Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Editorial | Trump card for EU?

Published:Tuesday | May 9, 2017 | 5:00 AM

It is early days yet, but perversely, Donald Trump may be of worth to the European Union (EU). Initially, he was feared as energy for the harbingers of its death. Emmanuel Macron's victory in France's presidential election on Sunday fuels this hope.

The context here is important. Over the past two years, as its economies remained sluggish, Islamic terrorism rose and refugees stormed its borders, far-right political parties gained currency in Europe, preaching a new brand of isolationist and anti-globalist xenophobia. After foreigners, the 27-member EU was the soft target for the nationalist movements. They inveighed against the unelected and faceless.

Last summer, when the British narrowly voted for Brexit, the future of the EU seemed in mortal danger. Since its formation more than 60 years ago, France and Germany have, essentially, been the guarantors of the Union, the two members that usually acted in tandem to promote its major initiatives.

In Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel had opened her country to refugees fleeing war in Syria, the far-right anti-immigrant party, Alternative f¸r Deutschland, appeared to be gaining traction and was a strong voice in the country's politics, maybe not capable of winning elections, but of influencing events. But more critically, in France, Marine Le Pen's National Front was enjoying a new lease on life, evidenced by the fact that Ms Le Pen was the run-off candidate with Mr Macron in Sunday's second round of the presidential vote.

In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders' Party for freedom and democracy anti-immigrant, anti-EU message appeared to have also built a head of steam. Elsewhere in Europe, right-wing, anti-immigrant, anti-EU, anti-globalist, inward-looking nationalist parties, too, flexed their muscles.

They were all given a fillip last November when Mr Trump, with a similar campaign spiel, won America's presidency and rolled out the red carpet for Nigel Farage, the Brexit campaigner and UKIP. Then there has been just over three months of Mr Trump's quixotic presidency.

 

SO IGNORANT

 

The United States is not any other country. It is the world's only remaining superpower, and hitherto considered to be its moral force. Its behaviour matters globally.

The US has never had a president so ignorant of domestic and world affairs, and so ignorant in his self-affirming certitude, as Donald Trump. Moreover, emerging as something of a cross between Don Quixote lurching at windmills and Augustus Gloop pulling levers in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, Mr Trump has given a hint of what he is capable of as president of the United States, and, by dint of that office, the presumed leader of the free world.

The world, we suspect, has not liked what it has seen. Europeans were beginning to have second thoughts about the momentum they afforded to the far Right. Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party faltered in Austria's election in December, as did the Netherlands' Mr Wilders last month. In France, Ms Le Pen, perhaps even without Mr Trump, was deemed too far out of the normative political pale. Mr Trump worsened it.

In Hungary, Viktor Orban's illiberal and xenophobic posture causes concern, as are authoritarian tendencies of Poland's Andrzej Duda. On their own account, and viewed to the convex mirror of the Trump presidency, they are likely to invite pause from their citizens.