SPIEGEL ONLINE

SPIEGEL ONLINE

11/05/2008 06:50 AM

Good Morning, Mr. President

What Europe Wants from Obama

In conversations and e-mail exchanges with SPIEGEL ONLINE, European leaders and thinkers express their wishes for US President-elect Barack Obama. Yes, they want the US to join the Kyoto successor. And, yes, they want to see Guantanamo close. But many also know that theirs is a view from Mars.

Barack Obama in Berlin: "If we're honest with each other, we know that sometimes, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have drifted apart, and forgotten our shared destiny."
DPA

Barack Obama in Berlin: "If we're honest with each other, we know that sometimes, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have drifted apart, and forgotten our shared destiny."

Margot Wallström of Sweden is the vice-president of the European Commission, the European Union's executive.

On Tuesday the American people cast their votes electing a new President of the United States. I believe we are entering into a new era of trans-Atlantic relations.

In these times of extreme financial instability, it is more important than ever to strengthen trans-Atlantic relations and work together to solve global problems. Europe and the US share the same goals and values. We both want a peaceful, prosperous and stable world, where democracy is the norm, the rule of law prevails and human rights are respected.

Even more importantly, the biggest concerns facing us today are of a global nature. The financial crisis, climate change, security, the fight against poverty, hunger and disease in the developing world are all challenges that neither Europe nor the US can take on single-handed.

In order to stop the effects of climate change, developed countries must lead by good example. This is why EU leaders have committed themselves to cutting carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020. If there is international agreement, the EU will deepen this cut to 30 percent. The EU is also committed to cutting energy consumption by 20 percent, with the aim of becoming the world's most energy-efficient region. I urge the US to take similar steps, working together with the EU on cutting emissions drastically and developing new energy technologies that generate smart, sustainable growth. I invite the new US president to take a leading role in paving the way for a global agreement on climate change in 2009.

Finally, the US has been particularly successful in creating growth and jobs, and maintaining competitiveness through technological innovation rather than low labor costs. The EU on the other hand has brought forward an ambitious climate change package and works hard to promote social justice. As we have seen in Scandinavia -- where the concept of the flexicurity seems to have been born -- it is possible to combine economic growth with social justice. This involves promoting the well-being of the whole society and tackling injustices such as gender inequality, which manifests itself the most clearly in the pay gap between men and women. In the US, men earn 20 percent more money for the same job as women; in Europe, this figure amounts to 15 percent on average.

I believe the era of US unilateralism is over, and that partnership with Europe has become a central plank of US foreign policy. In this light, I invite the new US president to join the EU in shaping the future we all want -- a stable, peaceful and increasingly prosperous world. A world where development is sustainable and in which democracy is not imposed but nurtured.

Slavenka Drakulic, a native of Croatia, is the best-selling author of "Cafe Europa."

A View from Mars: I am afraid that we Europeans tend to attribute too much personal power to the president of the United States. We might as well be Martians for all that we demand of the new president. We would like him (especially if it is our favorite Barack Obama) to: stop the war in Iraq, divert funding from the military industrial complex and use it to improve the lives of the poor, introduce national health insurance, sit down with Putin and discuss how best to bring peace to the world, persuade China and India to restrict dangerous gas emissions, get rid of the Taliban in Afghanistan, make a deal with Iran, sign the Kyoto Protocol, catch Osama bin Laden and, finally, bring peace to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Of course, all of this should be accomplished in close collaboration with European governments -- and all in the first year, possibly in the first days of his presidency.

Being Martians, we can't see that the job suffers from obvious limitations and that no president is in a position, all by himself, to bring about substantial changes either in politics or in the economy. He is not a Santa Claus. Besides, Martians like to overlook the fact that even Obama would continue to see America as the most powerful nation in the world, and would not be likely to show much more respect for the United Nations or to deny himself a military option for dealing with Iran. Let's not forget that he is pro-death penalty and against gun control -- two things that, looking down from Mars, should make him considerably less popular. But again, who would bother to look at details from so far away? In regard to finances, we are again speaking about nuances, not reforms (a word that American candidates often use, but with a different meaning than is common on Mars). Whether the winner is McCain or Obama, it was the globalization of deregulated capitalism that caused the crash in the first place. We should expect the system will proceed as greedily as ever, even if it is tamed for a while. The president is not to blame. Nowadays politicians and governments mainly serve the interests of the big money, not the people. It is, after all, big money that makes or breaks an American president, in spite of what Americans or Martians believe to be true.

Still, even small changes in the right direction are important, although one can't really see that from Mars either. Under such conditions, can a single person really make a significant change? Yes, Barack Obama could -- but primarily on a symbolic level. It would be fantastic for Americans to have the first African-American president in their history. This would change the world's psychological landscape. It remains to be seen, however, if it will really make a difference for Europe, or for the rest of the world.

'We Need the US as a Strong Partner'

Stavros Dimas, a native of Greece, is the European Commissioner for the Environment.

The European Union has been waiting for a long time for America to join us in taking serious action to address the world's environmental challenges.

The need has never been greater. The world is facing a double environmental crisis involving accelerating climate change and unprecedented loss of biodiversity. Yet the US has ratified neither the Kyoto Protocol nor the international Convention on Biodiversity.

The US elections come at a crucial time. For climate change, 2009 is the final year of negotiations that should culminate in agreement on a strengthened multilateral climate change regime for the period after 2012. We need the new US administration to seize the opportunity and position itself on the side of the global environment.

Certainly there has been some cause for optimism. Both presidential candidates have been on record as saying they support mandatory reductions that would cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. This is a start, though it falls far short of what is needed to tackle climate change seriously. Both have also come out in favour of "cap and trade" systems like Europe's emissions trading system as an important part of the solution. This is a significant and positive change.

Above all we need to break the vicious circle whereby the US on the one hand and the major emerging economies on the other refuse to take action unless the other moves first. It is time for the US to show leadership on this.

The developed world not only bears the greatest historic responsibility for climate change but also possesses the financial and technological means to tackle it. We in the EU have shown our determination by committing to cut our emissions by at least 20 percent of 1990 levels by 2020. We will increase this cut to 30 percent if our partners in the developed world commit to making comparable reductions.

To prevent the worst consequences of climate change the world will need to lower total emissions by at least half of their 1990 levels by 2050. To achieve that we have to move fast: Global emissions need to peak within the next 10 to 15 years. This can only be achieved if the US and the major emerging economies join the EU in taking bold action.

Eckart von Klaeden is the foreign policy spokesman in the parliamentary group of Germany's conservative Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union parties.

No matter whom the American voters elect on Tuesday, a radical change in Washington's foreign policy towards its European allies is unlikely. Both John McCain and Barack Obama would generally continue to follow the multilateral course pursued by President Bush in his second term and President Clinton before him. Both will, if elected, seek to further intensify trans-Atlantic relations. The new president will give Europe greater opportunities to participate, without, however, abandoning America's claim to leadership. But this also means that the European side will be expected to contribute more than in the past. There is a real need for this, whether in policy towards Russia or Iran, regarding climate protection and energy security, in the Middle East or Afghanistan. If, in the words of the German government's coalition agreement, we are committed to "effective multilateralism," then the United States must be willing to take a multilateral approach, but we must also be willing to take effective action. Fears, however, that one of the first decisions taken by the new president will be to call for more German troops in Afghanistan are exaggerated and indicate a lack of self-confidence. We should seize this opportunity for closer cooperation, because we need the United States to be a strong partner -- but the US also needs us Europeans as a strong partner.

Although US power is likely to decline in relative terms in view of the rise of emerging countries, primarily in Asia, the United States will remain the leading Western power and force for international stability for a long time to come. Its military dominance will continue in the coming decades. Despite the current financial crisis, the US economy will continue to lead the world for many years to come due to its great potential for innovation. Despite the structural changes in the international system following the end of the Cold War, there are no two regions in the world which have so much in common as Europe and the US and which enjoy such close political, economic, cultural, strategic and historical links. The trans-Atlantic partnership is also important for purely pragmatic reasons, since the strengths of both partners complement each other well.

Although the EU is prosperous and holds a powerful attraction for its neighbors, it is not yet a genuine strategic actor on the world stage. Strategic operations such as the current operation in Afghanistan can only be carried out under US leadership or within the framework of NATO. However, since the fiasco experienced by the US in the first few years following the Iraq war, it has become increasingly clear that the US cannot forgo the legitimacy and support provided by the major European nations. This is all the more true given that Europe enjoys a higher standing than the US in certain regions of the world, and involving Europe significantly increases the chances of joint success -- in the Middle East, for example. The EU possesses significant resources and expertise in the field of civilian crisis management and reconstruction. The current situation in Afghanistan and the Balkans, in particular, makes clear the importance of linking military and civilian measures. Trans-Atlantic cooperation should not, however, be limited to Europe and the United States; other democratic and like-minded countries should also be involved, such as Japan and India, Australia and New Zealand, Brazil and Mexico.

Robert Badinter, 80, is a French senator and member of the foreign affairs and defense committees who, as justice minister under President Mitterrand, achieved the abolition of the death penalty.

My expectation of the new president is that he:

1. Withdraw US forces from Iraq;

2. Close the prison at Guantanamo and give all inmates the rights to which they are entitled under US law;

3. Through his emphatic support he must achieve a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians;

4. Take an energetic approach to the fight against climate change and ratify the Kyoto Protocol;

5. Support the International Criminal Court;

6. Appoint independent and progressive judges to the US Supreme Court.

'On Iran, Precious Time Has Been Lost'

Hans Blix was head of the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1981 to 1997 following a stint as foreign minister of Sweden. In the three years leading up to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, he was in charge of searching for weapons of mass destruction in the country.

The global financial system has been rocked by the recent crisis and Mr. Obama will have to bring about early discussions about a broader agenda and broader participation in the institutions for international financial cooperation like the IMF and the G-8. During a global recession he will have to resist protectionist pressures from important groups who supported him.

Obama should be able to use the strong public opinion in the US to make the country help frame drastic global policies against dangerous climate change and environmental destruction. Technological innovation should be promoted, like fuel cells for cars. Energy must be generated more efficiently and used less wastefully. Obama should stimulate the use of effective renewable sources and overcome any hesitation against a rapid expansion of nuclear power.

In international affairs, Obama will have to steer away from the arrogant unilateralism of the Bush years and explain to the public that the interdependence of states and peoples is fast accelerating. In this modern world a constructive use of multilateral institutions like the UN is a necessity. They are indispensable mechanisms where reconciliation of interests can take place and joint action can be organized.

Obama was ridiculed by his opponents for saying that he was ready to talk with adversaries. He was right and his administration should act on this principle. To talk is not to concede. The Bush administration has had a tendency to talk to others rather than with others. The worst example has been the demand that Iran must suspend its program for the enrichment of uranium before the US will sit down for direct discussions.

When it comes to US withdrawal from Iraq, Obama should take the stance that no US troops should stay longer than the host government wishes. The Bush administration, while intending to withdraw the bulk of US forces, has clearly wanted to retain some US troops in less visible bases. The aim seems to be more to protect US interests in Iraqi oil and to have springboards for possible actions against Iran than to protect Iraq.

For Obama, Iraq was the "dumb" war and Afganistan -- where 9/11 was planned -- was the place where all resources should have been projected. He wants a surge in Afganistan but there is a risk that the opportunity for success has already been lost and that American and other foreign troops are now seen more as foreign than as liberators. To abandon the country to renewed medieval style rule is not a possible American policy, but reconciliation with and involvement by parts of the Taliban might be a possibility. Iran and Russia could provide important help if the US can relax relations with these countries.

On Iran, precious time has been lost during which the country has moved closer to a capability to make bomb grade material. Rather than humiliating Iran by declaring -- as if to a child -- that "Iran should behave itself," the US should seek to identify and remove the incentives Iran may have to enrich uranium. To forego enrichment, Iran needs iron-clad assurances of supply of uranium fuel for its nuclear power program. Although Iran is no longer threatened by neighboring Iraq, it still feels threatened by the US. Washington should be ready to offer Iran security guarantees and diplomatic relations if the country abandons the option to make bomb grade material.

Obama has rightly endorsed the call by a large number of foreign policy experts led by George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn and William Perry for the US to take the initiative in nuclear disarmament. In 2007 the world spent $1.3 trillion (€1 trillion) on military expenses -- about half of this expense came from the US budget. Taming the military-industrial complex is difficult in any country but starting a new era of international disarmament could help Mr. Obama to move huge sums from arms to health care, social welfare and education.

Early US ratification of the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty would send a dramatic signal that an era of global disarmament has begun. Preventing non-proliferation will be less difficult in a world in which those states possessing nuclear weapon states renounce the license they have given themselves up till now.

Joschka Fischer served as foreign minster under German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. He gave these remarks at a recent SPIEGEL event in Berlin.

I have no doubt that if the possibility exists, Iran will seek to become a nuclear power. They are already working on a research reactor, which has smaller dimensions than the plutonium path. But if they are allowed to, I have no doubt they will become a nuclear power. Still, the Iranians I have met are people who carefully consider things -- everyday and all the time. They conduct the cost-benefit analysis. And in this case, the political possibilities have not been exhausted. Iran fears its isolation in the region, and that's why I would start working on Syria, Tehran's last remaining ally. Syria is currently in the process of opening up. In that regard, Turkish diplomacy has accomplished a considerable amount, as well as French diplomatic efforts (despite early fits and starts). Unfortunately, our chancellor put the brakes on efforts by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who tried to actively engage with Syria during Germany's EU presidency (in 2007). I think that will have consequences in Tehran. At the same time, it has been my personal experience that they want to see if they can reach a deal with the USA. In that sense, Obama is totally right when he says that serious talks should commence (between the US and Iran) without any preconditions. That doesn't make anyone appear weak. To the contrary. I think a diplomatic solution is still possible and that will have to be a priority for him because without integrating Syria into the regional order and on the issue of Iran, I don't see any way of him being able to get out of Iraq without producing massive chaos.

Gert Weisskirchen, is the foreign policy spokesman for the Social Democrats in Germany's federal parliament.

It is now vitally important that Barack Obama, as president, meets with, listens to and works closely together with his allies. And there is a mountain of things that need his attention.

For example, it is important that, from the beginning, Obama addresses the problems in the Middle East. I would hope that he will not wait until the very end of his presidency to move forward as both Clinton and Bush did before him. The time to act is now.

The second priority is the relationship between the West and Russia. We have new presidents now in the US and in Russia. I believe there is a chance that Obama and Dmitry Medvedev could find a basis for understanding. Moscow is looking for rapprochement; it saw that it lost the media war in Georgia. On a more substantive level, there is a problem called Saakashvili. I am convinced that Washington cannot continue to support such an unreliable politician in Tbilisi.

In Iran, it looks like President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could very well lose the next election. We have to make it clear to the electorate in Iran that they too could author a defining moment much as the US electorate has. We need to be careful not to be pushy; there is a risk of creating a kind of false solidarity in Iran against the West. We can't be confrontational. It is important we are clear about which lines cannot be crossed, but we have to show flexibility when it comes to the diplomatic instruments we use. We have to try and create a sense of optimism in Iran.

It will be very important for Barack Obama to develop clear priorities. He is faced with a lot of serious problems and he has to begin with those he can manage so that the beginning of his presidency can be a success.

Marianne Heuwagen is director of the Germany office of Human Rights Watch.

The next president will take office at a time when the credibility and effectiveness of the United States in combating human rights abuses abroad has been badly eroded by the Bush administration. There is an urgent need to remedy abuses on many fronts, four are crucial.

1. The new American government has to ensure that US counter-terrorism efforts comply with International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. As first steps, the next president should close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and prosecute those detainees implicated in terrorism in regular federal courts rather than before military commissions and send the others to their home countries or appropriate countries of resettlement, including the United States. The new government should issue an executive order to implement the bans on torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment by requiring the CIA to abide by the interrogation rules that the US military has now adopted. Further, it should put an end to the CIA's secret detention program and stop renditions of terrorism suspects and others to countries where they are at risk of torture or ill-treatment.

2. The new government should make human rights a central pillar of its foreign policy.

3. The next administration should rejoin the international human rights community. The US government has remained an international outcast by failing to ratify important and long-standing human rights treaties and has repudiated, rather than worked with, allies to improve the UN Human Rights Council. As immediate steps, the next administration should seek a seat on the UN Human Rights Council and work to make it more effective. It should support investigations and prosecutions by the International Criminal Court (ICC), seek to repeal the American Service-Members' Protection Act of 2002 and begin steps to join the Rome Statute of the ICC. It should also bring US policy in line with the 2008 treaty to ban cluster munitions, urge the Senate to ratify both the Cluster Munitions Treaty and the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty as soon as possible. It should further urge the Senate to ratify key human rights treaties that are broadly accepted by the international community.

4. The new US government should abolish the federal death penalty, declare an immediate moratorium on federal executions, and direct the Attorney General not to seek the death penalty in federal prosecutions. It should mitigate some of the most inhumane aspects of current US immigration policy by encouraging Congress to amend US law requiring the immediate deportation of any immigrant with a criminal conviction by restoring individualized deportation hearings in which an immigration judge can weigh the offense's seriousness against the harm caused by deportation. It should further address the stark and persistent racial disparities plaguing the US criminal justice system.

Elmar Brok is a member of the European Parliament with the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and an expert on foreign policy.

I would like to see a US president who can look beyond the brim of his Stetson, making a true trans-Atlantic community possible, complete with joint strategic debates and decisions, as well as one who reestablishes the value-oriented credibility of the West.

'We Need a Washington Less Ideological in Dealing with Russia and China'

Thierry de Montbrial is director of the French Institute of International Relations and the author of "Twenty Years that Turned the World Upside Down -- From Berlin to Beijing."

First, I would like to see a more congenial president, one who takes a friendlier approach to the rest of the world. Of course, we need a leader who, in light of the financial crisis, proves to be effective on economic issues and does not fall prey to the temptation of protectionism. Politically speaking, he must be a man who thinks beyond narrow American interests. More concretely: damage control must continue in Iraq, and there must be a coordinated approach with Pakistan and dialogue with Iran -- without it, there can be no solution in the Middle East or in Afghanistan. Finally, the new man in Washington must show himself to be less ideological when dealing with Russia and China, particularly regarding issues such as the expansion of NATO and the missile shield. Planetary problems cannot be resolved through confrontation.

Jan Techau is the head of the Alfred von Oppenheim Center for European Studies at the German Council on Foreign Relations.

The first issue to be tackled by the next president is hardly ever found on any of the laundry lists which are currently being compiled for the next trans-Atlantic agenda: style. The manner in which the future American administration will treat its European counterparts will be all-important for constructive relations during the next four years. Europeans do not expect to find agreement on all policy issues with the US. Far from it -- Europe itself finds it soberingly difficult to generate much-needed pan-EU unity, even on urgent policy issues. But Europeans expect to be treated without condescension and as nominally equal counterparts, even if it is true that the power imbalance between themselves and the US is sometimes strikingly evident. In other words: a return to normal and established ways of diplomacy is much anticipated -- and much needed. The new president could score easy points and make a huge difference by exercising old-fashioned, respectful leadership.

Still, when looking at the issues, contrary to what the current election hype makes us believe, the quality of future trans-Atlantic relations actually depends much more on the Europeans than on who will be the next US president. Because regardless of the outcome of the elections, daunting tasks need to be tackled by the partners, and it is the Europeans who have so far not lived up to their capacities. Both Afghanistan, and, even more importantly, Iran, fall into this category. Hopefully, the Europeans will have good answers and some new substance to offer when the new president asks difficult questions.

Even before the financial crisis, the trans-Atlantic partners were forced to think hard about how to manage their relatively weaker position in world affairs. With a global financial crisis probably leading to global recession, this is more urgent than ever. The institutions once created by a dominant West to safeguard global stability and development -- i.e. the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank, NATO (and to a lesser extent the EU) -- are in need of major overhauls. Their new shapes will mirror a changed world, with emerging economies and many developing nations claiming a bigger share of the pie. Europe and America must propose creative and workable alternatives to save these institutions and to retain its influence.

Soli Özel is a professor of political science and international relations at Istanbul's Bilgi University.

I rejoice at Obama's election, but we must be careful not to over-invest in him. Expectations for Obama are already too high. No one can meet them. As far as international relations are concerned, anything that is non-Bush will obviously be welcomed by the rest of the world. But the United States is still the United States, and one man can't change the whole machinery of US government.

One of the things Obama will have to contend with is the fixation Americans have with the idea of American exceptionalism. This philosophy -- that everyone is the world must toe the American line -- was extreme under Bush. Some humility and capacity for dialogue would be good. I think Obama has the personal character to pursue policy in this way, but it remains to be seen whether he will manage to bring along with him the entire machinery of American foreign policy.

Will the United States under Obama accept a reshuffling of the power distribution that structures the UN Security Council, the World Bank and the IMF? Will the US accept that while they might be primus inter pares, they are no longer a world hegemon? Here I think we might be disappointed.

Turkey will be important for the United States no matter who comes to power, and Turkish-US relations will need to be well managed. I think Obama will be better for the world, and also better for Turkey. Some in Turkey have pointed to Obama's support for the US Congress's Armenian Genocide Resolution and have suggested that McCain, who opposes the resolution, would actually be a better friend to Turkey. I disagree. Obama has people around him who know Turkey very well, and I believe he'll prove to be a good partner for Turkey.

I wonder if he is going to be able to seriously tackle the Israeli-Palestinian issue. He won't necessarily have a stronger hand there than previous administrations, but it does seem to me there is increasing realization in Israel that time is running out. On the other hand, the Israeli right-wing is more entrenched than ever. We'll see.

Achim Berg is CEO of Microsoft Germany.

No matter who the next American president is, I would like to see, most of all, the new US government hit the ground running! The world's strongest economic power needs a rapid transition and must approach the challenges of the financial crisis in a determined way. At a time when new decisions will have to be made on a daily basis, a president will not have the luxury of 100 days to become acclimated to the job. In addition, I hope that the already positive trans-Atlantic relations are strengthened. This relates not only to economic issues, but also to questions of security policy and the environment, which can only be overcome with concerted action. And then there is something else: As a German employee of an American company that has been established in Germany for 25 years, I believe that the US government can learn a thing or do from Germany and Europe. The area of data protection would be an exciting topic in this regard.

'The Time Has Come to Kick-Start Talks with Tehran'

Pawel Swieboda is Founder and Director of demosEUROPA, a Polish think tank.

The key task facing the new US President will be to share power and influence with other key players around the world in a manner which preserves American leadership. The decline of the US's position in the world is a fact of life. However, statistics never tell the whole story. Washington continues to pull the strings on a range of issues from science and innovation to nuclear non-proliferation. The American civilization remains singularly attractive to other nations and peoples around the world.

If the new president manages to build an inclusive international order in which key players feel comfortable, he will find it easier to exercise leadership. An early test of his strategy will come with the triple challenge of climate change, trade and new financial regulations. If he is to win on all three issues, he will have to both invite others to share in the benefits and to assume resonsibilities himself. On limiting greenhouse gas emissions, he will need to convince China of the merits of a low carbon economy. On trade, he will need to put an end to the schism between the developed and developing world which led to the failure of the Doha round. Finally, regarding new financial regulations, he will need to invite others to the table at the US- and EU-dominated IMF or its successor and ensure that it becomes a first responder against global turbulence.

The EU-US relationship will need to overcome its Freudian proclivity for the "narcissism of minor differences" if it is to be successful. Given the challenge posed by other world powers, there is no doubt that the EU and the US will need to rely on each other more than ever. Global competition will push them to create a single trans-Atlantic market in the next decade. This flagship project will unveil new energies but will never lead to perfect harmony.

Karsten Voigt is the coordinator of German-American relations for the German government.

First, I hope that the new US president will not try to stave off European climate policy initiatives, but will instead work together with us to promote initiatives. Second, Europe and the USA should act in concert to overcome the economic and financial crisis. Third, the US needs to proceed with active policies of disarmament and arms control. Fourth, I want to see the closure of Guantanamo. Fifth, I would like to see the new president pursue critical and yet cooperative policies in its approach to Russia. In general, the US needs to consult more intensively with its allies about important decisions, rather than just informing them.

Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, a former Danish prime minister, is president of the Party of European Socialists in the European Parliament.

Obama promises to renew American diplomacy, and to talk to foes as well as friends. This would make an enormous difference.

There are so many issues which need to be tackled, but one which I believe is very important is reform of the international financial markets. I have had many meetings with the US Democrats about what needs to be done and I am sure we can work together on new joint regulation of financial markets, and that we can reach a common position on new roles for the IMF and other global financial institutions. The Democrats have the same wish as us -- financial markets that sustain jobs in modern industries instead of seeking excessive short-term profits at the expense of other priorities.

Obama has one huge advantage over Bush -- he does not see the world only as a security problem. He knows there are other equally pressing issues: climate, energy, poverty, disease, peace -- some of them part of the root causes of terror.

A US president who showed commitment to the well-being of ordinary citizens would generate renewed interest in social justice worldwide. Where Bush cut social spending and gave tax cuts to the super rich, Obama's Plan for America offers clear commitments to widen healthcare, tackle poverty and improve education for all. It would be good not only for the workers of America but also for social democracy in Europe and elsewhere. America could inspire people throughout the world in a way it has not done since the civil rights movement.

Obama's message of change brings hope. A new, young, gifted president offering the possibility of a new dialogue on the world's problems. We should welcome it with open arms.

Denis MacShane, 60, is Great Britain's former minister of state for Europe and a Labour Party member of parliament.

First of all, I would like to modify the words of John F. Kennedy: We should not ask ourselves what the United States can do for Europe. Instead, we should ask ourselves what the EU can do for a functioning partnership with America. Europe needs more coordination. The Europeans must make a stronger effort to speak with one voice when it comes to security policy. Only then can the EU gain greater influence in Washington. Conversely, of course, we would like to see the new president remain in a dialogue with the world. An isolationist, inward-looking, protectionist America would leave the world at the disposal of the new powers and ideologies, which have nothing but contempt for democracy, freedom of opinion and human rights, especially the rights of women. But if the leaders in Europe and America live up to the challenge, the Euro-Atlantic alliance, together with the democracies in Asia and Latin America, will be able to shape the 21st century.

Constanze Stelzenmüller is director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund.

Dear Mr. President, congratulations! You are now the most powerful man in a globalized world. Even though we cannot vote for you, somehow this also makes you the president of us all. That's why the entire world has such high hopes for you. We, on the other hand, know that before your election, entire teams have been developing wish lists that you will be taking along on your first trips abroad. There are plenty of issues to discuss: the financial crisis, climate change, Afghanistan, Iraq ... Doesn't this mean that you will confront a mountain of expectations? For this reason, I do have one final request: Take it easy, Mr. President. Take your time, travel, talk to America's allies and listen before you act. This will make negotiating items on other people's wish lists (somewhat) easier.

'Some Disappointment Is Inevitable'

Wolfgang Ischinger is a former German Ambassador to the United States and is chairman of the Munich Security Conference.

The most positive consequence of the election -- and the most necessary one -- is the opportunity for not just the United States, but for the entire West to regain the moral high ground in international affairs. Moral leadership is what we have most dramatically lost during the Bush years, and we must dramatically regain it.

I do worry that many Germans and other Europeans have developed unrealistically high expectations for an Obama administration. In some of the panels I've been participating in recently, you get the sense that everyone expects a trans-Atlantic paradise will emerge with blue skies and constant sunshine. Some disappointment is inevitable.

We know that on many issues there is an obvious, visible divergence of interests across the Atlantic. Europeans will be surprised, for instance, to learn that even with Obama in the White House and a strong Democratic majority in the US Senate, the US is unlikely to ratify the Kyoto protocol or its successor arrangements as they currently exist.

On the other hand, the high expectations people have for Obama are a sign of something healthy. Europeans clearly hope for better relations with the US. The new administration could be an antidote for the anti-Americanism that we've seen rise in recent years.

The advent of the next administration presents us with a historic opportunity to turn the page and recognize the trans-Atlantic partnership for what it is: the most important partnership in the world -- politically, economically, and militarily.

There are two issues in particular that I hope the new administration tackles early on. The next US president needs to seize the opportunity to rebuild a more effective and meaningful relationship with Russia. In my view, there has not been nearly enough discussion on a huge number of issues between Moscow and Washington. Reopening dialogue with Russia could also help change the climate between the US and the EU.

The other top issue on my list is Iran. The time has come to kick-start direct talks between Washington and Tehran. If we want to make progress in that part of the world, particularly regarding nuclear proliferation, we need to engage in direct and comprehensive dialogue, which has been lacking ever since 1979.

Jose Bové, 55, is a French farmer and trade unionist, anti-globalization activist and a pioneering radical opponent of the cultivation of genetically manipulated grain and vegetable crops.

My wish for the new president focuses on two key issues: To finally arrange for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and a clear and decisive commitment to climate and the environment. An area in which the United States has a lot of catching up to do.

Reidar Visser is editor of the Iraq-focused Web site www.historiae.org and a research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.

When it comes to Iraq policy, the hope is that the new president will adopt a policy that is radically different from what until now has been mainstream thinking among both Republicans and Democrats.

The problem with the Bush administration's policy in Iraq has been that it focuses almost exclusively on the military dimension and thereby fails to put pressure on the Iraqi government to undertake any reforms that would move it towards a more inclusive system of government. To the Iraqi government, American support has been like a blank check that has enabled it to become stronger while at the same time resisting pressures for political reform. Republicans realize that most Iraqis want a united country, but they do not have the right policy to back it up.

The problem with the Democratic Party's policy in Iraq so far is that it either focuses on withdrawal exclusively (with little regard for what might happen to the country in the aftermath of withdrawal), or that it combines withdrawal with visions of political settlement that have no resonance with the Iraqis themselves. A Dayton-style agreement involving Iraq's neighbors and based on federalism as a key principle is unlikely to succeed. Democrats fail to realize that among the Iraqis, only the Kurds are genuinely interested in federalism on an ethnic basis, and the majority of the Shiites do not want Iran to negotiate on their behalf.

The hope is that the next US president will realize that American interests in the region are best served by a stable Iraq, and that a stable Iraq requires a political system that is supported by the country's inhabitants. The best way of achieving this is a radical revision of the 2005 constitution. However, this is not a process that the United States should seek to micro-manage. Rather, it should focus on its role as a facilitator, and single out free and fair parliamentary elections in 2009 as its top priority. The Iraqis deserve one last chance to fix their own system before the American forces depart.

'By Voting for Obama, Americans Are not Voting to Become an EU Country'

Volker Perthes is the head of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin.

This election will bring change, regardless of the winner. Both candidates expressed their wish to cooperate with Europeans more than their predecessor has done and to abandon the "us vs. them" mentality that has characterized much of the Bush years.

You do have the sense, more so in the media than in policy circles, that many here expect that Obama will rule as a "European president." That may turn out to be wrong in several respects. By voting for Obama, Americans are not voting to become an EU country.

Obama understands the changing world, and we can expect that he will increasingly rely on partners in Asia -- not just partners in Europe. As expected, I think he will be more multilateral in his approach, but that doesn't mean he'll play below the weight of his country.

The biggest challenge will be to align agendas on both sides of the Atlantic. This has been difficult in the past not only because European and American interests partly diverge, but also because of differing styles and traditions of behavior. Europeans, for instance, will never be as prepared to use military force as Americans are.

There are other challenges, too: Americans and Europeans have to come to agreement about concrete goals in Afghanistan. Is it democracy? Or simply stability? Are we aiming for economic transformation, particularly in the Pashtun tribal areas? Each side will have to determine what it is willing to contribute.

As far as Russia is concerned, it will be easier for Obama than it would have been for McCain to improve relations. Obama, after all, has not proposed kicking Russia out of the G-8 or forming a league of democracies aligned against it.

As far as Israel-Palestine is concerned, the opposite might be true. Obama might face more domestic pressure on the issue than McCain would have, because many Americans still suspect Obama of being a krypto-Muslim or at least of being pro-Arab.

Ann Pettifor is the co-founder of the Jubilee 2000, a global campaign aimed at cancelling $100 billion in debt owed by the 42 poorest countries. She is currently a fellow at the New Economics Foundation in London and director of Advocacy International.

My hope is that the next US president will help build a new, more just, stable and sustainable global financial architecture, vital for balance and stability in the world economy, but also for the eco-system.

In 1971, President Nixon unilaterally dismantled the post-war Bretton Woods system, which maintained balance between the current and capital accounts of nations. Through his refusal to honor the US's obligations to make repayments in gold as required by Bretton Woods, Nixon's administration engineered the biggest sovereign default in history. It is seldom described as such, but that is what it was.

After the dismantling of Bretton Woods, the staff of the International Monetary Fund were called upon to design a new architecture. Their efforts failed and, by default, US Treasury bills (IOUs to the US government) at very low rates of interest, were established as the world’s reserve asset. As a result, countries with large numbers of poor, like China, India and South Africa are obliged to use their reserves to make loans to the US, at very low rates. They thereby finance consumption in a country with large numbers of rich people. The system discourages the US from structurally adjusting its economy, to restore balance. From being the world’s biggest creditor, the US became the world’s biggest debtor.

This post-1971 architecture, combined with financial and trade deregulation, fuelled US consumption. Increased consumption in turn fuelled carbon emissions worldwide. Until the "debtonation" of August 2007 (the current global financial crisis), this consumption appeared to be without limit, and worsened international imbalances.

Imbalances at the heart of the global economy are in my view the root cause of instability in the global financial system, but also the ecosystem.

Hans von Storch, director of the Institute for Coastal Research at the GKSS Research Center in Geesthacht and climate researcher at the Institute of Meteorology at the University of Hamburg, is one of Germany's preeminent climate researchers.

There are two dimensions to my wishes: the values that the new man will represent and his analytical capabilities. As far as values are concerned, I expect respect for human rights and cultural diversity as called for under international law. When it comes to analytical skills, I hope that the new president will be able to distinguish between cultural constructs that lead to "passionate" activism and, ultimately, unnecessary conflict, and knowledge-based "cold" analysis. That he keeps an eye on the full range of all relevant problems and does not narrow his horizons to focus on one central issue, be it terrorism, the climate or the well-being of capitalism. And, of course, that Guantanamo is closed immediately. Putting Rumsfeld before an international court -- that too would be satisfying.

'Please Don't Bomb Iran'

Omid Nouripour, a native of Iran, is a member of the German Parliament representing the Green Party.

The security of the entire Middle East is the foremost challenge of the international community: We must avoid a vicious circle of armament stemming from the conflicts there, defend the rights and dignity of the people, and thus build a lasting peace. Dear President Obama: I would like to ask you for two things: First and most importantly that you rule out the option of military action against Iran. An attack on Iran would have uncontrollable political consequences in the entire Middle East -- from Lebanon to Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and all the way to Afghanistan. Moreover, it would guarantee the re-election of the current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who otherwise stands very good chances of losing the next election due to his disastrous economic policies.

The second favor I have to ask concerns the vivid civil society in Iran. I put so much emphasis on this point because I intimately know the Iranian people and their will to change things and take their fate into their own hands. The women's right activists, students, labor unions, journalists, bloggers, artists -- they all make up the backbone of the liberation movement in the country. To help these people is to help the cause of democracy and progress. The US cooperation with the Iranian civil society needs to be reorganized. Your country gives over $100 million per year to the so-called "Iran Democracy Fund" (IDF), which is supposed to help the "velvet revolution," as President Bush called it. The results are disappointing and even counterproductive. In Iran itself, the money is lost in corrupt structures or goes to ineffective projects.

And what is worse, the IDF has become a pretext for the Iranian regime to pursue unpleasant civil society activists, accusing them of taking American money and working as spies for the USA. Besides, the IDF and its declared goals hampers the collaboration of international NGOs with civil society activists in the country, placing them under the suspicion of working directly for a revolution in Iran -- a threat the regime cannot ignore. Therefore I ask you urgently: stop the activity of the IDF. There is only one way to effectively help the progressive forces in the country: Talk with them, seriously consider their arguments and give them an echo in the international community.

Ulrike Guérot heads the Berlin office of European Council on Foreign Relations.

Barack Obama is a paradigm change for the US. He will need to change the way the US acts in the world. The US has lost its political and -- now -- it’s financial supremacy, and the country will need to adapt. And, perhaps of even more concern, the country has lost a great deal of sympathy and reputation as a result of the Bush administration -- especially among younger generations abroad. Barack Obama conveys the policy of a "fresh start."

On foreign policy, this is likely to show in areas such as climate protection, where Europe is keen to see an engaged US; or with respect to Iraq, where a trans-Atlantic exit strategy is needed. Europe also expects a new tone and a new style from the US. But one should not expect a trans-Atlantic honeymoon. Obama will need Europe’s help and troops in Afghanistan -- and Europe will be reluctant to deliver. The US and Europe also increasingly differ on how to deal and what to do with Russia -- but they avoid talking about it openly. The US seems to have more ‘Cold War’ reflexes when it comes to Russia, where Europe wants and needs the strategic partnership.

The US could regain its leadership if it shows readiness to engage fully in international law making, including human right policies at the UN. The world needs a US that engages clearly into multilateralism and that stops believing that it can better act alone only because it feels so strong.

The biggest potential is that the US will again fall into a pattern of playing divide and conquer with Europe instead of promoting a strong and truly united Europe.

'A Measure of Moral Leadership Would Be to Join the ICC'

Diego Hidalgo is co-founder of the Spanish newspaper El Pais and a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

I would first expect the new US president to convey to the world the strong message that the days of arrogant unilateralism are over. The next US president will face a megacrisis in the US and the world, with several interrelated threats which cannot be resolved at the nation-state level but call for concerted action and for a new and much stronger international governance architecture. The megacrisis that started in the financial sector threatens to depress the world economy, affects the whole world, and offers an opportunity for breakthrough in world governance. The first priority for the US president should be to initiate a "world constitutional period" during which he would develop coordinated responses to the four perhaps most urgent problems: resolve the financial and economic crisis, undertake the measures needed to face climate change, end extreme poverty and hunger throughout the world and end the main wars and conflicts.

The new US president will have to commit not just to cooperate internationally but to revamp or create international institutions able to confront the four issues mentioned above as well as others like pandemics, nuclear proliferation, disarmament and decreases in military budgets throughout the world and cooperation against terrorism. Strengthening the UN, World Bank and IMF will require engaging not only the EU but particularly China and India, and giving an increased role to them and to new powers (like Brazil).

In addition to strengthening the multilateral system of governance, the US has an opportunity to regain the moral leadership and credibility lost over the last eight years by closing Guantanamo Bay, strengthening international law, putting all its weight into resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as well as the conflicts of Israel and Syria and Lebanon, and exiting Iraq as soon as feasible. A measure of moral leadership, which I am realistic enough not to expect, would be for the US to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Jürgen Trittin is deputy parliamentary leader of the Green Party in the German parliament.

Obama has promised change. But the new president must first "clean up after the elephant." After the catastrophic Bush years, the United States needs a general makeover. The consequences of the financial crisis must be dealt with. For US citizens, I would like to see the gaps bridged between the super-rich, the battered middle class and widespread poverty. Every citizen should have health insurance.

Investment in infrastructure and new energy is needed. The world would like to see the United States put an end to aggressive, unilateral military action, a shift toward the United Nations, respect for human rights and the closing of Guantanamo. Most of all, however, the mobilization of the original American qualities of optimism and gumption when it comes to fighting climate change.

Jeremy Hobbs is executive director of Oxfam International.

The major crises facing the world, failure of global governance, collapsing financial markets, the threat of catastrophic climate change, continuing poverty and hunger, and worsening global security, cannot be addressed without positive and urgent leadership from the United States. Whoever is the new president must use his political capital to drive this international agenda, no matter how tough the domestic issues are.

If ever there was a time to demonstrate how narrow national self interest should not be at the expense of the global good and developing countries, it is now, in the midst of the current global financial crisis.

Beyond the measures being taken to stabilize and respond to the economic crisis, the new president should support major reform of the global financial architecture, and with it, help build a new global governance, one which properly recognizes the importance of large emerging economies and does not exclude smaller and poorer countries.

The same vigor the US and Europe demonstrated in this crisis by finding billions of dollars to bail out their banks is also needed to address the long-term structural changes needed in the financial system. The new president must have the courage to step away from the failed Washington consensus of untrammeled liberalization and embrace regulation which will ensure greater stability and sustainability, support targeted state intervention which addresses poverty, (such as for small-scale farmers in poor countries) and close off tax havens. The president could demonstrate goodwill by reducing US demands on developing countries in the WTO to enable a deal to go forward.

He should push the G8 to broaden its membership, and ensure that developing countries have genuine participation in institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF, reflecting the changing reality of global power. Global problems cannot be solved if key countries and those most affected are excluded. The president can breathe new life into reform of the UN Security Council to reflect the power realities of the modern world.

On climate change, the president needs to face down corporate self-interest and enviro-skepticism to ensure that we achieve an ambitious global agreement for reducing emissions at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009. He also needs to make sure that substantial funding is found for helping developing countries adapt to the impact of climate change they are already experiencing.

On poverty and food security, the near meltdown of the global economy should be the last reason for reducing hard-won recent commitments to increase aid. The president's first G-8 meeting in Italy should ensure that there is no backsliding, especially when developing countries are likely to bear much of the brunt of the global economic downturn caused by profligate behavior in rich countries.

On security, apart from the need to make much better progress in Iraq and Afghanistan, US leadership is also needed to ensure that the protection of civilians in conflict is paramount, an issue highlighted by the unfolding tragedy of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The president has a mandate from the American electorate but a responsibility to the global community and for that we expect moral and practical leadership.

'Obama -- Something that Is Still Impossible to Achieve in many European Countries'

Dr. Jean-Yves Haine is a senior researcher for trans-Atlantic and global security at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden.

Electing Obama will in itself boost the US image abroad. Europe is looking with admiration and envy at Obama, a symbol of something that is still impossible to achieve in many European countries. After the election, symbolic but important gestures could be made: Guantanamo closure (easier said than done), the torture and rendition legacy, some amendment of the Patriot Act (but not much). Mostly, the tone and language will be crucial: to end the rhetoric of the war on terror, the us-versus-them mantra. ... This will be necessary if the US wants to resume its role of honest broker in the Middle East (but the burden of past decisions will be particularly heavy).

Loukas Tsoukalis is a professor of European integration at the University of Athens and a special advisor to the president of the European Commission.

The first priority for the next White House must be to flexibly and effectively tackle the global financial crisis. This will require cooperation with others. The financial crisis, however, also provides an opportunity for a new global economic order, which must include a radical reform of international institutions like the IMF. These institutions need to be modernized so they can address new challenges, rather than the challenges of the 1960s. To achieve this, they need to reflect the current distribution of power in the world, not the distribution of power that prevailed in the aftermath of World War II.

It will be important that the new president takes a more multilateral approach to dealing with the world's problems. Even Mr. Bush, late in the game, proved willing to discuss reforming the way international financial institutions are run.

It strikes me that Obama is more willing and able to adjust to the new era. Obama seems more psychologically attuned to this new world in which power is and will continue to be distributed much more broadly than in the past.

Of course, some kind of disappointment with the new president is inevitable. In a way, Obama provides more potential for disappointment because expectations for him are so high in Europe. But the world can't change totally from one day to the next. The interests of the United States and the European Union are not always exactly the same, and it would be foolish for Europeans to expect that the United States will stop pursuing its interests.

On Afghanistan, I would hope that the new president undertake a serious reassessment of whether that war is winnable, and of what we mean by "victory." I also hope he will sit down with leaders in Iran.

As a Greek, I'm especially interested in the Balkans, and also in Turkey. The US should continue to encourage Greece and Turkey to normalize their relations. In the Balkans, I would hope that the next US administration would take a more cooperative approach. Up to now, the United States has tended to present its allies with faits accomplis in this region of the world, particularly regarding Kosovo. You cannot start negotiations having already announced what the final outcome will be. It's especially regrettable because in the Balkans, there isn't really any divergence of interests between the US and the EU.

Russia is a different matter. Europe has an interdependent relationship with Russia as far as energy is concerned. The United States does not. How will the next US president handle Putin and Medvedev? As an enemy to contain? Or are there opportunities for partnership?

Miroslav Lajcak is High Representative and EU Special Representative for Bosnia and Hercegovina.

From the perspective of Bosnia and Herzegovina, our priority is that the US, along with its international partners, remains fully engaged in supporting the countries of the Western Balkans as they move towards full integration in the EU.

When George Bush took over from Bill Clinton in 2001, Bosnia was still very fragile, politically, socially and economically, its people still dealing with the immediate and terrible legacy of the war. Eight years on, as a new administration takes over in Washington, a huge amount of progress has been made. Bosnia is now poised to complete its postwar recovery and secure full integration in NATO and the EU.

However our mission is not yet complete. Significant threats have arisen that could derail the entire process in its final stages. That is why Bosnia continues to require close attention and sustained engagement.

The Dayton Peace Agreement was signed only after the US took the lead on forging a negotiated settlement to the conflict of the early 1990s. The US continues to be directly involved in helping Bosnia establish the institutions and practices that will allow it to develop as a normal democracy. It is this process which must now be supported so that the country and its leadership can ensure that the ad hoc aspects of the postwar settlement -- such as the Office of the High Representative -- can be phased out and replaced with permanent institutions that are a normal part of European democratic governance.

Washington is uniquely equipped to support this process. For all the differences between the US and the 27 EU Member States in terms of languages and culture, there is a bedrock of shared belief in democracy, in social, political and economic freedoms and in the rule of law. We hope that the new US administration will bring a renewed commitment to the core values that have traditionally underpinned the trans-Atlantic relationship -- the same values that will underpin Bosnia and Herzegovina’s continued progress.

Xavier Declercq is a project director with Oxfam-Solidarité Belgique in Belgium.

I would like to see the new US president influence the rules of international trade in such a way that they promote the development of countries in the south, and that the United States pursue a less interventionist policy that begins with multilateral dialogue. That the United States take other actors in the world more seriously. And that the US keep its promises and truly defend the interests of people in developing countries.

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber is director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

As someone who worked in the United States for many years and made many friends there, I am disappointed by the image America has projected in recent years. I would like to see the next president help his country regain the respect it deserves. This requires that attention be paid, once again, to the increasingly important role of science for the well-being of modern societies. But the most important thing will be to practice "leadership" on the international stage instead of constantly talking about it: in climate protection, in the transformation of energy systems and in securing the world's food supply.

Incidentally, true leadership requires regaining the capacity for self-irony.

Compiled and edited by Christopher Glazek.

URL:

Related SPIEGEL ONLINE links:

Related internet links


© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2008
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH