Europe and the tremors of a Trump Presidency

Published: December 2, 2016 - 18:39 Updated: August 8, 2017 - 15:44

With Trump in power the European Union could well be under an existential threat

Elections across the world have revealed a staggering fact. Liberal elites who hold sway over the media and academia, stand far removed from the reality of what is going on in the heartlands. Working classes across the world stand in open revolt against the liberal elite, and they are looking to the right for inspiration rather than the left. In fact, the word ‘Left’ now stands synonymous with a corrupt establishment. The liberal establishment’s next challenge lies in holding onto power in Italy and France where a vote for the right could well mean the collapse of the European Union. Brexit and Trump prove that the idea of liberal democracy is under threat from every corner.

The Presidency of Donald Trump could well unravel crucial alliances and destabilise the international order in Europe. For Trump, there is not much difference between global isolationism and ‘Make America Great Again’. The biggest loser of the American elections is the European Union(EU). Plagued by demographic, refugee and economic crisis of every shade it is a tenuous technocratic alliance which looks increasingly fragile now that Trump has come into power.

While Germany with its abundant wealth doesn’t want to help out South-European nations, newly sovereign post-communist countries do not want to tackle the looming refugee crisis. Meanwhile, Poland which is the biggest recipient of EU funds refuses to accept further integration and adoption of the Euro. With Trump favouring a withdrawal from NATO, Eastern European countries could well tilt their geopolitical axis towards Russia.

Vice-President elect Mike Pence has already said that “Turkey is US’s most important ally in the region”, and that the US will be renewing good relations with Turkey. Erdogan was one of the first people Trump called after winning the elections.

Trump’s victory is also a great boost for the ‘populist’ alt-right which is haunting the European political mainstream nowadays. Politicians like Geert Wilders of Netherlands and Marine Le Pen of France could benefit massively from a Trump presidency. Given the growing disenchantment of voters with career politicians, demagogues like Le Pen with their incendiary rhetoric and promise of a systemic shakedown could well ride on the coattails of popular anger to power.

A more immediate after-effect would be on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Given Trump’s scepticism towards trade deals, the TTIP could face a possible US veto. Former EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht thinks “TTIP is now dead”. It could well be.

The most dramatic effect that Trump could have is on the EU push towards combatting climate change. It's no secret that Trump thinks “global warming was created by and for the Chinese to make US manufacturing non-competitive.” The Trump transition team has already made clear that it will end the war on coal, and rescind the coal mining lease moratorium, the excessive Interior Department stream rule, and conduct a top-down review of all anti-coal regulations issued by the Obama Administration. They also plan to scrap the $5 trillion Obama-Clinton Climate Action Plan and the Clean Power Plan. Trump has also pledged to cancel billions in payments to UN climate change programs, again likely to increase doubts in Europe about whether it should pay the rest of that bill. Any advantages from EU climate changes rules are closely dependent on what the rest of the world does, which would be another reason for EU climate policies to come under fire. Will EU foot the bill? It seems unlikely.