Saturday

23rd Jun 2018

Time for Europe to fill US vacuum, says ex-Danish PM

  • 'If we don't find solutions we will be irrelevant,' warned Denmark's Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a year ahead of the next European elections (Photo: Consilium)

"Keep calm and carry on." In the wake of a disastrous G7 summit where US president Donald Trump all but broke off the Western alliance, the EU should stay cool and prepare to take over global leadership.

That is the message on Monday (11 June) by a former member of the EU leaders club, Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

"The US is leaving a vacuum. And who should step in? For me, it is completely obvious, it is Europe's time to step in," the former Danish prime minister said at an event in Brussels.

"That's where our new next opportunity is," she said, describing Trump's course as a "most massive wake-up call."

Thorning-Schmidt, who was presenting a report on 'What Europe can do to regain initiative', insisted that the EU should have a "bigger engagement in the Middle East", and recommit to the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal.

She also argued that the EU should take "the leadership - that we would get from nowhere else - in regulating the information society."

The report, published by the Boldt consultancy, identified a "robot society" and a "clean Earth revolution" as key drivers for the EU's future, against a backdrop of the new international situation, internal tensions and ongoing work on privacy protection.

A year ahead of the European elections, the former Danish PM called on EU leaders to have "a little less conversation, a little more action."

"If we don't find solutions we will be irrelevant," said Thorning-Schmidt, who took part in more than 30 EU summits when she was prime minister between 2011 and 2015.

She pointed out that the EU needed to improve the governance of the eurozone.

"One thing we need to do very soon is to find ways to govern the euro in a way so we don't ever end up in situation we were in before," she said.

Reconnect on immigration

She argued that the test for voters' trust in their leaders would be over the issue of migration and asylum.

"Unless we can guard our borders of the European Union and also our internal borders, and unless we can find ways to deal with immigration, asylum seekers, I don't think people would have the trust in us again," she said.

Thorning-Schmidt, who is a Social Democrat, insisted that finding the balance between control of borders and migration, and respect for international conventions was not controversial, but the way to "reconnected with the people on very hard issue."

She said that "it takes true leadership to find [that] balance" and that it should not be confused with populism.

"We have to think again this distinction between populists and non-populists," she said, noting that many people who vote for parties like the National Front in France or the League in Italy used to vote for social democrats.

"Listening to what they are saying is not being populist, that's being in tune with your own people and reacting to their worries," she said.

That is also why she argued that it would benefit leaders "and perhaps more importantly the people of Europe and their wishes" if the EU thought again of putting in place the safeguards on labour movement such as it promised to the UK ahead of the Brexit referendum.

Not a candidate?

"We have to be able to put some safeguards on our welfare state and a little bit more control of free movement of labour," she said.

"Unless we have that, and that conversation, we will not have the trust of people," he insisted.

Thorning-Schmidt, who is now CEO of Save the Children International NGO, did not want to say whether she would try to run as lead (so-called 'Spitzenkandidat') Social Democratic candidate at the EU parliament election in 2019.

"I will always try to do my bit for Europe," she simply said, adding she wanted to help Europe avoid the "roughest globalisation".

If ever the former Danish PM was brewing a return to EU politics, she would sound more like a candidate to the position of European Council president, a position for which her name already floated in the past.

She insisted on the need for consensus and refused to distance herself from the centre-right's Angela Merkel or the centrist Emmanuel Macron. 


"It's not that we are talking completely different languages," she noted.

Germany and Denmark seek to prolong border checks

Denmark and Germany have notified the EU commission of their intention to prolong internal border checks beyond the 12 November deadline when they are required to be lifted.

Feature

How Denmark led the way on 'sin taxes'

Denmark ditched their fat tax and cut levies on beer, but Danes still furnish health campaigners with the bulk of their evidence for "sin taxes" on unhealthy food and drink.

Hungary to push ahead with 'Stop Soros' law on NGOs

The Hungarian government of Viktor Orban has said it will not wait until Friday, to hear a verdict of European legal experts on human rights, before going ahead with its bill curtailing NGOs who work with migrants.

Analysis

Greece facing post-bailout challenges

Creditors are expected to agree Thursday on a final loan and debt relief measures for Greece. After eight years on an international lifeline, the country will remain under close surveillance - but will have to find a new economic model.

News in Brief

  1. Venice Commission: Hungary should repeal NGO law
  2. Trump threatens to slap 20 percent tariff on EU cars
  3. EU closes deficit procedure against France
  4. Romania's ruling party leader gets jail sentence
  5. EU states defer individual decisions on asylum reforms
  6. Commission opens case on Qatar gas flow
  7. EU adopts posted workers directive
  8. EU leaders to call for 'coordinated plan' on AI

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  3. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  4. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  6. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  10. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  11. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network

Latest News

  1. Migration row at centre of EU summit This Week
  2. Merkel's woes cast shadow on EU's future
  3. Europe's tech race - trying to keep pace with US and China
  4. Merkel and Juncker's mini-summit risks fiasco
  5. Greece and creditors proclaim 'end of crisis'
  6. How a US firm pushed for EU €2.1trn pension fund
  7. Commission defends Africa migrant plan ahead of summit
  8. Bavaria hijacks EU migration talks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  2. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  4. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  7. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  9. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  10. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  12. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us