Transatlantic relations put to the test by economic crisis, Afghanistan and Middle East

Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Européennes Robert Schuman
“The hero” (“d’Lëtzebuerger Land”), President Barak Obama is everybody’s darling on the Luxembourg political stage: the Christian-Democrats,[1] Socialists,[2] Liberals[3] and the Greens[4] hail his election; even the Populists admire his capacity to bring about change. The editorialist of a left-of-centre newspaper, ”d’Lëtzebuerger Land” compares Obama’s election in 2008 to the 1981 election of François Mitterrand “whose Keynesian experiences are already history.”[5]
Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn’s reaction to Obama’s election, and the future of transatlantic relations, are three-fold: first may be mentioned an optimistic view on a real change in American society, combined with the hope that the election of an African American may well announce that minorities have at last gained the influence they deserve in the United States of America. Secondly, transatlantic relations have to be seen within the framework of realism: the financial and economic crisis will determine the activity of the new president. Foreign Affairs Minister Asselborn, considers that an evolution of the transatlantic relations on a multilateral basis to be “extremely important”.[6] The third implication of Obama’s election must be, in the eyes of Asselborn that “(the US policy concerning) NATO cannot be an alternative to (US administration’s positions taken within the framework of ) UNO”[7].
Many commentators, although they welcome Obama’s election, nevertheless foresee trouble rising in transatlantic relations. They are linked to the elected president’s commitment to reinforce NATO‘s military presence in Afghanistan.[8] Europeans will have straight talks with the new American President on these matters, as they cannot ignore the rising annoyance among the public opinion with the lasting presence of NATO troops on the Hindu Kush.[9]
Concerning the most recent Middle East crisis, the ‘hyperactive’ French EU-Presidency, the German Foreign Affairs Minister or the new Czech EU-Presidency, have tried in vain to broker a deal in the bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Again, the lack of European influence in this region has seemed to be obvious. The persisting silence of the newly-elected president concerning the Israeli attack on the Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip ended as soon as inauguration day had passed. Barack Obama will have no time to lose before making acceptable propositions to both sides.

[1] Chrëschtlech Sozial Vollekspartei.

[2] Lëtzebuerger Sozialistesch Aarbechterpartei.

[3] Demokratesch Partei.

[4] Déi Gréng.

[5] D’Lëtzebuerger Land: Der Held, 7 November 2008.

[6] Réponse de M. Asselborn relative aux implications de l’élection d’un nouveau président des Etats-Unis à une question de M. Fayot, in: Chambre des Députés: Compte-rendu des séances publiques, 11 November 2008.

[7] Ibid. Asselborn’s third point is very difficult to understand, it has been made as clear as possible.

[8] Tageblatt: Die Europäer und Obama, 12 November 2008.

[9] Tageblatt: Notre Amérique, 6 November 2008.