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Trump Presidency Will Top Agenda At European Union Foreign Ministers Meeting


European Union foreign ministers are meeting today in Brussels, and you can bet one of the main topics of conversation will be the new president-elect of the United States, Donald Trump. Trump's upset election has rattled the EU, the world's largest collective economy. That's because the European Union is built on principles like free trade and the free movement of people, the very things Trump repeatedly attacked during his presidential campaign. For more on how Trump's election might affect Europe, we turn to NPR's Frank Langfitt, who is in Brussels right now. Hi, Frank.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: I happened to glance at the cover of Der Spiegel magazine, a German magazine that came out after the American election, and it had this picture of Donald Trump's face looking angry. And he was essentially screaming and chasing after - and looks like he's about to consume - the entire globe. And the title of the cover - on the cover - was "The End Of The World (As We Know It)." Is that the overall reaction in Europe? Is that an exaggerated reaction? What are you seeing?

LANGFITT: I think that's an initial reaction. And I think what I've been hearing sort of is a mixture of fear, uncertainty and also a little - well, more than a little bit of contempt. People here are worried that his election is going to embolden right-wing nationalist parties in Europe. We've got some crucial elections coming up next year.

Other people are afraid that he's going to align with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president who Trump has praised, and kind of sell out U.S. allies, which, I don't know, a few days ago would have been absolutely unthinkable. And then there's Jean-Claude Juncker. He's the head of the European Commission. He dismisses Trump as a know-nothing. And yesterday his money quote was we will waste two years before Mr. Trump tours the world he does not know.

MARTIN: So what influence do you think Trump's victory could have on elections that are happening across the pond?

LANGFITT: Well, I think the fear of liberal Democrats here is momentum. You know, first we had the surprise Brexit vote in the U.K. in June that was anti-immigrant, anti-globalization. Last week, Trump's victory. Next year, you've got elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands. Right-wing parties there look to kind of extend this as a win streak.

Take France, Marine Le Pen - her National Front, very similar platform to Trump. She wants France to follow the U.K. and leave the EU. I was talking to Rosa Balfour - she follows European politics at The German Marshall Fund here in Brussels - and she says Trump's victory could be a boost.

ROSA BALFOUR: You know, Marine Le Pen has seen that it is possible to become president of the United States, so why not become president of France? If France leaves the European Union, that's the end of the European Union.

LANGFITT: And you know, Rachel, the way for Americans to think about this is to remember that the EU has helped bind Europe together and keep the peace on the continent, you know, after two world wars. And so the idea that it could disintegrate really frightens a lot of people here. And I was also talking to a guy named Steven Blockmans. He's with the Centre for European Policy Studies. And he's more optimistic about the EU being able to hold itself together, especially given the complexities the U.K. is already grappling with so far with Brexit.

STEVEN BLOCKMANS: The socio-economic web, political web which has been woven throughout the European Union for decades now is so tight that indeed it becomes very costly and a lengthy process to disentangle a country from it. And this is what the Brits are now realizing.

MARTIN: So there's been talk over here, Frank, about how Donald Trump said a lot of stuff on the campaign.


MARTIN: But will he be that in office? Will he govern the way he campaigned? I mean, are EU officials thinking through that? Are they hoping that some of the stuff he said won't translate into policy?

LANGFITT: Absolutely. And the contrast to the Der Spiegel cover that you mentioned is this hope that he is not who he said he was. Rosa Balfour, who we just heard from, she pointed out that Europe has seen populist politicians itself. It knows them well. She calls them mini Trumps. And they often promise radical change, but then once they get into power they scale it back. So that's what people here are hoping for.

MARTIN: NPR's Frank Langfitt reporting from Brussels. Thanks, Frank.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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