Russia and others "emboldened" by Donald Trump

A former US ambassador to the EU says the conduct of President Trump has “emboldened autocrats all over the world.”

This was an indirect reference to the recent behaviour of Russia, Saudi Arabia and others.

Speaking in Brussels  Anthony Gardner also warned that the next commission could contain commissioners who “fundamentally doubt” the European project.

Gardner said, “This is particularly worrying.”

He told a conference organised by the Friends of Europe think tank that he expects a surge in support for Eurosceptic and anti-EU political parties in May’s European elections.

“For the first time we are seeing something quite new,” said Gardner who served as ambassador in Brussels from 2014 to the end of 2017.

“What is new is that democracies around the world, including in the EU, are electing autocratic leaders who want to withdraw from the global rules-based order.

“What is particularly worrying is that I think we will see the next commission composed of commissioners who have fundamental doubts about the EU.”

He also voiced concern about what he called President Trump’s “retreat from the world order.”

Gardner, who has been vocal in his criticism of Trump since he left office, said Trump and the current US administration had “legitimised” the behaviour of autocratic regimes and “emboldened” autocratic leaders.

His election was “not a blip” though but part of a trend towards populism and nationalism.

He said, “This is new and very dangerous and is why the EU has to step up to fill the vacuum left by the United States. The EU has to stand up and defend democracy.”

He praised the EU for “standing up” in some areas of governance, such as trade and keeping China in check.

But Gardner said it faced an uphill “struggle” in saving the Paris climate agreement which President Trump had withdrawn from.

Even though the EU  and international community were “on track” to meet the Paris climate targets he fears the accord is at “real risk” of “falling apart” because of America’s reluctance to lend its support.

He was speaking at a FoE summit on the “state of Europe”, the 15th such edition of the event.

Further comment came from Shada Islam, director of Europe and Geopolitics at FoE, who accused President Trump of “destabilising” the traditional world order.

She said, “These days A stands for America First and Brexit has fragilized the EU. People therefore ask if the EU and  Europe can fill the gap and I think they can but not on their own.”

In a session on migration, Lloyd Axworthy, chair of the World Refugee Council, called on the EU to take a lead in tackling the migration and asylum crisis.

The former Canadian Foreign Minister said, “The US is retreating from this responsibility and even becoming noxious about the issue. If the EU doesn’t take a lead it will find that the asylum problems it experienced in 2015 are minor compared to what is to come in the next few years.”

Giles Merritt, founder of FoE, said that Europe was taking in only half as many refugees compared with a decade ago.

He said the figure ten years ago was half a million per year while it was only 225,000 a year today.

“We in Europe are most hypocritical of them all on this issue,” he said.

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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