Will Donald Trump turn out to be Europe’s best friend? Despite himself, Trump’s decision to pick an ill-conceived fight over trade with America’s closest allies could actually have a salutary effect on European solidarity. It will certainly boost the desire in Europe to distance itself from America and the dependent aspects of the trans-Atlantic alliance. Whether the Europeans will be able to follow through is another story.
Trump’s trade war would seem to come at a bad time for the European Union. The incoming government in Italy is hostile to the EU’s fiscal rules and migrant policy. Spain is in transition from one minority government to another. Should either or both spook markets with their spending, it would represent a threat to the eurozone’s survival that is orders of magnitude greater than the one posed by Greece during the darkest hours of the European debt crisis.
The slide toward illiberalism in Eastern and Central Europe also continues to raise tensions within the EU, with Slovenia the latest country where a party campaigning against the EU’s migrant policy won the largest share of seats in parliament, even if it will have trouble forming a coalition government.