by Judah Grunstein
January 18, 2017
from WPR Website
French President Francois Hollande
and German Chancellor Angela Merkel,
Berlin, Germany, Nov. 18, 2016
(AP photo by Markus Schreiber).
Just when it seemed like the European Union's troubles couldn't get any worse, Donald Trump seemed to rub salt in its wounds last week.
In a joint interview with German newspaper Bild and
The Times of London, he lauded
Brexit, disparaged German
Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door refugee policy, and
derided the EU as a "vehicle" for German economic domination.
with Johnson in Washington, Sen. Robert Corker, once
floated as a potential Trump secretary of state nominee,
publicly declared that such a deal would be a high priority
interview suggests that Green's reporting is more reality than
But there has always been an "American primacy" contingent in Washington that viewed the EU with skepticism, disdaining Brussels' claims to global leadership not through the hard power of military might, but through the soft power of trade, norms and values.
advocated treating the EU as a rival and threat.
But true to form, instead of seeing the EU as a political whole that is greater than the sum of its economic parts, he sees it through a distinctly mercantilist lens:
is the geopolitical equivalent
People love everything it does,
they just hate the name.
To be fair, the same criticism has been leveled by Europeans, particularly in Athens and elsewhere in Southern Europe at the height of the Greek debt crisis.
And Trump is
hardly the first to criticize Merkel's refugee policy, whether
in Germany or Europe.
Far from a baseless rumor, Trump not only clearly wants to undermine the EU, he has cheered Brexit as the opening act of its demise. And that could generate the kind of European solidarity that has been in short supply in recent years and could tip the balance in the EU's favor moving forward.
After all, its
one thing to talk about tearing your own house down, but quite
another for a perfect stranger to call in the wrecking ball
while you're still living in it.
parties have been gaining traction in both countries, and their
victory would raise the risk of a chain reaction of core
founding member states beating a path to the exit.
And while a Pew Global Poll from before Brexit in June 2016 suggested a rise in unfavorable views of the EU in some key member states such as France, a majority still had a favorable view in the Netherlands and Germany.
Moreover, according to the latest Eurobarometer poll from November, although only 35 percent of respondents had an overall positive image of the EU, that still beat out those with an overall negative view of the union, at 25 percent; 38 percent were neutral.
Another interesting insight from the poll had to do with trust:
Perhaps the most astonishing results pertain to particular EU policies, where support grew since last spring and now ranges from strong to overwhelming majorities on every issue polled, including,
...with one exception:
In other words, the EU is the geopolitical equivalent of Obamacare:
That suggests that the EU might prove more durable than its doubters and skeptics believe.
According to Trump, "it's going to be very hard to keep it together cause people are angry about it," but that's contradicted by the Eurobarometer polling, which showed that, overall, a majority of respondents were optimistic about the EU's future.
This is in part because in many respects the EU has succeeded on its core mission: maintaining peace among its members through the establishment of deep and binding economic, political and cultural links.
surprisingly, these are also identified in the Eurobarometer
poll as the EU's most positive achievements.
As I wrote back in October, for all the EU's political
errors - and they are legion - if it did not exist, it would
have to be invented.
British Prime Minister Theresa May's government now
committed to negotiating a clean break from the EU, the most
destabilizing potential blow for Brussels may very well be
That won't make
all of the familiar obstacles to developing common EU policies
on defense, energy and migration - to name just a few -
magically disappear, but it could create the political will to
more effectively address them.
But by broadcasting his project, he has made the need for a strong Europe an easier sell than it's been in ages.