EU should face Donald Trump with 'confidence': German vice chancellor

Berlin: Europe should face Donald Trump with "confidence", German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said on Monday, after the US president-elect had predicted that more EU members would join Britain in leaving the bloc.

"I think we Europeans shouldn't somehow plunge into a deep, great depression," Gabriel told Bild daily following Trump's own interview with the German newspaper and Britain's The Times.

Ahead of his inauguration on Friday, Trump had also described Nato as "obsolete".

"I don't underestimate what Trump says, especially regarding Nato and the EU, but a little bit of self-confidence would serve us well in such a situation," added Gabriel.

"Look at China, the place he has attacked the hardest, and how relaxed the Chinese have been in their reaction.

"Maybe there is something to be learned from that.

Donald Trump. AP

Donald Trump. AP

"Europe in this current weak phase has to pull itself together, has to act with confidence and in its own interest."

Germans and Europeans "are not somehow inferior, we have something to offer", he added.

Gabriel, a Social Democrat who is expected to run for chancellor against centre-right incumbent Angela Merkel in elections later this year, was the first German politician to react to the lengthy Trump interview.

As Merkel's current junior partner in a right-left coalition, Gabriel defended the government's open-door policy to refugees, which Trump had slammed as Merkel's "catastrophic mistake".

He insisted the refugees, branded as "illegals" by Trump, had mostly fled war and turmoil in the Middle East, but Gabriel did agree with the president-elect that the US invasion of Iraq may have been America's worst ever mistake.

"There is a connection between the flawed US interventions, especially in terms of the Iraq war" and the refugee crisis, said Gabriel, adding that the migrant influx "confronted us in Europe, not the United States".

On the apparently friendly relations so far between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Gabriel said that reduced East-West confrontation "is, first and foremost, sensible".

However, he said that "we are all viewing with a little bit of concern that Trump and Putin are in agreement on the wrong questions".

He added that "if the USA really wants to retreat from the Middle East, then it can't be in Europe's interest if Russia fills the vacuum".

On Trump's warning he would impose punitive tariffs on carmakers that produce in Mexico, including Germany's BMW, Gabriel warned that this would make the American car industry "worse, weaker and more expensive".

Responding to Trump's criticism that there are too few US-made cars on German roads, Gabriel said that "the US will have to build better cars".

Published Date: Jan 16, 2017 16:36 PM | Updated Date: Jan 16, 2017 16:36 PM

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