Remember the mantra among the Bush deranged that he was damaging to our alliances? So much for Obama’s apology tours.
Europe’s disappointment with Barack Obama’s presidency is laid bare today as the EU’s most senior figure calls for a dramatic effort to revive transatlantic relations. The President of the European Commission told The Times that the new era at the White House was in danger of becoming a “missed opportunity” for Europe.
José Manuel Barroso said that the EU-US relationship was “not living up to its potential” and was being marred by fundamental disagreements on how to deal with the economic crisis, climate change and trade reform. The feelings of a deepening rift are mutual. Senior US figures said last night that Mr Obama could never live up to Europe’s sky-high expectations.
Speaking days before David Cameron visits the White House, Mr Barroso said: “The transatlantic relationship is not living up to its potential. I think we should do much more together. We have conditions like we have never had before and it would be a pity if we missed the opportunity.”
Downing Street said that the relationship between Europe and America had always been built on dialogue and co-operation. “If Mr Barroso thinks that we should see more of that, we’d agree.” A senior aide to President Sarkozy of France said: “Obama does not come from the same tradition as his predecessors. He is interested in Asia and Russia, not Europe. There is no sense of a privileged relationship. They seem to take us for granted sometimes.”
Asked how he planned to reach out to Mr Obama — who visited Europe six times in his first year in office but was said by US analysts to have nothing to show for it — Mr Barroso said: “Of course it is a question of how the Americans are going to reach to us as well because the relationship should be perceived as mutual.” Analysts said that the EU was naive to expect a sea change in US foreign policy just because George Bush had been replaced in the White House.
Hugo Brady, of the Centre for European Reform, said: “Obama was always overblown as a symbol because US foreign policy interests tend not to change. The US does not understand the need for everyone to be around the table at the EU, which they find as frustrating as a mini-UN where people want to talk about the good things they have done.”