EU leaders congratulate Donald Trump but his victory is met by mixed reactions in member states

As soon as Donald Trump had been announced the next president of the US, EU leaders hurried to congratulate him to his victory.

In a letter to Trump at 10.30 am (9 November), European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker extended their “sincere congratulations to (his) election as the 45th President of the United States of America”.

The diplomatic letter underlines the strategic partnership between the EU and the US, the need to strengthen transatlantic relations and to face common challenges “such as Da'esh, the threats to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, climate change and migration”.

In all these issues, however, Donald Trump expressed controversial views during the election campaign that are contrary to EU’s position. It requires a lot of optimism to hope that EU and the US with Donald Trump as next president will find common ground.

“We should consolidate the bridges we have been building across the Atlantic,” the letter continues. “Europeans trust that America, whose democratic ideals have always been a beacon of hope around the globe, will continue to invest in its partnerships with friends and allies, to help make our citizens and the people of the world more secure and more prosperous.”

The letter ends with an invitation to Trump to visit Europe for an EU – US Summit at his earliest convenience. “This conversation would allow for us to chart the course of our relations for the next four years.”

EurActiv reported today that Trump’s surprising victory was met with mixed reactions in the EU member states, from “shock to delight”. Overall, Eurosceptic, far-right and anti-immigration parties were happy about his victory.  

According to EurActiv, a majority of leaders appeared apprehensive of the consequences, with the exception of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, for whom Trump’s election is “great news” and a proof that “democracy is still alive”.

True, the US is a democracy but far from a perfect one. Voter turnout is much lower than in Europe and many citizens are disenfranchised or have difficulties to register as voters. In his article in The New York Times the day after ("We´re close to a political tipping point", 10 November), Thomas L. Friedman quotes political blogger Ezra Klein:

"The lesson of this unneverning year is that less can be granted than we thought - the American people are not immune to demagogues, and the American political system is too weakened to reliably stop them."

In a column for Project Syndicale (9 November), political economist Philippe Legrain warns EU of the likely consequences of Donald Trump’s victory. “His election as US president endangers the liberal international order. Trump’s victory is a disaster – and it can get much worse than this.”

Legrain, who is a contributing editor in The Brussels Times Magazine, writes that Trump’s “America First,” anti-“globalist” agenda threatens protectionist trade wars, a worldwide “clash of civilizations,” the peace in Europe and East Asia, and further violence in the Middle East.

His victory also threatens social peace and justice in the US if he as president will continue to incite against minorities and cancel reforms such as Obamacare which put into place a European-like general health insurance to millions of Americans who had lacked basic coverage.

Donald Trump will have to make good on his promises today to become the president of all Americans and work for an inclusive society.

Thomas L. Friedman writes that for this to happen, Trump will have to "become, in so many ways, everything he has not been: a healer; a truth teller; someone who studies the issues; and a leader who tells people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear."

The Brussels Times

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