Europe woke up to the news of Donald Trump being elected president of the United States on Nov. 9. The day was also the 27th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, an irony that did not go unnoticed by many Europeans. Trump's campaign pledge to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico had drawn harsh criticism.
On Friday, Berlin Mayor Michael Müller became one of the most outspoken foreign critics of Trump's plans to build the wall. In a statement published on the city's official website, Müller was quoted as saying: “We cannot simply accept that all our historic experiences are being thrown into disarray by the ones we have to thank most for our freedom: the Americans. I call on the U.S. President to not go down this wrong track of isolation and exclusion.”
American commitment to Berlin during the Cold War prevented the city from falling to East German control and eventually helped facilitate reunification following the fall of the Berlin Wall. President John F. Kennedy became an icon for Germans when he declared in 1963: “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner). In 1987, President Ronald Reagan famously addressed the Soviet Union leadership with the words: “Mr. Gorbachev: Tear down this wall.”
“For that reason I say: Dear Mr. President, don't build this wall,” Müller said Friday in remarks which were directly addressed to Trump.
Should Trump visit German Chancellor Angela Merkel at some point over the next four years, it is unlikely that his visit will draw the public support many of his predecessors received. In a survey conducted last July, only 6.3 percent of Germans said they were in favor of a Trump presidency.
“Berlin — the city which stands for the separation of Europe as well as the freedom of Europe — cannot watch silently as another country plans to build a wall,” Müller said. “We in Berlin know best how much suffering the separation of a continent by a wall or a barbed wire fence can cause. Millions of people had their chances in lives destroyed because of it.”
Calling the fall of the Berlin Wall an “hour of glory” of the 20th century, Müller continued to say that walls “cause harm and oppression everywhere where they still exist — for instance in Korea or Cyprus.”
Not everyone in Europe would agree with Müller's words of caution. Trump's relatively friendly attitude toward Russian President Vladimir Putin is shared by French presidential candidate François Fillon, the Alternative for Germany party and some governments in smaller Eastern European nations like Hungary.
With elections looming in a number of European countries this year — including in Germany and France — some fear that Trump could now fuel new ideological divisions between a populist government and more liberal ones.