The Brief – Reuniting America

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]

The electoral victory of Joe Biden is the best possible news for the EU, although some member countries or their leadership may have diverging feelings.

The abnormal state of transatlantic relations under Donald Trump is coming to an end. It is therefore possible to imagine an ambitious agenda, in the interest of the nations and the people on both sides of the Atlantic.

However, EU leaders should also be patient.

They should put themselves in the shoes of Biden, who faces at least two daunting and urgent priorities: bridging the deep divisions amid his fellow Americans, and trying to save as many lives as possible following the disastrous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic by the outgoing president.

There is nothing worse than a divided nation. Brits have seen it with Brexit, since 2016, and they are not out of the woods yet. Several EU countries are divided in their own way – Belgium is an obvious example. In some countries, the mafia makes sure society is divided, so that they can easily continue pulling the strings.

Europeans should keep in mind that Donald Trump may have lost the election, but he is in a very good shape, and we shall most probably hear about him again. As far as Trump and his withdrawal from politics is concerned, Biden should hope for the best, but be ready for the worst.

Some consider Biden a “transitional” president, also because of his old age, which does not allow imagining a second term. But senior status is an asset in terms of guarantees that he will behave as a statesman rather than as a politician. One of his assets is the ability to maintain dialogue with the Republicans, which other democratic candidates for the presidency didn’t possess.

Biden’s mission is therefore mostly domestic and not so much international, no matter how effective his State Secretary could be.

Biden has to fight two viruses. Coronavirus, of course, but also the populist virus that has contaminated the Grand Old Party. Every Republican politician who disassociates himself from Trump’s claims of rigged elections is proof that the party stands a chance to recover. Many Republicans have voted for Biden. And that’s excellent news.

Because Trump is not exactly a Republican, just as his admirer Viktor Orbán is not exactly a Christian Democrat.

Both are populists who have infiltrated powerful and well-respected political forces, to the extent that the entire democratic fabric becomes at risk. It’s incredible how easily people fall for ‘alternative facts’ and false ‘reality’ these days. The education system should be reformed in a way to start enabling the future citizens early in school for sound reality checks.

So, dear EU leaders, don’t write a long wish-list for Biden. Instead, please give him time to address the serious issues his great country is facing.

And keep thinking about how Europe could better solve its problems without the help of Uncle Sam. This message is even more valid for the leaders from Eastern Europe, some of whom still believe they are vassals to the US.

The Roundup

The Norwegian government has announced plans to ban heavy fuel oil (HFO), a dirty marine fuel that propels most vessels, around its Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. The effort comes as UN efforts have been deemed too slow.

As Europe’s economy is shrinking due to the COVID-19 pandemic, youth unemployment has been on the rise. If policymakers do not use the current crisis to invest in young people and create a more just and sustainable society, Europe’s youth will become a new lost generation, Carina Autengruber told EURACTIV.

In an unprecedented move, French MEP and general rapporteur for the 2021 budget, Pierre Larrouturou, began his 13th day of hunger strike. His objective: to ensure that the next EU budget has more resources for health, climate and employment by taxing financial transactions.

The environmental impact of flying may have decreased in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic but sustainability is still on the radar of the industry, which is increasingly eyeing greener fuels as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Although certain aspects of both the European Parliament and the Council’s positions on the EU’s farming subsidies programme may raise eyebrows, upcoming negotiations can still result in a reform that makes the programme fit for purpose, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said in reply to a letter from the Greens.

As a means to tackle the negative side effects of the online short term rentals market, governments should be allowed better access to data from platforms such as Airbnb as part of the EU’s Digital Services Act, the Netherland’s Deputy Prime Minister Kajsa Ollongren has said.

The EU should focus on regulating illegal content as part of its upcoming Digital Services Act, which aims to present an ambitious new regulatory framework for online services, but platforms should also be allowed to take ‘voluntary measures’ to remove harmful content, MEP Dita Charanzová says.

Look out for…

  • European affairs ministers meet to discuss annual rule of law dialogue and enlargement
  • European Parliament’s LIBE, CONT, TRAN, PETI, EMPL Committees
  • Commission President Ursula von der Leyen meets Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway

Views are the author’s

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