Thursday, January 29, 2009
A New Era of Transatlantic Relations?
President Obama’s inauguration on January 20 has been well received in many European countries – including Germany. During the eight years of the Bush Administration, the image of the U.S. among the European public has suffered. A survey on transatlantic trends conducted by the German Marshall Fund shows that the number of Europeans viewing the U.S. as a desirable global leader dropped from 64 percent in 2002 to 36 percent in 2008.
The wide-spread popularity of President Obama in European countries literally raises hope of an improved transatlantic cooperation. John K. Glenn, director of foreign policy at the German Marshall Fund, sees potential in President Obama. However, he points out that electing Obama as the 44th President of the U.S. does not immediately reverse the U.S. image and improve the transatlantic relations.
In his POLITICO article “Obama to Europe: Ich bin ein listener,” Glenn underscores the need of Obama to listen to European allies and reshape the public opinion of Americans as a country not seeing Europeans as essential partners.
According to Glenn, one of the main reasons for the negative public opinion among Europeans was caused by a lack of cooperation with European countries in terms of dealing with terrorism. It is therefore not surprising that Angela Merkel attached the claim for better cooperation and communication between Europeans and Americans to her congratulating message for President Obama, stating that “no single country can solve the problems of the world.”
From my perspective as a European native, Obama’s election can be seen as the first step to improve transatlantic relations. Yet, there have to be more to follow. Appointing the two renowned foreign policy experts George Mitchell and Richard Holbrook to special envoys has definitely been another step in the right direction, underscoring Obama’s intention to find a new strategy when dealing with the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan.
As John K. Glenn states: “Obama’s great promise is that he has the potential to make collaboration with the United States not just politically possible but politically desirable.”