Monday

21st May 2018

Opinion

How Europe should talk to Trump

  • The lesson for Europeans who wish to promote issues that are not prioritised by the Trump administration is to target US governors and mayors instead. (Photo: Consilium)

Nine months have now passed since President Trump's inauguration and Europe is still in search of shared visions with the new administration.

Trump's pursuit of national self-interest has upset those who believe in rules-based multilateral trade and cooperation based on shared values.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

As a result of Trump's isolationist stance on key issues, Europe has become determined to take charge of many areas and move forward on its own. Most European governments have gradually accepted the fact that climate change, democracy promotion, human rights and development are not priorities for the current US administration.

These developments do not only indicate a policy shift, but also the changing nature of the transatlantic relationship.

The net benefits from each interaction have become the key measure for bilateral relations, with trade often becoming a scapegoat.

Transactional Trump

The US now has a president that thinks in transactional terms, which has several implications from a European perspective. Currently, Europe is still spending a disproportionate amount of energy figuring out and criticising the new administration without bringing constructive proposals for how to revive the transatlantic relationship. Rather, anti-Trump sentiments have grown so strong in Europe that many fear it will turn its back on the US.

In reality, there are many ways for Europeans to make themselves heard in Washington. Cooperation or relations do not need to be redefined. In some areas Europeans should expect a halt, but there is room for strengthened ties in many fields. In order for this to happen, it is important to retool the language used when negotiating with the US.

A representative poll was conducted a month after the elections by ECFR and Dalia Research about the expectations of Trump's performance in office.

The poll showed that Trump was expected to do the wrong thing regarding social equality, human rights, climate change and helping the poor, and that people had the most confidence in him doing the right thing in the fight against ISIS and terrorism.

However, the most common answer was that respondents did not trust him to do the right thing on any of the presented policy areas.

The America First foreign policy strategy outlines that the administration aims to promote peace through strength, that the defeat of ISIS is its highest priority and that trade deals need to be renegotiated. As we have seen, Trump's foreign policy moves have so far been in line with his election promises and expectations.

The broad disapproval of Trump's policies in Europe has been channeled through the European media, where the coverage on Trump is almost exclusively negative.

A Harvard study showed that during Trump's first 100 days in office, 98 percent of German ARD's stories on Trump were negative. Surely pointing out obscene and inappropriate actions is necessary in order to prevent their normalisation, but making headlines out of everything Trump does is not.

Temper the criticism

Criticising and protesting against his actions and tweets is reasonable up to a point. Europe's scepticism has been proven right, and Trump is just as stubborn with his views as Europe is.

If Europe wants to be heard in Washington, the evident lack of consensus should not be augmented.

In a transatlantic manifesto published by the German Marshall Fund, foreign policy experts appeal to the German government to sustain a strong transatlantic relationship in the Trump era.

The manifesto suggests that there will be no consensus on issues related to trade and refugee policy, but that the focus should lie on defence and energy security. First and foremost, Trump and Mattis have praised European leaders for their military capacities, efforts in fighting ISIS as well as for meeting NATO's two percent spending requirement.

The fact that there is common ground to discuss defence, security and counterterrorism actually makes Europe's aspirations to work together to preserve the liberal world order possible.

Trump has acknowledged the challenges that terrorism, the rise of China and Russian information warfare pose. Europeans who come to Washington with perspectives on how to deal with China and Russia will always receive attention.

Dealing with terrorism, China and Russia can form the basis of a common transatlantic agenda, and topics that are more important for Europe could be mainstreamed into the debate and set the framework for methods.

Meet him on his ground

The US view on how to manage instability does not need to be narrow - it could use the broader perspective that Europeans can bring to the table.

In Europe security and stability are seen as more than mere military power.

For instance, the effects of unstable ecosystems and drought in the Middle East and Africa should not be underestimated.

Conflict prevention is linked with climate policies and upholding stable institutions, and European leaders needs to explain to Trump that the policy disagreements do not prevent the parties from aiming at the same goal.

Europe has a case to make why the US should consider a more proactive, holistic, and long-term approach to security, rather than a reactive approach.

Besides security, the EU and the US administration can find mutual understanding in their similar economic challenges such as changing labour markets and growth amenable to the middle class.

Copy Trudeau on Trump

Canada serves as a great example in this case. Trudeau's strategy has been to play up shared interests and similarities with the US, which has resulted in a constructive relationship.

The Canadian government was also quick to realise the difficulties of a climate sceptic official heading the US administration's Council on Environmental Quality. Thus, Canada began working on climate questions directly with American states even before Trump decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

The lesson for Europeans who wish to promote issues that are not prioritised by the Trump administration is to target US governors and mayors instead.

Finally, Europe should remember to highlight the interdependence between the US and Europe.

Developments within or in the proximity of the regions have consequences for both. The well-being of individuals increasingly know no borders, and the intensity of these ties needs to be understood. Awareness of trends on both sides of the Atlantic is essential.

Senni Salmi is a visiting fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations

Analysis

Trump is 'gift' for China's EU agenda

The more harm Trump does to trans-Atlantic ties, the better for China's global interests, the author of a new study on Sino-European relations has said.

Magazine

The EU and US in the age of Trump

America's face changed when Donald Trump replaced Barack Obama. But one year on, the foundations of the transatlantic relationship are still intact.

Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny

Most refugee-related services are outsourced to the private sector and NGOs, which are not adequately monitored and evaluated. When governments and EU institutions provide funding for refugee projects, they should scrutinise the NGOs and private players they work with.

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

News in Brief

  1. Trump warns Nato allies' low budgets will be 'dealt with'
  2. Only Estonia, Greece and UK hit Nato spending target
  3. EU to start process to counter US Iran sanctions
  4. Macedonia PM sees 'possible solutions' in Greek name row
  5. EU takes six countries to court over air pollution
  6. New Catalan leader sworn in without reference to Spain
  7. Merkel and Putin revive dialogue in troubled times
  8. European companies putting Iran business on hold

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. Athens mayor wants direct access to EU migration fund
  2. Nordics could be first carbon-negative region in world
  3. Zuckerberg and Trump top the EU's agenda This WEEK
  4. Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny
  5. Bulgarian PM: No asylum reform without stronger border
  6. Eight countries to miss EU data protection deadline
  7. Italian populists to defy EU debt rules
  8. Commission 'playing tricks' with EU budget figures

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  2. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  3. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  6. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  7. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  8. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  9. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  10. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  11. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  12. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations