Europe United Against Trump

It's 6:1 against President Trump, but who's counting. Picture source: Reuters

Source: Reuters

European officials and German business leaders have backed Chancellor Anglea Merkel’s call for Europe to become more self-reliant after a contentious weekend in which US President Donald Trump clashed with G7 and NATO leaders on climate policy, trade and security.

Ms. Merkel, known for inscrutably diplomatic language, broke character to deliver a blunt assessment of the first meetings between NATO, the G7 and Mr. Trump. During a campaign stop at beer tent in Bavaria on Sunday, Ms. Merkel said Europe increasingly could no longer rely on others and had to take its fate into its own hands.

“We have to know that we must fight for our future on our own, for our destiny as Europeans,” she said.

At a conference on sustainable development in Berlin on Monday, the chancellor, without specifically mentioning Mr. Trump,  spoke of the wish to find simple answers to complex global issues.  “But anyone who puts on national blinders and has no view of the world around him will ultimately get lost.”

The chancellor’s frankness has struck a nerve in Europe, where Mr. Trump is deeply unpopular. In Brussels, Ms. Merkel received clear backing from the European Union’s leadership. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who was present for the talks with Mr. Trump,  told Handelsblatt that “the chancellor is right.”

Elmar Brok, a renowned foreign policy expert in the European Parliament, echoed Ms. Merkel’s assessment that Europe could not rely on its partners. “With Mr. Trump, trust in the United States has been lost,” Mr. Brok told Handelsblatt. Europe needs to “hold together and show strength through its ability to reform,” he said

Prost, President Trump. Picture source: Reuters.

Source: image

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, known for tough talk, was even more blunt than Ms. Merkel. The US government’s short-sighted policy makes the Western world smaller and weaker, Mr. Gabriel said, and goes against the interests of the European Union. The foreign minister spoke about the “loss of the United States as an important nation.”

Martin Schulz, the chairman of the Social Democrats and their chancellor candidate, didn’t mince words in a guest column in Der Tagesspiegel, a sister publication.

The president’s slogan “America first,” he wrote, isn’t just an assault on the principle of free trade that the US imposed so “powerfully – and occasionally so brutally – like no other state.” His “America first,” he added, also means “saying farewell to the painstakingly negotiated Paris Climate Agreement. Dismantling the United Nations. Political blackmail instead of international diplomacy.”

Mr. Schulz urged Europe to face up to the new situation with realism and, above all, with self-confidence. “We Europeans mustn’t submit ourselves to Donald Trump’s logic of rearmament,” he wrote. “We mustn’t give up or goal to shape globalization in a fair way.”

It’s time Europe faced up to the new situation – with realism and above all with self-confidence. We Europeans mustn’t submit ourselves to Donald Trump’s logic of rearmament. We mustn’t give up or goal to shape globalization in a fair way.

During his first visit to Europe as US president, Mr. Trump slammed European nations for not spending enough on defense, did not reaffirm the US commitment to NATO’s mutual defense clause and declined to sign onto a G7 statement endorsing the Paris climate deal. He also criticized Germany for its trade surplus, reportedly saying, “The Germans are bad, very bad.” The US president reaffirmed those points in a combative tweet sent Tuesday morning.

Ms. Merkel tried to convince “Donald,” as she calls him in unofficial circles, during both G7 and bilateral talks to support free trade and the Paris climate deal, according to Handelsblatt sources close to the chancellor. Mr. Trump, however, was not interested in Ms. Merkel’s arguments that free trade cannot be reduced to a single number and that the climate deal would create jobs.

After hours of talks with the US president, Ms. Merkel’s advisers were convinced that “Trump has no consideration for the interests of partner countries,” sources told Handelsblatt. The chancellor insisted that the final G7 document include a record of how all the members endorsed the Paris climate deal except the United States, effectively calling Washington out as obstructionist.

Mr. Trump, without informing the G7 leaders beforehand, announced on Twitter after the talks that he would make his final decision on the climate deal this week. There are reports that he intends to pull the United States out of the climate agreement altogether.

Europe cannot afford to sit back and do nothing simply because our partner on the other side of the Atlantic has left us in the dark about his intentions.

Jürgen Hardt
Foreign policy expert, CDU

Jürgen Hardt, the foreign policy spokesman for Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said Europe cannot afford to sit back and do nothing “simply because our partner on the other side of the Atlantic has left us in the dark about his intentions.”

Influential voices from the German business world, who are deeply concerned about Mr. Trump’s protectionist rhetoric, also backed Ms. Merkel’s clarion call. The president of Germany’s BDI industrial lobby, Dieter Kempf, said the United States had marginalized itself. And the head of the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce, Martin Wansleben, said there’s no impetus from the US for good transatlantic relations. Peter Terium, CEO of the influential renewable energy company Innogy, called for a “united, strong Europe” that can “shape the future at eye level with our transatlantic partners.”

Ms. Merkel, after triggering a media firestorm, struck a more conciliatory note on Monday: “We are close partners and we remain convinced transatlanticists,” she said. But the chancellor did not back down from her previous statements. It was right for the G7 to make clear that it supports the Paris deal, Ms. Merkel said, and not try to paper over differences with the United States. But the events of recent days show to just how “long and rocky” the process to implement the agreement will be, she said.

Spencer Kimball is an editor with Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author: s.kimball@extern.handelsblatt.com