Europe unified against Trump’s Paris Pullout

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By Axel Krause

Paris, June 6, 2017

It most certainly wasn’t President Trump’s intention last Thursday in rejecting the climate-change accord, but his much-contested announcement strikingly backfired throughout Western Europe.

Within hours, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s President Emmanuel Macron, among others, announced plans to lead pursuing the accord’s goals minus the Trump administration. And, similarly, equally challenging, new calls emerged for pursuing lagging EU integration and reforms in other key areas, such as EUfinance and defense.

 

Consider some of the following headlines that succinctly summarized the fallout: « Europe – Thank you, Trump. » (France’s Libération) « New poster boy for more Europe. » (Politico Europe) « How Europe can battle for its Future. » And « Rejection of Paris deal gives China void to fill.» (International New York Times) « What was Merkel thinking? » (Germany’s Der Spiegel.)

 

Indeed, confirming as one of Macron’s closest advisers put it to the French, leftist-leaning daily Libération, « The European Union has a historic opportunity to become a driving force in the fight against climate change. »

The French leader declared Thursday evening: « there is no plan B because there is no planet B. » Stating in passing, half-jokingly perhaps, that disappointed « responsible » Americans, notably scientists and entrepreneurs, « will find in France a second homeland. »

« I call on them – come and work here with us to work together on concrete solutions for our climate, our environment…France will not give up the fight. » Speaking in English on French TV, Macron got off a coy one-liner aimed at Trump that quickly went viral: globally-shared responsibility will »make our planet great again. »

Within hours of Trump’s announcement, he and his opposite numbers in Berlin and Rome announced their « common engagement » to continue pursuing implementation of the Paris agreement with the other 91 signatories, minus the United States, noting that the complex agreement cannot -and will not – be renegotiated, Trump’s stated goal.

 

Similar support was also quickly expressed by top EU leaders in Brussels, who noted that there is plenty of time; as it will take up to four years for the US to fully withdraw from the Paris accord, musing a more understanding leadership in Washington by then may be changing.

While visiting Paris Saturday, India’s very conservative Prime Minister Narendra Modi, pledged his support that would even go « above and beyond » the Paris agreement; though not providing details nor criticizing Trump directly.

Today’s International New York Times reported from Mumbai, India that rather than building coal-fired plants, India is now canceling many in the early planning stages; today the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China and the US, yet with Nodi already committed to achieving 40% of the nation’s electricity capacity from nonfossil fuel sources by 2030.

 

And the day before also visiting Paris, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s former mayor and currently the UN’s special envoy for climate change, displayed support for Macron’s goals, member-countries noting they are being taken up at home by many players, in an evolving, loose global coalition.

To wit: writing in yesterday’s weekly Observer newspaper of London, Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center and law professor at Georgetown University noted that more than 30 states (led by California) and scores of companies have adopted clean-energy targets and goals. ; with a sizeable majority of not only average but companies, such as Exxon-Mobil, Apple, Google and Intel that also want to remain in the Paris agreement.

 

On the broader question of trans-Atlantic relations, no EU leader went as far as Mrs. Merkel in taking on Trump’s populist, right-wing « America first » narrative. Reflecting what Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine portrayed as a « potentially seismic shift »n US-EU relations.

Even before Thursday’s announcement by Trump, she told supporters at a beer tent in Munich the Sunday before Trump’s announcement that « the times in which we could completely rely on others (meaning the US primarily) are over to a certain extent…We Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands…we have to fight for our own future, as Europeans, for our destiny. »

What’s behind her unusual warning, Spiegel wrote, is a significant reversal of « past convictions » regarding trans-Atlantic cooperation ; and is « a clear indication that she is losing hope that she can ever work constructively together with Trump, » who has in the past has attacked her for failing to curb terrorism at home; the nation’s trade surplus and relatively limited defense spending, a performance he openly described as « bad, very bad,.«  Not surprisingly, she was irritated, to say the least.

Even her opponent in September’s parliamentary election, Social Democrat Martin Schulz and former president of the European Parliament, agreed with her, tweeting on Monday « the best response to Donald Trump is a strong Europe. » For explaining what Merkel meant « if the EU does not accelerate its integration, » Jean Quatremer, Libération’s seasoned Brussels correspondent warned, « it will be relegated to being a toy of events; power cannot be summed up by signing trade deals. »

As an example of what she nevertheless has in mind: last week, she and China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang, and EU leaders, in separate meetings, pledged far-reaching cooperation, including multi-billion-dollar investments, fulfilling the Paris accords’ guidelines for reducing carbon emissions, in what was termed a reinforced EU-Chinese « strategic » partnership. » Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, cautioned in this weekend’s International New York Times: Trump « has certainly made the world safe for Chinese influence. »

 

It may have been pure coincidence, but the day before Trump’s blockbuster announcement, but citing the « blow of Brexit, » its authors fully aware of Trump’s campaign promises to not only pull out of the Paris accord, but other multilateral trade agreements, like NAFTA, a policy paper was released in Berlin by the directors of France’s pro-EU Jacques Delors Institute and Germany’s Bertelsmann Stiftung – « Repair and prepare: Strengthen the Euro. »

Aimed and deepening the EU’s economic and monetary union, the paper calls for what it terms « enhanced banking union and better economic policy coordination under improved democratic control; a more targeted structural reform agenda combined with a comprehensive investment initiative and a major reform of EMU for the long term, involving significant risk and sovereignty-sharing within a coherent and legitimate framework of supranational economic governance. » Macron has also proposed a Buy European policy with regard to public procurement.

Reviving stalled plans for major breakthroughs has now also has emerged with regard to defense.

 

Many may have forgotten the first, major postwar effort that failed – the European Defense Community, the EDC, dating from the early 1950s. The intention was to form a pan-European defense force that would be an alternative to West Germany’s then-proposed NAT0 membership; to include Germany, France Italy and the Benelux countries. But for complex reasons, the EDC collapsed, in a 319-264 vote in France’s National Assembly.

The revival of that idea surfaces periodic member countries, but never go anywhere; the very idea of a « European caucus inside NATO » seriously worried the Bush administration, particularly the then Secretary of State James Baker.

Among those who never forgot and remained committed is Belgium’s former prime minister and outspoken, centrist in the European Parliament, Guy Verhostadt, who in a page-one commentary in this past weekend’s International New York Times, reflecting the same views expressed by Merkel cited above, wrote : « For two long in Europe, we have relied on the United States for our collective security…European Union countries should work together to develop an effective European Defense Union…if it spent strategically, within one defense framework and one defense market, the union could theoretically afford to sustain one of the world’s most modern and powerful military forces. »

 

What next? Clearly, given the reactions to the Trump proposed exit from the Paris accord in not only Europe, the future of climate control and its repercussions will continue to be a key top for discussion in international gatherings. The most prominent forum is the G20 group of nations that includes the United States, the EU Council, and Commission, plus countries from Latin America, Asia, including China, and Russia; and eight heads of state and government from Asia, the Netherlands, and Norway, among others. They will be meeting in Hamburg July 7-8.

Axel Krause is the Paris-based contributing editor of TransAtlantic Magazine, and for decades covered Europe, the US, and Russia for the International Herald Tribune and Business Week Magazine. He is the author Inside the New Europe.

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