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There is nowhere to hide from Donald Trump, as Europe’s leaders are rapidly realising.

Just ask Theresa May. On Friday the British prime minister felt she had pulled off a diplomatic miracle in Washington – literally glad-handing Mr Trump while still leaving with a nod of support for Nato and a semblance of dignity.

But within a few hours she was on the political rack. Trump forgot to mention he was about to ban some 134m people entering America, including potentially British citizens. When asked in Ankara whether she objected, Mrs May’s evasive wriggling made her Turkish host look like a liberal poster child.

By midnight No 10 clarified that she “disagreed” with Mr Trump; by Sunday afternoon she was asking Boris Johnson to raise objections in Washington. An unseemly four-point turn was complete (albeit with the Trump team also making a few last-minute adjustments to soften the measures). Meanwhile a petition demanding the cancellation of the Trump state visit amassed close to 900,000 signatures in less than a day.

Now for the rest The EU’s other 27 leaders will face a similar dilemma as they prepare Friday’s summit in Malta. The Trump travel ban is politics at its most crass. Although it apparently does not ensnare all EU nationals with dual citizenship – including elected politicians in Britain and Germany – it still cuts directly across EU values and interests.

It is pretty hard to keep up the “wait and see” pretence this week. There is probably no choice but to address The Trump Question.

What to do? One option is to take pride in facing him down. In an excellent piece in FAZ on Sunday, Hendrik Kafsack casts the EU as a slow-turning tanker, and in the age of Trump that may be its greatest virtue. The EU could put its values first, and prove it is no lackey to strongmen. Francois Hollande certainly seems in the fight-back mood (for the few months he has left).

As a narrow response, the EU as a whole could bluntly state its objections to the ban. If it wants to be really tough, it could even consider retaliatory action (which is possible against countries that breach “reciprocal” visa requirements). More broadly, the bloc could ramp-up ambitions for the Treaty of Rome anniversary on March 25, with plans for a big leap in defence, a turn to Asia on trade, the kind of things Jean-Claude Juncker hints at in this Welt Am Sontag op-ed and that Wolfgang Münchau outlines in his FT column.

The have patience, be realistic, show humility (and for heaven’s sake don’t help Marine Le Pen) camp will have a harder time making their case.

The reality check The irony is that Europe’s Trump moment will come at a leaders’ summit aimed at expanding Europe’s experiment in realpolitik. Curbing migration is the main item on the morning agenda – with Mrs May there – and its purpose is to show the bloc can muster the same systematic, hard-nosed determination to close the central Mediterranean migration route as it did with Turkey.

That didn’t amount to a Trump-style shut-out. But it did need some fences, money and some tough measures. Angela Merkel cut a deal with Recep Tayyip Erdogan even as Turkey fell deeper into authoritarianism. It will take a lot to convince her (and most other EU-27 countries) to give up a ‘hold-your-nose but make it work’ approach to Trump. It’s worth noting that Ms Merkel will arrive in Malta via Ankara, and tea with Mr Erdogan.

Email: Twitter: @alexebarker

French elections

Hamon In It turned out to be a landslide. Benoît Hamon, a standard bearer for the left who backs a universal basic income and a reduction in France’s 35 hour week, will be the Socialist party candidate for president. He handsomely beat the more centrist Manuel Valls with some 60 per cent of the vote. For Mr Valls, until recently France’s prime minister, it was a humiliating reversal that effectively means that the moderate economic reform path that he pursued with president François Hollande over will have no standard bearer in the upcoming election.

Fillon down Not an easy weekend for François Fillon. The centre-right candidate faced fresh allegations of misusing public funds that are being lumped into a scandal involving his wife, Penelope Fillon. He mounted a fightback, first telling Le Journal du Dimanche that the episode “stinks of calumny”, and second giving a speech to try to refocus attention on his pro-business programme. More here from the FT’s Anne-Sylvaine Chassany.

Macron up The FT’s Tony Barber argues that Emanuel Macron is potentially the big winner from the Hamon victory, strengthening his pitch as a fresh face able to represent the hopes of moderate, centre-left voters. A poll for Le Figaro has Fillon and Macron basically neck-and-neck, while reports last night from Mr Valls campaign HQ indicated that some activists are already planning to shift their efforts to the independent candidate.

VIX on The WSJ reports on how the financial “fear index” is pricing in market turbulence in April because of the the French election.

Elsewhere in Europe

Schulz crowned Germany’s Social Democrats anointed Martin Schulz as their candidate for to be chancellor. A noteworthy dig at Hungary in the speech, calling its refusal to accept refugees an “open affront to German interests”. But not much new policy fare. Holger Steltzner in FAZ is unimpressed. Spiegel asks whether the rapturous welcome in Willy Brandt House will translate into votes. Separately, the FT’s Stefan Wagstyl explores how the upcoming election could be a target for Russian political interference.

Battle of the funds The schism between the EU institutions and the IMF over the success (or otherwise) of the Greek bailout programme were laid bare by a leaked report from the fund warning that the country faces an “explosive” surge in its public debt, predicting it could reach as much as 275 per cent of GDP by 2060. The stance was swiftly countered by the European Stability Mechanism, the euro area’s own emergency bailout fund, which insisted that it sees “no reason for an alarmistic assessment of Greece’s debt situation.”

Brexit Air Will Ryanair still be Irish after Brexit? Paul McClean made his debut for the FT’s Brussels bureau with a take on the legal implications of Brexit for airlines – and how some non-EU investors may be forced to sell-up.

Trust Babis A billionaire politician is putting his considerable private assets into safe-keeping – but this time in the Czech Republic, not America. Andrej Babiš has agreed to transfer his 250 plus companies into a trust, but will nevertheless complain to Brussels about unfair legislation intended to drive him from politics. More on Mr Babiš in this Lunch with the FT with Henry Foy.


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