Tuesday

24th Nov 2020

EU immediately endorses Biden, in 'unusual' move

  • US president-elect Joe Biden (c) with former EU Council president Donald Tusk in Brussels in 2015 (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU leaders and officials have congratulated Joe Biden on his victory in US elections, in what looked like a coordinated effort to stop outgoing president Donald Trump from challenging the result.

The Irish and Lithuanian leaders led the way.

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"Biden has been a true friend of this nation throughout his life and I look forward to working with him," Irish taoiseach Micheál Martin said, just 15 minutes after US broadcaster CNN became the first TV network to call the result, shortly before 5.30PM Brussels time on Saturday (7 November).

But French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel were not far behind, in a break from normal protocol, in which European leaders tend to wait either for official results, or for the incumbent to concede defeat.

"The Americans have chosen their president ... We have a lot to do to meet today's challenges. Let's act together!", Macron tweeted at 7PM.

"I look forward to future cooperation with president Biden ... Our transatlantic friendship is irreplaceable," Merkel said, moments later.

The Spanish and Italian prime ministers came next, with Spain's Pablo Iglesias saying: "Trump is confirmed to have lost the election. This is good news for the planet, as the global far right loses its most powerful political asset."

And similar comments, focusing on the need to fight climate change and the pandemic, rebuild transatlantic security and trade ties, and form a common front against China, then poured in from the vast majority of EU countries.

"There was of course a clear and deliberate message in that fact that EU leaders, in coordination, congratulated Joe Biden before Donald Trump had conceded. Very unusual - but so is the situation," Carl Bildt, the former Swedish foreign minister, noted.

And the "unusual" statements also came from EU institutions and Nato.

"The EU congratulates president-elect Joe Biden," EU Council president Charles Michel said.

"The EU and the USA are friends and allies, our citizens share the deepest of links," European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said.

"We have common values," European Parliament president David Sassoli noted.

"Great day for the US and Europe", EU foreign relations chief Josep Borrell said.

"I know Mr. Biden as a strong supporter of Nato and the transatlantic relationship," Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg noted.

The European Central Bank president, Christine Lagarde, singled out the fact vice president-elect Kamila Harris would be "the first woman [in US history] to serve as vice president".

And Androulla Vassiliou, a Cypriot former EU commissioner, took a swipe at Trump's misogynism.

"My guess is Melania [Trump's wife] will not remain Mrs Trump for long," Vassiliou said.

Friends of Trump

There were also sour grapes on show from Trump's few EU friends.

Slovenia's populist prime minister, Janez Janša, echoed Trump's allegations of voting fraud.

"Complaints have been filed in all US states with a close outcome ... The courts have not even begun to decide," he said.

And Poland's populist president Andrzej Duda merely congratulated Biden on his "successful ... campaign", as "we await the nomination by the [US] Electoral College".

Further afield in Europe, British prime minister Boris Johnson, who had hoped that the pro-Brexit Trump would help him strong-arm the EU in trade talks, made a U-turn by also becoming one of the first to welcome the pro-EU and Irish-origin Biden.

"The US is our most important ally and I look forward to working closely together," Johnson said.

But Russia's authoritarian president Vladimir Putin, who had been close to Trump, stayed silent.

Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who had also cut deals with Trump, likewise stayed quiet, while his vice president Fuat Oktay said: "Nothing will change for Turkey".

The Belarusian leader, Alexander Lukashenko, who recently rigged his own re-election, called the US vote "a travesty of democracy".

But Belarusian opposition champion, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, said: "Belarusian people and I personally thank you [Biden] for your solidarity".

And the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, whom Trump had tried to blackmail to incriminate Biden's family on bogus corruption charges, voiced similar feeling.

Biden values

For his part, Biden focused on ending the "grim era of demonisation" by rival political camps inside the US in his victory speech on Sunday.

But he also promised to make "America respected around the world again".

And he voiced support for the liberal and enlightenment values enshrined in EU treaties.

The fact Harris was the first woman of colour to hold such high office in the US was "long overdue", Biden said.

He pledged to govern for the sake of all Americans, including minorities - "gay, straight, transgender. White. Latino. Asian. Native American".

And he promised that his fight against Covid-19 would be "built on a bedrock of science".

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