Things will get better under Biden, says German foreign minister

Relations between Europe and the United States will improve under a Joe Biden presidency, the foreign minister of Germany has predicted.

Speaking at the Paris Peace Forum international conference on Thursday, Heiko Maas said the currently strained relationships with America would get better once Mr Biden takes office in January, but there would still remain points of tension.

In contrast to the Trump administration, Mr Biden’s government would hopefully take a lead on international arms control and a tougher stance on Russia and China, Mr Maas said.

But there were enough disagreements between Mr Biden and his European allies that it was unrealistic to expect an overnight transformation, he added.

His French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian also said he foresaw improved co-operation with the US under Mr Biden, in particular in tackling the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.

But he also echoed Mr Maas’s note of caution, warning there were other complex issues where European leaders did not necessarily see eye-to-eye with the incoming administration, which would still need to be sorted out promptly.

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For his part, Mr Biden has pledged to reverse Mr Trump’s policy of ripping up international treaties and confronting America’s traditional allies, and has promised to organise a global Summit for Democracy within his first year in office to “renew the spirit and shared purpose of the nations of the Free World”.

In particular, the president-elect has signalled he would rejoin the Paris climate agreement on his first day in office, try to resurrect the nuclear pact signed with Iran under his former boss Barack Obama, which Mr Trump withdrew from in 2018, and pursue a new arms control treaty with Russia.

Despite fears Boris Johnson’s attempts to curry favour with Mr Trump and pro-Brexit stance would complicate relations with the new president, the prime minister was the second world leader Mr Biden spoke to after his election was confirmed, ahead of Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron.

Some observers had predicted Mr Biden’s strong support for the Northern Irish peace process would hamper Mr Johnson’s hopes to work closely with the new American leader, who has previously expressed concern the prime minister’s Brexit plans would threaten the stability of Northern Ireland.