Protests and pessimism as Trump damns Europe

Walking dead: Dressed as zombies, protesters against the G20 marched through Hamburg. © Getty

Donald Trump questioned the very future of the West ahead of the G20 summit yesterday. Meanwhile thousands protested against the failings of major world leaders. Does anyone have the answers?

It has become conventional wisdom that Europeans loathe Donald Trump and cannot understand how he became the most powerful person in the world.

But on his second official trip to Europe, Trump was greeted by an ecstatic crowd of admirers in Warsaw, the capital of Poland.

By speaking in Krasinski Square, the location of a monument to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, Trump was appealing to fierce national pride. “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive,” he said.

Trump is in Europe primarily for the G20 summit of world leaders in Hamburg. But his decision to visit Poland beforehand is deeply symbolic. The country’s staunchly conservative government shares Trump’s view of the world: hostile to immigration and globalisation and with a strong sense of national sovereignty.

“As the Polish experience reminds us, the defence of the West ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail,” Trump said.

Trump and his Eastern European allies believe that the continent is facing a battle for its survival. Through a combination of mass immigration, terrorism and diminishing cultural confidence, Europe is changing beyond recognition, and without the consent of its people, they believe. “Be more like Poland,” Trump was saying to the UK, Germany and France.

They blame this perceived decline on dozens of political figures, past and present. After his visit to Poland, Trump travelled to Hamburg to meet 19 of them.

But Trump is not alone in his despair for the future of the world. In fact, he is the cause of despair in many others.

Thousands of protesters have converged on Hamburg to protest against both Trump and the more general failure of world leaders to tackle inequality and climate change.

Some 30 demonstrations were announced for the summit, many organised by environmentalists and students, who believe short-sighted, selfish capitalism is to blame for the West’s ills.

Who has the correct diagnosis: Trump, or the protesters?

“Welcome to Hell”

“Trump is on to something,” say some. Empires rise thanks to innovation, strength and cultural confidence, and then become bloated, ashamed and unwilling to fight for themselves. After centuries of pre-eminence, Europe is on a downward spiral. It has changed more rapidly in the last few decades than at any other point in its history. Its identity is at stake.

“What nonsense,” reply others. The threat to Europe does not come from any cultural changes, but from the very selfishness that Trump encourages. An insular, outdated system of government that prevents action on climate change and economic woes is the problem. Trump is another obstacle, not a cure.

You Decide

  1. Do you agree with Donald Trump’s analysis of Europe?
  2. Would you ever go on a protest march? If so, what would you protest against?

Activities

  1. Trump spoke about “Western values” in his speech. In groups, write down what you think this term means.
  2. List the five most important things, in order, which you think should be on the agenda at a meeting of world leaders.

Some People Say...

“Protests change nothing.”

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
That a divide exists in Europe between those who believe the continent is threatened by mass immigration and those who do not feel this way. The former sentiment is much more common in Eastern Europe, which has attempted to resist the huge movements of people into Europe in the last few years. By visiting Poland, Trump was signalling that he agrees with their stance. But there are still many who fundamentally disagree with him, including those who protested against him in Hamburg.
What do we not know?
Whether either Trump’s speech or the Hamburg protests will make any real impression on Europe’s most powerful people. It is also unclear whether Trump can turn around his disastrous reputation in much of Western Europe.

Word Watch

1944 Warsaw Uprising
A major second world war operation by the Polish resistance Home Army to liberate Warsaw from German occupation. For 63 days the Poles fought without any outside support, before the Germans overwhelmed them.
G20
An international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies. It was founded in 1999.
Staunchly conservative government
Poland is governed by the Law and Justice Party, one of the most conservative ruling parties in Europe. The party embraces economic interventionism, while remaining socially conservative on issues like abortion. The party is also mildly eurosceptic.
Immigration
The EU has started legal proceedings against Poland and two other countries after they refused to accept their quota of an EU-wide relocation plan for 160,000 migrants.
Eastern European
Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, who, with Poland, form the “Visegrad Four”, share the same attitudes towards mass immigration into Europe.

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