What could Joe Biden as US president mean for Germany?

Joe Biden will officially be inaugurated as the 46th US president on Wednesday. Here's a look at what the new administration could mean for Germany and transatlantic relationships.

What could Joe Biden as US president mean for Germany?
Biden and Merkel, during a visit from then-President Obama in 2017. Photo: DPA

The German government's coordinator for transatlantic relations, Peter Beyer, said on Wednesday that he expected a visit from new US. President Joe Biden soon.

“Especially after four years of Donald Trump, there is a longing in Germany for such a visit,” the politician from Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) told the Saarbrücker Zeitung.

“His visit would help improve the image of the United States in Germany.”

With the new president, there would also be an opportunity to strengthen the transatlantic relationship. “It has suffered greatly under Trump,” Beyer said.

Trump notoriously avoided making a bilateral visit to Germany, a very unusual move for a U.S. president. But on Wednesday, new hopes were set on the new administration for better transatlantic relations.

Here's a look at how some top issues could look under a Biden presidency.

International cooperation: Under Trump, the transatlantic friendship was not so clear. “He apparently has a particular aversion to the German Chancellor (Angela Merkel), but probably also to Germany,” said Constanze Stelzenmüller of the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington. “Even he himself probably does not know where this is rooted.”

In the Biden camp, she said, people are aware “that America's position in the world has become weaker – because of Trump, but not only because of Trump. They know that they need their allies in Europe and, above all, like-minded democratic allies more than ever before.”

READ ALSO: 'Worlds between us': What Trump's German family's town thinks of him today

Trump was betting on “America First”. But the experienced foreign policy expert Biden – who was Vice President under Trump's predecessor Barack Obama and who chaired the Committee on Foreign Affairs as Senator – is committed to multilateral cooperation.

Among other things, Biden promises to revise the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the World Health Organisation (WHO) as soon as he officially is inaugurated on Wednesday. While Trump threatened to withdraw from NATO, Biden wants to strengthen the alliance.

Troops: In what was seen by many as an election maneuver, Trump announced in June 2020 that he would be withdrawing a third of all 36,000 US troops in Germany, partly because he said Germany did not make a big enough contribution to NATO. However, all troops were still in place. 

German troops in Dresden in 2016. Photo: DPA

“I see a definitive chance that this decision will be revised under Biden,” said representative of the Christian Democratic Party/Christian Social Union parliamentary faction, Johann Wadephul last October.

Brexit: Unlike Trump, who has backed Brexit and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Biden has often spoken out in favour of European integration. 

The 77-year-old has already made it clear that he does not think much of the British withdrawal from the EU. He has also warned British Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to jeopardise peace in Northern Ireland in the ongoing negotiations with the EU on a trade agreement. 

Trade: With a Biden administration, US interests will no doubt be pursued differently, but there would be no fundamental repositioning of Washington on the world stage, said Bernd Lange of the Social Democrats (SPD), the head of the EU Parliament's Trade Committee. 

READ ALSO: What Germany is saying about the US elections

Protectionist initiatives are also to be expected under Biden, he said, even if they are then presented in a more conciliatory manner than they have been under the Trump administration. 

Back to “normal”? Berlin has no illusions that everything will immediately be rosy in German-American relations under the new Biden administration. Beyer stressed that Barack Obama's presidency was not an easy one for Germany either.

“I warn against rose-coloured glasses of transatlantic nostalgia,” said the CDU politician. In Obama's day, for instance, there were diplomatic upheavals because Chancellor Merkel's mobile phone was tapped by the US secret service NSA.

Beyer, however, pleaded – like many others in the government camp in Berlin – to see the crisis in German-American relations as an opportunity.

“Maybe that is not such a bad thing, because it forces us Germans and Europeans to approach the shaping of our own economic and security policy future with a little more brain power – not only with regard to the US, but also with regard to China,” he said.

“We must create a strengthened, a united Europe – and then revitalise relations with the US”.

Member comments

  1. If Trump didn’t like strong women, he would not have appointment Amy Barrett to the High Court.
    Do some research & don’t just listen to Main Stream Media. Don’t allow yourself to be decieved by the lying Fake-stream media.

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Will Spain have a sixth coronavirus wave?

While Covid infections are rising across Europe, Spain has managed to keep cases and hospitalisations low so far this autumn. But there are already signs things may be changing. 

people walk without masks on ramblas barcelona during covid times
Spain’s epidemiological situation is the most favourable in the EU and a sixth wave but will there be a sixth wave? Photo: Pau Barrena/AFP

Coronavirus cases have been rising quickly across Europe since October but not so in Spain, which has maintained one of the lowest infection, hospitalisation and death rates on the continent. 

According to prestigious medical publication The Lancet, Spain could well be on the verge of reaching herd immunity, a statement the country’s Health Minister tends to agree with.  

READ ALSO: Has Spain almost reached herd immunity?

Add the favourable epidemiological indicators to the almost 80 percent rate of full vaccination of Spain’s entire population and the immunity claim doesn’t seem so far-fetched. 

But if there’s one thing this pandemic has taught governments around the world – or should have – is to not assume Covid-19 can be eradicated after a few encouraging weeks. 

Not that Spain is letting down its guard, the general public continues to take mask wearing in indoor spaces seriously (outdoors as well even though not required in many situations) and there are still some regional restrictions in place. 

READ MORE: What Covid-19 restrictions are in place in Spain’s regions in November?

And yet, Covid infections are on the rise again, although not at the pace seen during previous waves of the virus. 

On Thursday November 4th Spain re-entered the Health Ministry’s “medium risk” category after the national fortnightly infection rate surpassed 50 cases per 100,000 people.

From Friday 5th to Monday 8th, it climbed five more points up to 58 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. 

It’s the biggest rise since last July but this shouldn’t be cause for alarm, especially as hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths all remain low and steady.

A closer look at the stats shows that 1.52 percent of hospital beds across the country are currently occupied by Covid patients, 4.41 percent in the case of ICU beds. 

Daily Covid deaths in October were under 20 a day, the lowest rate since August 2020. 

With all this in mind, is a sixth wave of the coronavirus in Spain at all likely?

According to a study by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, Spain will have a sixth wave.

The Seattle-based research group predicts an increase in infections in Spain from the second half of November, which will skyrocket in December reaching the highest peak towards the end of the year. 

The country would reportedly need about 24,000 beds for Covid patients (4,550 for critical ones) and there would be almost 2,000 deaths. 

Increased social interactions would mean that on December 30th alone, daily Covid infections in Spain could reach 92,000, the study claims. 

If restrictions were tightened ahead of the holiday period, including the use of face masks, the sixth wave’s peak wouldn’t be as great, IHME states

It’s worth noting that the IHME wrongly predicted that Spain wouldn’t be affected by a fifth wave whereas it ended up causing more than a million infections and 5,000 deaths. 

two elderly women in san sebastian during covid times
The vaccination rate among over 70s in Spain is almost 100 percent. Photo: Ander Guillenea/AFP

The latest message from Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias is that currently “the virus is cornered” in the country, whilst admitting that there was a slight rise in cases. 

“I do not know if there will be a sixth wave, but first we must remember that immunisation is not complete in all patients despite vaccinations,” Dr. José Polo , president of the Spanish Society of Primary Care Physicians (Semergen), told El Periódico de España

“That’s because 100 percent effectiveness doesn’t exist in any drug, or in any medicine”.

Despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, Spain still has around 4.2 million eligible people who haven’t been vaccinated, mostly people aged 20 to 40. 

The majority of Covid hospitalisations across Spain are patients who have not been vaccinated: 90 percent in the Basque Country, 70 percent in Catalonia and 60 percent in Andalusia.

Among Covid ICU patients, 90 percent of people in critical condition across all regions are unvaccinated. 

“Although there are many people vaccinated in Spain, there will be an increase in cases because we know how the virus is transmitted and when the cold comes and the evenings are darker we will tend to go indoors, and the virus spreads there,” Cesar Carballo, Vice President of the Spanish Society of Emergency Medicine of Madrid, told La Sexta news.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already warned that Europe is at a  “critical point of regrowth”  and that it has once again become the “epicentre”  of the pandemic, due to the generalised spike in cases in recent weeks.

Does that mean that Spain’s daily infections won’t be in the thousands again as winter nears? Or that regional governments won’t reintroduce Covid measures ahead of Christmas to prevent this from happening?

Nothing is for certain, but as things stand Spain’s epidemiological situation is the most favourable in the EU and a sixth wave seems unlikely, but not impossible.

The Spanish government continues to push ahead with its vaccination campaign, reopening its vaccination centres, administering booster shots to its most vulnerable and considering vaccinating under 12s to meet an immunity target of 90 percent.