European leaders have voiced relief at Joe Biden’s inauguration, hailing a “new dawn” for Europe and the US, but warned that the world has changed after four years of Donald Trump’s presidency and transatlantic ties will be different in future.
“This new dawn in America is the moment we’ve been awaiting for so long,” Ursula von der Leyen, the European commission president, told MEPs. “Once again, after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House.”
The head of the EU’s executive arm said Biden’s swearing-in was “a demonstration of the resilience of American democracy”, and the bloc stood “ready to reconnect with an old and trusted partner to breathe new life into our cherished alliance”.
But Von der Leyen said relief should not lead to illusion, since while “Trump may soon be consigned to history, his followers remain”.
Charles Michel, the president of the European council, also said the US had changed. Transatlantic relations had “greatly suffered” and the world had grown “more complex, less stable and less predictable”, said Michel, who chairs summits between the EU’s 27 heads of state and government.
“We have our differences and they will not magically disappear. America seems to have changed, and how it’s perceived in Europe and the rest of the world has also changed,” he said. Europeans “must take our fate firmly into our own hands”.
A study this week showed that while many Europeans welcomed Biden’s election victory, more people than not felt that after four years of Trump the US could not be trusted, and a majority believed Biden would not be able to mend a “broken” country or reverse its decline on the world stage.
The EU has invited Biden to a summit and top-level Nato meeting when he is ready, with Michel called for “a new founding pact” to boost multilateral cooperation, combat Covid, tackle climate change and aid economic recovery.
The German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said he was “greatly relieved” at Biden’s inauguration, hailing “a good day for democracy”. He said democracy under the Trump administration had faced “tremendous challenges and endured … and proved strong”.
Steinmeier said the transfer of power to Biden brought with it “the hope that the international community can work together more closely”, and he said Germany was looking forward “to knowing we once more have the US at our side as an indispensable partner”.
However, he said that “despite the joy of this day”, the last four years had shown that “we must resolutely stand up to polarisation, protect and strengthen our democracies, and make policy on the basis of reason and facts.”
Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, said his country was “looking forward to the Biden presidency, with which we will start working immediately.” He said the two countries had a strong common agenda, including “effective multilateralism, climate change, green and digital transition and social inclusion.”
The Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said Biden’s victory represented “the victory of democracy over the ultra-right and its three methods – massive deception, national division, and abuse, sometimes violent, of democratic institutions.”
Five years ago, Sánchez said, the world had believed Trump to be “a bad joke. But five years later we realised he jeopardised nothing less than the world’s most powerful democracy.”
Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, who has faced criticism for his close relationship with Trump, said he was looking forward to working closely with Biden, citing a host of policy areas in which he hoped to collaborate.
“In our fight against Covid and across climate change, defence, security, and in promoting and defending democracy, our goals are the same and our nations will work hand in hand to achieve them,” Johnson said in a statement.
The former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev called for Russia and the US to repair their strained ties. “The current condition of relations between Russia and the US is of great concern,” he said in an interview with the state-run news agency Tass. “But this also means that something has to be done about it in order to normalise relations. We cannot fence ourselves off from each other.”
Among the US’s more outspoken foes, Iran, which has repeatedly called on Washington to lift sanctions imposed over its nuclear drive, did not miss the chance to celebrate Trump’s departure.
“A tyrant’s era came to an end and today is the final day of his ominous reign,” said the president, Hassan Rouhani. “We expect the Biden administration to return to law and to commitments, and try in the next four years, if they can, to remove the stains of the past four years.”
Biden’s administration has said it wants the US back in the landmark Iran nuclear accord from which Trump withdrew, providing Tehran returns to strict compliance.
The Nato chief, Jens Stoltenberg, said the military alliance hoped to strengthen transatlantic ties under the new president, adding that the world faced “global challenges that none of us can tackle alone”.