Trump's travel ban is an opportunity for the EU

Written by Madi Sharma on 21 February 2017

Madi Sharma | Photo credit: Office of Madi Sharma

Trump's travel ban is an opportunity for the EU to be a leader in the international realm, writes Madi Sharma.

Reactions to US President Donald Trump's executive order to ban migration from seven predominantly Muslim countries have been roundly negative. Celebrities, world leaders and international organisations have been vocal in their opposition. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that it goes against the "basic tenets" of international law. Harvard Law School vowed to protect its foreign students. Even the CEOs of US multinationals have come out against the ban. 

The EU has a history of vibrant debate around the issue of security. Since the Union was formed, there has been a commitment to promoting the rights of the people living within the region's borders, both in terms of human rights and protection from external threats. 


Recently, radical Islamic terrorism, combined with an increase in global migration, has provided new challenges. Trump's 'ban', as irrational and ill-convinced as it may be, speaks to these challenges and the fears that many Americans and Europeans have. 

Thus far, the EU has been firm in its response. Multiple MEPs, as well as EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, condemned the decision, confirming that Europe will continue to follow human rights law and welcome anyone in need of international protection. 

Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt has stated that the ban is "pure discrimination," especially since no terrorist attacks on US soil have been committed by people from the banned countries. 

As righteous and ethical as these responses are, they do not address the underlying fears that Trump capitalises on.  

In 2014, the President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, stated that fighting terrorism is a common European responsibility. There is a global consensus that countries need to cooperate to achieve this goal. Defeating terrorism serves the international community as much as it serves individual states. Security is an issue that affects us all. 

That's why it should not have been a surprise when the EU adopted a 2017 budget that increased the security spending by 11.3 per cent. Included in the EU counter-terrorism strategy, is the dedication to supporting grass-roots deradicalisation efforts. In addition, in early 2015, European heads of state confirmed their desire for the

EU to engage further with developing countries on counter-terrorism efforts. 

These are valiant efforts that must be continued. In the wake of Trump's ban, the EU has been given a new opportunity to be a leader in the international realm. 

While Trump pulls away from international norms (read: laws) and perpetuates anti-Muslim bigotry, Europe can bring nuance and sophistication to their security policies. 

While Trump shifts the focus away from countries he does business with, the EU can keep the emphasis on the regions that produce the most terrorism. 

While Trump enacts unethical and potentially unconstitutional executive orders, the EU can address terrorism pragmatically, by targeting root causes and preventing radicalisation. 

In order to achieve this, the EU must take all feasible steps to follow its counter-terrorism strategy. Europe must continue applying pressure on the states that have produced the most terrorists, like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and Afghanistan, regardless of their financial connections. 

The EU must fight anti-Muslim bigotry and employ rational, facts-based migration policies. It must acknowledge the legitimate security concerns of its citizens while maintaining an ethical and human rights based approach to security policy.  

The EU has the opportunity to do more than condemn Trump's ban, it can act as a force against it.


About the author

Madi Sharma is a UK member of the European Economic and Social Committee and founder of Madi Group, a group of international private sector and not for profit companies, and NGOs

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