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Europe's week: 'democracy is not a given, we have to protect it' says French MEP Loiseau

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By Stefan Grobe
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Trump supporters gesture to U.S. Capitol Police in the hallway outside of the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.
Trump supporters gesture to U.S. Capitol Police in the hallway outside of the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.   -   Copyright  Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
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When Donald Trump took office four years ago, he deplored the divisions in society and railed against “American carnage”.

This week, his strangely dark vision became reality.

After whipping his cult of followers into a frenzy by feeding them conspiracy theories, a pro-Trump mob stormed Capitol Hill, the heart of American democracy.

Inside Congress, lawmakers were about to certify Joe Biden's victory – and Trump's loss.

European leaders reacted with shock and disbelief – and the realization that Trump has not understood the nature of his job.

“A fundamental rule of democracy is that, after elections, there are winners and losers," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "Both have to play their role with decency and responsibility so that democracy itself remains the winner. President Trump regrettably has not conceded his defeat since November.”

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, President of Germany emphasised the effects of a post-truth society:

“The scenes we have seen are the result of lies and more lies, of divisiveness and democracy thwarting, of hatred and hatred incitement, even from the highest levels. This is a historic turning point for the United States and this is an attack on liberal democracy in general.”

All of which saw soul-searching in Europe over its own democratic foundations.

If for nothing else, the outgoing occupant of the White House inspired some of his colleagues to a firm message of support to, well, Trump's opponents.

“Today, France stands strongly, fervently and resolutely with the American people," said French President Emmanuel Macron. "We will not yield an iota to the violence of the few who challenge that," he emphasised.

In just two more weeks, the era Trump will be over.

He will leave behind him a nation whose divisions he deepened, whose racial tensions he stoked and whose economic inequalities he ignored.

But what about the anger, the grievances, the hatred so sowed – will they live on?

Euronews spoke to Nathalie Loiseau, a liberal member of the European Parliament and a former diplomat and minister in France.

Loiseau spent five years in Washington, DC, and said she could never have imagined that such a scene would happen. But she added, "at the same time, I was not surprised. Because Donald Trump had said that something would happen on January 6th. And we know he is cynical, we know he was looking for chaos and he went through."

Trump has millions of supporters and still many enablers in Congress. So thoughts now turn what can happen in the next two weeks.

"I fear that this is not the end of the story," said Loiseau. She predicts more violence and protests ahead of the inauguration.

President-elect Joe Biden will be left with the monumental task of healing the nation. For Loiseau he is the right man for the job.

"He has experience, he is a moderate, so he will not add more heat, he will try to cool it down and to address all major concerns."

Europe has often looked to America as an example, but now questions are being asked about whether the EU has any lessons to be learnt from the violence in the US.

"Well, we reached it already in the past, in the last century. I remember 1934, 6th of February, there were riots in France, in the French National Assembly, looking very much the same as the ones we are witnessing now," says Loiseau.

"We have to be aware that democracy is not a given, we have to protect it. We have to fight for it. Populism is not entertaining, is not an anecdote. It is threatening, it is dangerous and we have to fight against it."