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‘One election’ won’t reverse EU-US shift: EU chief

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(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 23, 2020 European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen gives a press conference following a video conference EU summit to discuss the measures to tackle the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, in Brussels. – The European Commission presents on May 27, 2020, a long-awaited recovery plan to overcome the crisis caused by the coronavirus, which will kick off difficult negotiations between very divided Europeans on the issue of financial solidarity. (Photo by Olivier HOSLET / EPA / AFP)

“It is time for a new trans-Atlantic agenda,” she told EU ambassadors in a videolink conference.

Von der Leyen emphasised that the Western alliance built on US-European cooperation still endured, “based on shared values and history”.

And she offered warm congratulations to US president-elect Jose Biden and his vice-president-elect, Kamala Harris.

But, alluding to the impact Europe felt under Trump — which included tariffs and threats of a trade war, the US withdrawal from international accords and organisations, and questions over the US defence umbrella — von der Leyen said things could not go back to the way they were before.

“Some shifts in priorities and perceptions run much deeper than one politician or administration. And they will not disappear because of one election,” she said.

“We cannot turn the clock back,” she said. “And we cannot go back to the exact same agenda we had five years ago.”

The new agenda, she said, “should cover everything from security to sustainability, from tech regulation to trade, from levelling the global economic playing field to strengthening global institutions.”

Von der Leyen said she looked forward to Biden making good on his promise to have the US rejoin the Paris climate accord, which Trump abandoned.

“Our focus should be on providing joint leadership to address the global challenges of today, without being nostalgic for the world of yesterday,” she said.

In a possible point of transatlantic friction, she reiterated Europe’s intention to rein in internet behemoths — most of them American, such as Google, Amazon and Facebook — to ensure fair competition in the EU, and make them pay “appropriate taxes”.

“It cannot be that commercial giants benefit enormously from our single market but fail to pay taxes where they should,” she said.

She added that the EU would give talks at the level of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development until a previously set deadline of mid-2021 to work out a tax regime, otherwise the European Commission “will come forward with our own proposal”.

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