Trump’s return will mean ‘Europe on its own’, Belgian PM tells MEPs

Crucial year of elections: “If 2024 brings us ‘America first’ again, it will be more than ever ‘Europe on its own’”

Belgian PM Alexander de Croo
Belgian PM Alexander de Croo

Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo sounded a warning against the prospect of a United States that could end up being led once again by Republican candidate Donald J. Trump, in an address to the European Parliament.

De Croo addressed on the programme of Belgium’s six-month Council Presidency, which started on 1 January. “2024 will be a crucial year, where our democracies and liberties will be put to the test”, De Croo said, referring to the European, but also the US presidential elections: “If 2024 brings us ‘America first’ again, it will be more than ever ‘Europe on its own’”.

De Croo also urged MEPs to maintain solidarity with Ukraine and continued military support, highlighting the existential nature of the cause for Europeans.

He also called for European capital markets to be opened up to boost innovation, and for an Industrial Deal alongside the Green Deal. “The climate policies of China and the US contain an abundance of carrots for their industry. While we, here in Europe, all too often grab for the stick.”

On migration, De Croo said that upholding a more coordinated and integrated foreign policy approach was part of the solution, and called for broad partnerships with third countries to help them become more stable.

He also said the EU should do everything it can to open safe and open humanitarian corridors in Gaza. “The EU must support Israel in freeing their hostages and must help the country in its legitimate battle against the terrorist organisation of Hamas.”

Speaking in the name of their respective political groups, Belgian MEP Benoît Lutgen (EPP) said De Cross had failed to mention farmers, and did not try to reassure and protect the European population.

Spanish MEP Iratxe García Pérez (S&D) called for the European Pillar of Social Rights to contain social rights such as the minimum wage, fair pay, and good working conditions, and called upon the Belgian presidency to respect the provisional agreement on the Platform Work Directive.

Belgian MEP Hilde Vautmans (Renew) called for a deepening of the EU before the next enlargement. “Decisions should no longer be made by unanimity, and a European army and an EU Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be created,” she stressed.

Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts (Greens) said that no pause should be taken in the fight against climate change, which should be accelerated instead.

Marc Botenga (The Left, BE) warned against the return of strict budgetary rules, which would lead, he said, to further cuts in an already “catastrophic social situation”.

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