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“Donald Trump is a Wake-Up Call”

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Günter Verheugen and Elmar Brok on the state of the European Union and the challenges presented by the Trump presidency.

Who’s afraid of Donald Trump? Two German veterans of European politics, former EU Commissioner Günter Verheugen (SPD) and Elmar Brok (CDU), long-serving chairman of the EU Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, aren’t.

True, both see the Trump presidency as a challenge, but one that might result in a stronger Europe – a wake-up call, which will hopefully result in a more independent Europe capable of addressing its challenges with or without the United States. The two also agree that the European Union’s best chance now is to fulfill its current responsibilities more effectively, rather than take on new competencies.

However, Social Democrat Verheugen, who has worked on European affairs for more than fifty years, thinks that the threats confronting a unified Europe are greater now than they ever have been; indeed, “whether Europe as an integrated political entity can survive or not [is] a real question.”  The crisis Europe is facing does not merely concern economics or migration, but the basic mindset underpinning European integration. Brok, meanwhile, emphasizes that Europe has never faced “so many challenges at the same time,” calling into question governments’ abilities to implement effective solutions and paving the way for populist movements.

We spoke with them at the FAZ Forum 5th Young Leaders Conference on security policy, which took place in Berlin on January 24, 2017.