“My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” The words of Abraham Lincoln, Republican president, will no doubt be remembered by the Democratic Party in in the United States as its candidate, Hilary Clinton, failed to be elected president, losing against the republican candidate Donald Trump whom many considered so far beyond the Pale as to be unelectable. And as the chatterati descend into a collective wailing and gnashing of teeth, forgetting that the world has not ended and nor is it likely to, for one man at least there is no cause for concern.
In the view of Polish Foreign Minister, Witold Waszczykowski, the EU has many problems, but certainly not with America. He was speaking after an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers, held in Brussels on Sunday night to discuss the consequences of Donald Trump’s victory. The meeting had been convened by Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, because of the EU’s concern about the future of transatlantic relations following this victory. The British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, who had called for an end to the “collective whingerama” that greeted the victory did not attend the meeting.
Waszczykowski said that the US elections were not a cause for concern which would require urgent discussion among European foreign ministers. “Every conversation is interesting and necessary, but not every conversation brings results, or bears fruit. At the meeting today I said that Europe has many problems, but certainly not with America,” Waszczykowski told reporters. “Whichever way we view Donald Trump, who is not an angel, he is not a child with special needs who requires a special relationship, a special discussion,” he added. He said that the EU has problems with the euro zone and the single currency, Brexit, unresolved conflicts just beyond its borders, such as the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the crisis in Syria, as well as the future of the Eastern Partnership.
Indeed, far from being a concern, it appears that the president-elect might well have a useful role to play in a subject dear to the Polish government’s heart. It has been reported that Trump told a group of Polish-Americans that he would do his best to help the government recover the wreckage from the aeroplane that crashed Smolensk, the bodies of the victims of which are in the process of being exhumed to establish whether, as PiS believes, the crash was caused by an explosion rather than the generally believed pilot error.
The Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz, for whom pilot error has never been a sufficient explanation of the tragedy, confirmed on Monday that Donald Trump had made these comments. “I know this statement of the president-elect. It was very determined, very clear. I think that soon we will be able to hear it, and then I will available to further comment on the comments.”
Be that as it may, is Witold Waszczykowski correct to say that there are more pressing concerns that what a President Trump may or may not do? As Chinese premier Zhou Enlai famously said of the French Revolution (apparently the 1968 rather than the 1789 one, but why spoil a good story) it’s too early to say. So far the campaign rhetoric has been toned down and it seems that by the time of the inauguration on 20th January, President Trump will appear rather less frightening (to those who were frightened) than candidate Trump. Or, as I said on Radio Poland (link here) without wish to be unduly panglossian, things seldom turn out to be as bad as we feared nor as good as we hoped.
Besides, Poland has some troubles closer to home. The Polish economy grew by 2.5 per cent in the third quarter, the central statistical office reports, which is less than the 2.9 per cent which economists had expected and below the 3.4 per cent for the year which the government had forecast and on which its spending plans were based. It makes the government’s priority to focus on development in 2017, which Prime Minister Beata Szydło announced on Tuesday, a little more difficult. Especially when programmes such as the 500+ programme to provide financial assistance to families with children require a growing economy to fund them.
Perhaps Donald Trump will be able to help here as well. After all, he knows plenty about development.