Tuesday

16th Oct 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.

... or 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.

Bavarian election puts Merkel on defensive

Voters in Germany's largest state hived off to the left and right of the ruling conservatives in Sunday's elections - posing questions for Merkel's authority.

News in Brief

  1. Le Pen warms towards cooperation with Bannon
  2. Bettel set to stay in power in Luxembourg after election
  3. EU-UK Brexit deal talks paused
  4. Macedonian parliament to vote on name change Monday
  5. Swedish opposition leader gives up on forming government
  6. Commission confirms: no record of Juncker speech seminar
  7. Ukraine splits from Russian orthodox church
  8. Polish doctor wins landmark pro-life case in Norway

EU parliament will not budge on office expenses

Hungarian centre-right MEP Livia Jaroka sticks to earlier decision: documents related to the minor reform of the expenses system, requested by EUobserver, should remain secret.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. How Juncker's 'do less' group concluded EU should not do less
  2. Cyprus and Russia: Association of Cyprus Banks responds
  3. Orthodox church split just tip of Putin's crumbling 'soft power' in Ukraine
  4. Daily reality in Western Sahara - and how EU can protect it
  5. Bavarian election puts Merkel on defensive
  6. It's time for the EU to stand up to transnational corporations
  7. Tug of war between 'top-down' and 'bottom-up' cohesion money
  8. 'Macron vs Orban' is no quick fix for EU democracy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us