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What Europe Expects From The Biden Administration


Joe Biden assumes the presidency at a time of historic domestic challenges - international challenges too, as the president addressed this afternoon.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again not to meet yesterday's challenges but today's and tomorrow's challenges.

KELLY: The Biden administration will have a lot of work ahead to repair alliances, particularly in Europe, where President Trump viewed some fellow NATO members as freeloaders. And he called the European Union, the EU, a foe. Well, for more on the view from Europe, let's go to London, which is where we find our London correspondent, Frank Langfitt.

Hey, Frank.


KELLY: Are Europeans paying very close attention to...

LANGFITT: Oh, yeah.

KELLY: ...Today's events? Yeah, what's been the reaction?

LANGFITT: (Laughter) Absolutely. And they've been paying even more attention than they would have because of the sacking of the Capitol on...

KELLY: Yeah.

LANGFITT: ...The 6. The reaction here, I think, is relief. It's what you would expect. Boris Johnson, famously a buddy of President Trump, welcomed what he certainly sees as a return to American leadership on things like climate change and COVID. He tweeted that this afternoon. Jens Stoltenberg - he's the head of NATO. He said today is the start of a new chapter, and I look forward to our close cooperation. He has to be relieved as well. And I was watching the BBC's coverage. It was really interesting, Mary Louise. And they said, well, democracy is resilient. And for the past two hours, nothing bad happened in the capital. And I think that it speaks to, frankly, how low the bar is right now for American democracy, particularly as seen across the Atlantic.

KELLY: Yeah. Well, so what are people in Britain, in the EU - what are they looking for from a Biden administration? What do they want President Biden to do to try to repair these relations, which have come under so much pressure these last four years?

LANGFITT: I think what they would like is a return to normality in terms of a bipartisan consensus on a relationship with Europe and, you know, shared goals. So President Trump was very critical of NATO. President Biden is going to be very supportive and always has been of NATO. There will also be opportunities for Biden to show leadership. In June, he'll be coming to Cornwall here in England, where the U.K. is going to be hosting the G-7 summit. Then later on in Glasgow in the fall, there will be the COP26 climate change meeting. Those are opportunities. And I'm sure there will be a visit to NATO as well by President Biden - an opportunity for him to just reaffirm sort of the traditional American foreign policy goals in Europe and these shared sort of global goals, the idea being that no one country or few countries can address them. They actually have to be addressed by a whole group of democracies.

KELLY: Frank, we heard that clip from Joe Biden today, speaking of today's and tomorrow's challenges. What's he referring to?

LANGFITT: Well, one thing he's referring to is China, which is a big share challenge. But working with the EU's not easy on this for a couple of reasons. One is President Trump was very busy bashing the EU and NATO. And so it wasn't easy to forge any sort of economic alliance, particularly addressing China's unfair trade practices. And there was sign a little bit, Mary Louise, maybe of how much American - you know, the image has fallen here - that Biden administration officials actually reached out to the EU as the EU was working on a free trade deal with China and said, hey, can you slow it down? We want to talk to you about this. And the EU refused. And part of that was Angela Merkel sort of supporting the car industry and other industries in Germany wanting to get this deal. But it was a rebuff to the new president of the United States, which you wouldn't think you would have seen maybe a few years ago.

KELLY: NPR's Frank Langfitt with the view from London.

Thank you, Frank.

LANGFITT: Great to talk, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.