EU welcomes a ‘friend’ in the White House, says much to do together

EU welcomes a ‘friend’ in the White House, says much to do together

The president of the EU executive said on Wednesday she looked forward to having a friend in the White House who could work with Europe on fighting climate change, quashing the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuilding multilateralism.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she hoped incoming U.S. President Joe Biden would join forces with the European Union to impose legal standards and norms on the digital world to rein in hatred, lies and fake news.

"In a few hours Trump will be history, but his supporters are there," von der Leyen told a group of reporters in Brussels ahead of Biden's inauguration to succeed Donald Trump.

"I think we all experienced the effect and sometimes the … heavy negative impact on our democracy if there's hate out there, there's polarisation, fake news. And I'm sure that we will have an ally to work on that."

Referring to Twitter's decision to ban Trump from the platform after the siege of the Capitol in Washington, von der Leyen said such a decision should not be taken by a company or a chief executive but within a legal framework that digital companies comply with.

She said a joint trade and technical council between the United States and the 27-nation EU should consider such matters.

Relations between the EU and the United States were shaky during the Trump administration, with tensions in particular over trade. Von der Leyen said the EU and Biden knew and liked each other, and she was hopeful they could achieve much together.

"We're both aware that what we have to do now is develop a global agenda – to join forces, and to tackle the big topics that are ahead of us: that's fight climate change together, overcome this pandemic and rebuild multilateralism," she said.

Von der Leyen defended the EU's recent investment pact with China as part of its economic partnership and competition with Beijing but said that, like Washington, Brussels saw China as a "systemic rival" when it came to democracy and human rights.

Von der Leyen, the first female president of the European Commission, said she welcomed the inauguration of Kamala Harris as the first woman to become vice-president of the United States. [Reuters]


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