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This uncertainty may lead to the Eu pushing forward the idea of an EU army all the signs are there

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Donald Trump’s election has put establishment politicians in Europe in a state of panic. In Berlin, nobody knows what the US president-elect intends to do. In Brussels, fears are growing he will put wind into the sails of the growing anti-EU populist movement.

Angela Merkel has no lack of experience in dealing with egocentric men. The chancellor has known Russian President Vladimir Putin for years and she speaks regularly with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the phone.

After the surprising victory of self-made politician Donald Trump in the US presidential elections, another member of this species will now be added to the group. No wonder, then, that the German chancellor wanted to call the new US president-elect as quickly as possible on Wednesday.

The only problem was that no one in the German government had a number to call. It was only after the Chancellery in Berlin requested assistance from the German Embassy in Washington that they were able to reach a contact close to Trump.

The election victory of Trump, literally the embodiment of the new wave of angry voters, creates fresh challenges for the German political elite, not just when it comes to the phone directory. Most leading politicians among both the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) had been convinced that Democratic rival Hillary Clinton would prevail in the election. Now they are all facing the same difficult question. How do you react when the incoming occupant of the most powerful position in the Western world sees himself as a populist and is threatening to end traditional Western alliances?

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who recently branded Trump a “hate preacher,” has said he is preparing for “difficult times.” The chancellor herself also reminded the president-elect that “democracy, freedom, respect for the law and for human dignity, regardless of ancestry, skin color, religion, gender and sexual orientation” are all values that must be defended — the very ones that the Republican candidate more or less openly questioned during his campaign.

image-1071491-640_panofree-oxmp-1071491Graphic: Right-wing populists on the rise

Graphic: Right-wing populists on the rise

Trump’s triumph raises questions that a postwar German government has never before faced. Will the United States now withdraw from its role as the leading Western power? Will Trump close ranks with autocratic leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin? Will the next US president become the leader of a new international movement that opposes cosmopolitanism, freedom of expression and the principles of parliamentarian democracy?

These are questions that no one can answer at this point. But one thing is certain: Trump means the end of normality in German politics.

The challenge could not be greater. After all, populists are gaining ground in Europe at the moment as well. In many EU countries, they are already well on their way to becoming the strongest political force. Two EU countries already have populist prime ministers and a series of elections and referenda in the coming months could further strengthen them. Little wonder, then, that Hungary’s national-conservative prime minister, Viktor Orbán, celebrated the outcome of the US election as “good news” and that Frauke Petry, head of Germany’s right-wing populist Alternative for Germany party, is crowing about a “political turning point.”

No Answer to the Populist Threat

What is weighing even heavier at the moment is that the political establishment in Europe still hasn’t found an answer to the populist threat. In Brussels, EU leaders are sticking to their “more Europe” mantra, even as pronounced anti-EU sentiment is growing back in their home countries.

In Berlin, meanwhile, the parties in Merkel’s coalition government are struggling to find the right recipes to combat the AfD’s rise. Leaders with Merkel’s CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), are divided over whether they should continue to pursue their path of modernization or whether they should reemphasize their more traditional conservative roots. On the left, the Social Democrats have looked on with dismay as right-wing populists have sought to lure away their traditional party base, the working class, in a phenomenon similar to what has taken place in the US.

 

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