BRUSSELS, Feb 20 (AP) — Europeans have reacted to President Donald Trump’s first month in office with demonstrations, counter-barbs and sheer angst that a century of trans-Atlantic friendship may be sinking.
The governments of some traditional allies have gone a step further, uniting with fundraising plans and a special conference to balance the new U.S. administration’s reverse tack from Barack Obama’s presidency on abortion policies.
Beyond Trump’s orders on immigration, few of the administration’s policies have unsettled many European nations as much as his ban on funding for international groups that perform abortions or provide information about abortions to women in developing nations.
Belgian Vice Premier Alexander De Croo was so shocked that words were not enough. He said European nations, fearful that thousands of women and girls will die without family planning information, already are cooperating to make up as much of funding gap as possible.
“What we are doing is rolling up our sleeves and saying instead of complaining we are going to take action,” De Croo said in an interview with The Associated Press.
On Friday, 10 EU nationswrote to the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, telling her that Europe cannot let women in developing nations down whatever the U.S. policy.
“Collectively we have a responsibility not to allow this to happen,” the nations said in a common call against Trump’s order, which massively expanded previous Republican bans on providing federal money to international family planning groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information.
Even if European nations were alarmed when past Republican administrations restricted international funding over abortion, the reaction against the Trump order was much more vociferous.
Within five days of Trump’s action, Dutch Foreign Development Cooperation Minister Lilianne Ploumen said she received thousands of messages from over 150 countries, with many seeking information how to donate funds.
Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands already have committed 10 million euros ($10.5 million)each and will host an international pledging conference March 2 to help cover the financial hole Trump left.
The Swedes showed their scorn toward Trump in a different way.
Trump signed the anti-abortion order two days after taking office as seven men looked on in the Oval Office. Soon after, Sweden’s Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lovin posted on Facebook a photo that showed her signing a government document, surrounded by an all-woman cast. Lovin said she left it “to the observer to interpret the photo.”
From the quirky to the fundamental, covering anything from abortion to trade, defense and relations with Russia, the doubts about Trump suggest U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will encounter resistance during talks with Mogherini and other European Union leaders on Monday.
With intimidating language and caustic one-liners, Trump has called NATO, the old military bond between Europe and North America, “obsolete,” described Britain’s decision to leave the EU “a tremendous asset” and suggested the EU itself could soon well disintegrate.
Pence sought to assuage European allies over the weekend, saying the United States would remain “unwavering” in its commitment to the trans-Atlantic alliance. However, the vice president’s peace-making has not stopped European leaders from wondering what Trump’s next quip or Twitter bomb will bring.
On Saturday, Trump alluded to past terror attacks in the EU and said: “Look what’s happening last night in Sweden.” The president’s comment left Swedes confused since nothing remotely linked to extremist action had troubled the country on Friday night.
“Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound,” former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted.
Trump said in tweet on Sunday: “My statement as to what’s happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.” A White House spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, says that Trump was talking about rising crime andrecent incidents in general.
In Munich last week, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker described the United States in terms of “our American friends, if they should and want to remain our friends.”
EU Council President Donald Tusk put the United States in a “threat” category two weeks ago, insisting that Trump is contributing to the “highly unpredictable” outlook.
European officials now hope to turn their deep anxiety into a rallying point for unity that would push EU nations out of political lethargy.
EU financial affairs chiefPierre Moscovici predicted last week that tough times lie ahead for Europe given that Trump’s “leitmotif will be America first.”
“That means that the international trading and security architecture to which we owe our unprecedented peace and prosperity is also threatened as never before,” Moscovici said. “So let us mobilize.”