Our website use cookies to improve and personalize your experience and to display advertisements(if any). Our website may also include cookies from third parties like Google Adsense, Google Analytics, Youtube. By using the website, you consent to the use of cookies. We have updated our Privacy Policy. Please click on the button to check our Privacy Policy.

From Merkel to Johnson – The winners and losers in Europe after US election

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Joe Biden’s election will have an impact on the relations of Europe and European countries with the US. Trump’s presidency was marked with strains linked to trade and tirades by the American president and the closeness by populists.

European leaders expect that Mr Biden will work hard, and enthusiastically, to repair the battered relationship between America and Europe. The European leaders hope that the US will back down on the tariffs imposed by Donald Trump and to engage more with its historic allies. Europe’s leaders also expect Mr Biden to share their nervousness towards Russia – an area in which Mr Trump was seen as being unpredictable and ambiguous. The US and the EU are likely to work much closer together in framing policy towards trade with China.

POLITICO analysis who are the losers and winners with Biden.

POLITICO sees Germany’s Merkel, Denmark Frederiksen and France’s Macron as winners, while England’s Johnson, Hungary’s Orban and Slovenia’s Janša as losers.

Here’s why:

Angela Merkel

In keeping with her usual diplomatic style, the German chancellor made clear she was ready to work with any duly elected U.S. president. But there’s no question about how much Merkel dislikes Donald Trump’s erratic style and his nationalist policies. The feeling is mutual: Trump has disparaged Merkel and Germany on multiple occasions during his presidency. At last year’s D-Day commemoration, Trump and Merkel didn’t even shake hands. And last weekend, Trump said Germany — among other countries — “wants to get rid of me.”

Mette Frederiksen

The Danish prime minister has a very particular reason to be happy about Trump’s departure: Relations with the U.S. president turned sour in a spectacular way last year after Frederiksen dismissed his idea of purchasing Greenland, a semi-autonomous Arctic territory which is a constituent country of the Kingdom of Denmark. 

Frederiksen’s comments that “Greenland is not for sale” and that the debate around the idea is “absurd” angered Trump: The president accused her of disrespecting the United States with her “nasty” and “inappropriate statement,” and canceled a visit to Copenhagen that he had planned for fall last year. 

Frederiksen did manage to defuse tensions by picking up the phone to Trump, who praised her for having been “really nice” to him. But having a U.S. president who doesn’t want to buy part of your patch will surely make life simpler for the Danish PM. 

Emmanuel Macron

The French president tried his best to charm Trump, starting by inviting him to the Bastille Day military parade and to a special dinner on top of the Eiffel Tower in 2017. But that bromance soon fell apart as Trump railed against Macron over plans to tax digital giants such as Google or Facebook, or his “very insulting” suggestion to build up a European army. The French president, for his part, got frustrated as he tried in vain to convince Trump to reconsider his withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal.

A second Trump term might have served Macron’s interests in some ways. It could have forced the EU to become more “strategically autonomous,” to use the French jargon. It might also have proved Macron right when he said the NATO defense alliance was experiencing “brain death” as its members were not in sync. But ultimately a President Biden will be more important for Macron’s global ambitions: He can now hope for U.S. help to revive the Iran deal, to bolster multilateral institutions including the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization, and to play a leading role in international forums such as U.N.-led climate talks. Another four years of Trump would have made all of those things pretty much impossible.

Macron also has a lot to win from a possible trade détente under Biden: Just like German cars or Spanish olives, French cheese and wine ended up in the crosshairs of punitive Trump tariffs. With the 2022 French presidential election on the horizon, Macron has the chance to notch up wins on the domestic and international fronts.

The losers

Boris Johnson

With Brexit talks at a critical juncture, the British prime minister has arguably the most to lose from the change of leadership in the White House. While Trump has been an enthusiastic promoter of Brexit and promised Johnson a quick trade deal, Biden opposed the U.K.’s departure from the EU and his Democratic Party issued strong warnings that there will be no trade agreement if Johnson breaks his Brexit pact with the EU over the Irish border. 

The election outcome may even have an influence on Johnson’s conduct of negotiations with the EU. Some have suggested he’d be less likely to pursue a no trade deal scenario if he doesn’t have a friend in the White House. Johnson has denied those reports but what’s not in doubt is that he can no longer presume upon a special relationship with the U.S. president. Instead, he’ll have to work hard to gain the trust — and the attention — of the new officeholder. “When Biden looks towards Europe, he will see Paris and Berlin more as the center of gravity of what’s really important for America in Europe, both economically and in security terms, and Britain will be seen rather as an outlier, rather outside the mainstream of Europe,” former senior U.K. diplomat Peter Ricketts said last week.

Johnson’s domestic rivals will also be ready to seize on any rift with Washington. The Labour Party’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy told POLITICO that Johnson and his government had “needlessly and repeatedly created tension with the Democrats.”

Viktor Orbán

The Hungarian prime minister built a true bromance with Trump. When Orbán last year became the first Hungarian premier to visit the White House since 2005, Trump praised him and his controversial anti-migrant policies. Trump also had little to say about the accusations by EU institutions and many others of democratic backsliding in Hungary, 
finding Orbán just “a little bit controversial, but that’s OK.”

That all looks certain to change once Biden is inaugurated: Under Democratic administrations, the U.S. has a tradition of promoting democratic standards and independent media in foreign countries — the very issues that have put Orbán on a collision course with the EU, domestic critics and rights groups at home and abroad.

No surprise, then, that the Hungarian prime minister, who was the only EU leader to endorse Trump in 2016, has expressed wholehearted support for his re-election. He also declared that the diplomacy of Democratic U.S. governments was “built on moral imperialism.” While it’s still too soon to say how much Biden will put the screws on the Hungarian government, Orbán can certainly expect a frostier relationship with the new U.S. administration.

Janez Janša

Slovenia’s prime minister pretty much blew it with the winning candidate on Wednesday when he congratulated Trump, arguing it was “pretty clear that American people have elected” Trump even though the result was far from known. Of course, the two have a special bond since Slovenia is the birthplace of the (now departing) first lady, Melania Trump. Janša has been described by Marcel Štefančič Jr., a Slovenian essayist and film critic, as “a little bit of Trump, a little bit of Boris Johnson, a little bit of Orbán.”

Janša said he thinks Biden “would be one of the weakest presidents in history.” His government — which will hold the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of next year — now needs to switch strategy and cozy up with the new U.S. president. One thing that may help him: although he is an anti-immigration ally of Orbán, he has not faced the same level of criticism over democratic backsliding.

SKY/ POLITICO

%d bloggers like this: