Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, hailed a “new dawn” in the United States after the departure of Donald Trump as she called for a revival of the tattered transatlantic partnership.
Addressing the European Parliament ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration as 46th US President on Wednesday, Ms von der Leyen said the EU would seek joint action with Washington in areas such as the Covid-19 response and change climate.
Mr. Trump is imminent Departure was marked by open relief in European capitals after a tumultuous four-year period in which the former property baron stoked trade tensions with the EU, questioning the NATO military alliance and abandoned US commitments to the Paris agreement on climate change and the Iran nuclear deal.
Frayed relationships have left a lasting impact in European capitals despite the warm welcome they will offer the new American president. The EU’s drive to achieve greater ‘strategic autonomy’ in areas ranging from industrial and defense policy to finance and the role of the euro has taken on greater urgency given M Trump to destroy previous standards.
Charles Michel, president of the European Council of EU Leaders, said on Wednesday that Mr Biden’s arrival was an opportunity for the rejuvenation of the alliance between the EU and the United States – but also warned that the European bloc “will not wait for the authorization to make its own decisions”.
He defined five priorities that the EU must pursue with the United States: strengthening multilateral cooperation, fighting Covid-19, fighting climate change, stimulating growth and joining forces on security.
“On the first day of his mandate, I address a solemn proposal to the new American president: let’s build a new founding pact,” he said on Wednesday. “Together, we must be the cornerstone of the rules-based international order, working for peace, security, prosperity, freedom, human rights and gender equality.”
Brussels has no intention of slacking off as it seeks to prove that the EU is capable of standing up in a time of multi-power rivalries, given the bitter divisions that remain in American society.
Mr. Michel acknowledged in his speech that “America seems to have changed” – as have perceptions of the country in Europe.
“Likewise, the way the United States views the European Union may also need to change,” he said. “The EU chooses its path and does not wait for permission to make its own decisions.”
Ms von der Leyen hailed the opportunity to “breathe new life into our dear alliance”, but also pointed to potential clashes with the United States over the particular topic of big tech regulation.
“We want to make it clear that Internet companies take responsibility for the content they put out,” she said.
She added that measures to limit free speech, such as the blocking of Twitter on Mr. Trump’s account after the assault on Capitol Hill, “should be based on decisions of politicians and parliaments and not of Silicon Valley leaders ”.
The commission chief proposed a joint trade and technology council to ‘create a digital economy regulation valid worldwide’, covering areas such as data protection, privacy and infrastructure security techniques.
“The path we have taken in Europe can be an example of approaches at the international level,” she said.
Mr Trump insisted on Tuesday that his movement was “just beginning” as he prepared for the handover of power to Mr Biden – a successor he could not bring himself to name in a speech by farewell from the White House.
Mr. Trump will be the first president in more than 150 years to refuse to attend the inauguration of his successor.