The Brief, powered by ECPC – Is Biden or Trump better for the EU?

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter. [EPA-EFE/OLIVIER DOULIERY]

The answer seems obvious. The election of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the US would be great news for the European Union, as it would hopefully herald a return to the “normal” in transatlantic relations, after a terrible period under Donald Trump, when the EU sometimes wasn’t sure if the US was a friend or a foe.

Until Trump was elected four years ago, many Europeans probably thought the US president would always be like a good Uncle Sam, a little stupid, someone they could influence and keep under control. Trump changed that paradigm.

And Biden offers the chance to forgive and forget four years of transatlantic deconstruction, which has also led to some unravelling of the EU’s own fabric.

Happily enough, with the exception of the UK (no longer in the EU), Trump-like politicians have not (yet) had the upper hand in the EU.

Creative disruption is probably fine in the business and artistic world, less so in such a serious matter as the transatlantic relation, which is the backbone of global security. This is why Europeans need not hesitate in choosing between predictability and the unforeseeable.

But America is split.

Biden, who has served as (lacklustre) Vice President under Barack Obama during his two mandates, represents what he calls the “moral and centred” voters of the divided United States, in opposition to Trump’s flamboyance and ruthlessness, so admired by his fans.

For those Americans who imagine their country as a company, Trump is a much better CEO than Biden.

But is the worst-case scenario for the Europeans – the re-election of Trump – such a bad thing after all?

It was “thanks” to Trump that Europe started reflecting on a more autonomous foreign policy, on the embryo of a European defence, on better preserving its economic interests vis-à-vis US-based multinationals.

A second Trump mandate would probably help achieve irreversible results in this epochal emancipation. Conversely, a Biden mandate could bring the EU back to the post-World War Two status quo.

Simply put, the EU needs to be ready to make the most of both options.

Biden as president opens an agenda of the return to multilateralism, with the US possibly re-adhering to the Paris Climate Agreement and the Iran nuclear deal, or embarking onto a meaningful reform of the World Trade Organisation.

With Trump as president re-elect, the EU may be pushed towards completing its strategic autonomy – not so much by choice, but by necessity.

And it may not be a bad thing, because multilateralism and strategic autonomy should go together.

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The Roundup

With most elements still up for grabs, this long week could be a turning point for the post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Follow our live coverage of the pitched battle for the fate of the next EU farming subsidies programme, set to play out this week.

The European Commission proposed a bill on travel-bans and asset-freezes that punishes individuals responsible for human rights violations worldwide, informally known as the ‘European Magnitsky Act’.

The US has started seeing the Three Seas Initiative as a vehicle to win the geopolitical battle for ‘hearts and minds’ in the region, in a bid to reduce Chinese and Russian influence there.

The EU’s cybersecurity resilience has been pushed to the limit of its capacities as an indirect result of the ongoing public health crisis, warned a new report from the EU’s cybersecurity agency ENISA.

Biodiversity is in critical decline across Europe and the world, experts say, raising the alarm about the devastating impact this will have on the global economy.

Europe has been trying for a long time to decarbonise its transport sector. However, official data shows that despite a number of EU legislative actions, road transport dependency on oil will remain high by 2030, raising doubts over the effectiveness of the measures taken so far.

More than three out of four Europeans think that the EU should only distribute funds to member states that implement rule of law and democratic principles, according to a new survey commissioned by the European Parliament.

The German Corona-Warn-App now also works in Italy and Ireland, and vice versa, and more countries will be added soon. However, some are being excluded from the outset because they use a central system, such as France.

The EU “cannot achieve” climate neutrality without critical raw materials like lithium and rare earths, says Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič. It now needs to be “much more strategic” in relations with supplier countries in order to ensure the bloc’s “strategic autonomy,” he argues.

The initiatives for due diligence in supply chains are seeing growing support for their potential to create a level playing field, but European worker representatives say the benefits of this legislation would not be limited to the workers at the start of the value chain.

After public pressure and national debate, a study of German police forces is on the way.

Look out for…

  • European Parliament plenary session
  • Commissioner Johansson participates virtually in the Conference on Europol

Views are the author’s

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