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What will change for Europe when Biden becomes president?

Joe Biden.Image REUTERS

Prime Minister Mark Rutte already said it when he paid his second visit to the White House in 2019: you have to dance with whoever is on the dance floor. For the past four years, President Donald Trump has been our dance partner. But he may be tapped by Joe Biden after next month’s election. So what changes in the transatlantic tango?

“The difference in tone will be most noticeable,” says assistant professor of transatlantic relations Albertine Bloemendal. Trump openly threatened a trade war, questioning aloud the principle of assistance – an attack on one is an attack on all – of the NATO alliance. “Crucially, Biden will not sow any doubts about Article 5, the foundation of NATO.”

Where Trump was from the quick deals, Biden will want to cultivate relationships. According to Biden, Trump has squandered America’s reputation in the world. He will want to repair it, ”says Bloemendal, who is affiliated with Radboud University Nijmegen.

But don’t expect Biden to suddenly be lenient about sluggish defense spending. “The discussion that the US contributes much more to NATO than the European countries has been ongoing for decades. Obama was also pretty grumpy about that. He mentioned countries that do not keep the defense agreements free riders.”

Countering migration

According to GroenLinks MP Bram van Ojik, the Netherlands should reconsider the traditional focus on America. According to him, the US has long ceased to be the world’s policeman. “They no longer come to hammer in democracy. You could already see that in Obama’s hesitant attitude towards the war in Syria. ” Van Ojik thinks it is time to look at other alliances, between the EU and Africa for example. “We can make agreements there about easing the debt burden and combating migration.”

VVD MP Sven Koopmans does hope that the traditional alliance between America and Europe will be restored. Still, he doesn’t think Biden – should he win – will turn his gaze back to Europe. Under Obama, it had already shifted towards eastern Asia. “Biden will continue with that,” Koopmans suspects.

Still, as a presidential candidate, Biden was already expressly involved in Europe, Bloemendal saw. For example, Biden – who has Irish roots – got involved in the Brexit discussion. “Trump said to Johnson: get out of the EU quickly, I’ll make a good trade deal for you. But Biden warned Johnson that he could forget such a deal with the US if there is another hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. ”

The fast 5G mobile network

The Netherlands and other European countries will also continue to hear similar strict messages when it comes to the fast 5G mobile network of the Chinese Huawei and the Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 2. In our country, the American ambassador Pete Hoekstra called in newspaper interviews for the Bypassing the Huawei network and boycotting Russian gas.

Bram Boxhoorn, director of the Netherlands Atlantic Association, which was set up in 1952 to promote the debate on transatlantic security issues, now sees that the EU – at least in the area of ​​China – has changed. “No way that the Netherlands will have Huawei installed 5G. ” The EU has also taken measures to prevent cheap steel and iron from China, produced with state aid, from being dumped on the European market. “Trump saw that correctly.”

It is – and remains – simply not in the American interest to make a European country dependent on China or Russia respectively, says D66 MP Sjoerd Sjoerdsma. “That is why it makes no difference to us whether Biden or Trump wins. The lesson is the same: Europe should not be dependent. Not from China, not from Russia, nor from the US. We have to keep up our own pants when it comes to our safety. ” PvdA member Lilianne Ploumen also thinks that: “In an uncertain world, Europe remains more dependent on itself and will have to take control.” She expects ‘no reset, but more decency’ from a possible Biden government.

America First

According to Boxhoorn, Dutch diplomats at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the embassy in Washington will breathe a sigh of relief if Biden emerges as the winner next month. “Without a doubt. It is now difficult for diplomats to work, they cannot gain a foothold. ”

Whichever of the two candidates it becomes, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is preparing for ‘both scenarios’, according to insiders. The ministry also does not take into account a radical change of course when Biden moves to the White House, but it is hoped for a US return to the World Health Organization (WHO), where Trump left with much fanfare this summer – in the middle of a global health crisis. Biden has also indicated that he will rejoin the Paris climate agreement (from which Trump pulled his hands off in November 2019). VVD member Koopmans: “Those are really big things.”

Still, the Netherlands – and the EU in that regard – should have no illusions: if Biden becomes president, he will first have to listen to Trump’s motto: America First. Koopmans: “There is a corona crisis, an economic crisis, a social crisis. Biden will have his hands full with that for the first time. ”

Although Biden will be ‘very busy with this’, according to assistant professor Bloemendal, she also thinks that Biden will want to show international leadership. “One of the accusations Biden makes of Trump is a lack of leadership.” When it comes to combating Covid-19 for example, but also climate. “These issues cannot be resolved without international cooperation.”

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