LONDON – It was a sigh heard all over the world
Long-time American allies greeted Joe Biden with almost palpable relief when he was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on Wednesday. Some signaled hopes for a radical change in the White House, particularly on climate change and the coronavirus pandemic. And some made farewell recordings of Donald Trump and his nationalist “America first” agenda.
The top politician of the European Union, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “After four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House.”
“This time-honored ceremony on the steps of the US Capitol will be a testament to the resilience of American democracy,” she said added in a speech in Brussels.
Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Biden was a “victory of democracy over the ultra-right”.
Then he aimed directly at the former president.
“Five years ago we thought Trump was a bad joke, but five years later we found that he was endangering nothing less than the most powerful democracy in the world,” he said in a speech.
References to tensions between Europe and the US under Trump, who accused the European Union of trying to take advantage of America, and saying that European allies “never treated us well”, was a remarkable departure from earlier congratulatory messages.
But they reflected the alarm felt by many on the continent when Trump broke longstanding norms and made common cause with the far right – alarm that turned to horror when the insurgent mob, encouraged by Trump, hit the Capitol on Jan. 6 overtaken.
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Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier echoed these concerns when he said he was “very relieved” and suggested that many of his compatriots felt the same way.
“Despite all the joy we feel today, we must not forget that even the most powerful democracy in the world has been seduced by populism,” he said as Biden prepared to be sworn in. “We have to work resolutely to counter polarization, to protect it and.” Strengthening the public space in our democracies and shaping our politics on the basis of reason and facts. “
French President Emmanuel Macron called it an “important day for the American people” and tweeted that his country was “with” them.
“We will be stronger to face the challenges of our time. Stronger to build our future. Stronger to protect our planet,” he said before welcoming the US back to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Some world leaders – especially those who had closer ties with Trump – made more standard congratulatory statements.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “America’s leadership is vital on all issues that matter to all of us, from climate change to post-Covid.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had “a warm personal friendship dating back many decades” with Biden.
Officials in China, whose relations with the United States have turned dramatically sour over the past four years, have been more circumspect. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing hoped Biden would “get relations back on track as soon as possible.”
For some American rivals, Wednesday’s inauguration was less a moment to congratulate Biden than an opportunity to grapple with Trump and his foreign policy.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also called on the new administration to return to a 2015 nuclear deal and lift sanctions on Tehran, while hailing the end of the era of “tyrant” President Donald Trump.
“The ball is now in the US court. If Washington returns to the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, we will also fully honor our commitments under the pact,” Rouhani said in a televised cabinet meeting.
Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, the militant Palestinian Islamist group that rules the blocked Gaza Strip, said Trump was “the greatest source and sponsor of injustice, violence and extremism in the world and the direct partner of the Israeli occupation in the Aggression.” against our people. “
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
Andy Eckardt, Ann-Kathrin Pohlers, Paul Goldman and Claudio Lavanga contributed.