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.

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1.
Macadore 11/05/2008
---Quote (Originally by sysop)--- What Europe Wants from Obama ---End Quote--- What hubris. To quote John Kennedy out of context, “Ask not what America can do for you, ask what you can do for America”. The author was partially right. You’re not from Mars. You’re from Venus. You want America to make you happy. If it doesn’t then it has failed you. I repeat, what childish hubris. When do the Europeans do their part? I hope Obama brings the troops home from everywhere. Let the Europeans deal with the Russias and Muslims. Let the Europeans protect their oil supplies in the Middle East. Let the South Koreans deal with North Koreans. I am tired of protecting and supporting an ungrateful world.
2. Ein Titel
mrwarmth 11/05/2008
I think Europe just got its first wish...
3. What have you done for US lately?
plotinus 11/05/2008
---Quote (Originally by Macadore)--- What hubris. To quote John Kennedy out of context, “Ask not what America can do for you, ask what you can do for America”. ---End Quote--- To quote John Kennedy *_in_ context: "Ask not what I can do for you ---- ask rather what you can do for me."* ---Quote (Originally by Macadore)--- When do the Europeans do their part? I hope Obama brings the troops home from everywhere. Let the Europeans deal with the Russias and Muslims. Let the Europeans protect their oil supplies in the Middle East. Let the South Koreans deal with North Koreans. I am tired of protecting and supporting an ungrateful world. ---End Quote--- Aw, has the rest of the world been mean to you? Well, you can always leave and take your ball and your toys back home with you. The rest of the world will manage ---- somehow. -
4. Europe's Wish List for Obama
tomfarr 11/06/2008
As one who has roots in Europe, and has studied its culture, history, and some of its languages, I have no wish to be abrasive; but in a spirit of honest inquiry, I would like to know why Obama, or any Amerian president, should pay much attention to the wishes of Germany, to pick one major nation. It does not seem to me that Germany is in any meaningful way an ally, and perhaps not even a friend. No longer feeling a need for protection after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw pact, Germans have become increasing critical of the US, while kowtowing to the thuggish Russians and totalitarian Chinese. It does not seem too much of an exaggeration to say that Germany seems to be slowly taking on the status of a vassal state in a resurgent Russian Empire. The notorious Schroder, now happily working for the Russians, engaged in loud, raucous, and hostile attacks on the US in 2003; one wonders what quiet and friendly diplomacy on his part might have accomplished with Bush. I am really trying to discern in what way Germany is an ally of the US, whose counsel should be sought. It is not at all apparent to this American.
5. Americans should learn more, and complain less
plotinus 11/06/2008
---Quote (Originally by tomfarr)--- I am really trying to discern in what way Germany is an ally of the US, whose counsel should be sought. It is not at all apparent to this American. ---End Quote--- Many things are not apparent to many Americans, though these things are very simple and clear. Americans love to toss around the words "co-operation" and "community." Perhaps they should spend a little time finding out what these words really mean. -
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