U.S. Election: This Is What Europe Needs From President Donald Trump

Donald Trump
A TV screen showing U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, November 9. Europe needs support from Trump as president. Staff/Remote/Reuters

U.S. elections have always captured the attention of the entire world. This time, we could say there is an additional interest for us, the Europeans, as some of the major issues the next president should focus on involve the EU. Expectations of the Trump administration, as of any other president, should be high. Still, deep concerns have been voiced by democratic and progressive voices in the U.S. and abroad about whether his election will be a step towards global stability and prosperity or not.

The first priority for the U.S. administration is to put an end to the Syrian war. After a six-year deadly conflict with millions of displaced people and refugees fleeing their homeland for neighboring countries and the EU, U.S. leadership should play a definitive role in reaching a mutually acceptable peace resolution.

Such a deal should stem from the UN's Security Council, involving the active participation of the newly-appointed Secretary General Antonio Guterres, balancing the different or conflicting interests of all actors, and acknowledging the fragile geopolitical environment in the Middle East. The ongoing conflict in Syria is alarming, with the threat of spillover into the wider region the worst case scenario. The Turkish government and the Kurdish militia are fighting each other, whereas on the diplomatic level, Ankara and Tehran are antagonizing each other over post-war balances.

A peaceful solution for Syria would bring an end to the drama of the refugee flows and release considerable post-war financial assistance for the rebuilding of that country and support for all those states that have hosted the most refugees, e.g. Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece and Italy.

The second priority for the Trump administration is to press for growth-oriented policies on a global scale, with an emphasis on the eurozone. The biggest EU economies—like France, Italy and Spain—suffer from economic slowdown that negatively affects macroeconomic performance. In addition to that, the EU's strict and counter-productive Stability and Growth Pact, together with austerity politics, has weakened the role and influence the EU exerts at a global scale. Once a prosperous and stable continent, and a hub for the highly-educated workforce of the emerging markets, since 2009 the EU has become a weak financial zone that is struggling to recover and return to sustainable growth levels.

Reaching sustainable growth is inextricably correlated with the level of public debt. Unsustainable, oversized and toxic debt impedes investments and the creation of an investment-friendly environment in the eurozone. On a political level, the imposition of austerity by the German government—at the expense of the single market and of other European economies—is feeding far-right parties that benefit from growing social grievances to destabilize the EU and push for the final dissolution of the European establishment.

Regarding the unsustainable Greek debt, and the efforts the government is making to mobilize its European partners towards a compromise on debt relief, there has been important progress. In May 2016, the Eurogroup agreed on the need to concretize short-term debt relief measures by the end of the year—and at Monday's latest meeting all countries, except for Germany, committed to put all their efforts into successfully resolving this crucial issue.

The German government has been left alone, standing against any debt regulation for Greece, against all other EU institutions pushing for the opposite. In this respect, the role of the U.S. must be more productive. The Trump administration should invest in the regulation of sky-rocketing public debt for other member states—such as Italy, France and Portugal—that face similar burdens to Greece. Tackling debt relief would be beneficial for U.S. companies as it would open the way for large-scale investments in the EU, thus strengthening regional development and social cohesion.

The third priority has to do with the improvement of bilateral trade relations, especially the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Ongoing negotiations are secretive and lack transparency, but many EU leaders have expressed their concerns publicly or reserved their right to vote in favor. Almost all TTIP regulations so far have seen the light of day, causing social frustration and mobilizing a cross-party group of progressive MEPs, formed under the name Progressive Caucus, to exert pressure on a total revision of the TTIP.

As a matter of fact, the TTIP has failed, but few dare to say it publicly. The U.S. leadership, along with the Commission, EU member states and MEPs, need to come up with a new trade model that will respect environmental rules, labor rights, public health and the citizens themselves.

The recent experience with CETA, the trade agreement between the EU and Canada, has paved the way for all parties to avoid the same discrepancies and agree on regulations that protect both the citizens and the independence of political leaders and decision makers.

The coming period will be critical for all the above issues, with the new administration called to address not only the expectations of the American people, but also to create the conditions that will turn the U.S. into a guarantor of stability and growth at a global scale.

Dimitrios Papadimoulis is Vice President of the European Parliament, head of Syriza party delegation.