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Between consternation and condemnation, Europeans appalled by the 'insurrection' at the Capitol in Washington (v4)

(B2) The irruption of demonstrators into the Capitol on Wednesday (January 6) at the time of the vote to confirm the election of Joe Biden for the US presidency by the Senate, overwhelms the European leaders

(credit: BBC)

From all over Europe, reactions came quickly, all the harsher as they came from rather Atlanticist people. The words of the former NATO Commander-in-Chief (SACEUR), Admiral US James Stavridis, as well as Secretary General of the Atlantic Alliance Jens Stoltenberg, are particularly interesting. Because they reflect quite well the astonishment in diplomatic-military circles.

Some leaders (Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, etc.) have specifically implicated current President Donald Trump, calling on him to take action. Others (Austria, United Kingdom, Czechia, etc.) have done so implicitly, requiring an orderly transfer of power. Some (Belgium, Luxembourg) preferred to show unambiguous support for Joe Biden.

The European leaders who are the most ardent supporters of Trump, such as the Bulgarian Boyko Borissov, the Hungarian Viktor Orban and the Pole Mateusz Morawiecki, refrained from reacting, as if embarrassed. Note a false note in Warsaw. Where the Polish president reacted in a very ambiguous way, going against the general tone, in a non-interventionist mode, as if referring to European criticism of the rule of law. On the other hand, the Slovenian Janez Jansa (who also showed his sympathy with Donald Trump) said he was troubled by the violence.

In this concert, the reaction of the European institutions appears rather weak. The words of Ursula von der Leyen in particular are disarmingly platitude in the face of acts described as “ of insurrection "Or" sedition » (according to the words of President-elect Joe Biden) or even an attempted coup (d'état) by elected Democrats like certain Republicans. Those of Charles Michel (European Council) are a little more obvious. The words of Josep Borrell or David Sassoli are ultimately the clearest and most adapted to the situation.

NB: At the time of completing this article, no reaction had come from the Franco-German couple. Emmanuel Macron (France) reacted late at night with a video message. Angela Merkel (Germany) reacted similarly later in the morning.

An American democracy under siege

« Shocking Scenes in Washington DC The result of this democratic election must be respected. » Jens Stoltenberg (NATO Secretary General)

« I never thought, in a long life spent operationally in conflict zones, to see scenes like this in [Washington] DC in the United States. Our adversaries will be amazed at how lucky they are to see this insurgency – Russia and China will be actively considering how to prolong it. […] It will be decades before U.S. officials talk to foreign officials about the importance of a peaceful transfer of power for free and fair elections without having the horrors of January 6 thrown back in their faces. » James Stavridis, Admiral (retired), former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO from 2009 to 2013.

« In the eyes of the world, American democracy appears under siege tonight. This is an invisible attack on American democracy, its institutions and the rule of law. This is not America. The results of the November 3 elections must be fully respected » Josep Borrell, head of European diplomacy (High Representative of the EU).

The reactions in the different capitals

« Horrible images from Washington DC Dear Donald Trump, recognize Joe Biden as the next president today! » Mark Rutte (Prime Minister Netherlands, VVD / ALDE)

« I am following with great concern what is happening in Washington. Violence is incompatible with the exercise of political rights and democratic freedoms. I have confidence in the strength and strength of America's institutions. » Giuseppe Conte (Prime Minister Italy)

« [I am] extremely disturbed by the violence and horrific events unfolding in Washington, American democracy is resilient, deeply rooted, and will overcome this crisis. » Kyriakos Mitsotakis (Prime Minister Greece, ND / EPP)

« It's so sad to see what's happening in America's capital right now. Democracy will win! » Ingrida Simonyte (Lithuanian Prime Minister / EPP)

« Shameful scenes in the American Congress. The United States supports democracy around the world and it is now vital that there be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power. » Boris Johnson (UK Prime Minister / ECR)

« Shocked by the scenes in Washington, DC This is an unacceptable attack on democracy. A peaceful and orderly transfer of power must be ensured. » Sebastian Kurz (Prime Minister Austria, ÖVP / EPP)

« It is with great concern that I follow events in Washington, DC. We are witnessing an attack on democracy. President Trump and many members of Congress bear great responsibility for what is happening now. The democratic process of electing a president must be respected. » Stefan Lofven (Prime Minister Sweden / S&D)

« All should be very troubled by the violence unfolding in Washington, D.C. We hope that American democracy is resilient, deeply rooted, and will overcome this crisis. Democracy presupposes peaceful protest, but violence and death threats – from left or right – are ALWAYS false » Janez Janša (Prime Minister Slovenia, ECR)

« The violence against the Capitol is a heinous attack on the foundations of democracy and the freedom of the press. We trust in the strength of the American people and institutions to overcome these times of division, and we look to President-elect Joe Biden. » Xavier Bettel (Prime Minister Luxembourg, ALDE)

« Shock and disbelief at the ongoing events at the US Capitol, a symbol of American democracy. We are confident that the strong institutions of the United States will overcome this difficult time. Full support for President-elect Joe Biden. » Alexander DeCroo (Prime Minister Belgium / ALDE)

« The violent images of the breach of the Capitol in Washington today are shocking. However, I am confident that American democracy and the rule of law are strong enough to withstand any attack. » Juri Ratas (Prime Minister Estonia / ALDE)

« Very disturbing scenes from Washington DC, I am confident that democratic institutions and the principles of the rule of law will prevail. » Edgars Rinkevičs (Latvian Foreign Minister) retweeted by Krišjānis Kariņš (Prime Minister Latvia)

« The intrusion of demonstrators into the Congress building is a very serious and worrying matter. This shows how important it is to defend democracy without trembling. » Sanna Marin (Prime Minister of Finland / S & D)

« Extremism, violence, polarization and chaos are never the way forward. Horrible images of Washington. Let democracy become operational again ». Puts Frederiksen (Prime Minister Denmark / S&D)

« Enemies of democracy will be happy to see these incredible images from Washington DC. Words of riots turn into violent actions – on the steps of the Reichstag, and now in the Capitol. The contempt for democratic institutions is devastating. Trump and his supporters should finally accept the decision of American voters and stop trampling on democracy » Heiko Maas (German Foreign Minister, SPD/S&D)

« I follow with concern the news that comes from Capitol Hill in Washington. I have confidence in the strength of American democracy. Joe Biden's new presidency will overcome this tense time, uniting the American people. » Pedro Sánchez (Prime Minister Spain, PSOE / S&D)

« I am following developments in Washington with concern. Disturbing scenes. The election results must be respected, with a peaceful and orderly transfer of power. I have confidence in the strength of democratic institutions in the United States. » António Costa (Prime Minister Portugal / S&D)

« The violence on Capitol Hill in Washington DC is concerning and unacceptable. We trust in American democracy, which should remain a global model, and express our confidence that the situation will soon deescalate in order to allow the resumption of the certification of electoral votes. » Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Troubling times in Washington DC. There is no excuse for violence. #Capitol is a symbol of democracy. Its constitutional role must be respected at all times and in all circumstances. This is what the rule of law is. » Igor Matović (Prime Minister Slovakia, OĽaNO / EPP)

« The Irish people have a deep connection to the United States of America, built over many generations. I know that many, like me, will watch the scenes unfold in Washington DC with great concern and dismay. » Michael Martin (Prime Minister of Ireland, Fianna Fáil / ALDE)

“What happened in the United States is an unacceptable and unprecedented attack on democracy. Four lives were needlessly lost and the basic democratic process was disrupted. I have always condemned violence and chaos of this kind. The transition of power must be smooth and peaceful. I firmly believe that these incidents must stop. »  Andrej Babis (Prime Minister Czech Republic, ALDE)

The asynchronous Franco-German couple

« What happened today in Washington is not American. […] We will not give in to the violence of a few who want to call into question [democracy] “, reacted in a long video message Emmanuel Macron (French President, LREM / ALDE)

« These images made me angry and sad. But I am sure that American democracy will be much stronger than the aggressors and rioters " has indicated Angela Merkel (Prime Minister Germany, CDU / EPP). " I very much regret that President Trump has not admitted defeat since November and again yesterday. Doubts about the outcome of the election were fueled. This created the atmosphere necessary for the night's events to become possible »

The weak reaction of the European institutions

« I believe in the strength of American institutions and democracy. The peaceful transition of power is essential. Joe Biden won the election. I look forward to working with him as the next President of the United States. » Ursula von der Leyen (European Commission).

« The US Congress is a temple of democracy. To witness tonight's scenes in Washington DC is a shock. We trust the United States to ensure a peaceful transfer of power to Joe Biden. » Charles Michel (European Council).

« Deeply disturbing are the scenes in the US Capitol tonight. Democratic votes must be respected. We are confident that the United States will ensure that the rules of democracy are protected. » David Sassoli (European Parliament, S&D).

Don't get involved

« The events in Washington are an internal affair of the United States, which is a democratic and rule-based state. Power depends on the will of voters, and the security of the State and its citizens is guaranteed by the services designated for this purpose. Poland believes in the strength of American democracy. » Andrzej Duda (Chair Poland, PiS/ECR)

(Comments compiled by Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Updated 1 a.m. – 7.1 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. with comments from Macron, Merkel, Babis – and putting into perspective the different comments and nuances made in the commentary on the EU institutions.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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