This is how Germany is reacting to Joe Biden’s win

Leaders around Germany on Monday followed Chancellor Angela Merkel in offering their congratulations - and projections on what the next four years could hold.

This is how Germany is reacting to Joe Biden's win
Several Americans in Berlin gathered near the Brandenburg Gate and American Embassy on Saturday evening to celebrate Biden's win. Photo: DPA

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday warmly offered to cooperate closely with Joe Biden after his election as America's next president, a sharp contrast to her stern warning to Donald
Trump four years ago.

Underlining the President-elect's “decades of experience in foreign policy” and recalling “good encounters and talks with him”, Merkel vowed to “stand together” with Washington to overcome international challenges from the coronavirus pandemic to global warming.

The marked change in tone to Trump's 2016 victory, which Merkel had greeted with an extraordinary warning over democratic values, came as Germany heaved a sigh of relief at Biden taking the White House even if differences with Washington are expected to persist under the Democrat.

READ ALSO: Merkel pledges to 'stand together' with US after election

Merkel notably left the US billionaire leader and his administration completely out of her message on the US election.

Be it over military spending or Germany's strong exports, Trump, who is still contesting the US polls result, has made no effort to hide his ire towards Europe's biggest economy.

But it was his contempt of international treaties and multilateralism as he championed “America First” that deeply shocked Germans.

Trump ripped up the Iran nuclear treaty early in his term, slapped tariffs on EU steel and aluminium, and as Americans went to the polls last week, the US formally left the Paris Climate Agreement.

Hailing Biden's victory, German leaders have rushed to urge him to make good on his pre-election promise to reinstate the US on the climate treaty again.

“The return of the US to these common ideals offers the opportunity to stop the erosion of the international order,” wrote German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in an editorial for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

READ ALSO: What could Joe Biden as US president mean for Germany?

“With a return to the Paris climate agreement, renewed cooperation in the World Trade Organization, in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and also in curbing Iran's nuclear programme, the USA can once again counter the threat of international anarchy in which only 'maximum pressure' counts, with a more
optimistic vision of our common future,” he added.

At the same time, Steinmeier underlined that four years of Trump have also taught Germany the lesson that Europe needed to stand on its own feet rather than wait for its transatlantic partner to take the lead.

A point echoed by Merkel who said Europeans would do more to pull their own weight.

Merkel speaking on Monday in Berlin about the results of the US elections. Photo: DPA

More responsibility

“Germans and Europeans know that we must take on more responsibility in this partnership in the 21st century,” said Merkel, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

“America is and remains our most important ally but it expects us, and rightly so, to boost our efforts and to ensure our own security and to stand up for our own convictions in the world,” added the German leader, who will step down next year.

The pragmatism came as analysts noted that not all of Europe's interests may dovetail with those of the US.

Areas of friction will likely remain on military spending, the controversial Russia-to-Europe gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, and Washington's campaign against Chinese tech giant Huawei.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who promised a new start in transatlantic relationships, a “new deal”, said Berlin will make “concrete proposals on how we can close ranks — in dealings with players like China” for instance.

READ ALSO: Germany-US friendship is 'irreplaceable': Merkel sends congratulations to Joe Biden

But faced with a Covid-19 battered economy, Biden may well eschew Trump's protectionist tendencies while allowing some sort of “America First” vision for sensitive industries to live on.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier himself warned that “specific sectors in the US have increased their competitiveness through tariffs… and Joe Biden will not take this lightly either”.

Foreign policy veteran Wolfgang Ischinger, who chairs the Munich Security Conference, also noted that things won't “simply be all good” again between Europe and the US under Biden.

Washington is expected to keep a critical eye on Germany's softer approach with China and Berlin's reluctance to let go of Nord Stream 2 which critics believe would give Russia too much control.

Nevertheless, a key difference lies in attitudes.

“We would be able to tackle these problems together on the basis of a more trustworthy relationship between leaders,” said Ischinger.

By Hui Min Neo

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Norway flirts with the idea of a ‘mini Brexit’ in election campaign

On paper, Norway's election on Monday looks like it could cool Oslo's relationship with the European Union but analysts say that appearances may be deceiving.

Norway flirts with the idea of a 'mini Brexit' in election campaign
The Centre Party's leader Slagsvold Vedum has called for Norway's relationship with the European Union to be renegotiated. Photo: Gorm Kallestad / NTB / AFP

After eight years of a pro-European centre-right government, polls suggest the Scandinavian country is headed for a change of administration.

A left-green coalition in some shape or form is expected to emerge victorious, with the main opposition Labour Party relying on the backing of several eurosceptic parties to obtain a majority in parliament.

In its remote corner of Europe, Norway is not a member of the EU but it is closely linked to the bloc through the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement.

The deal gives Norway access to the common market in exchange for the adoption of most European directives.

Both the Centre Party and the Socialist Left — the Labour Party’s closest allies, which together have around 20 percent of voter support — have called for the marriage of convenience to be dissolved.

“The problem with the agreement we have today is that we gradually transfer more and more power from the Storting (Norway’s parliament), from Norwegian lawmakers to the bureaucrats in Brussels who are not accountable,” Centre Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum said in a recent televised debate.


Defending the interests of its rural base, the Centre Party wants to replace the EEA with trade and cooperation agreements.

However, Labour leader Jonas Gahr Store, who is expected to become the next prime minister, does not want to jeopardise the country’s ties to the EU, by far Norway’s biggest trading partner.

“If I go to my wife and say ‘Look, we’ve been married for years and things are pretty good, but now I want to look around to see if there are any other options out there’… Nobody (in Brussels) is going to pick up the phone” and be willing to renegotiate the terms, Gahr Store said in the same debate.

Running with the same metaphor, Slagsvold Vedum snapped back: “If your wife were riding roughshod over you every day, maybe you would react.”

EU a ‘tough negotiating partner’

Initially, Brexit gave Norwegian eurosceptics a whiff of hope. But the difficulties in untangling British-EU ties put a damper on things.

“In Norway, we saw that the EU is a very tough negotiating partner and even a big country like Britain did not manage to win very much in its negotiations,” said Ulf Sverdrup, director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.

While Norwegians have rejected EU membership twice, in referendums in 1972 and 1994, a majority are in favour of the current EEA agreement.

During the election campaign, the EU issue has gradually been pushed to the back burner as the Centre Party — which briefly led in the polls — has seen its support deflate.

The nature of Norway’s relationship to the bloc will depend on the distribution of seats in parliament, but experts generally agree that little is likely to change.

“The Labour Party will surely be firm about the need to maintain the EEA agreement,” said Johannes Bergh, political scientist at the Institute for Social Research, “even if that means making concessions to the other parties in other areas”.

Closer cooperation over climate?

It’s possible that common issues, like the fight against climate change, could in fact bring Norway and the EU even closer.

“Cooperation with the EU will very likely become stronger because of the climate issue” which “could become a source of friction” within the next coalition, Sverdrup suggested.

“Even though the past 25 years have been a period of increasingly close cooperation, and though we can therefore expect that it will probably continue, there are still question marks” surrounding Norway’s future ties to the EU, he said.

These likely include the inclusion and strength of eurosceptics within the future government as well as the ability of coalition partners to agree on all EU-related issues.

Meanwhile, Brussels is looking on cautiously. The EEA agreement is “fundamental” for relations between the EU and its
partners Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, according to EU spokesman Peter Stano.

But when it comes to the rest, “we do not speculate on possible election outcomes nor do we comment on different party positions.”