EU ‘troublemakers’ back Trump over Biden in US election

Capitals Special Edition. [EPA/ROBERT GHEMENT]

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Over the past four years, US President Donald Trump’s policymaking has pushed the EU-US relationship into a precarious corner of growing distrust.

Trump and his administration have ended the tradition of “easier” EU-US relations when Republicans control Washington and conservatives prevail in Europe. In the 2016 US elections, the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) did not support Trump.

Under Trump, Washington and Europe clashed on a number of issues, ranging from foreign policy or trade to environment, digital, and agriculture. Washington and Brussels even disagreed over how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic.

When it comes to the EU member states, EU governments have mixed feelings as well as complex national interests in relation to the US.

The vast majority silently support Democrat candidate Joe Biden, while Europe’s “persistent objectors”, or “troublemakers” for some, openly hope for Trump’s re-election.

For Susi Dennison, director of the ‘European Power’ programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), a Biden victory means a partner for Europe in the White House that wants to reinstate US leadership on the international stage.

But this does not let Europe off the hook. After all, Biden’s first responsibilities will be to the domestic crisis he inherits,” she told EURACTIV.

On the other hand, “a victory for Trump would be the push that Europeans need to stop talking about sovereignty and start building it”, she added.

Kristine Berzina, transatlantic expert at the German Marshall Fund, believes that a second Trump administration will be far less predictable than the first one.

Instability and a perception of competition are likely to define the transatlantic relationship, with President Trump unlikely to change his concerns over trade deficits, car exports, Europe’s commitment to climate and security,” she emphasised.

In this Special Edition of the Capitals, EURACTIV’s Network gives you an overview of the state-of-play of EU-US relations, both in terms of policy implications and scenarios European leaders are running for the morning after the polls.


WHAT IT MEANS FOR EU POLICY

FOREIGN POLICY

Foreign policy in choppy waters. EU’s foreign policymakers have long voiced the desire for more “strategic autonomy” of the bloc, with more vocal ones arguing that no matter who wins the presidential race, they will need to realize that Europe is serious about no longer being Washington’s junior partner.

However, EU diplomats will be careful to avoid the mistake of declaring that “Europe First” is the answer to Trump’s “America First” – if he emerges victorious in Tuesday’s polls.

If Trump wins another term in office, there’s little reason to expect a new approach to foreign policy, analysts say.

Partial restoration of transatlantic unity under Biden would mean a significant change to relations with Russia and the general approach to multilateralism.

Divergences on the managing of the rise of China or Europe’s need to do more for its own security are likely to remain, whoever is the next man in the White House. What would change is the tone as Biden, a convinced transatlanticist, believes the US can only play this role in dialogue with its partners.

Trump’s approach to NATO has strained relations with many of its other members, not least with France, and NATO diplomats have floated the idea of a spring meeting as an early chance to repair transatlantic ties after a bruising four years under Trump. Besides some Eastern Europeans, there’s little question that most NATO members would dearly love to see the back of Trump.

Read more on where both candidates stand on specific foreign policy issues: “Biden or Trump? What US election could mean for Europe’s foreign policy

TRADE AND ECONOMY

Trade wars on the menu. The big question mark following the vote will be whether the two largest trade partners on the planet can improve their bilateral relations or the tariff war will worsen to new levels.

The EU is waiting for the results of the elections to impose $4 billion in compensatory tariffs on US exports, in response to Washington subsidies to Boeing. Brussels wants to try to find a negotiated solution and cancel US tariffs on $7.5 billion worth of European products, an option that could be on the cards if Biden is the winner.

Tensions, however, are expected to continue if Trump remains in the White House. The new EU Trade commissioner, Valdis Dombrovskis, expressed his willingness to find a fresh start with his administration when he took over in October. But he also warned that there is no room for more piecemeal agreements like the lobster deal to facilitate the bilateral trade.

An improvement in the bilateral relationship will help to weather the difficult economic horizon both partners will be facing in the coming months. The ongoing pandemic is having a severe impact on economic output and employment, and both sides are considering new stimulus to avoid a new recession.

ENVIRONMENT

America has lost ground on international climate relations. The Trump administration radically changed foreign policy in America. On environment, it became more isolationist and withdrew from the Paris Agreement.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who tried to persuade Trump to stay in the Agreement, said as he visited China: “We regret this and it makes the Franco-Chinese partnership on climate and biodiversity even more necessary.”

China’s unilateral announcement of a 2060 net zero carbon emissions target, which most saw as appeasing European, rather than American, pressure, is symptomatic of America’s absence.

Six years ago, in 2014, America and China jointly announced climate ambitions.

“I’m not sure we’re always right in assuming that a greener White House necessarily implies a greener world,” said Tom Tugendha, chair of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

Under Trump, America has lost its footing as a climate leader, with the Chinese announcement leading Japan and South Korea to make similar pledges.

This is the climate election in America, but whoever wins, the global shift towards green technology is already driving US markets more towards coal capacity reducing under Trump than under Obama.

The question is whether the new administration wants to repair global relationships damaged by climate disagreements and introduce a federal-level just transition.

Read more: Green recovery led by industry or government – America’s choice between two futures

AGRICULTURE

US voices concern over EU’s agricultural ambitions. US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has been vocal about his concerns that the EU Green Deal could undermine trade and affect the “viability of EU farmers”, although this is refuted by his EU counterpart.

Perdue recently warned that the EU’s flagship food policy, the Farm to Fork strategy could be “extremely prohibitive and jeopardise agricultural output”.

Criticising the strategy, Perdue said it “seems to have forgotten the ‘farm’ in ‘Farm to Fork’” and highlighted concerns that EU farmers were being left without the necessary tools.

This could make farmers uncompetitive and lead to more protectionism, something he cautioned could “do real damage to the global trade environment”.

Most recently, Perdue warned that Washington might be gearing up to complain to the World Trade Organisation if the EU goes ahead with the strategy on the grounds that it is “protectionist”, although this is as yet unconfirmed.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski does not share these concerns, maintaining that the emphasis on reinforcing shorter food supply chains does not imply any new trade barriers.

Perdue has also been critical of Europe’s approach toward biotechnology in agriculture saying Brussels needs to “listen to science”. He strongly criticised the EU Court’s decision that organisms obtained by mutagenesis plant breeding technique are GMOs and should, in principle, fall under the GMO Directive.

DIGITAL

Role of big tech silver lining in future relations. Under Trump’s administration, ties have become strained between the US and the EU in the field of digital affairs. In 2019, Trump made an outlandish accusation against the Commission Vice-President Margarethe Vestager, saying that she “hates the United States perhaps worse than any person I’ve ever met”, in the context of the Commission’s attempts over recent years to bring antitrust lawsuits against some of the US tech giants.

Big Tech’s role in transatlantic relations is only likely to become more pivotal leading up to the Commission’s unveiling of the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act on 2 December, in which the EU executive will attempt to both regulate the practices of the online ecosystem as well as rebalance competitiveness in the platform economy.

However, there are greater signs that neither Biden nor Trump would give US tech giants a get out of jail card indefinitely. With the recent antitrust lawsuit filed from the US Department of Justice against Google for anti-competitive practices, there has been more evidence that the EU’s attempts to hold Big Tech to account may be having a greater cultural influence on competition policy stateside.

In the telecom world under the Trump administration, a heavy lobbying campaign has been launched against Chinese firms. The victims have predominantly been ZTE and Huawei, who Washington have accused of conducting espionage campaigns on behalf of Beijing. The accusations have, to this day, remained unsubstantiated.

Despite this, the US campaign against Chinese technology has paid off in the EU, with the US government having signed bilateral agreements to cooperate on 5G standards with Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Slovakia. More broadly, certain EU member states have bolstered their 5G security requirements for telecoms providers, and some nations have gone even further to appease Washington’s concerns – most recently with Sweden announcing an outright ban of Huawei and ZTE in the country’s 5G infrastructure.

Biden is likely to approach the Chinese question in a similar fashion to Trump, but with a greater degree of subtlety and diplomacy when negotiating with global partners.

For this part, Trump would pursue a tech agenda that promotes US technology giants in the world, while at the same time attempting to suppress the success of Chinese companies in other market economies.

HEALTH

Vaccine race to speed up. The COVID-19 vaccine race has created a spat between the US and the EU. In its plan to buy promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates in advance, the European Commission has excluded batches produced exclusively in the United States. The decision came after Washington signaled it will not allow vaccine sales abroad before its own needs are met.

Another battle concerned the COVID-treatment and the availability of remdesivir, a drug produced by US pharma company Gilead, which showed some initial inhibitory effects on pathogenic human coronaviruses. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicine Agency (EMA) started a race for a fast-track approval, as whoever was going to win could have got a competitive edge on the other. 

(Alexandra Brzozowski, Natasha Foote, Gerardo Fortuna, Sarantis Michalopolous, Sam Stolton, Kira Taylor, Jorge Valero | EURACTIV.com)

Read more in our Special Report “US Election Special 2020: What to watch and why it matters


WHAT THE MEMBER STATES THINK

WESTERN EUROPE

BERLIN. Germany is seen by many in the White House as its main ideological antagonist on the global stage. “China wants me out. Iran wants me out. Germany wants me out,” Trump told his supporters at a recent campaign stop in Pennsylvania. Germany’s reaction was immediate: “We will approach Washington quickly after the election with proposals – and propose a transatlantic ‘new deal’,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the German newspaper Tagesspiegel.

Berlin has for some time been perceived as a champion of multilateralism and a leader in the fight against climate change, which resulted in deep divides between Berlin and Washington, especially after the Trump administration exited several international treaties.

Since 2015, the US has been the biggest market for German exports in goods, which moved Trump to repeatedly criticise the country for its export surplus. The German industry supports the efforts to defuse the trade conflict and normalise relations with the US.

At the same time, Germany sees the US as the EU’s closest foreign and security policy partner. However, the recent US troop withdrawal plans further tightened the screws on the strained relations between Berlin and Washington. Trump has pressed Germany to raise defence spending in NATO and accused Berlin of being a “captive” of Russia due to its partial reliance on Russian energy.

Political leaders and public opinion have a clear pro-Biden tendency, while Trump remains deeply unpopular in Germany, according to a recent Pew Research poll.  

However, regardless of the outcome, Germany and Europe would have to prepare themselves for “less American involvement in the world”, foreign minister Maas recently stated.

Read more on Germany’s transatlantic take here: “Germany hopes a Biden presidency could bring a wind of change”

PARIS. One month after the election of President Emmanuel Macron in May 2017, Trump announced the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, a symbol of success for the French diplomacy.

Despite Macron’s “Make Our Planet Great Again” initiative, echoing the fetish slogan of his American counterpart, the United States, one of the world’s biggest emitters, undermined the efforts of world’s economies to fight climate change. Many people hope that Trump’s defeat will allow the US to return to the agreement.

The divorce was consummated and disagreements continued to plague the relationship between the two men. A year later, following up on another campaign promise, the US administration abandoned the Iran nuclear deal and then withdrew US forces from Syria. “An ally has to be reliable”, Macron commented at the time.

However, the US remains “a major ally for France in the fight against terrorism”, providing “substantial support for Operation Barkhane in the Sahel”, said the French foreign ministry. But the Quai d’Orsay acknowledged that “divergences are multiplying” such as “multilateralism, or European defence”.

The cordial relations between the American president and his NATO partner, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, are further irritating Paris. Joe Biden thus seems a better option and this is reflected in the French press as well, as it is quite critical of Trump.

AUSTRIA. The Austrian Greens, who govern with the conservative ÖVP since January, are openly anti-Trump. Their parliamentary spokesperson for foreign policy, Ewa Ernst-Dziedzic, said in June that Donald Trump “endangers multilateral cooperation” and that his way of “brutal reaction” to the #blacklivesmatter-protests, including sending the military, was “in no way acceptable for a country which presents itself to the outside world as the torch-bearer of democracy.” When Trump proposed the conservative Amy Coney Berrett as supreme court judge in September, Ernst-Dziedzic called it an “open challenge to the rights of women, minorities and LGBTI-persons”.

Their senior partner, chancellor Kurz’ ÖVP, treads more softly. The party controls the foreign ministry – and even though minister Alexander Schallenberg is no party member, he was appointed by Kurz. After Trump had cracked down on protests in June, Schallenberg addressed the foreign committee in parliament, saying that this president is a challenge for Europe and had thrown “sand into the gears” of the Austrian-US-relation due to fundamental differences in opinion and Trump’s withdrawal from several international agreements. However, he stressed that the USA will remain a crucial partner for Austria and Europe.

According to a new study among Austrian citizens, 68% would vote for Biden if they could, and only 8% for Trump, according to a representative survey done by the Market-Institute for the newspaper Der Standard.

NORDICS

HELSINKI. For a small country like Finland, it is essential that the world order is based on treaties and that treaties are respected. Trust in that construction has eroded. That is why in the US election there is a lot at stake for Finland.

After all, Finland’s most important cooperation partner is the USA” – Ilkka Himanen, a veteran diplomat and Finnish ambassador to Moscow 2012 – 2016.

A Trump victory might distance Western Europe and the US further apart from each other. That would have a deteriorating effect on Finland’s security. Even if the country is non-aligned, cooperation and manoeuvres with NATO countries are close and routine-like. Weapons systems are to a large extent compatible with NATO.

Deep down in the Finnish psyche lies the memory of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, when the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany divided Europe and Finland was “handed out” to Stalin. What if something similar would happen 80 years later? Would Trump turn his back on small nations next to Russia and dismantle NATO? Against these nightmares, Joe Biden is seen as a far safer option.

Security-wise, the cornerstone of Finland’s policy is to retain the door open for a NATO application and possible membership if push comes to shove. A Trump victory is seen as something that could jeopardise that option. At the same time, the official policy line is that no matter who occupies the Oval Office relations between the countries must remain unproblematic. For that reason, neither the government nor any individual politician is taking a public stance one way or another.

Economists and export companies would prefer a Biden victory. He is seen as more cooperative towards the EU and the risk of new tariffs and all-out trade war would diminish.

Finland is an export-driven country and has commercial interests in the U.S. To name a few, shipping companies are ordering cruisers and German cars constructed in Finland are mainly destined to US markets.

Presumably, Finland wouldn’t mind if Biden could build a unified EU – US alliance to meet China’s growing influence.

Media coverage is huge and mostly unbiased. According to a poll by the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, Joe Biden would get 75% of the Finnish votes against Trump’s 10%.

Among the Finns, Biden’s popularity is overwhelming in all age groups, in all income brackets, in all genders, even in most of the parties. Only one political party bucks the trend: of the populist Finns Party supporters, 43% would choose Trump while 35% would support Biden.

UK & IRELAND

LONDON. The UK government would, on balance, prefer a second term of the Trump administration, simply because Trump is openly supportive of Brexit and has repeatedly promised an ambitious US-UK trade deal. Meanwhile, Joe Biden and the wider Democratic party have been critical of the UK government’s steps to breach the Northern Ireland protocol and the Withdrawal Agreement. Some former UK diplomats have suggested that Johnson will wait for the results of the 3 November polls before deciding whether or not to proceed with an agreement with the EU.

However, the  ‘Johnson backs Trump’ narrative should not be overplayed. A large proportion of Johnson’s Conservative party is repelled by Trump’s style and rhetoric and is unconvinced by his promises on trade. On environmental and foreign policy, in particular, the Tory party is much closer to Biden’s agenda.

DUBLIN. Since Trump entered the White House in 2016, Ireland has gone through three  Taoiseachs (prime ministers), each of them having failed to capitalize on historic US-Ireland ties to the extent that they would have liked.

Dublin’s incumbent, Micheál Martin, however, has said that he would like this to change, revealing recently that he would like to visit the new President – whether it be Trump or Biden – in Washington on St Patrick’s day next year.

“It’s very, very important that we maintain that link, and that tradition and obviously it’s all very dependent on COVID, and everything else at the time next March.

“But we’re very keen as a government that key economic linkages are maintained,” he said in an interview recently.

And despite not backing a particular candidate, following Biden’s recent public defence of the the Good Friday agreement, Michael has found himself warming to the Democrat candidate.

“We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit,” Biden tweeted recently. Martin welcomed the remarks, while at the same time recently disclosing that Trump had not personally been in touch with him since he became Taoiseach in July.   

EUROPE’s SOUTH

MADRID. Although they did not express their views openly in public, the political parties in Spain have different –and opposing – views on Trump and Biden.

Members of the progressive coalition – forged by socialists of the PSOE and left-wing Unidas Podemos (United We Can) – are generally pro-Biden. Right-wing Partido Popular (PP) and far-right VOX are both more or less openly pro-Trump, while centrist Ciudadanos (Citizens) usually favours a liberal economic approach in the White House.

However, one issue of major concern for all parties in Spain is trade tariffs announced by the Trump Administration. This fresh round of trade sanctions is estimated for Spain in some €1.270 billion in exports, of which the vast majority, some €970 million, are agri-food products, such as wine and olives.

This €970 million represents 47% of all Spanish food exports to the US market, which in 2018 amounted for €2 billion.

The most affected Spanish companies – according to data from the US International Trade Commission – will be those in the olive oil sector, whose sales on the US market represent some €400 million, followed by the wine sector (€300 million). They are followed by olives (€180 million) and cheese (€87 million).

The Spanish agri-food sector wants to avoid new sanctions from the US, so for them, a Biden victory would be perceived as a –temporary – relief, EFE reported.

But the Spanish aviation industry –particularly Airbus/Spain- can also be affected, with some €300 million at stake, EFE reported.

According to data from Spain’s Ministry of Industry and Tourism a total of 15% of Spanish exports to the United States (some €8,076 million last year) can be affected.

ROME.  Italian politicians have not publicly endorsed either Trump or Biden, although there are different preferences among them. PM Giuseppe Conte had said he would “send a ‘good luck’ message to Trump”, given their “friendship”.

He also said, some months ago, that “it does not matter who will win the American elections”, a statement that displeased the left-wing that supports his government but clearly prefers Joe Biden. Italian diplomats too are in favor of the Democrat candidate, while the right-wing opposition is lined with Trump.

In any case, Italian diplomats do not expect many changes in terms of US foreign policy. This means that the US focus on the East, especially China, will not be altered if Biden becomes president. 

ATHENS. In Greece, no one speaks publicly about the US elections. However, a Biden victory is a “hidden desire” across the political spectrum.

Trump’s close ties with Turkey’s Erdogan are not seen in a positive light in Athens. His administration’s neutral stance toward the escalating crisis between Greece and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean has prompted Athens to wink at Biden’s camp.

The Greek journal To Vima recently reported that Americans of Greek origin are looking to build bridges with Biden’s team and a similar role has taken over Thanasis Bakolas, a senior adviser to Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

It seems that these efforts have already brought some initial results. Biden condemned last month Turkey’s “provocations” calling on Trump to mount pressure on Ankara.

VISEGRAD

WARSAW. Poland’s leadership might miss Trump when he’s gone – even if the US-EU relationship hasn’t been an easy affair –  mostly due to security reasons.

Since the conservative PiS (Law and Justice) government came to power, Poland had presented a vast plan to modernise its army and revived the calls for a permanent US base in the country with “boots on the ground”, a plan dubbed ‘Fort Trump’.

It was a long-running hope for a permanent major US military base to help counter potential Russian aggression, which Trump in fact vaguely promised, but not delivered.

Washington’s announcement to reduce the contingent of US troops in Germany drew criticism from the host country and took NATO allies by surprise. At the same time, Poland has been quick to offer to host some of these forces.

At the same time, although having a questionable relationship with Russia, Trump was also vocal on imposing sanctions on the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, a thorn in Warsaw’s eyes.

And yes, he opened the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which now allows Polish citizens to apply to travel to the US for tourism or business purposes without obtaining a visa, a privilege extended to only a small number of American allies.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, during a visit to the US in June when Trump, said his “cooperation with the president of the US has been so good from the beginning because we have the same vision of how to conduct politics.”

Shortly after the Polish government also signed the Geneva Consensus Declaration on Promoting Women’s Health and Strengthen the Family, which was co-initiated by the US, which for many demonstrated the ideological proximity between Warsaw and Washington.

“From what I learned in Washington, the Polish government does not seek contacts with Biden’s staff”, Radosław Korzycki, expert in US affairs and journalist at Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, told EURACTIV.pl. According to him, if Biden wins the election, the Polish government could become isolated.

Poland’s public opinion is divided. The state media strongly support Trump and are critical of Biden, with notable headlines such as “Former Trump adviser: Biden does not respect Poland or Poles.” On the other hand, the opposition media rather support Biden, seeing a chance to change the situation on Poland’s political scene after his victory.

PRAGUE. Although Czechia’s PM Andrej Babiš (ANO) has not joined his Visegrad counterpart Viktor Orbán in endorsing Trump, he was a guest at the White House in early 2019, and as a billionaire has many things in common with the current US leader. What the US will not like is the Czech cabinet’s new decision to scratch a more ambitious defence spending plan.

FM Tomáš Petříček is another story. As he recently said in an interview with Slovakian Pravda, as a Social Democrat (ČSSD), he feels much closer to US Democrats.

President Miloš Zeman is also a former Social Democrat, but in the past openly endorsed Trump in his clash with Hillary Clinton. However, there is an apparent bitterness in his current comments on Trump, probably because Zeman has not received the promised invitation to the White House.

In the opposition, only a part of Civic Democrats (ODS), including a few MEPs, and right-wing populists from SPD party, are openly in favour of Trump.

One of the biggest Czech fears during the Trump presidency has been the threat of introducing tariffs on automobiles, because the country has a long tradition in the automotive industry. The same applies in the case of steel and aluminium tariffs.

The majority of Czech media seems to be in favour of Joe Biden and the change he would bring, however, the commentators stress that the result can still go both ways. 

BRATISLAVA. The United States remains a strategic partner for Slovakia, although, over the past four years, even hardliner Atlanticists had to adjust to the new reality of US leadership. Many even turned to be openly critical of President Trump and started pointing out that Europe should begin to rely on itself.

The newly elected government of Igor Matovič, and his foreign policy chief Ivan Korčok, has committed to joining the US-led International Religious Freedom Alliance while two weeks ago, Slovakia joined other CEE countries signing a Joint Declaration on 5G Security with Washington.

An interesting overview of the US election is offered by the Slovak bookmakers. Currently, 62% of Slovak punters believe Joe Biden will become the new president, as former vice president´s odds are listed at 1.55. The odds for Trump are currently 2.30.

In general, according to surveys, the Slovak population perceives the United States the most negatively among the V4 countries.

BUDAPEST. Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán has said he is “rooting” for another victory of Trump, according to Hungarian national news agency MTIPreviously asked by Reuters what a Biden victory would mean for Hungary, Orbán said: “We have an exceptionally good relationship with Trump. Probably the level of openness and kindness and helping each other will be lower”.

Orbán also emphasised that Trump’s stance towards the EU coincides with the intergovernmental approach of the Hungarian government.

“If one understands the EU as a centralised power whose spirit and heart are provided by the institutions – then Trump is not the best option,” he said. “But if one believes that the EU is nothing else than just a community of member states – Trump is OK, is by far the best.”

EURACTIV understands that a Trump victory would mean less transatlantic criticism of Orbán’s rule in Hungary and would indirectly legitimise nationalist politics internationally. Hungary does not have much at stake, however, or less than Poland, because it is not interested in having US troops in the country and does not perceive Russia as a threat. Poland wants to see a more aggressive stance on Russia, unlike Orbán, who is happy to strike a deal with Moscow if an opportunity arises.

THE BALKANS

ZAGREB. Croatia’s President Zoran Milanović took as an insult a comparison of his rhetoric with that of Trump. “Without the US, the world is not the same and I mean it in a negative sense. Donald Trump has ruined it all. He incites hate, he is a rabble-rouser and that’s it. This is something you won’t hear from the Croatian prime minister or foreign minister, but it has to be said,” Milanović said. His predecessor, Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, was a staunch admirer of Trump.

The PM Andrej Plenkovic has said nothing about the US elections. One can assume that right-wing parties are cheering for Trump’s victory, but are also silent. President Milanović openly said he is pro-Biden but his former party, SDP, has not spoken up.

Croatia’s relations with the US are mainly focused on military cooperation (the US is one of the bidders in the Croatian tender for new fighter planes) and regional problems. Biden does understand the region so it can be assumed that he will be a better choice for Croatia.

In the last Bertelsmann Stiftung survey about preferences of EU citizens towards US elections, Croatia was not mentioned. “We also conducted a survey in Croatia, but the sample is too small to make reliable statements for this EU member state,” Isabell Hoffmann, who conducted the research, told Hina (Croatian state news agency).

LJUBLJANA. Similarly to his like-minded Hungarian counterpart, Slovenia’s conservative PM Janez Janša is openly supportive of Trump.

“We respect the difficult personal life tragedies of Joseph Biden and some of his old political achievements, but if he were elected now, he would be one of the weakest American presidents in history, at a time when the free world needs a stronger United States than ever,” Janša tweeted. “Let’s go, Donald Trump, win,” he added.

Some opposition politicians and media after that opened question: What will happen if Biden wins?”

Last but not least, Trump’s wife, Melanija, is Slovenian.

SOFIA. Former Bulgarian ambassador to the United States Elena Poptodorova said that for her country as well for the EU, the election Joe Biden is the preferred option, because “he would seek the common interest with the allies”. Poptodorova, who is currently President of the Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA), said that “Europe needs America”.

“Joe Biden is a man who knows the world, who knows foreign policy, who understands the importance of America for world processes, who is not an isolationist.”

However she warned that even if Biden is elected, “nothing will return like a magic wand to previous periods”. What is realistic to expect, in her words, is an attempt of get the United States back to the Iran deal and the Paris Climate Agreement.

BUCHAREST. Romania’s government hasn’t publicly expressed an opinion on the US elections, but a few weeks ago, a few cabinet ministers travelled to Washington. Visits right before an election could usually be seen as a form of support for the current administration, and there were some important agreements signed on defence, economy and foreign affairs.

In Romania, the US involvement in the nuclear project in Cernavoda was seen as a very positive development, as there were the announcements of the Washington administration on investing in major infrastructure projects connecting the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea.

Just like other neighbouring countries, Romania is rather conservative and very religious. Yet, PNL, despite having the liberal tag in its name, is a member of the EPP and it has many dubious connections with Christian evangelists, but also the Orthodox church, so it will be more inclined to support Trump and not Biden.

The same applies to their opponents, the socialist party PSD, who were also betting on the nationalist and religious card, financing church buildings etc during the Dragnea era.

BELGRADE. Serbia seems to favour Trump more than Biden, since the public associates the Democratic Party with the NATO bombing in 1999, when Democrat  Bill Clinton was the US president.

Pro-government analysts believe Trump’s victory would be a better option for Serbia, especially after the agreement on the normalization of economic relations signed by Kosovo Premier Avdullah Hoti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić at the Oval Office in early September.

However, there are some who claim the Washington agreement serves only as a part of Trump’s election campaign.

Trump is unambiguously supported by right-wing parties, pro-regime analysts and tabloids.

Officials have been silent on the subject lately, but former Serbian foreign minister and, as of a few days ago, the new parliament speaker, Ivica Dačić, has previously said Trump’s victory is  better for Serbia because he does not approach the Kosovo problem as a “done deal.”

Chairman of the Governing Board of Belgrade-based think tank European Policy Centre (CEP) Srđan Majstorović told EURACTIV that in Serbia, these elections are viewed mainly through the prism of resolving the Kosovo issue.

“There is a popular perception in Serbia of Trump as a ‘defender of Serbian interests’, someone who is ‘against the American establishment’ embodied in the previous administration which is targeted by domestic populists and nationalists,” Majstorović said. He addded that it would be important for Serbian citizens that the next US president is ready to cooperate with the EU, the main mediator in the Belgrade-Priština dialogue.

(Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com | EUROEFE | Alessandro Follis, EURACTIV.it | Benjamin Fox, EURACTIV.com | Sarah Lawton, EURACTIV.de | Vlagyiszlav Makszimov,  EURACTIV.com | Sarantis Michalopoulos, EURACTIV.com | Louise Rozès Moscovenko, EURACTIV.fr | Bogdan Neagu, EURACTIV.ro | Georgi Gotev, EURACTIV.com | Ondřej Plevák, EURACTIV.cz | Julija Simić, EURACTIV.rs | Konrad Strubiński, EURACTIV.pl | Samuel Stolton, EURACTIV.com | Zeljko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr | Pekka Väntinnen, EURACTIV.com | Lucia Yar, EURACTIV.sk)


[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski, Sarantis Michalopoulos, Zoran Radosavljevic]

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