Joe Biden has officially ended up in a conflict with German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the first time as President of the United States. This took place in the framework of a virtual security conference. The most memorable moment at the conference was when Biden referred to what Merkel thought was mismanagement of certain European Union problems.
“Joe Biden, the president of the United States, explained for the first time as President at the online security conference in Munich that he wants to revitalize the alliance of law-abiding democracies against the global rise of authoritarian political forces. He did not mention the two EU Member States, which are becoming increasingly illiberal, Poland and Hungary, because he is a polite man. If he had done so, he would have had to raise the question of the responsibility of German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the fact that the leadership of these two countries has turned their backs on the rule of law and democracy,” said Philip Stephens, a publicist for the Financial Times (FT).
According to Biden, the European Union has reached a turning point. What matters is what they are doing against increasingly violent China and Russia, which are constantly seeking to increase their power. Biden did not mention names, but it was clear that he was thinking of Hungary as well, writes napi.hu.
Biden also hinted that it would be better if promises were replaced by actions.
Under Trump’s presidency, it was perhaps understandable that the Union was less able to take action against countries deviating from democracy and the principles of liberty. However, now not only Trump but also the Republican Party lost its power in the US, so the EU also has better opportunities to act against illiberal regimes. Biden feels that Merkel has repeatedly placed Germany’s economic interests above the basic values of the Western world.
Merkel mostly agreed with Biden’s position but noted that there could be big differences between the US and EU perspectives. According to the FT publicist, Merkel was referring to the fact that EU countries are much more dependent on the Russian and Chinese economies. For example, long-term cooperation between the Russian and German gas pipelines is especially important to the Germans.
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The reason may be similar for Poland and Hungary. In 2020, these two countries threatened to veto the EU budget plan. Merkel reached a last-minute compromise with them. This will allow the Hungarian and Polish governments to continue the measures that are often characteristic of an illiberal democracy.
One such action was that the Hungarian Prime Minister destroyed the last liberal Hungarian radio station.
However, the Germans have serious interests tied to Hungary, mainly because of car manufacturing, which they do not want to lose. Thus, political interests often fade against the interests of the economy. Biden is likely to experience this during his presidency, and the West will continue to work with China and Russia, just as liberal and illiberal democracy will find a common voice for the economy to function successfully.