After four years of Donald Trump’s America First politics blending nationalism and populism, top officials in Europe are ready for a renewed American globalist leadership necessitating multilateral cooperation as Joe Biden took over as president of the world’s largest democracy on Wednesday.
“This new dawn in America is the moment we’ve been awaiting for so long,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a speech in Brussels, hailing Biden’s arrival as “resounding proof that, once again after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House.”
“The United States are back, and Europe stands ready to reconnect with an old and trusted partner to breathe new life into our cherished alliance,” she told European Union lawmakers, hours before Biden was to be sworn in at his inauguration ceremony in Washington.
Elsewhere in Europe, close U.S. allies finally saw a chance to come in out of the cold after strained security and economic relationships with the Trump administration.
French President Emmanuel Macron noted the urgency of addressing the perils the world faces from climate change after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, a move Biden was to reverse in the first hours of his presidency.
With Biden, “we will be stronger to face the challenges of our time. Stronger to build our future. Stronger to protect our planet,” he wrote on Twitter. “Welcome back to the Paris Agreement!”
European leadership, however, warned that the world changed in the Trump years and that trans-Atlantic ties will be different in the future.
European Council President Charles Michel, who chairs summits between the EU’s 27 heads of state and government, said trans-Atlantic relations have “greatly suffered in the last four years. In these years, the world has grown more complex, less stable and less predictable.”
“We have our differences and they will not magically disappear. America seems to have changed, and how it’s perceived in Europe and the rest of the world has also changed,” said Michel, whose open criticism of the Trump era contrasted starkly with the silence that mostly reigned in Europe while the Republican leader was in the White House.
This change, Michel said, means “that we Europeans (must) take our fate firmly into our own hands, to defend our interests and promote our values,” and he underlined that “the EU chooses its course and does not wait for permission to take its own decisions.”
The Europeans have invited Biden to a summit, quite probably in Brussels, in parallel with a top-level NATO meeting as soon as he’s ready.