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Europe prepares to stand alone as Trump returns – POLITICO

STRASBOURG — Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo warned that Europe must be ready to stand alone if Donald Trump sweeps back to the White House later this year.

“If 2024 brings us ‘America first’ again, it will be more than ever Europe on its own,” he warned in a speech at the European Parliament, at the start of a year in which both European Union citizens and Americans go to the polls.

“We should, as Europeans, not fear that prospect; we should embrace it,” he argued, saying that Europe must become “stronger, more sovereign, more self-reliant.”

In the United States, Trump is the runaway favorite to win the Republican Party’s nomination for president. He got off to a flying start in the Iowa caucuses, winning by a large margin.

The prospect of a second Trump term has been alarming officials in EU capitals ever since it became clear he would run for the White House again, amid concerns he will disrupt trade and withdraw U.S. backing for European security efforts.

De Croo is a key figure in European politics this year as his country holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU for the next six months — giving Belgian diplomats the power to set agendas in crucial Brussels meetings.

His comments echoed a famous 2017 speech by then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the wake of Trump’s first election win, when she warned Europe could not rely solely on its allies.

Thierry Breton, France’s European Commissioner, recently revealed that Trump said in 2020 the U.S. would “never” come to Europe’s aid if it were attacked.

In Germany, politicians echoed Merkel’s message that Europe needs to be able to look after itself.

Trump is a man who “makes no secret of his contempt for democracy” and “is threatening to become president again,” Katarina Barley, a senior German Social Democrat member of the European Parliament, wrote on X. “Europe needs to focus on itself.”

Norbert Röttgen, a senior lawmaker from Germany’s Christian Democratic Union, said in interview with the Tagesspiegel newspaper: “The German government must now prepare more intensively than before for Trump’s return to the White House. Among other things, this means that we need to ramp up our arms production so that Ukraine can defend itself against a Russian attack even without U.S. help. Europe’s freedom depends on it.”

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