The Sovereignty that Really Matters


October 23, 2017

The Sovereignty that Really Matters

by Javier Solana

The preference of some countries to isolate themselves within their borders is anachronistic and self-defeating, but it would be a serious mistake for others, fearing contagion, to respond by imposing strict isolation. Even in states that have succumbed to reductionist discourses, much of the population has not.

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MADRID – In his famous “political trilemma of the world economy,” Harvard economist Dani Rodrik boldly claims that global economic integration, the nation-state, and democracy cannot coexist. At best, we can combine two of the three, but always at the expense of one.

Until recently, the so-called Washington Consensus, with its emphasis on liberalization, deregulation, and privatization, shaped economic policy worldwide. While the 2008 global financial crisis eroded its credibility, the G20 countries quickly agreed to avoid the protectionist policies against which the consensus stood.

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Meanwhile, the European Union remained (and remains) the only democratic experiment on a supranational level, taking pride in its promising advances, despite being burdened by multiple defects. In other words, economic integration, anchored in the nation-state, remained in favor globally, while democracy was made secondary to international market dynamics.

But 2016 marked a turning point, though we still do not know toward what. A “Beijing Consensus” has emerged, which some view as an alternative model of development based on greater government intervention. But it was the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump as US president that really reflected the move to upend the long-established balance among globalization, the nation-state, and democracy.

“Let’s take back control” was the Brexiteers’ winning slogan, expressing a sentiment that clearly resonated with the slim majority of British voters who supported withdrawal from the EU. Likewise, many Trump voters were convinced that the accumulated powers of Wall Street, transnational players, and even other countries had to be reined in to “make America great again.”

It would not be wise to scorn this diagnosis, to which Rodrik himself subscribes (at least in part), just because one dislikes the proposals put forward by Trump and some of the Conservative proponents of Brexit. Their approach consists in hindering globalization – while maintaining or even enhancing other aspects of the Washington Consensus, such as financial deregulation – and strengthening democracy through the nation-state.

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In his first appearance before the United Nations General Assembly, Trump delivered a 42-minute speech in which he used the words “sovereignty” or “sovereign” 21 times –an average of once every two minutes. And in Europe, the United Kingdom is not the only country to be carried away by a neo-Westphalian current: Poland and Hungary are in its grip as well. Even the Catalan pro-independence movement, headed by various parties, most of which would not feel comfortable being labeled “anti-globalization,” follows a similar logic of retreat into nationalism.

All of these forces overestimate their capacity to dilute or circumvent existing economic integration, which has been strengthened in recent decades by the rapid development of cross-border value chains. Unless these forces reverse course, they are more likely to dilute the influence that their nation-states (or the states they seek to create) might be able to wield over globalization. In short, an increase in formal sovereignty could paradoxically result in a loss of effective sovereignty, which is the kind that really matters.

Consider Britain: by exiting the EU, the British will have no say over what is, far and away, their most important export market. As for Catalonia, a supposedly pro-independence and pro-sovereignty movement could end up creating a polity that is less sovereign and more at the mercy of international events.

Just a week after Trump’s UN speech, French President Emmanuel Macron presented his vision of Europe’s future in an address at the Sorbonne. Macron also mentioned the word “sovereign” repeatedly, making it clear that it forms the basis of his vision for Europe. But, unlike populists, he favors an effective and inclusive sovereignty, European in scope and supported by two more key pillars: unity and democracy.

Relations between states are driven by cooperation, competition, and confrontation. There is little doubt that a certain degree of confrontation will always be present internationally. But the EU has clearly demonstrated that its incidence can be reduced by exponentially increasing the opportunity cost of conflictive dynamics. Unfortunately, the movements that understand sovereignty in isolationist terms usually revert to extreme nationalism, which is not given to promoting the common spaces that allow international society to prosper.

The preference of some countries to isolate themselves within their borders is anachronistic and self-defeating, but it would be a serious mistake for others, fearing contagion, to respond by avoiding engagement with these states. The spirit of cooperation, along with constructive competition, should structure relations between all players that possess international legitimacy. Even in states that have succumbed to reductionist discourses, much of the population has not. Such is the case of the 48% of British voters who opposed Brexit, or the 49% of Turks who voted “no” to expanding the Turkish presidency’s powers, implicitly rejecting a narrative that used the EU as a scapegoat. Many of these voters would surely be disappointed if the EU turned its back on them.

The vitality of international society depends on dialogue. And, to avoid perpetuating the deficiencies of the Washington Consensus, which were revealed with such clarity in 2016, this dialogue must occur within the framework of a common and democratic public sphere. If we cultivate this common public sphere, reducing the pre-eminence of the nation-state, we could advance step by step toward the least explored side of the triad described by Rodrik: global democracy.

Of course, a universal democracy would be a very difficult objective to achieve (Rodrik himself rules it out). But, with technological development and the multiplication of economic and cultural synapses, it is not a chimera. In this sense, the EU has already forged a new path, one that aims to expand democracy beyond the realm of the nation-state. For Europe, as well as for other regions, it is a path worth following.

*Javier Solana was EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Secretary-General of NATO, and Foreign Minister of Spain. He is currently President of the ESADE Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics, Distinguished Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Europe.

 

From Merkel to Macron–The Future of Europe


October 1, 2017

THE ECONOMIST

Running Europe

The spotlight shifts from Germany to France

A dynamic Emmanuel Macron and a diminished Angela Merkel point to a new order in Europe

Print edition | Leaders

Sep 30th 2017

WHO leads Europe? At the start of this year, the answer was obvious. Angela Merkel was trundling unstoppably towards a fourth election win, while Britain was out, Italy down and stagnating France gripped by the fear that Marine Le Pen might become the Gallic Donald Trump.

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39 year old President Emmanuel Macron–The new Mr. Europe. Can he revitalise an anaemic Europe?

This week, it all looks very different. Mrs Merkel won her election on September 24th, but with such a reduced tally of votes and seats that she is a diminished figure. Germany faces months of tricky three-way coalition talks. Some 6m voters backed a xenophobic right-wing party, many of them in protest at Mrs Merkel’s refugee policies. Having had no seats, Alternative for Germany, a disruptive and polarising force, is now the Bundestag’s third largest party.

Yet west of the Rhine, with a parliament dominated by his own new-minted and devoted party, France’s President Emmanuel Macron is bursting with ambition . This week he used a speech about the European Union to stake his claim to the limelight. Whether Mr Macron can restore France to centre-stage in the EU after a decade in the chorus depends not just on his plans for Europe, but also on his success at home, reforming a country long seen as unreformable.

Angela’s leading man

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Start with Europe. This week’s speech was brimming over with ideas, including a shared military budget and an agency for “radical innovation”, as well as the desire to strengthen the euro zone. At one level, Mr Macron’s bid for the role of intellectual innovator in Europe fits a long French tradition. Moreover, elements of his speech—a new carbon-tax on the EU’s frontiers, a proposal to tax foreign tech firms where they make money rather than where they are registered, a crusade against “social dumping” with harmonised corporate tax rates—were in keeping with long-standing French attempts to stop member states competing “disloyally” against each other.

Yet Mr Macron has a more subtle and radical goal than old-style dirigisme; as if to prove it, he agreed this week that Alstom, which makes high-speed trains, could drift from state influence by merging with its private-sector German rival. His aim is to see off populism by striking a balance between providing job security for citizens, on the one hand, and encouraging them to embrace innovation, which many fear will cost them their jobs, on the other (see Charlemagne). In his speech Mr Macron also made the case for digital disruption and the completion of the digital single market. Euro-zone reform would make Europe less vulnerable to the next financial crisis.

The merit of these ideas depends on whether they lead to a more enterprising, open and confident Europe or to a protectionist fortress. But they may not be tried out at all unless Mr Macron can make a success of his policies at home. For, if France remains a threat to the EU’s economic stability rather than a source of its strength, its president can never be more than a bit player next to Germany’s chancellor.

Mr Macron’s domestic policy might seem to have made a poor start. He has grabbed headlines thanks to the size of his make-up bill, the collapse of his popularity and the whiff of arrogance about his “Jupiterian” approach to power. Predictably, the grouchy French are already contesting the legitimacy of the plans they elected Mr Macron to carry out. Reform in France, it seems, follows a pattern. The street objects; the government backs down; immobilisme sets in.

Yet take a closer look, and Mr Macron may be about to break the pattern. Something extraordinary, if little-noticed, took place this summer. While most of the French were on the beach, Mr Macron negotiated and agreed with unions a far-reaching, liberalising labour reform which he signed into law on September 22nd—all with minimal fuss. Neither France’s militant unions, nor its fiery far left, have so far drawn the mass support they had hoped for onto the streets. Fully 59% of the French say that they back labour reform. More protests will follow. Harder battles, over pensions, taxation, public spending and education, lie ahead. Mr Macron needs to keep his nerve, but, astonishingly, he has already passed his first big test.

In many ways, the 39-year-old Mr Macron is not yet well understood. Behind the haughty exterior, a leader is emerging who seems to be at once brave, disciplined and thoughtful. Brave, because labour reforms, as Germany and Spain know, take time to translate into job creation, and usually hand political rewards to the successors of those who do the thankless work of getting them through. Disciplined, because he laid out clearly before his election what he planned to do, and has stuck to his word. The unions were fully consulted, and two of the three biggest accepted the reform. Compare that with his predecessor, François Hollande, who tried reform by stealth and encountered only accusations of bad faith. Last, thoughtful: Mr Macron does not approach policy as an à la carte menu. He has grasped how digital technology is dislocating the world of work. His governing philosophy is to adapt France’s outdated system of rules and protections accordingly.

Drumroll

Over the past few years, an enfeebled France has been a chronically weak partner for Germany, pushing Mrs Merkel into a solo role that she neither sought nor relished. If he is to change that dynamic, Mr Macron needs to move swiftly to match his labour law with an overhaul of France’s inefficient training budget, increase the number of apprenticeships and renovate the state’s sleepy employment services. He also needs to explain with a less contemptuous tone why his plans for tax cuts, including to France’s wealth tax and corporate tax, are not designed simply to benefit business and the better-off. In Europe he needs to reassure the northern, more open economies that he is not trying to put up walls.

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Of course, Mr Macron’s first steps in the spotlight may falter. The odds on any leader reforming France are never high. He will struggle to convince Germany to embrace his vision of euro-zone reform. But, if this year has shown anything, it is that it is a mistake to bet against the formidable Mr Macron.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “Europe’s new order”

May, Brexit and Future of the UK


August 1, 2017

Why you should and shouldn’t worry about Britain leaving the EU

by  Peter Beard @ 29/07/17

https://thestudenteconomist2017.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/the-good-the-bad-and-the-eu/#more-36

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As Clint Eastwood would say: “Nowadays, politically, everybody is promising everything. That’s the only way you can get elected”. As referenced in the title, British politics has stayed true to Eastwood’s quote. “A strong and stable economy” as Theresa May would put it during her electoral campaign… But as Brexit nears the horizon, can we really be sure of what she’s saying?

Over a year ago on June 23rd, Britain made the decision to leave the EU during the Referendum under David Cameron. Who would have thought it was going to happen? I certainly didn’t, probably nor the ‘Brexiteers’ themselves thought it would actually happen.

£9.8 billion – or in other terms, £188 million a week. That is what Britain net financial contribution was to the European Union. Significant as it may seem, the publics’ final vote decision was a mixture of this, but more important apparently is the standing on Jobs and Immigration. Roughly speaking,

Migration from the EU added £160 million in additional costs for the NHS across the UK – this is somewhat considerable. No wonder the older demographic voted to leave. I imagine it’s the waiting they were fed up with at their local clinic or hospital.

But in all seriousness, the likes of immigration were blamed for the causation of job losses in the UK. However, this is simply not true, especially when the economy is at a 25 year low for unemployment (4.5%). The notion of rising immigration and increased job losses being a direct cause and effect is a misconception. Just because X and Y are correlated does NOT mean that X causes Y or vice versa.

Nevertheless, the EU has reaped some benefits for the UK, such as the £3.19bn subsidies received in 2014 for British farmers – of which now accounts for 50% of farmers’ incomes.

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As it stands, Theresa May’s progress has frankly stagnated. To some, slow progress further advocates the pressing issue of uncertainty. Throughout this and last year’s electoral campaigns, the word ‘uncertainty’ has put fear into both the consumer and the firms of our economy… But why? Surely uncertainty is neither good or bad?

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Well, from a Macro-Economists point of view, uncertainty links to the idea of confidence and consumer sentiment; after all, if an economy is not confident in spending its own money, then no one benefits as money is the fuel used to drive economic growth.

So, if the UK spends less, we would expect greater job insecurity from your larger corporations because they are likely to withdraw inward investment from the UK – of which it is currently 3rd in the world for attracting FDI . Moreover, MNC’s  will no longer be part of the single market – a major benefit for firms when trading goods.

Put simply, not only are jobs at risk, but for the firms that stay in the UK, be prepared for every day retail prices to rise as the cost of extra tariffs will be passed down to the consumer.

However, to some the risk of uncertainty does not pose a serious nor long-term threat. Firstly, There’s no evidence of significant capital flight. London will arguably remain a leading financial centre outside the EU and banks will still want to be headquartered in Britain due to its comparatively low direct tax rates.

Secondly, though we expect the value sterling to fall, this does create inventive for manufacturers to export – perhaps this could be critical for reigniting the economy if and when we enter a recession.

Lastly, the removal of unwieldly EU regulations lowers some of the barriers to entry and thus improves competition – a principle that is good for consumer welfare surplus owing to wider choice and theoretically lower prices.

Overall, there is an underlying theme that was hardly mentioned during the debates: Free trade vs. Protectionism – ironic though that implementing protectionist policies is actually endangering more jobs than it is saving from the UK’s sunset industries such as the Steelworks and Car Manufacturing.

*Overall, I feel bad this post was not very helpful coming to a sound judgement, but neither is Parliament, so I don’t as feel bad after all.

Trump’s enfeebled America stands alone


July 20, 2017

Trump’s enfeebled America stands alone

Economic change has affected other countries, but they have managed globalisation

by Martin Sanbu@www.ft.com

Image result for Trump Go it Alone Foreign PolicyDonald Trump with his Foreign Policy Novice, SIL Jared Kushner

The US President used to be thought of as the leader of the free world. America’s western friends are finding that they can no longer rely on it. But the truly transforming change is that they may find they no longer need to — and that the US needs the world more than the other way around.–Martin Sandbu

The greatest challenge posed by Donald Trump’s presidency is not that he will deploy American strength against the global common good. It is that he demonstrates how weak the US has become.

Recall Mr Trump’s inaugural address. The phrase that has resounded around the world is “America first”. But the more significant phrase he used is that other, more inward-looking one: “American carnage”. What sort of country describes itself, in the words of its highest leader no less, in such terms? Not one that feels strong.

Some Americans may not recognise the dystopian conditions his speech described. But a large group surely does. American decline is not a figment of Mr Trump’s imagination. The US economy has left large numbers of people with stagnant wages for decades. It is an economy in which millions fewer people have a job than at the peak in 2000, and which still leaves tens of millions without secure, decent healthcare.

It is an economy dotted with towns that were thriving within living memory, but have been devastated by the loss of factory jobs — lost because automation made plants too productive to need as much human labour as before, or because a failure to automate made them uncompetitive against rivals.

Above all, it is an economy in which centuries-old progress against mortality has gone in reverse for middle-aged low-educated Americans, who are dying from the afflictions of broken lives and broken communities: drug overdoses, liver disease and suicide.

Deep economic change has affected other advanced economies too. But others have not let globalisation get in the way of managing it. The US is weak not because it has uniquely been cheated out of a golden age of factory jobs by foreigners, but because it has failed to create a prosperous new future for all at home.

Mr Trump’s railing against Washington is therefore not without foundation. Economic dysfunction has long been matched by glaringly inadequate governance. The devastation of the global financial crisis — which was at its core a US financial crisis, unsuspected by its regulatory system — followed the gross incompetence of the George W Bush administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina and its adventurism in Iraq.

Mr Trump’s speech in Poland before the G20 summit was the international version of his American carnage speech. Just like the US, in his telling, is a landscape of decay at the mercy of corrupt leaders, he presented the western world as mortally threatened by destructive forces because of decadence within.

But while he may be a fiery prophet of US decline, he is wrong about the wider world. If other western countries display a quiet confidence vis-à-vis Mr Trump, it is because they have reason to. Their unrepentant globalism is striking. Canada’s reconsecration of its globalist destiny matches its ambitious welcome of refugees. Europe and Japan are creating one of the world’s largest free trade areas. The EU vows not to withdraw from globalisation but to shape it to its values of solidarity. Japan is leading the other spurned partners from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Mr Trump has pulled out of, in an effort to complete trade liberalisation without US participation.

What lessons can we draw from this contrast? First, take the theatrics of populism seriously. Populism paradoxically mixes machismo with an incessant focus on weakness — but blames weakness on elements that must be expelled, allowing the true representatives of the forgotten people a free hand.

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A revitalised Franco-German Partnership for a Strong EU–Macron and Merkel

Second, this worsens the problem populists promise to solve. It deepens existing divisions and paralyses democratic politics. For aspiring totalitarians that may be part of a plan. For others, it is simply a self-fulfilling prophecy. Look no further than Britain for a nation that has acted on a mistaken belief that its strength has been sapped by the global liberal order (in the form of the EU), only to throw itself into true political disarray and indecision.

Third, the clash between populism and globalism is theatrical all right, but it is a theatre of the grotesque that expresses reality by transmogrifying it. Those who most try to project strength are those with the most domestic weakness to hide. Leaders of harmonious countries have no need to brag.

Fourth, it is in countries where US-style social and economic decay is most visible that the global liberal order is most contested: above all the UK, but also France and Italy. The rest of the west must redouble efforts to improve the social protections that have kept decay at bay for now.

Germany is of particular importance: its labour reforms 15 years ago have produced a worrying increase in inequality and precarious work. It must not repeat the US’s mistakes.

Finally, the global liberal order is more than the US. Its remaining supporters aim to carry on by forging the unity of purpose collectively that the US cannot even muster at home. A few decades ago that would have been unthinkable. Today, it may just be true that US isolationism will most harm the US itself.

The US President used to be thought of as the leader of the free world. America’s western friends are finding that they can no longer rely on it. But the truly transforming change is that they may find they no longer need to — and that the US needs the world more than the other way around.

martin.sandbu@ft.com

Britain’s Deepening Confusion


June 27, 2017

Britain’s Deepening Confusion

by Robert Skidelsky* @www.project-syndicate.org

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Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May leading a confused Britain

*Lord Skidelsky, Professor Emeritus of Political Economy at Warwick University and a fellow of the British Academy in history and economics, is a member of the British House of Lords. The author of a three-volume biography of John Maynard Keynes, he began his political career in the Labour party, became the Conservative Party’s spokesman for Treasury affairs in the House of Lords, and was eventually forced out of the Conservative Party for his opposition to NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999.

 

“Enough is enough,” proclaimed British Prime Minister Theresa May after the terrorist attack on London Bridge. Now, it is clear, almost half of those who voted in the United Kingdom’s general election on June 8 have had enough of May, whose Conservative majority was wiped out at the polls, producing a hung parliament (with no majority for any party). Whether it is “enough immigrants” or “enough austerity,” Britain’s voters certainly have had enough of a lot.

But the election has left Britain confusingly split. Last year’s Brexit referendum on European Union membership suggested a Leave-Remain divide, with the Brexiteers narrowly ahead. This year’s general election superimposed on this a more traditional left-right split, with a resurgent Labour Party capitalizing on voter discontent with Conservative budget cuts.

To see the resulting political terrain, imagine a two-by-two table, with the four quadrants occupied by Remainers and Budget Cutters; Remainers and Economic Expansionists; Brexiteers and Budget Cutters; and Brexiteers and Economic Expansionists. The four quadrants don’t add up to coherent halves, so it’s not possible to make out what voters thought they were voting for.

But it is possible to make out what voters were rejecting. There are two certain casualties. The first is austerity, which even the Conservatives have signaled they will abandon. Cutting public spending to balance the budget was based on the wrong theory and has failed in practice. The most telling indicator was the inability of George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2010 to 2016, to achieve any of his budget targets. The deficit was to have vanished by 2015, then by 2017, then by 2020-2021. Now, no government will commit to any date at all.

The targets were based on the idea that a “credible” deficit-reduction program would create sufficient business confidence to overcome the depressing effects on activity of the cuts themselves. Some say the targets were never credible enough. The truth is that they never could be: the deficit cannot come down unless the economy grows, and budget cuts, real and anticipated, hinder growth. The consensus now is that austerity delayed recovery for almost three years, depressing real earnings and leaving key public services like local government, health care, and education palpably damaged.

So expect the ridiculous obsession with balancing the budget to be scrapped. From now on, the deficit will be left to adjust to the state of the economy.

The second casualty is unrestricted immigration from the EU. The Brexiteers’ demand to “control our borders” was directed against the uncontrolled influx of economic migrants from Eastern Europe. This demand will have to be met in some way.

Migration within Europe was negligible when the EU was mainly West European. This changed when the EU began incorporating the low-wage ex-communist countries. The ensuing migration eased labor shortages in host countries like the UK and Germany, and increased the earnings of the migrants themselves. But such benefits do not apply to unrestricted migration.

Studies by Harvard University’s George J. Borjas and others suggest that net immigration lowers the wages of competing domestic labor. Borjas’s most famous study shows the depressive impact of “Marielitos” – Cubans who immigrated en masse to Miami in 1980 – on domestic working-class wages.

These fears have long underpinned sovereign states’ insistence on the right to control immigration. The case for control is strengthened when host countries have a labor surplus, as has been true of much of Western Europe since the crisis of 2008. Support for Brexit is essentially a demand for the restoration of sovereignty over the UK’s borders.

The crux of the issue is political legitimacy. Until modern times, markets were largely local, and heavily protected against outsiders, even from neighboring towns. National markets were achieved only with the advent of modern states. But the completely unrestricted movement of goods, capital, and labor within sovereign states became possible only when two conditions were met: the growth of national identity and the emergence of national authorities able to provide security in the face of adversity.

The European Union fulfills neither condition. Its peoples are citizens of their nation-states first. And the contract between citizens and states on which national economies depend cannot be reproduced at the European level, because there is no European state with which to conclude the deal. The EU’s insistence on free movement of labor as a condition of membership of a non-state is premature, at best. It will need to be qualified, not just as part of the UK’s Brexit deal, but for the whole of the EU.

So how will the shambolic results of the British general election play out? May will not last long as Prime Minister. Osborne has called her a “dead woman walking” (of course without acknowledging that his austerity policies helped to seal her demise).

The most sensible outcome is currently a political non-starter: a Conservative-Labour coalition government, with (say) Boris Johnson as Prime Minister and Jeremy Corbyn as his deputy. The government would adopt a two-year program consisting of only two items: the conclusion of a “soft” Brexit deal with the EU and a big public investment program in housing, infrastructure, and green energy.

The rationale for the investment program is that a rising tide will lift all boats. And an added benefit of a thriving economy will be lower hostility to immigration, making it easier for Britain to negotiate sensible regulation of migrant flows.

And who knows: if the negotiations force the EU to re-cast its own commitment to free labor movement, Brexit may turn out to be a matter less of British exit than of an overhaul of the terms of European membership.

America’s past and future collide on a single day in Europe


May 26, 2017

Today's WorldView

America’s past and future collide on a single day in Europe

 By Ishaan Tharoor

Call it a tale of two Presidents. On the same day that President Trump visits the gleaming new NATO headquarters in Brussels, his predecessor will give a high-profile speech in Berlin.

Former President Barack Obama is expected to return to the Brandenburg Gate on Thursday, basking in the admiration of his many European admirers while speaking alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a leader with whom he has a famous friendship. Obama will be participating in the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant church. That it coincides with Trump’s tour of the Belgian capital is a scheduling quirk, but it’s a coincidence that feels fraught with symbolism.

On Wednesday, Trump entered the den of the proverbial globalists. Brussels is not just the headquarters of the West’s preeminent military alliance, but also the heart of the European Union and home to the sort of technocratic elites that Trump and the continent’s far right frequently rage against. Before he entered the White House, Trump deemed NATO “obsolete” and seemed to suggest that he would welcome the further dissolution of the European Union after Brexit.

“The mere fact that Trump has agreed to visit a city filled with international organizations he once called ‘obsolete’ is a victory,” The Washington Post’s Michael Birnbaum and Anthony Faiola wrote.  And although a few months in office appear to have moderated Trump’s message, Obama’s star turn in Berlin will only deepen the sense of dissonance surrounding his successor.

An editorial in the Leipziger Zeitung newspaper said Obama’s presence in Germany would be that of a “healer.” Obama, the newspaper declared, “is a painfully missed ex-president,” an “eloquent, charismatic preacher.” These are qualities, it claimed, that Trump entirely lacks.

No matter the polarization that seems to define American politics, Obama remains an incredibly well-regarded figure in Europe. An estimated 200,000 Germans rallied around Obama in Berlin before his first election in 2008, and that enthusiasm endured. A Pew Research Center survey last June found that 77 percent of Europeans had confidence in Obama, while only 9 percent felt the same way about Trump.

Obama’s popularity was even greater in Germany, where 86 percent of respondents said they had confidence in him. His Thursday appearance at the Brandenburg Gate, where Ronald Reagan famously upbraided the Soviet Union’s final leader, may reaffirm the spirit of American friendship — or at least spark some nostalgia for a cuddlier past.

“The choice of the location seems like a staging for the ‘good American’ Germans would have liked to have seen in office,” Thomas Jäger, Professor of international politics and foreign policy at Cologne University, said to my colleagues. “Trump, on the other hand, in the German perception embodies every negative American stereotype … a grandstander, too loud, successful in a way that one doesn’t like at all.”

The expectations surrounding Trump’s time in Brussels are not particularly high. At NATO he will stick to a familiar and safe script, urging the United States’ partners to share more of the burden in maintaining international security and emphasizing the need to focus on the war against Islamist extremism — two issues where he will find no resistance among NATO’s member states. Conspicuously, serious discussion about the challenge of Russia is not on the agenda. Trump will also meet several European leaders, including recently elected French President Emmanuel Macron, who campaigned with Obama’s blessing from afar and at times seemed to point to the perils of Trump’s presidency as a reason to vote against his own right-wing opponents.

 

But now that the sitting U.S. president is in Europe, his interlocutors on the continent will hope he can be persuaded to embrace the institutions and the wider liberal order he railed against just months ago.

“There’s still a high degree of uncertainty when it comes to the aims and objectives of the Americans,” Cornelius Adebahr, an associate fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations, said to The Post. “One of the main objectives is to convince the Americans of the value of these formats.”

Trump is “someone who doesn’t believe in the whole idea of engaging with European allies,” Tomas Valasek, head of the Carnegie Europe think tank, said to my colleagues. “At least part of the European countries’ strategy for dealing with Trump is essentially to hunker down and wait until he goes away.”

Ahead of the Group of Seven meeting in Sicily, where Trump will be in attendance, Merkel called for unity in the fight against global warming. The move was seen in part as a bid to push back against the Trump administration’s apparent desire to pull out of the Paris climate accords — a pact championed by Obama. There is hope among European officialdom that the “grown-ups” in the White House will coax Trump away from extreme positions and keep his foreign policy more in line with that of a traditional Republican president. Others caution against such complacency.

“European policymakers hope that [Trump] will listen to his team, live up to their promises, and not destroy the NATO alliance or the European Union in a fit of pique,” wrote Jeremy Shapiro of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “They would be wiser to hedge against his predictable unpredictability and seek their own means of securing their position in the world.”