As Europe’s populist right leaders wrestled with how to deal with the new U.S. president, they predicted Donald Trump’s entry into the White House will herald the end of the old way of doing business in the west.
While German Chancellor Angela Merkel was trying to reassure her supporters at a meeting in the country’s industrial heartland, the combative language of the new U.S. president’s inaugural address was echoed at a celebratory rally in Koblenz, western Germany, by anti-establishment politicians including Marine Le Pen, head of the National Front in France, and Geert Wilders of the Dutch Freedom Party.
With the continent facing elections this year in Germany, France and the Netherlands, Le Pen and her allies are spearheading the most sustained challenge to Europe’s status quo since the end of the Cold War.
Investors’ concerns on the where the next threat to the European Union project might emerge have been focused on Trump’s unexpected rise and the U.K.’s decision to leave the EU in last year’s referendum even as a meeting of the populist right would once have been dismissed as a sideshow.
“The first major hit on the old order was Brexit,” Le Pen told a couple of hundred cheering supporters in Koblenz’s conference center. EU countries will soon “leave the prison of Europe,” she predicted. Branding it as “a catastrophe”, she lambasted Merkel’s decision to let almost a million migrants into Germany last year. Trump himself has called the move “a catastrophic mistake.”
the shared currency is “destroying” the French economy and every member of the euro area must have the possibility of leaving, said Le Pen while hammering Bottom of Form
on the key themes of her election campaign. Though no one has projected she would win the runoff two weeks later, the latest opinion polls suggest the nationalist leader could win the most votes in the first round of France’s presidential election on April 23.
According to two people familiar with her preparations, seeking clues on how to influence him when they first meet, Merkel has been poring over old interviews and video of Trump though Merkel chose to visit an art gallery near Berlin rather than follow Friday’s inauguration live.
Insisting that the trans-Atlantic relationship ”won’t be less important in the coming years than in the past”, Merkel told reporters at a conference of her party in Baden-Wuerttemberg that Trump “made his convictions clear” in his inaugural speech.
Running for a fourth term as chancellor in September is Merkel, a Christian Democrat who has led Europe’s biggest economy for more than 11 years. By channeling discontent with her immigration policy, the anti-European Alternative for Germany has risen to third place in the polls and Merkel is trying to fend off a challenge from them.
“We must have the courage to rethink Europe and Europe’s freedom,” Frauke Petry, co-leader of the AfD, said in her speech in Koblenz.
Trump was congratulated on his rise to power in Koblenz by both Wilders and Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League.
“We live in historical times — the people of the West are awakening,” Wilders said. “They want their freedom back, they want their sovereign nations back, and we, the patriots of Europe, will be their instrument of liberation.
(Adapted from Bloomberg)