07/11/2020 19:14 – Updated: 11/07/2020 20:02
The European Union has followed in silence and with some amazement the last days of the electoral recount in the United States. The final victory of Democrat Joe Biden has been a relief to a community bloc that feared the consequences of another four years of the Trump administration. And yet leaves a bittersweet taste: the days of electoral chaos, the declarations of the still president, and the sensation of lack of leadership, have left in the European Union the sensation that the United States is somewhat adrift, that the idea that “America is back” may be wrong, and there are turbulent years ahead on American soil.
Yes, Biden’s win lets you breathe on some key issues. The new president-elect has shown his commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement, key to the EU and its climate ambitions, and in major European capitals they hope to heal the wounds of recent years. It will not change the general trajectory of the United States, which is increasingly pivoting towards the Pacific in its rivalry with China, and it will not change its demand for greater involvement of its partners in NATO, but at least it will change the tone and forms, and that, after what has happened in the last four years, is seen as a great advance.
These have been very tense days in the EUROPEAN Union. On Wednesday, hours after the polls closed, the only message sent by someone from the institutional leadership of the EU arrived during the most tense days of the count. Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy, pointed out the need to count every vote. In the rest of the capitals, in general, silence. After knowing this Saturday the results in Pennsylvania and therefore the victory of Joe Biden, the first European leader to speak has been Michaél Martin, Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, a country especially interested in a Democratic presidency, since Biden has repeated on several occasions his full commitment to the peace process on the island and his opposition to Brexit. “I want to congratulate the newly elected president of the United States, Joe Biden has been a true friend of this nation his entire life and I look forward to working with him for years to come. I also look forward to welcoming you home when circumstances allow! “Martin wrote on social media.
After the Irish leader came the congratulations of the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and also the Maltese Prime Minister, Robert Abela. Alexander de Croo, Prime Minister of Belgium, was also one of the first European leaders to react and to send a message especially addressed to future Vice President Kamala Harris: “She will be an incredible example and an important role model for girls around the world.”
The President of Lithuania, Gitanas Nausedas, was the first Baltic leader to congratulate Biden, recalling that the United States is the “guarantor of the security of the Baltic countries.” The relations of all these countries, as well as those of the eastern bloc, with the United States is special: they consider Washington their main defender in the face of the Russian threat, and in fact that is what caused some member states to speak in favor of the re-election of Donald Trump, who in some capitals was considered a greater guarantee. In fact, Janez Jansa, Slovak Prime Minister, who was the most vocal in his support for the Republican candidate, has stayed true to the president’s version of electoral fraud, and you haven’t complimented Biden.
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Congratulations from the main European leaders have arrived at seven in the afternoon. According to a European source, the President of the European Council, the Belgian Charles Michel, had been in contact with the main European leaders throughout the day, and They agreed that it would be from seven in the afternoon when they would send their congratulations to Biden after the Pennsylvania results, while showing respect “for the electoral process.”
Emmanuel Macron, French president, has assured that there is “much to do to overcome current challenges”. “Let’s work together!” Asks the French leader. Pedro Sánchez, President of the Spanish Government, wished Biden and Harris luck and has assured that Spain is prepared “to cooperate with the United States and face together the great global challenges”. Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, has sent a message through her spokesperson, also congratulating the newly elected US president. They have also been joined by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
Also about that time the three “institutional” congratulations of the Union have arrived: Michel’s; Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission; and David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament. “Covid-19, multilateralism, climate change and international trade are some of the challenges that Europe wants to tackle together,” the President of the European Council wrote. Von der Leyen recalled that the European Union and the United States are “allies and friends” and notes the “particular importance” of transatlantic relations in a changing world.
European sources have confirmed that during the last weeks Michel’s team had been preparing all possible scenarios after the American elections. This has also happened in the European Commission and in the offices of the presidents and prime ministers of the entire European Union.
After seven in the afternoon, messages of congratulations continued to arrive. Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, a member state that has special relations with the United States, has indicated his desire to speak soon with the newly elected president, while Andrej Babis, Czech Prime Minister, has reminded Biden of the importance that has for Prague and close partners the American commitment to NATO. Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister of Sweden, made special reference in his message to transatlantic environmental cooperation: “Together, we can lead a green transition by creating jobs for the future.”
Beyond European leaders
The reactions have not been limited to European leaders. Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for the Economy, assured that he was embracing himself, assuring that it is “an unforgettable day for Europe and democracy”. Some ministers have also joined in the congratulations, such as the Spanish Arancha González Laya or her Irish counterpart, Simon Coveney. Frenchman Michel Barnier, chief negotiator of the European Commission for future relations with the United Kingdom, has also sent him a message.
In the European capitals, a result in the American elections has been expected with great nervousness. The general rule was total caution. Germany was the only one to break ranks on Friday morning. In an interview, Heiko Maas, the German Foreign Minister, pointed out that “voters always have the last word” and showed his “faith” in the “American legal system”. All hours after a statement by Trump in which he once again questioned the electoral system and claimed victory in the elections. In a clear message to the American president, Maas pointed out that “democracy is based on trust in free and fair elections. Democrats must never undermine this confidence. “
In another dart aimed at the still tenant of the White House, Maas pointed out that “Honorable losers are more important to the functioning of a democracy than successful winners”. “America is more than a one-man show. Anyone who adds fuel to the fire in such a situation is acting irresponsibly, “he said. Until then, no one in the European Union had spoken so directly about President Trump.
Beyond the EU, Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister, although he no longer sits in the European Council room, he was probably the international leader who received the most attention, since the conservative leader always maintained a direct link with Trump and they were considered natural allies. But the premier ‘Tory’ has in fact been the first international leader of weight to offer his congratulations to Biden, who has always been against Brexit and who criticized the Internal Market Act with which the British Government has proposed to blow up parts of the Withdrawal Agreement that would put at risk the Good Friday Agreements that guarantee peace in Northern Ireland.
The European Union thus leaves behind a series of tense days that have made it clear in Brussels that the Old Continent must remain firm in the agenda of strategic autonomy that it has been defending in recent years, especially encouraged by the lack of cooperation with the administration Trump on a number of key issues. Days of chaos, with a president claiming that there is electoral fraud and a divided society, have left Europe deeply concerned about the situation in the United States, and for some Member States it has been the final sign that the EU must take care of herself in the face of an increasingly unstable world from which, as has been demonstrated since 2016 and also in these elections, Washington cannot escape.