Opinion: The EU must define itself to confront Trump | Opinion | DW | 03.06.2017
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Opinion

Opinion: The EU must define itself to confront Trump

Claiming moral superiority over US President Donald Trump is no great feat. The European Union must now decide what values it wants to stand for, the author Jagoda Marinic writes.

US President Donald Trump gathered the international press this week to announce his contribution to the destruction of the planet. He justified his decision by saying the international climate agreement reached in Paris in 2015 was a bad deal for the United States. "Trump just committed a crime against humanity," the documentary film director Michael Moore wrote on Twitter.

Let us take a step back and review Trump's 2016 presidential campaign against his Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Ahead of the US's election, the Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Zizek sparked a wave of outrage when recommended that people vote for Trump.

Zizek did not actually advocate Trump as a politician. With his recommendation, Zizek was hoping that the citizens of the United States would finally wake up and start fighting for democracy if they had a president like Trump. The reasoning behind this was that Clinton, a member of the establishment, was used to doing the dirty business of politics behind closed doors. Trump's very presidency, on the other hand, would expose the US's corrupt economic structures. In essence, Zizek was heralding imminent revolution if Trump were to take power.

Jagoda Marinic Autorin (D. Piroelle)

Jagoda Marinic is a German-Croatian journalist, author and playwright. She was born to Croatian immigrants in the southern German city of Waiblingen. She currently lives in Heidelberg. Marinic recently published the book "Made in Germany," in which she delves into the nation's identity as a destination for migration.

Trump, however, is worse than the corrupt system that he embodies. At his press conference on Thursday, he approached the microphone clearly enthralled with himself and his idea of presidentialness and announced that the United States would withdraw from the climate accord for the country's own good. In Trump's world, even global climate policy can be broken by nation.

Will people in the United States be spared the consequences of climate change by an invisible shield over their country? How does nationalism work in an interconnected biosphere? Will people take to the streets, as Zizek expects? Will there be a second March on Washington?

'Renegotiate, renegotiate, renegotiate'

Trump wants to renegotiate the climate deal. His presidency is reminiscent of Rumpelstiltskin's dance around the fire, except that Trump chants: "Renegotiate, renegotiate, renegotiate!" In the past, his magic created golden towers, but now it only results in isolation. Maybe he is familiar with the loneliness in golden towers. But he is not entirely on his own. He has now joined the ranks of Nicaragua and Syria, the other two nations that have declined to participate in the climate deal.

The president's behavior at May's G7 summit foreshadowed all of this. He loves to play golf with the world, but the greens are slowly turning into thin ice. No one has found the right stroke to sink a putt. The world is tottering while trying to position itself in relation to the world power.

After the summit - and without using the president's name - German Chancellor Angela Merkel attacked Trump for his isolationist stance, emphasizing that the European Union would refused to be the weaker partner in trans-Atlantic relations. Ever since the summit, it has become all the more obvious why Merkel is touted as the leader of the free world by the English-language press. And, shortly after G7, Merkel received the leaders of China and India in Berlin. Thanks to Trump, the EU will fight together with China against global warming and for international trade.

That's something to think about: an alliance with China to defend the European Union and its allies. Who's next? Russia?

In the meantime, Trump will occasionally test some missiles. No one knows how much longer his tweets will provide fodder for headlines in the international press.

EU grows up

It is an unsettled world order in an unsettled world. The European Union must grow up, and it must do so now. Though new international alliances are being forged, the bloc must still resolve its internal conflicts. The southern part of the European Union continues to be economically disadvantaged - and the gap is growing. The displaced people who have arrived at the European Union's borders are asking questions that the EU itself cannot answer. It is no great feat to claim moral superiority over Trump. And, for now, containing his damage is easier than expected. His unreliability makes the European Union an attractive partner for other nations in other regions. The decadelong reproach that the European Union has not taken responsibility on the international stage may now be a thing of the past.

There is only one thing that the European Union should not forget: It can only be a strong partner if its internal foundations are strong. The contradictions within the European Union have not been officially addressed - neither has Germany's role in this new EU. What happens if Merkel really is the leader of the free world? Will other free-thinking nations follower her? Is that what the European Union is about?

Merkel must also tackle unresolved issues at home. While Trump exits the climate agreement, German automobile manufacturers like Volkswagen are embroiled in a legal battle resulting from falsified gas emission data. Germany is constantly skirting the truth about its own carbon dioxide emissions. Germany pays a lot of lip service to the virtues of environmental protection. There is a lot of praise for environmental policies, but no one wants to cover the costs.

The chancellor is reinventing herself in this year's parliamentary election campaign in Germany. She feels at home on an international stage. However, across the European Union, large populations are asphyxiating under her austerity policies. Pensions will soon be cut yet again in Greece. And pensions in Germany, too, are a disgrace - especially with regard to the country's prosperity. The gap between rich and poor, north and south continues to widen.

This week, the 2016 Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders visited Berlin. He represents something that Martin Schulz, the Social Democrats' chancellor candidate, will never: a beacon of the left. In Zizek's analysis, people who now stand on the left, who see Trump as the personification of a corrupt system, must now stand up and fight - especially against their own lethargy.

Sanders asked people to also fight against the greed of billionaires. He maintained that people now seem to accept the fact that corrupt billionaires are striving for political power and actually attaining it. If the EU is to fill the void left behind by Trump, then Europeans must decide what their union intends to represent - and the values that this community will stand by.

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