In his first week in office, President Donald Trump announced a multitude of plans and decisions that will have dramatic consequences for people in the United States. Many of the presidential memorandums and executive decisions will also fundamentally affect other countries around the globe, leaving several world leaders scrambling to react to Trump’s announcements.
On Friday, the Trump administration placed immediate restrictions on refugees and immigrants entering the U.S., spurring international alarm and outcry. The American refugee resettlement program has been halted for four months, Syrian refugees have been barred from entering the country and people from seven Muslim-majority nations are temporarily blocked from entering the U.S.
A federal court judge immediately intervened, temporarily suspending parts of the sweeping travel bans and preventing the U.S. government from deporting refugees who have already been cleared by immigration authorities.
These are some of the reactions from foreign governments and leaders to Trump’s first week in the White House.
France Defends Refugees, European Interests
French President François Hollande, who was an outspoken critic of Trump and his proposed policies during the 2016 presidential campaign, addressed the “challenges proposed by the new U.S. administration,” including commercial rules and world conflicts, during a press event on Friday.
“We of course have to speak to Donald Trump, as he was chosen by the Americans to be their president,” he said. “But we have to do it with a European point of view and promote our interests and values. That’s why it’s so important not only to talk to each other but also to come together.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault expressed concern over Trump’s temporary refugee ban at a news conference in Paris on Saturday.
“This can only worry us, but there are many subjects that worry us,” he said. “Welcoming refugees who flee war and oppression is part of our duty.”
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen defended Trump’s executive immigration orders during an interview with CNN on Wednesday, saying most of the negative reactions have been “in bad faith.”
“It is a temporary measure. It targets six or seven countries, countries that of course are responsible for terrorist threats,” said Le Pen, who is expected to be a front-runner in the upcoming presidential election. “[Trump] was elected and he said that he was going to do this. And now the world seems to be scandalized because he’s implementing what he promised he would do during his campaign.”
Germany Criticizes Rising Populism And U.S. Refugee Ban
Without specifically addressing Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel drew a sharp contrast this week between her outlook on the political future and the proposed policies of the new U.S. administration on Monday. In a speech to church leaders in Würzburg, Germany, Merkel made the case for openness and acceptance and argued that the populist hope to “return to a small world” would not benefit society.
“We won’t get anywhere by trying to solve problems with polarization and populism,” Merkel said, according to Reuters. “We’ve got to show that we’re committed to the basic principles of our nation.”
She also spoke of addressing “new challenges” at a press event on Friday.
“We are witnessing a rapid and radical change to the global order and we need to be aware of these new challenges,” Merkel said. “This concerns both the defense of a free and open society as well as defense of free speech.”
Refugee and immigration bans are not justified as counterterrorism efforts, Merkel told Trump during a phone call Saturday, according to her spokesman.
“She is convinced that even the necessary, decisive battle against terrorism does not justify putting people of a specific background or faith under general suspicion,” he said.
Vice-chancellor Gabriel alluded to the moral issues behind Trump’s refugee ban on Saturday.
“The United States is a country where Christian traditions have an important meaning. Loving your neighbor is a major Christian value, and that includes helping people,” he said at a press conference. “I think that is what unites us in the West, and I think that is what we want to make clear to the Americans.”
By Monday, Merkel’s tone had sharpened.
“The necessary and decisive fight against terrorism does not justify a general suspicion against people of a certain belief ― in this case people of Muslim belief or people from a certain country,” she said at a press conference. “That way of thinking is against my interpretation of the basic tenets of international refugee support and cooperation.”
In Berlin, Mayor Michael Müller urged Trump to cancel his widely denounced plans to build a multibillion-dollar wall along the U.S.-Mexico border ― a measure aimed at curbing illegal immigration.
“Berlin, the city of Europe’s division, the city of Europe’s freedom, cannot silently look on as a country sets about building a new wall,” Müller said in a message featured on Berlin’s municipal website. “We Berliners know better than most the pain caused when a whole continent is split by barbed wire and walls.”
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim Slams Trump’s Border Wall
In a direct nod to Trump’s refugee ban and immigration restrictions, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said at a news conference Saturday that regional issues “cannot be solved by closing the doors on people.”
“We expect the Western world to lighten Turkey’s burden,” he added.
Turkey currently hosts some 2.5 million asylum seekers from Syria and other countries ― one of the largest migrant and refugee populations in the world.
Referring to Trump’s plans for a U.S-Mexico border wall, Yildirim warned: “You can build a wall, but it’s not a solution. That wall will come down like the Berlin Wall.”
Luxembourg Accuses Trump Of ‘Dividing The Muslim World’
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn offered scornful criticism of the White House’s move.
“The American president is dividing the Muslim world into good and evil with this,” Asselborn told Der Tagesspiegel, a German newspaper. “The decision is also bad for Europe because it will increase the Muslim world’s mistrust and hatred of the West.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May Attempts A Balancing Act
As the U.K. is gearing up for difficult negotiations with the European Union to leave the group, Prime Minister Theresa May visited the U.S. this week in an effort to strengthen the ties between the two nations.
In a speech addressing a GOP retreat in Philadelphia on Thursday, May stressed both countries’ common values and goals, and indicated that she, like Trump, wants to pursue a less interventionist foreign policy. However, May also made it clear that she opposes the use of torture and would stick to U.K. policy.
During May’s first visit to the White House on Friday, Trump told her he believed the so-called “Brexit” would be “a wonderful thing” for her country.
“You’re going to have your own identity and you’re going to be able to make your own trade deals without having someone watching you,” he said.
May gave a vague response to Trump’s executive order restricting U.S. immigration and refugees from several Arab nations at a joint news conference with Yildirim on Saturday.
“The United States is responsible for the United States’ policy on refugees,” she said.
May’s apparent refusal to condemn the refugee ban sparked outrage in the U.K. Brits expressed their frustration on social media with the hashtag #TheresaTheAppeaser, and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called her reluctance a “weak failure.”
Amid rising tensions, May later issued a statement saying she was opposed to the ban. On Wednesday, she insisted that she had not been given “advance notice” that it would be implemented.
“If he is asking me whether I had advance notice of the ban on refugees, the answer is no,” she said, responding to comments from Corbyn. “If he is asking if I had advance notice of the travel restrictions, the answer is we all did ― because President Trump said he was going to do this in his election campaign.”
When pressed on why she failed to immediately denounce the refugee ban, May added: “I have made very clear, very clear that we believe that this policy is divisive and wrong, that it is not a policy that we would introduce, and I have also made very clear when asked about this, that this government has a very different approach to these issues.”
Israel Begins Embassy Talks, Expands Settlements
Emboldened by Trump’s fierce support on the campaign trial, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wasted no time after the president’s inauguration to move on several key decisions. Just two days after Trump’s swearing-in ceremony, the Israeli leader told members of his Cabinet he planned to lift restrictions on settlement building in East Jerusalem.
Jerusalem’s municipal government approved permits for hundreds of new homes that same day. On Tuesday, Israel’s defense minster followed with plans for 2,500 more settlement homes in the West Bank. Palestinian leaders are fiercely opposed to the expansion of the Israeli settlements, which governments around the world consider illegal. Netanyahu also accepted Trump’s invitation to meet in Washington, D.C. A date for the visit has not been set.
Former Soviet Union Leader Warns The Worst Is Yet To Come
In an sobering editorial published in Time magazine on Thursday, former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev gave a stark warning: “It all looks as if the world is preparing for war.”
“Politicians and military leaders sound increasingly belligerent and defense doctrines more dangerous,” he wrote. “There is a view that the dialogue should focus on fighting terrorism... The focus should once again be on preventing war, phasing out the arms race, and reducing weapons arsenals.”
Gorbachev called directly on Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin ― whose countries, he noted, control more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear warheads ― to adopt a resolution outlawing nuclear war.
Trump, on the other hand, has tweeted about the need to strengthen and expand America’s nuclear powers.
When asked to explain his stance on the use of nuclear weapons during a television interview in August 2016, Trump responded: “Somebody hits us within ISIS — you wouldn’t fight back with a nuke?”
The United Nations Calls To Reverse Refugee Ban
“The needs of refugees and migrants worldwide have never been greater and the U.S. resettlement program is one of the most important in the world,” the U.N. said in a joint statement with the International Organization for Migration. “We strongly believe that refugees should receive equal treatment for protection and assistance, and opportunities for resettlement, regardless of their religion, nationality or race.”
The Trump administration also halted U.S. admission for visitors from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for a period of at least 90 days, calling it a measure taken in the interest of national security. However, there have been no fatal terror attacks in the U.S. by immigrants from any of those countries since 1975.
NAFTA Countries Prepare For Negotiations
Following Trump’s vow to make changes to what he calls “the worst trade deal ever,” the governments of Mexico and Canada have begun preparations to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Act.
Mexico is expected to be a prime target in the NAFTA renegotiations, and is aiming to stop any new tariffs on commerce. Mexican officials have threatened to leave NAFTA if they find Trump’s demands to overhaul the agreement unreasonable.
The Canadian government, meanwhile, claims to be less concerned. Trump adviser Stephen Schwarzman met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Cabinet to try to reassure the Canadians that they shouldn’t be overly worried about negotiations. Anticipating Trump’s desire to renegotiate the act, Trudeau reshuffled his Cabinet earlier this month to make former Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland the new foreign minister.
The Netherlands Wants To Fight Trump’s Anti-Abortion Policy
Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen announced that she plans to set up an international fund to support aid groups that will lose funding over Trump’s reinstatement of the anti-abortion Mexico City policy. The Reagan-era policy, also known as the “global gag rule,” prohibits the U.S. from funding nongovernmental organizations that offer or advise on abortion-related services.
The global gag rule even covers organizations that receive American funding for programs unrelated to abortion, but that offer abortion counseling or other services using their own money. Ploumen said she is already in talks with 15 to 20 governments. Alexander De Croo, Ploumen’s counterpart in neighboring Belgium, has pledged his support.
Mexico’s President Cancels Visit To U.S. After Border Wall Order
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Thursday canceled a planned trip to Washington to meet with Trump, one day after Trump signed an executive order moving forward on the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Peña Nieto faced strong domestic pressure to stand up to Trump’s plan, and to the American president’s demand that Mexico pay for the wall.
The spat over the meeting marks a tumultuous beginning to Trump’s diplomatic relations with Mexico, and threatens to create an even wider rift between his administration and Peña Nieto’s.
Iran Retaliates, Bans U.S. Visitors
Iran, one of the seven countries directly affected by Trump’s four-month immigration ban, has in turn barred U.S. citizens from visiting the country. But Tehran acknowledged that Trump’s xenophobic policies do not necessarily reflect the sentiments of Americans.
“While respecting the American people and distinguishing between them and the hostile policies of the U.S. government, Iran will implement the principle of reciprocity until the offensive U.S. limitations against Iranian nationals are lifted,” a Foreign Ministry statement said. “The restrictions against travel by Muslims to America... are an open affront against the Muslim world and the Iranian nation in particular and will be known as a great gift to extremists.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also criticized Trump’s planned U.S.-Mexico border wall on Saturday.
“Today is not the time to erect walls between nations,” he said. “They have forgotten that the Berlin Wall fell years ago.”
On Wednesday, Rouhani slammed Trump’s political inexperience.
“[Trump] is new to politics,” he said during a live address on state television. “It will take him a long time and will cost the United States a lot, until he learns what is happening in the world.”
Canada and Scotland Vow To Continue Welcoming Refugees
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted his solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers Saturday afternoon.
Since taking office in November 2015, the Trudeau government has welcomed nearly 40,000 Syrian refugees to Canada.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was quick to echo Trudeau’s message of support on Twitter with a simple hashtag.
Nick Visser contributed reporting.
This article has been updated with comments from Merkel, Le Pen, Rouhani and May.