power to europe

Let's stop fighting and use Trump's hating to help us unite

europe
Let's pull together against the haters. Source: Imago / IPON

At the disastrous G7 summit in Quebec, Donald Trump threw down the gauntlet to America’s loyal, long-standing trading partners. He’s intent on unravelling a Western alliance of friendship and cooperation built on the rubble of World War Two — an alliance that has ensured peace, freedom and prosperity in large parts of the world.

The G7 format seems doomed. The survival of the World Trade Organisation is in doubt. The Basel IV changes to international banking standards enshrined in the Basel Accords have been abandoned. It seems only a matter of time before the US president turns his destructive attention to the UN.

Donald Trump is on a furious crusade and won’t let reasoned arguments stop him. That’s become clear in recent months. The US administration refuses to acknowledge that the US economy benefits from fair competition. The sight of all those Made in Germany cars on US streets that offends the president so much predominantly reflects the lack of quality of American-made cars. He’ll happily apply the competition argument when it comes to Google, Apple and Co. But when it comes to Ford and GM, he ignores it.

Let’s be honest: Up to now, Europe has been a marriage of convenience.

It’s high time for Europe to respond by showing a united front, politically, economically and militarily. The timing isn’t ideal, to be sure. Europe has spent decades wrangling over things like the harmonization of corporate taxation, a common policy on migration, a pan-European defense budget and whether the Brussels bureaucracy is too strong or too weak. That’s got to stop. The time has come for results. Let’s be honest: up to now, Europe has been a marriage of convenience in which national and regional interests have prevented true integration. The European project has always had its doubters, and there are more than ever now. The new government in Rome came to power railing against Europe. France and the Netherlands narrowly avoided election victories by euroskeptic nationalists in the form of Marine Le Pen and Gerrit Wilders. And there’s a shortage of EU fans in the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia, to say the least.

But now a long-standing friend is mutating into an opponent and has begun hurling a wrecking ball against the existing trade system and, thereby, against the existing world order. That requires a Europe with global clout, determined and united. The fragile Europe of today must become the United Europe of tomorrow. The Europe of small steps must become a world power of strategic importance.

The EU of 28 countries is a single market with well over 500 million people. It’s a prosperous, peaceful free trade area with high education standards, strong growth and widespread, deeply rooted democratic traditions.

Europe must evolve into a political manifesto capable of protecting its external borders. A common military strategy must no longer be an illusion. The German government’s latest proposals for a common asylum policy and corporate taxation, for completing the single market and forging a more stable financial system are a step in the right direction. But they key now is close cooperation with French President Emmanuel Macron. France and Germany must take the lead.

Disruption has become a common term to describe deep change affecting companies and societies. The unpredictable US president is a disruptor bent on scrapping the current world order. But Europe must seize this destructive force as an opportunity. The answer must be to build a Europe of strength and determination committed to defending the values of the old continent with passion. A Europe that can face down anyone — even a US president.

To contact the author: columnist@handelsblatt.com

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