Europe has been increasingly skeptical of US foreign policy under President George W. Bush. While France and Germany led the opposition to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, even former allies in Spain and Italy have since been swept from power by parties opposing the war. And British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who led his country into the Iraq war despite widespread public opposition, is now all but a lame- duck leader, expected to stand down in May next year at the very latest.
Now the midterm elections in the United States have dealt a severe blow to the White House, it would seem the Europeans are relishing dealing with a weakened president. There is even a hint of schadenfreude on this side of the Atlantic -- and some relief.
In Germany the former environment minister, Jürgen Tritten, now deputy head of the parliamentary Green Party, said "the Congressional elections will put a strong damper on the one-sided and dogmatic policies of George W. Bush." He told Germany's N24 news station, "This was the bill to the White House for their disaster in Iraq."
In Britain, where any blow to Bush can be used to bash Prime Minister Tony Blair, John McDonnell a ruling Labour Party MP, said "The message of the American people is clear - there needs to be a major change of direction in Iraq. Just as in Britain, people in the US feel that they have been ill advised, misled and ignored." McDonnell, a possible candidate for the Labour Party leadership when Blair steps down, said: "These election results have not only damaged Bush, they mean that Blair is now totally isolated in the international community."
Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said that he was convinced that the election defeat was a result of Bush's Iraq policy. Speaking on Italian radio, he said that the president would now "have to negotiate with the opposition on all issues." The Italian Defense Minister Arturo Parisi described the election defeat as "a political judgement which follows the administration's political actions that we consider wrong."
In France, Laurent Fabius, the former prime minister and possible Socialist Party candidate in the 2007 presidential elections, said: "A lot of Americans have realised that Mr. Bush has lied to them." And Francois Fillon, a conservative politician close to Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy -- the current frontrunner for the French presidency -- said: "I am happy to see American foreign policy criticized by the American people because it is bad."
In Denmark, one of America's few remaining supporters in Europe, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that he hoped the president and Congress would find a common line regarding Iraq and Afghanistan. "The world needs an active United States," he said.
The ruling Socialist Party in Spain, which pulled troops out of Iraq after coming to power in the aftermath of the Madrid bombing in 2004, issued a statement saying it hoped the elections "would help to change the course of US foreign policy."
The Socialist Group of parliamentarians in the European Parliament, the body's second-largest group, hailed the results as "the beginning of the end of a six-year nightmare for the world."