|"Don't mess with the EU Mr. Trump"|
In the European Parliament's plenary session Wednesday, the head of the ALDE group, Guy Verhofstadt, raged against the remarks, demanding a formal EU response. "It's insane!" he said. "We should be very conscious this will be a turning point on the 20th of January."
Verhofstadt also suggested to fellow lawmakers the "American ambassador" should be summoned to "explain Trump's statements".
The problem with that is that there is no "American ambassador" to the EU anymore. As of January 20, Anthony Gardner will no longer be in his office in Brussels as President Trump takes over his in Washington. Gardner, along with his counterparts at NATO and the EU, is among those the new president told in no uncertain terms to vacate their premises by inauguration.
It is likely to be many months before Trump-appointed ambassadors arrive in Brussels. One US diplomat explained that usually during presidential campaigns, there is a shadow administration -- with skeleton cabinets already assembled -- which can move into place the minute the keys are handed over after inauguration. The Trump campaign, this diplomat said, had no such system in place on election day.
Gardner, an unabashed EU admirer who spent his three-year tenure campaigning for the Transatlantic Free Trade and Investment Partnership [TTIP] and other forms of closer cooperation, said he'd decided he would rather go out "in a ball of flames" than be seen to acquiesce with the new administration's views on Europe.
"It's critically important," Gardner said in his last roundtable with journalists, "that while being loyal to the new team -- which is absolute right and appropriate in a democratic system -- that people speak truth to power and don't be shy in sometimes saying what [they] believe in."
Gardner said he had received no communication from incoming officials asking him for guidance on EU relations -- only a single phone call asking if he needed logistical help moving out by the deadline. He had, however, heard from EU contacts that the new president's team had made some calls to EU leaders -- with the priority being to inquire which country was most likely to leave the bloc, he said.
Gardner made no secret of his views. "The EU, despite all of the issues that we see everyday living and being here," Gardner insisted, "is not about to fall apart!" But he confirmed that the prevailing view at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave from Friday forward appears to be that "2017 is the year" in which the EU disintegrates.
Across town at NATO headquarters, officials are equally concerned about what's to come, especially after the same interview that suggested multiple EU mutinies also reiterated the disparagement of NATO as "obsolete". One NATO diplomat said he'd been asked by a European colleague whether "obsolete" could possibly have more than one meaning in American English, but that he'd had no euphemistic alternatives to offer.
Top military officials in the alliance for the most part dismiss such characterizations, as do Trump's own cabinet nominees. Vice President-elect Mike Pence has also done his share to buff the rough edges of Trump rhetoric, saying NATO "will go on".
Note EU-Digest: We can only hope that EU member state governments finally realize that the "love affair" between Europe and the US has come to an end.
There always will be a Europe, but we can not be so sure about the USA, which in reality is more divided than ever under the presidency of Donald Trump. It is high time for the EU to level the playing field and move on.
More than hopes - are up as Trump takes office | Europe | DW.COM | 19.01.2017