The Brief – Europe’s Trump anxiety continues

The Brief – Europe’s Trump anxiety continues

Updated: 22 days, 1 hour, 3 minutes, 30 seconds ago

Europeans have reacted with relief at the US midterm election results, which produced a weaker-than-expected ‘red wave’ for the Republicans and no major domestic clashes. However, let’s not forget this is only the prelude to what is to come in 2024.

On this side of the Atlantic, the line of thought is that the absence of a strong Republican win has made the return of former US President Donald Trump in the 2024 presidential elections a bit less likely.

Europeans can expect continued support in Washington for Ukraine and NATO and perhaps greater pressure on China, but no radical changes for now.

EU and NATO officials have avoided official statements on the election results, but there were sighs of relief behind closed doors.

Because the slightly tense transatlantic relationship has eased significantly since Joe Biden took over from Trump.

Over the past two years, Biden has reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to EU and NATO partners, which Trump had called into question, and strengthened cooperation, which has seen an even bigger jump since Russia invaded Ukraine, especially on Western sanctions against Moscow.

But cracks, of course, remain. Biden has not strayed far from Trump in terms of trade and competition. All in all, “America first” still applies.

The lavish US subsidies for companies Biden promised in an “Inflation Reduction Act” (IRA) in the summer are causing serious resentment in European capitals.

Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) accused Biden of siphoning off investments from Europe with the IRA, speaking of a looming “trade war”, while EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager accused the US of endangering Europe’s industrial base.

The EU is already threatening to file a lawsuit with the World Trade Organisation (WHO).

And yet, even those disputes, as serious as they are, are still governed by the rules of the transatlantic political game.

Those more pessimistic believe that from the very moment of Biden’s victory in November 2020, his tenure may have been a short, pleasant interregnum rather than a definitive change of course from the Trump years.

This also means that considerations have never stopped being made regarding how a united Europe can prepare for Trump’s possible return.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, the EU has seen a shift in its foreign policy, gaining a somewhat more geopolitical voice and more confidence in pursuing and defending its strategic choices. With a more disruptive force in the White House after 2024, it could cause friction either way.

But European discomfort is also fuelled by Trump’s remarks, made earlier this week, which suggested he would be announcing his candidacy for president in 2024. This unease will not go away until the will-he-won’t-he question is answered.

Because then Europe will face its own problems ahead of the 2024 European elections and a change in the EU’s top leadership positions.

Italy and Sweden, most recently, have seen right-wing parties surging to power in national elections. You could continue the list with upcoming elections – notably Finland, Estonia, Greece, and Poland – due in 2023.

In France, though centrist President Emmanuel Macron managed to secure a second term in the spring, he lost control of the National Assembly as the right-wing National Front won its largest number of seats in history.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Europe’s very own disruptive force, had visited Trump at his New Jersey estate in the summer and pledged his support.

While a lot can happen in two years and both the situation in the US and that in Europe’s capitals could go either way, this simply means prolonging the anxiety until 2024.

Today’s edition is powered by Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies

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The Roundup

A rescue ship carrying 230 migrants docked at the French port of Toulon on Friday (11 November) amid a blazing row between France and Italy over which country is responsible for them.

The candidate countries for EU membership must be fully in line with the European Media Freedom Act, which in the meantime needs improving, writes Antoaneta Nikolova.

The European Parliament and EU member states reached agreement late on Thursday (10 November) on a new law regulating the contribution of the forestry and land use sector to the EU’s 2030 climate goals.

The EU’s cyber defence policy was presented by the EU executive and diplomatic branches on Thursday (10 November) as a response to rising geopolitical tensions resulting from Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Farming initiatives at COP27 will be dominated by agri-business players and will lack farmers’ voices, sustainable campaigners and small-holders organisations have warned ahead of the global summit’s day devoted to agriculture.

Last but not least, check out the Agrifood Brief on the increased ceiling for agriculture state aid, and the Tech Brief on AI definitions, Data Act amendments and short-term rental rules.

Look out for… EU High Representative Josep Borrell takes part in Paris Peace Forum on Saturday. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen travels to Bali, Indonesia, ahead of G20 summit on 15-16 November.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Alice Taylor/Zoran Radosavljevic]

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