Wednesday

20th Jan 2021

EU in 'shock' as Trump mob storms 'temple of democracy'

  • Four people died as far-right mob stormed Capitol building, called a "temple of democracy" by EU Council president Charles Michel (Photo: Blink O'fanaye)

European leaders expressed dismay and distress as armed supporters of US president Donald Trump stormed the Capitol building in Washington on Wednesday (6 January) in an effort to stop lawmakers from confirming president-elect Joe Biden's electoral win.

Trump supporters, who were earlier urged by Trump at a rally to go to the Capitol, stormed the building as Congress members were certifying Biden's win, a normally ceremonial and mundane event.

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Capital police were quickly overwhelmed and law enforcement seemed unprepared for the assault.

Congress members, staff, and journalists were evacuated from the Capital.

One woman was shot dead by police and three other people also died of "medical emergencies", US police said.

For his part, European Council president Charles Michel said "to witness tonight's scenes in Washington is a shock".

"We trust the US to ensure a peaceful transfer of power to Joe Biden," Michel added, saying "the US Congress is a temple of democracy".

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said that "in the eyes of the world, American democracy tonight appears under siege".

"This is an unseen assault on US democracy, its institutions and the rule of law. This is not America. The election results of 3 November must be fully respected," he said in a tweet, resembling statements usually reserved for authoritarian countries.

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg described the images as "shocking," saying "the outcome of this democratic election must be respected."

Leaders from all over Europe expressed disbelief and serious concern over the events unfolding in the continent's main political, economic, and military ally.

In an unprecedented array of messages, European politicians called on US president Trump to respect the results of the election.

Dutch premier Mark Rutte described the scenes as "horrible", telling the US president: "Dear Donald Trump, recognise Joe Biden as the next president today".

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez said he was following "with concern" news from Washington.

"I trust in the strength of America's democracy. The new presidency of Joe Biden will overcome this time of tension, uniting the American people," he added.

Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven said he was following events "with great concern".

"What we are seeing now is an attack on democracy. President Trump and many members of Congress have a great responsibility for what is happening now. The democratic process of electing a president must be respected," he added in a tweet.

Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo said he was in "shock and disbelief".

"We trust the strong institutions of the United States will overcome this challenging moment. Full support to president-elect Joe Biden," he tweeted.

Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he was "extremely troubled by the violence and horrible events taking place in Washington".

"American democracy is resilient, deeply rooted and will overcome this crisis," he tweeted.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she believed in the strength of US institutions and democracy.

"Peaceful transition of power is at the core. Joe Biden won the election. I look forward to working with him as the next president of the USA," she added.

'Disgraceful'

For his part, UK prime minister Boris Johnson also called the scenes at the Capitol "disgraceful", adding: "The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power."

German foreign minister Heiko Maas tweeted that "the enemies of democracy will be glad to see these outrageous images from Washington".

"Inflammatory words turn into violent acts - on the steps of the Reichstag - and now in the Capitol. The disdain for democratic institutions is devastating," he added, referring to protestors against Covid-19 restrictions who tried to storm the German parliament last August.

"Trump and his supporters should finally accept the decision of the American voters and stop trampling democracy," Maas added.

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also called the events a "serious attack on democracy".

"The will and vote of the American people must be respected," he said in a tweet.

Norway's prime minister described the scenes as "unbelievable".

"This is a totally unacceptable attack on democracy. A heavy responsibility now rests on president Trump to put a stop to this," Erna Solberg said.

Trump in a video on his Twitter feed told his supporters to leave the Capitol, but also repeated false statements that the elections were stolen from him.

Slovakia's president Zuzana Čaputová said the scenes showed "how dangerous the rhetoric of hatred is".

"Contempt for democratic institutions erodes citizens' rights and can undermine political order. I trust the democratic and peaceful process will be restored soon," she tweeted.

Even European far-right supporters of Trump, such as Italy's Matteo Salvini distanced himself from the rioters.

Salvini tweeted that "violence is never the solution". "Long live freedom and democracy, always and everywhere," he added.

Opinion

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If Trump is still alive, healthy, free and tweeting politics by 2023, I think we all can officially start to worry. Not only for the American democracy, but for democracies in Europe and the rest of the world.

EU keen to repair damage of Trump years

The EU has set out how to undo the damage caused by four years of US president Donald Trump's rule, by trying to "make multilateralism great again".

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Trump picked fights with everybody - except Russia and North Korea - in the past four years. But he lost, including his fight with reality, US journalist and historian Anne Applebaum said.

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After the mob attack on Washington's Capitol Hill, we have to ask ourselves if it would be possible to see such a march on Brussels? The answer is: Yes. Europe is dealing with the same dark forces.

US riot: How did EU's pro-Trump right react?

European far-right leaders who back outgoing US president Donald Trump condemned the violent mob who stormed the Capitol in Washington - but fell short of pinning blame on the man who incited the rioters.

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