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How Europe is reacting to Joe Biden winning the US presidency

German share price index DAX reacts in front of a laptop showing the incoming election results
REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
The world holds its breath.
  • Annabelle Timsit
By Annabelle Timsit

Geopolitics reporter

Europe

After five long days of voting and vote counting, Americans have made their choice: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are their president- and vice president-elect.

While it wasn’t quite the “blue wave” Democratic analysts were hoping for, American voters handed a decisive victory to the Biden-Harris ticket. Crucially, the election process took time but went smoothly, and turnout was historically high. That’s a win for American democracy—and America’s allies are celebrating.

There was a lot at stake in this election for Europe. As president, Trump attacked Brussels over its trade practices, and withdrew from both the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord. He wasn’t a fan of NATO and proved himself to be an unreliable partner on foreign policy issues that Europe views as essential, such as how to deal with Russia and China.

There was a feeling in the halls of the Europe—albeit a quiet feeling expressed only in whispers and off-the-record comments—that a second Trump term would be “an even rougher ride for Europeans, with Trump feeling emboldened in his America First strategy in international affairs,” writes Susi Dennison, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, a center-left think tank headquartered in Berlin.

Now that the election has been called for Biden—although it’s worth noting that some states have still not been called and the result will not be final until the electoral college meets on Dec. 14—many European leaders have jumped to congratulate Biden, Harris, and the American people. A partial list is below:

Germany

German chancellor Angela Merkel, who is not on Twitter, issued a congratulatory statement:

Congratulations! The American people have made their decision. Joe Biden will be the 46th president of the United States of America. I sincerely wish him the best of luck and every success and I would also like to congratulate Kamala Harris, the first female vice president-elect in the history of your country. I look forward to working with president Biden. Our transatlantic friendship is indispensable if we are to deal with the major challenges of our time.

France

French president Emmanuel Macron tweeted:

UK

British prime minister Boris Johnson has his work cut out for him with president-elect Biden. He needs the US’ support for his next move on Brexit as the end-of-year deadline for the UK leaving the EU approaches, and it appears Biden may not be a fan. When Johnson’s Conservative party won a majority in Parliament last year, Biden called him “kind of a physical and emotional clone” of Donald Trump. On the news of Biden’s victory, Johnson tweeted the following statement:

Italy

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte tweeted:

Ireland

The Irish have an extra special reason to celebrate the results of this election: The country considers Biden a native son because his great-great-great grandfather was born there and emigrated to the US in the 1840s. This was evident in Irish prime minister Micheál Martin’s invitation to welcome the president-elect “back home”:

Spain

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted:

The Netherlands

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte tweeted:

Austria

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurtz tweeted:

Poland

Andrzej Duda, Poland’s far-right president, was the first foreign leader to visit Trump at the White House when he was elected. Meanwhile, Trump visited Poland on one of his first overseas trips and had planned to go again in 2019 but sent vice president Mike Pence instead because of Hurricane Dorian. All this to say that Duda is losing a major ally in the White House:

Greece

Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted:

Ukraine

Ukraine has played a unique role in US presidential elections in recent years. Biden’s son Hunter has gotten into hot water for joining the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings while his father was US vice president—a decision he has said he regrets because it opened Biden up to unsubstantiated allegations by the Trump campaign that he got Ukraine’s top prosecutor fired in order to end an investigation into Burisma.

Meanwhile, Trump was impeached in 2019 in part because of evidence that he tried to use the promise of US military aid to pressure Ukraine into investigating Hunter Biden.

Biden said he will “make Ukraine a US foreign policy priority” as president. He has promised more military assistance for Ukraine and a push to “increase Western direct investment and support for Ukraine’s energy independence from Russia.” So Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky had a lot riding on this election:

Norway

Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg tweeted:

Denmark

Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen said:

Czech Republic

Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš sent a congratulatory letter to Biden in which he called the US “a key partner of the Czech Republic with whom we are linked by strong transatlantic partnership as well as shared democratic values, mutual understanding, and respect for human rights.”

The Czech Republic actually benefited from Trump’s presidency because of its key role in China’s European ambitions. Prague signed a joint declaration with the US on 5G, committing to select only “reliable and trustworthy network hardware and software suppliers” in an indirect jab at Chinese tech giant Huawei. And US secretary of state Mike Pompeo opened his tour of central and eastern Europe there in August.

European Union

It’s no secret Trump wasn’t a fan of the EU; he’s gone to war with them on trade, systematically denigrated their institutions, named them as one of the US’ biggest “foes,” and supported Brexit. So it’s perhaps not a surprise that European Council president Charles Michel and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen warmly congratulated Biden and Harris on their victory:

NATO

Trump once called NATO obsolete and routinely attacked NATO member states for failing to pay their fair share. Reacting to Biden’s win, NATO general secretary Jens Stoltenberg tweeted:

Oops

While most European leaders prudently waited until major TV networks called the race for Joe Biden yesterday (Nov. 8), at least one did not: Janez Janša, the far-right prime minister of Slovenia—birthplace of first lady Melania Trump and an EU member state. He falsely tweeted on Nov. 4 that Trump won the election and baselessly accused the media of misleading the public about it. (Twitter labeled the tweet with a warning that “official sources may not have called the race when this was Tweeted.”)

(Janša has since told Politico Europe that he didn’t congratulate Trump but rather the Republican Party, “our sister party in the [International Democrat Union],” a group of global right-wing political parties. But it’s not clear what the difference there actually is.)

Trump’s presidency arguably gave new impetus to a movement calling for ambitious economic, technological, and political reforms of the European Union. Some argue that Biden’s win doesn’t fundamentally alter that. As Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld tweeted, “whatever the final outcome, Europe needs to grow up, and grow up fast.”

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