Impact of Trump on Europe: first thoughts

Donald Trump is now president-elect, which means he is no longer playing a character. At least not the one that he thought was needed to play in order to gain the votes. Now, he has to act according to a different script.

The United States are a stable democracy with strong institutions which keep each other in check. Hence, we should not expect sudden dramatic developments. In order to forecast what the US policies will actually be during the next 4 years, we have to wait and see what the agreements between Trump and Republican majorities in Congress will be.

Nevertheless, the impact of this result on the European Union is likely to be big, and the European leaders will draw significant lessons from this. Here is what we can expect from the EU leaders to think like in the immediate period:

1. “we will have to pay a lot more attention to listening to our peoples and genuinely communicating our proposals to them, or else we’ll be ejected, along with our entire political network”.

This result shows the fragility of political institutions in general right here in the West. Don’t feel too comfortable with the polls’ indications: Trump’s victory shows, once more, that career politicians and their entourage substantially underestimate the power of the hidden votes, ie. of those voters who are too shy to speak up because they may not be able to articulate their ideas in a “politically correct” way, but which do have views and do go to vote. The stability of a political system needs not to be taken for granted, especially that of the EU, which is under heavy fire from many sides. Substantial investments are needed in improving across the societies the perception of the EU and of established institutions.

2. “we should seriously consider doing something about our own security, as the US is likely to further slip into isolation mode. NATO is likely to be weakened. Maybe the idea of coming closer together and even creating an European Defense Union is not so far-fetched after all”.

Interestingly, the Northern Europeans, who are currently the main opponents to defense integration, might find this perspective more appealing now (considering their deteriorating relations with the Kremlin), as Trump’s stance on Russia is likely to be soft.

3. “TTIP is dead in the water. There’s no way this can go ahead now. We should think of smaller scope sectoral agreements until this storm is over.”

This is a substantial blow to the promoters of free trade all over the world, at a time when numerous comprehensive trade agreements are being negotiated. The opening of these negotiations and the insufficient communication of their benefits are a primary reason for the rising protectionist backlashes on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.

As in the case of Brexit, this can be either a wake-up call or another nail in the coffin of established institutions. It is up to the policy makers, but also to the civil society, to draw the right lessons and come up with concrete solutions that will actually make a difference to the citizens, but also put in place an effective communication strategy. And not at the slow pace the Europeans are used to doing things, as time is really running out now.

Also read our pre-elections Correspondence from Washington to understand the views of Trump’s supporters on Europe.

Feel free to send us your impressions at [email protected] or below.