words, Belgian journalist Béatrice Delvaux writes in support of Van Rompuy in a guest commentary for La Repubblica:

“He was shocked both by the Brexit and by Donald Trump's election, first and foremost because of the language used by the politicians. Because in politics a word is always also an act. In other words: doesn't playing down the impact of Trump's policies boil down to ideological collaboration? Herman Van Rompuy is forcing European politicians to take a stand. According to him, you can't agree a little with the new American president, or wait and see if the monster grows, only to realise later that it has swallowed us whole, together with our values, our democracy and our peace. ... Every leading European politician today faces a question of conscience. No one will be able to say he wasn't warned. ... In politics a word is always an act: hopefully Europe's politicians will also take that to heart.”

LSM (LV) /

A catalyst for European unity

Trump's presidency has many positive aspects, the website of the public television station LSM believes:

“The Trump factor also has positive sides. In many countries where the inhabitants don't accept his policies, support for radical and Eurosceptic forces who sympathise with Trump is on the decline. Ironically Trump, who wants to establish close ties with Russia, could revive European unity. Already there is talk of pooling resources for the defence and the fight against terrorism and of strengthening ties between neighbouring countries. The EU must now stand united - as in any crisis. And that is just what our relations with the United States are going through: a crisis.”

Duma (BG) /

EU needs to stop dithering

After Donald Trump's election the EU faces the challenge of going its own way without the help of its big brother the US, Duma observes:

“No one dares say anything about the relations between the EU and the US while we wait to see what concrete action Trump will take. But this wait-and-see stance may only exacerbate the problem. The EU needs to take decisive action now if it wants to avoid slipping into a fatal crisis. Juncker said that the EU was prepared to go its own way, even without Trump. He said it would fight for equality, solidarity, open borders and against poverty. Unfortunately the facts belie this. Inequality is growing rapidly, borders are being closed and solidarity is waning. Will the peoples of Europe believe the EU leaders' promises? Are the latter in a position to fulfil those promises at all?”

De Groene Amsterdammer (NL) /

Dreams replaced by fears

It is a damning indictment of inadequacy when EU leaders try to lure voters by fuelling fears instead of presenting ideas, economist and journalist Ewald Engelen writes in De Groene Amsterdammer:

“All Europe's dreams have turned into the opposite. The euro has accentuated the differences between north and south, created tensions and saddled member states with a fiscal policy that has done serious damage to their prosperity and is a parody of national sovereignty. … When dreams lose all their power of seduction, politicians are left with only the fear of nightmares as a means of gaining the support of disillusioned voters. And this is precisely what has happened [for example with Tusk's letter] since the start of Trump's presidency. If we don't deepen integration and breathe new vitality into the people's faith in Europe, here in the Netherlands a return to the 'fascism' that is manifesting itself in Russia, Turkey and Trump's America could be the result.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Europe has a chance with Macron and Schulz

Only a new Europe can stand up to Trump's America, writes Bill Emmott, former editor-in-chief of The Economist, in La Stampa:

“Just a few weeks ago the idea of France under a president like François Fillon and Germany under a re-elected Angela Merkel seemed like the most reassuring prospect. ... Today there is a far more appealing prospect: a victory for Emmanuel Macron - an independent, centrist candidate - in France, and a power change with Martin Schulz in the role of the new chancellor in Germany. That would be a self-confident, pro-European combination that could combine the ambitions for liberalisation and reform with a progressive centre-left policy: a blend that would certainly be more beneficial [than a purely conservative approach]. And such a fresh and perfect duo could best stand up for a Europe that is confronted with Donald Trump on the one side and Vladimir Putin on the other.”

Causeur (FR) /

Europe à la carte the only solution

The EU urgently needs reform if it wants to meet the challenges of the new geopolitical situation, Causeur warns:

“The solution is to move resolutely towards a Europe 'à la carte' (to a certain extent this already exists as not all members have joined the Eurozone). … Who is willing to believe that the current conglomeration of states (or what's left of it) can survive if it shuts out the world's two major financial centres (New York and London) as well as the Continent's most important state in the areas of energy and military capacity? If the EU doesn't start reforming its institutions soon, a process France could initiate it is to be feared that it will face a catastrophic collapse.”