Foreign Policy Blogs

US elections: European reactions

US elections: European reactionsExpectedly, reactions to the election of Sen. Barack Obama as the 44th US President were overwhelmingly positive across Europe. But in between the congratulatory lines dictated by diplomatic protocol shown the expectations European leaders have of this new President. Quentin Peel, International Affairs editor of the Financial Times believes these expectations might mean Obama is “doomed to disappoint the world”. Europe is waiting for a “listener” who will renew the trans-Atlantic partnership to make real progress on restoring the global financial system to order, bring stability to the Middle East, find functional solutions to the difficult situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and commit to global initiatives on climate change and international justice. (Read letters from European lawmakers, authors, artists and intellectuals here.)

Le Monde offers an overview of what Europeans expect, while EU Communications Head, Margot Wallstroem, has put her thoughts down in a open letter published by the English version of Der Spiegel. Naturally, the French conservative daily believes that its country's President and current EU leader (as the rotationary principle of EU leadership dictates), Nicolas Sarkozy, will be able to convince the US of the necessity of creating a global financial regulatory system as early as November 15, when the G-20 heads gather in Washington. European still largely believe that the cradle of the current crisis was the lack of Wall Street oversight.

Overall, Europeans are optimistic that Barack Obama will be more successful than a McCain administration in negotiating with Russia, Europe's largest neighbor. Volker Perthes, Head of the Institute for International and Security Affairs, notes that “Obama, after all, has not proposed kicking Russia out of the G-8 or forming a league of democracies aligned against it.”

The degree to which President-Elect Obama will be able to utilize support from Europe will depend on how much weight he places on the trans-Atlantic relationship. The Bush administration drove a stake down Europe's heart with the creation of “Old Europe-New Europe” dichotomy. It reduced annual EU-US Summit meetings from two to one. Leading US universities, including Harvard, no longer teach courses on the political evolution and significance of the European Union and Europeans are beginning to feel as if they are being pushed out of a global power play. Obama will have to reengage Europe to distribute some of the challenges he faces or risk the failure, which some are already projecting. Europe, on the other hand, will have to shoulder more responsibility – in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in the Middle East. Sen. Obama can motivate the masses. He demonstrated that all too clearly on Tuesday. Now he must rally his partners across the globe. Because irrespective of America's size and stature, faced with the challenges ahead, it cannot go it alone.

 

Author

Cathryn Cluver

Cathryn Cluver is a journalist and EU analyst. Now based in Hamburg, Germany, she previously worked at the European Policy Centre in Brussels, Belgium, where she was Deputy Editor of the EU policy journal, Challenge Europe. Prior to that, she was a producer with CNN-International in Atlanta and London. Cathryn graduated from the London School of Economics with a Master's Degree in European Studies and holds a BA with honors from Brown University in International Relations.

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