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10/12/2016

From shock to delight: Member state reactions to Trump’s victory

Global Europe

From shock to delight: Member state reactions to Trump’s victory

Donald Trump’s victory in the US elections took most of the EU countries by surprise. 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”. This article will be updated as reactions keep arriving.

Germany

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, described the result as a “huge shock” and questioned whether it meant the end of ‘Pax Americana’, the state of relative peace overseen by Washington that has governed international relations since World War Two.

The foreign policy spokesman of the SPD’s Bundestag faction, Niels Annen, called on the federal government to take a self-conscious stand against  the new US president. “Mr. Trump should not imagine that he can treat us as he treated his opponents in the election campaign,” he said.

In contrast, Beatrix von Storch, deputy leader of the anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, which capitalises on anxiety about refugees, said: “Donald Trump’s victory is a sign that citizens of the western world want a clear change in policy.”

Austria

Austrian far-right leader Heinz-Christian Strache congratulated Donald Trump on his victory. “The political left as well as the aloof and sleazy establishment are being punished by voters and voted out of various decision-making positions,” the head of the populist Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (FPÖ) said on Facebook.

The FPÖ hopes its own candidate Norbert Hofer will become the European Union’s first far-right head of state on 4 December.

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France

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault pledged to work with Trump but said his personality “raised questions” and he admitted to being unsure what a Trump presidency would mean for key foreign policy challenges, from climate change and the West’s nuclear deal with Iran, to the war in Syria.

Laurent Wauquiez, the president of the centre-right party Les Républicains in France, made a call for the “American people’s choice” to be respected. As the French presidential election is approaching, Wauquiez asserted that Trump will be a discussion partner after the French elections. Polls are calling the centre-right candidate the winner of the next French presidential elections, although the primaries haven’t yet been conducted.

“We must draw the necessary conclusions from this result, a few months after Brexit. In a democracy, when people are feeling ignored and disregarded, they find a way to be heard. This vote is the consequence of a middle class rebellion against a ruling elite who tries to impose it’s way of thinking,” added Wauquiez.

On the other side of the political spectrum, the Socialist Party regretted in a press release that the campaign led by Clinton’s progressives wasn’t enough to oppose Trump’s populist rhetoric, and that he managed to self-appoint himself as a spokesperson for the poorest.

“The Socialists are very worried about the consequences of the election which will certainly reshuffle the political balance in the world,” the centre-left party stated. The ruling party of François Hollande also views the US election result as a confidence crisis between people and institutions, providing ammunition to the populist movement all over Europe.

“The American people have made their choice and elected Donald Trump president of the United States. I offer him my congratulations, as is usual between two democratically elected heads of state,” François Hollande said in a statement at the French presidential palace. “But this American election opens a period of uncertainty that should be tackled with lucidity and clarity,” he added.

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Spain

Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy,  congratulated Donald Trump. “Congratulations to Donald Trump for his victory. We’ll continue working to strengthen the relation that binds us with the US, an essential ally,” he said on his Twitter account.

Newly appointed Spanish Foreign Minister, Alfonso Dastis, today said on Spanish TV channel La Sexta that Spaniards do not need to be worried following Trump’s election and that the two countries will remain close partners and allies.

He also said: “In the campaign, Trump said many things which he probably won’t do once in power”. In his view, a key element of Trump’s victory is directly related to his strong personality “a new and important element” of Trump’s victory.

Hungary

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán congratulated the Republican presidential candidate on his election victory, with the words “What a great news. Democracy is still alive” posted on his Facebook page today (9 November).

Orbán said in July that Trump’s plans on migration and foreign policy were “vital” for Hungary, whereas those of rival Democrat Hillary Clinton were “deadly”.

Orbán was then the first European head of state to express a clear preference for either of the two candidates.

Orbán has in the past upset fellow members of the European Union over policy, most recently with his tough stance on Europe’s migrant crisis, objecting to EU resettlement plans and having a fence built along Hungary’s southern border.

“The migration and foreign policy advocated by the Republican candidate, Mr Trump, is good for Europe and vital for Hungary,” Orbán said in July.

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Slovakia

Slovak president Andrej Kiska congratulated Donald Trump almost immediately after the results became clear. He reiterated the importance of the partnership between US and EU and wished for maintaining the relationship.

“Both the world and Slovakia are different from the way they are portrayed in the media,” said Premier Robert Fico.

“We have to listen to the people and this truth was once again confirmed by the election,” Fico stated, congratulating the new American president and stressing that he respected the vote.

Romania

The President of Romania Klaus Johannis addressed a congratulatory letter to Trump. “I congratulated this morning the President-elect of the United States, Donald Trump, for his victory. Romania will continue to be an ally and a strategic partner reliable and predictable for the United States of America”, Iohannis said. The head of state expressed full readiness to cooperate with the new US president in promoting common objectives and a strong and dynamic transatlantic relationship, showing that the US can count on Romania’s firm support in promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

In his letter Iohannis said that he “fully understands” the need for member countries to contribute more to common efforts to strengthen stability in the region.

Trump has repeatedly said in his campaign that if he is elected, the US will support only those NATO allies who spend 2% of their PIB for defence.  Romania is one of the countries in Eastern Europe who spends most for defence.

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Romanian Prime Minister Dacian Cioloş sent a congratulatory letter to Vice President-elect of the United States, Michael Richard Pence, in which he reminded the importance of the Strategic Partnership between Romania and the US.

Former President Traian Băsescu said the victory of the billionaire Donald Trump is a surprise, but Romania should not panic. He added that “the European Union must understand a fundamental thing: it either should change rapidly through immediate action of the politicians, or the people would take charge, as did the British and Americans”.

Former prime minister Victor Ponta said that the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States was not “a danger for Romania”, but an opportunity that the country can use. Ponta argues that those who did not understand Brexit will not understand either the vote for Donald Trump.

Greece

A Greek government official told EurActiv.com that Athens had been prepared for both scenarios.

Referring to the upcoming visit of Barack Obama to Athens on 15 November, the official stressed that after this poll result, the visit had “a great significance” given that there is already a timetable for debt relief measures.

During this visit, the American president is expected to urge EU partners to take action for  Greek debt relief, which was recently confirmed by US Vice-President Joe Biden.

Obama’s visit is also important, according to the official, taking into account the “geopolitical significance the US is giving to Greece”, the source noted, adding that at least for this field, it seems that there has been no change.

The Syriza-led government expects “changes” on a US and global level, and admitted that “there are of course concerns” about the protection of human rights and the rights of minorities in the US.

Poland

Polish president Andrzej Duda congratulated Donald Trump via Twitter soon after the GOP’s candidate’s victory was confirmed. He expressed hope that Polish-American relations will be as strong as ever.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said that the election results could be explained by the fact that “many people were looking for simple answers in the world of multiple choices”. Waszczykowski believes that many of the sentiments expressed by Trump during the campaign is just “rhetoric used against the Washington political establishment” and expects that his actual policies will be more closely aligned to “the US interest” and will be shaped by experts.

Waszczykowski acknowledged that Trump expressed his concerns about US spending on NATO and its goals. Nevertheless, the Polish minister hopes that Trump will continue to protect American interests which are aligned with “NATO’s and Polish interests.” He also promised that Polish diplomacy will work to establish closer economic ties with Washington and convince Americans about threats posed by Russia.

Meanwhile, Ryszard Petru, leader of Nowoczesna (the third-largest party in the parliament, currently polling second, behind ruling Prawo I Sprawiedliwość) has also congratulated Trump. Petru hopes that the “foreign policy goals expressed [by Trump] during the campaign will be corrected” during his time in office, especially with regard to the policy towards Russia.

-Krzysztof Kokoszczynski

Czech Republic:

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD) tweeted: “The most difficult task will be bringing together the divided society.” Trump´s rhetoric was aggressive and populistic. That brought him protest votes from the left and also from the right of the political spectrum, he added. He also believes that US remains a reliable partner and ally.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the following statement: “We share common values with the USA as freedom, democracy and the respect for human rights. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic is ready for ongoing close cooperation with the new administration. Czech Republic and the USA have been united by long-term partnership and friendship.”

The Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Andrej Babiš, (ANO), said: “Trump´s rhetoric was aggressive and insane. But he changed it when it seemed that he could win. There can be a big difference between what he was talking about during his campaign and what he will be saying as the president.” Babiš also thinks that dealing with Trump will be easy, because he is a businessman and pragmatist. It is important is to help Europe with the migration crisis and to help to achieve peace in Syria, Babiš added.

Czech Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Science and Research Pavel Bělobrádek (KDU-ČSL) said: “It is a new phenomena in Europe and also in the USA, people just want some change. They don´t like any experiments any more, the want solutions of their problems. It could be a warning and also an inspiration for us, too,” he said.

 

Positions

François Hollande, the President of France, said, “What is at stake today is peace, the fight against terrorism, the situation in the Middle East, the preservation of the planet. I will engage in a dialogue with the new American Administration on all these subjects,” the French president said. “But I will do so with vigilance and honesty because some of the positions taken by Donald Trump during the election campaign should be challenged against the values and interests that we share with the United States.”

“This new context more than ever requires France to assume its responsibilities around the world. This context also calls on Europe to be united and capable of expressing itself and promoting policies wherever its values are under threat: freedom, dignity, social cohesion, the fight against poverty.”

“Lessons can be learned from every vote. This election follows other votes and we should face up to the situation. We have to find the answers. They are inside all of us, and they must be stronger than our fears.”