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."
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.
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.
- Part 1: What Europe Wants from Obama
- Part 2: 'We Need the US as a Strong Partner'
- Part 3: 'On Iran, Precious Time Has Been Lost'
- Part 4: 'We Need a Washington Less Ideological in Dealing with Russia and China'
- Part 5: 'The Time Has Come to Kick-Start Talks with Tehran'
- Part 6: 'Some Disappointment Is Inevitable'
- Part 7: 'By Voting for Obama, Americans Are not Voting to Become an EU Country'
- Part 8: 'Please Don't Bomb Iran'
- Part 9: 'A Measure of Moral Leadership Would Be to Join the ICC'
- Part 10: 'Obama -- Something that Is Still Impossible to Achieve in many European Countries'
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