EU sighs with relief as Biden readies to enter White House

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European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen addresses European lawmakers during a plenary session on the inauguration of the new President of the United States and the current political situation, at the European Parliament in Brussels, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, Pool)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s top officials breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday that Joe Biden will be taking over as president of the United States, but they warned that the world has changed after four years of Donald Trump and that trans-Atlantic ties will be different in the future.

“This new dawn in America is the moment we’ve been awaiting for so long,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, hailing Biden’s arrival as “resounding proof that, once again after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House.”

“The United States are back, and Europe stands ready to reconnect with an old and trusted partner to breathe new life into our cherished alliance,” she told EU lawmakers, hours before Biden was to be sworn in at his inauguration ceremony in Washington.

European Council President Charles Michel, who chairs summits between the EU’s 27 heads of state and government, said that trans-Atlantic relations have “greatly suffered in the last four years. In these years, the world has grown more complex, less stable and less predictable.”

“We have our differences and they will not magically disappear. America seems to have changed, and how it’s perceived in Europe and the rest of the world has also changed,” said Michel, whose open criticism of the Trump era contrasted starkly with the silence that mostly reigned in Europe while the Republican leader was in the White House.

This change, Michel said, means “that we Europeans (must) take our fate firmly into our own hands, to defend our interests and promote our values,” and he underlined that “the EU chooses its course and does not wait for permission to take its own decisions.”

The Europeans have invited Biden to a summit, quite probably in Brussels, in parallel with a top-level NATO meeting as soon as he’s ready. Michel said the EU’s priority is to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and climate change, rebuild the global economy and boost security ties with Washington.

In Germany, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier issued a video statement on his website as well as Instagram and Facebook before the inauguration, calling it a “good day for democracy.”

He said that the U.S. had “faced tremendous challenges and endured.”

“Despite the attempts to tear at America’s institutional fabric, election workers and governors, the judiciary and Congress have proven strong,” he said. “I am greatly relieved that, today, Joe Biden is being sworn in as president and will be moving into the White House. I know many people in Germany share this feeling.”

With Biden and incoming Vice President Kamala Harris, Steinmeier said there was new hope that the U.S. would again be a “vital partner” internationally to tackle issues like the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, security issues including arms control and disarmament, and multiple conflicts.

“When our views do differ, such differences of opinion will not divide us, but should rather spur us on to find joint solutions,” he said. “Despite all the joy we feel today, we must not forget that even the most powerful democracy in the world has been seduced by populism.

“We must work resolutely to counter polarization, protect and strengthen the public square in our democracies, and shape our policies on the basis of reason and facts.”

In Poland, where the right-wing government has been on very good terms with the Trump administration, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, said that he expects cooperation with Biden and his team to develop positively.

“We have many points in common, joint projects linked to the Three Seas Initiative (in central and eastern Europe) where we are developing many infrastructure connections,” Morawiecki told an online news conference.

He also mentioned the energy sector, where Poland is importing substantial quantities of U.S. liquefied gas, LNG, and security cooperation around NATO’s borders with Russia, saying that “for these reasons and also due to the security cohesion, this cooperation will be developing well, or even very well.”

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David Rising in Berlin, and Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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