Obamania versus anti-Americanism

Greek Centre of European Studies and Research

The victory of Barack Obama – or, more accurately the irresistible ascent and finally the victory of Obama and the Democrats, along with the fall and almost collapse of President Bush and his brand of Republicans – has been more than approved by Greek public opinion (and the political system of Greece). The Europe-wide Obamania took root in Greece soon enough, but it has found especially fertile ground in the anti-American sediment that remains throughout Greek public opinion. One should not forget that on items of special Greek interest, such as the potential accession of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to NATO (with the “name issue” unsolved), or the recent Turkish incursions to the Aegean, US positions and/or de facto stances were perceived as inimical to Greece. Thus, expectations from an ‘Obama renaissance’ are high, although already voices of moderation (of such expectations) were taking over.[1]
If one had to pick priority areas where the Obama administration would be expected to change track in American-European relations (i.e. without including such overriding but ‘purely Greek-interest’ issues), three policy fields should be mentioned. First and foremost, the shift from unilateral policies of the Bush era to more negotiated/co-operative US-EU approaches on global issues. Then, due to the quite horrific humanitarian and ‘defensive offensive’ situation that has arisen in the Gaza Strip, a more constructive stance on the Middle East, withdrawal from Iraq, and a less bellicose attitude towards Iran are expected. Also, in a more long-term approach, a change of position in global environmental affairs, especially insofar the fight against global warming/post-Kyoto negotiations etc., is concerned. As a close runner-up, one could mention energy and energy-security issues, following European disillusionment with Russia as a provider of natural gas.

[1] See Yannis Kartalis: “Expectations and Realities”, in To Vima, 18 January 2009, p. 18; also A. Lianos: “America turns a page” (referring to the tone of recent deliberations of the American Historical Association on the subject), in To Vima, 18 January 2009, p. 20 and R. Someritis: “Obama after the swearing-in ceremony” (covering both the EU and the Middle East angles), in To Vima, 18 January 2009, p. 21. See also the positive-if-not-enthusiastic interview of (1988 presidential candidate) Mike Dukakis in Kathimerini, 18 January 2009, p. 16, but also the sobering analysis of Theodore Kouloumbis: “Will Obama solve our problems for us”, in Kathimerini, 18 January 2009, p. 18.