Donald Trump and Europe: A salutary wake-up call

20 January 2017
France Inter Paris

With his clear-cut positions and confrontational attitude towards other powers, the thundering businessman who takes up office on January 20th has the merit of centering the attention of the majority of European countries. It's now time to transform this shared attitude into real politics, judges Bernard Guetta.

For the European Union, Donald Trump is nothing less than a boon, since, in just a few sentences, and with remarkable efficacy, he has made it close ranks more than ever in its recent past.

Donald Trump belongs to that category of Americans who have no great love for the idea of a united Europe, because they see it as a threat to the economic preeminence of their own country. “The Union was partly founded to compete with the United States comercially, ok?”, he declared in an interview in the Times and Bild. OK: in creating the common market, Europeans did indeed want to assert themselves on the international economic stage, and even got so far as to make the Union the second most powerful economic power in the world.

Trump is so unenthused by this that he adds: “I don't really care if it's separate or together”. But, in daring to predict the success of Brexit and the dislocation of the Union, and, above all, judging NATO “obsolete”, he has in fact shot himself in the foot.

Never since the enlargement of the Union, the establishment of shared budgetary restrictions, and the subsequent divorce between Europe and its citizens, have Europeans shared the same irritation and the same desire to raise the gauntlet.

There's a form of unanimity against Trump: Angela Merkel: “I'm going to continue to act so that the 27 member states work together in facing the challenges of the 21st century”. François Hollande: “Europe has no need for advice from outside for what it should do”. Spain, via the foreign minister: “Donald Trump needs to get to know the Union and NATO from the inside”. To these public declarations must be added the exasperation which resounds in the corridors of Europe's diplomatic leaders.

A whole section of the old partisans who voted “No” to the European Constitution in 2005 become now European, and it's all of Europe — besides the far-right — that understands that from now on the nuclear umbrella is no longer assured, and that Donald Trump has not only declared commercial war on Mexico and China, but also on Europe, which must learn to defend itself, by itself, militarily and commercially.

All the better. Thank you Mr. Trump for waking us from a deep sleep. But the annoying thing, with this Twitter fanatic, is that he has also raised his voice against Beijing, where they're now talking about “strong counter-measures”, which is to say military action, if he keeps toying with the question of Taiwan.

Europe closes its ranks but the world becomes more uncertain than ever before.

Listen to Bernard Guetta's article:

Translated from the French by Ciaran Lawless

Factual or translation error? Tell us.