US & Canada

Trump attack on Merkel rebuffed by French president

A migrant holds a picture of German Chancellor Angela Merkel after the arrival of refugees at the main train station in Munich, southern Germany, 15 September 2015 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The German government opened its arms to refugees in 2015

French President Francois Hollande has brushed off stinging criticism of Germany's liberal migrant policy by US President-elect Donald Trump.

"[Europe] has no need for outside advice to tell it what it has to do," Mr Hollande said.

Mr Trump had accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of "a catastrophic mistake" in allowing mass migration.

Mrs Merkel said the EU should decide for itself and US State Secretary John Kerry questioned Mr Trump's remark.

"I thought, frankly, it was inappropriate for a president-elect of the United States to be stepping into the politics of other countries in a quite direct manner," he told CNN.

"He'll have to speak for that. As of Friday [when Mr Trump is inaugurated as president] he's responsible for that relationship."

Mr Trump also caused alarm among Nato leaders by saying the alliance was "obsolete", and he threatened German car makers with high import tariffs if they moved production to Mexico.

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Media captionAre Trump's nominees on the same page on Russia as their boss?

'Declaration of war'

In an interview for UK and German press, Mr Trump said the EU had become "basically a vehicle for Germany".

Referring to the German chancellor's response to an influx of refugees and other irregular migrants in 2015, when more than a million people were accepted, he said: "I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals..."

Mrs Merkel responded by saying the EU had to take responsibility for itself. "We Europeans have our fate in our own hands," she said in Berlin.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Outgoing US ambassador Jane Hartley received the Legion of Honour from Mr Hollande
Image copyright AP
Image caption Mrs Merkel said the EU should shoulder its own responsibilities

In Paris, Mr Hollande said the EU was "ready to pursue transatlantic cooperation" but it would be based on "its interests and values".

He spoke as he was decorating the outgoing US Ambassador, Jane Hartley, with the Legion of Honour.

Another French Socialist politician, Mr Hollande's former Prime Minister Manuel Valls, said Mr Trump's remarks constituted a "declaration of war on Europe".

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Media caption"It's so cold at night" - Greece's refugee camps have been exposed to sub-zero temperatures

Mr Valls is trailing his party rivals in the race to stand for president in French elections later this year.

The far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, a Trump admirer, is expected to do well in the first round.

'Trade deal with UK'

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Trump marked Martin Luther King Day on Monday by receiving the late civil rights leader's son, Martin Luther King III, at Trump Tower in New York
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Stacks of security fencing could be seen near the US Capitol in Washington in preparation for Friday's inauguration

Mr Trump linked the migrant issue with Brexit, suggesting it was a reason UK voters had opted to leave the EU.

He promised a quick trade deal between the US and the UK but a European Commission spokeswoman reiterated that the UK would not be allowed to engage in formal talks involving a trade deal with the US until 2019, after leaving the EU.

Elsewhere in his interview, Mr Trump

  • Said Russia's military intervention in Syria had been "a very bad thing" which had created a "terrible humanitarian situation"
  • Said Afghanistan was "going badly" while the offensive to retake Mosul from so-called Islamic State in Iraq had turned out to be a disaster
  • Likened the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 to "throwing rocks into a beehive"
  • Promised to "keep" Twitter as president, saying, "I can go bing, bing bing" and respond to "dishonest" news

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.