MEPs greet Joe Biden presidency as beginning of 'new era' for transatlantic relations

European Parliament welcomes host of US executive orders, including rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement and the World Health Organization.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

21 Jan 2021

Speaking as President Joe Biden begins his first full day in office, European Parliament President David Sassoli called for “a strong relationship between Europe and the United States.”

On his first day in office, Biden started the task of overturning many of his predecessor's actions by signing a host of executive orders, including rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement and the World Health Organization.

Addressing MEPs during this week’s plenary session, Sassoli said that the new US administration “marks the beginning of a new era for transatlantic relations.”

He added, “Working together, we can better tackle the challenges that we are faced with: the fight against climate change and the loss of biodiversity, responding to the digital transformation in a radically democratic way, and combating unacceptable and increasing inequalities.”

The Italian deputy added, “Despite the recent events in Washington and the growing challenges facing democracies around the world, I have faith in the US model of democracy and its institutions.”

“However, these events remind us that democracies are fragile systems, in order for them to function they must be defended, by protecting the common good, and ensuring participation, transparency, and the involvement of citizens.

“Despite the recent events in Washington and the growing challenges facing democracies around the world, I have faith in the US model of democracy and its institutions. However, these events remind us that democracies are fragile systems, in order for them to function they must be defended"  European Parliament President David Sassoli

“Let us not forget that we face a world in a moment of profound change and increasing uncertainty. We still face the crisis of the pandemic, which we can only tackle effectively if we do so together.

“Therefore, I welcome the commitment of the United States to return to the World Health Organization and congratulate them on their commitment to re-enter the Paris Agreement, only together can we build a greener and fairer world.”

In a plenary debate on the US, MEPs welcomed the inauguration Biden, the 46th president, as an “opportunity” for Europe.

Council president Charles Michel opened the debate by saying the new US administration was an “opportunity to rejuvenate our transatlantic relationship, which has greatly suffered in the last four years.”

“During this time, the world has grown more complex, less stable and less predictable. More than ever before, this requires us Europeans to take our fate firmly in our own hands to defend our interests and promote our values.”

“Together with the US, we must stand as the bedrock for the rules-based international order, working for peace, security, prosperity, freedom, human rights and gender equality.”

Jerome Riviere, a French member of the European Parliament’s right-wing Identity and Democracy (ID) group, said that the recent attack on the “temple” of US democracy, the Capitol building, was “unforgivable.”

But he also condemned that almost all social media had blocked Donald Trump, “a democratically elected president who was [at the time] still in office” saying this “breached the essential democratic principle of freedom of expression.”

“Our hopes and expectations are that the new administration will seek to refresh our relations on what we are - allies in working together for a multilateral system, based on fair rules, shared values, democracy and rule of law. However, the EU has to strive to redefine the relationship as one where both partners see eye to eye. Tonino Picula MEP

He said that Donald Trump’s defeat did not change the political agenda of the US, “which is to dominate people worldwide”.

Another speaker, Dutch ECR Group MEP Derk Jan Eppink warned against the “silencing” public debate by tech giants or politicians, admitting that “big tech companies abuse their dominant position. Their power must be broken”.

He added that while democrats might be “traumatised after four years of Trump, the new incumbents “should refrain from criminalising dissent.”

“Raising inconvenient questions is the core of democracy,” he added.

German GUE/NGL Group co-leader Martin Schirdewan said that four years of Trump had undermined trust in democracy, "which must be restored and strengthened."

The new US president must also signal a new start in the transatlantic relationship, he added, highlighting that for his group, the demands are: a return to multilateralism, a common policy that is committed to climate action, and working together for a peaceful world order.

Another  German deputy, Reinhard Bütikofer, a member of parliament’s delegation for relations with the United States, said, "Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will have to almost square the circle in order to lift US society out of a deep national crisis.”

“The new American president faces the Herculean task of leaving behind the poisoned legacy of his predecessor, while Trumpism obviously has not ceased to play a role. On the international stage, expectations are huge that Trump's strategy of division and the abandonment of multilateral agreements will be reversed as soon as possible.”

Tonino Picula, parliament’s rapporteur on US relations and the S&D Group’s spokesperson on foreign affairs, added, “For 70 years, the international order, the representation of democratic values has been based on cooperation between the USA and the EU.  For the last four years, we lost our transatlantic partner.”

“Our hopes and expectations are that the new administration will seek to refresh our relations on what we are - allies in working together for a multilateral system, based on fair rules, shared values, democracy and rule of law. However, the EU has to strive to redefine the relationship as one where both partners see eye to eye. That also requires bigger investments from our side.”

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