EU says democracy and law ‘under pressure’ as it backs Joe Biden

EU-US talks emphasise move away from Trump policies that riled some in Europe

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, speaks during a news conference with Antony Blinken, U.S. secretary of state, not pictured, during a news conference in the Berlaymont building in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. Blinken said the Biden administration won't demand that its allies make a choice between the U.S. and China, offering the most cogent explanation yet for efforts to restore alliances after four years of "America First." Photographer: Martin Bertrand/Pool/Bloomberg

European leaders promised support to US President Joe Biden in tackling authoritarian nations and protecting democracy after meeting him in a video summit on Thursday.

The EU and the US must together protect global security, democracy and stability, European Council President Charles Michel said.

"What we're seeing is these values of democracy and the rule of law are under pressure again," Mr Michel said. "There are threats, internal and external threats ...

"And more than ever, now the United States and the European Union have a responsibility for the generations to come."

Mr Biden on Thursday held his first press conference since his inauguration. In it he touched on the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, relations with North Korea and the US Covid vaccination programme.

Mr Biden held the talks with all of the EU's 27 leaders in part to emphasise a move away from former president Donald Trump’s protectionist policies that riled some in Europe.

He said the US wanted to unite western democratic powers against authoritarian nations, notably China.

EU leaders have welcomed Washington's pledge to work together despite some saying the bloc needs to become more independent.

"By standing together, shoulder to shoulder, the EU and US can show that democracies are best suited to protect citizens, promote dignity and generate prosperity," Mr Michel tweeted.

The two sides took a first step towards joint action against Beijing on Monday by unveiling synchronised sanctions over the crackdown on the Uighurs in China.

They also agreed this week to suspend retaliatory tariffs imposed during Mr Trump's time over a trade dispute involving Boeing and Airbus.

The EU is keen to work with Mr Biden on tackling the Covid-19 pandemic and fighting climate change after he rejoined the 2016 Paris Agreement.

In his press conference, the war in Afghanistan, the “stiff competition” with China, and North Korea were the only foreign policy issues Mr Biden addressed.

He committed to withdrawing from America’s longest war but not to the May 1 deadline that his predecessor had announced.

“It’s going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline just in terms of tactical reasons," Mr Biden said. "It’s hard to get those troops out."

He also increased his government's Covid-19 vaccination goal to 200 million shots in his first 100 days in office, meaning about 100 million more inoculations will have to be administered in six weeks.

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