21 January 2017

Most newspapers across Europe predict that Donald Trump will be a reckless world leader

Most newspapers across Europe predict that Donald Trump will be a reckless world leader, viewing him as a buffoon and fearing that he will undermine transatlantic relations and weaken the European Union.

They are also worried that he might make deals with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, at the expense of smaller countries in central and eastern Europe.

Newspaper articles published over a seven-day period prior to Trump’s inauguration are said to reveal a level of trepidation about the incoming American president that is probably unparalleled in recent history.

By contrast, some papers do see his honesty as a positive attribute, one that might help to solve conflicts rather than stimulate them.

These findings emerge from an analysis by the European Journalism Observatory of the content of three daily newspapers in each of 10 European countries from 12 to 18 January.

The countries studied were Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Ukraine and the UK.

Most of the articles related to three events. First, Trump’s press conference as president elect in which he said: “Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I’m leading it than when other people have led it.”

Second, the interview with Michael Gove in The Times, in which Trump declared Nato was obsolete. And third, his interview with Germany’s (and Europe’s) best-selling daily, Bild, in which he was critical of chancellor Angela Merkel’s refugee policy.

Among the reactions: “Europe’s nightmare” (Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung); “Trump ruins the European Union” (Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza); and “Europe could be the first victim of Trump” (commentator in Italy’s Corriere della Sera).

But Kai Diekman, Bild’s publisher, said: “Trump has been the biggest political experiment since the end of the cold war. Trump says things which are actually unthinkable in diplomacy. He is rude, he is insulting – and he is painfully honest. This can lead to conflicts, but also break open crusted conflicts.”

And some pro-Russian media in eastern European countries showed sympathy for Trump acting as a strong man in the White House.

European media were virtually unanimous in their assessment that an alliance between Trump and Putin will have harmful consequences for Europe. Portugal’s Público commented: “If Trump succeeds in accomplishing his Russian policy, the first ‘casualty’ will be Europe. It will be marginalised. It will drift apart.”

Not surprisingly, Trump’s potential rapprochement with Russia particularly alarmed news media in central and eastern Europe. Latvia’s Latvijas Avize said a “deal with Putin won’t bring peace (…) it makes war even likelier.”

Despite striking similarities in the negative (or, at best, neutral) tone of the media coverage, some news outlets expressed cautious optimism that a Trump presidency might actually yield positive outcomes, especially for the economy.

According to some analyses in Austrian newspapers, stock markets might react favourably to Trump’s promises of reducing taxes and curbing the bureaucracy. And some German commentators expressed hopes for Trump’s deal-making skills.

Surprisingly, says the EJO study, few papers focused on the potential implications of a Trump presidency on their own nation’s outlook. Domestic issues, such as the rise of right-wing populism and similarities between Europe and the US about a gAmong those commentators who did highlight potential connections, was the biggest Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes. It said: “After the victory of Brexit supporters and Donald Trump, it seems as anything can happen in the West.

“In this context, the scenario of Marine Le Pen winning the [2017] presidential election and a subsequent French referendum on leaving the European Union does not look like a figment of a lunatic.”

Source, plus detailed report, including reaction by three US papers to Trump’s statements on Europe: EJOeneral disillusionment with political elites, received little coverage over the seven days.