Experts in the new US Administration

Malta
Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, University of Malta

The election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States was widely welcomed by the majority of Maltese citizens and Malta’s press. 2009 will see the start of the Obama Presidency in the United States, and the new President comes into the White House with very high expectations and facing a very complex domestic and international agenda. Most in Malta believe that Obama has however already signaled that he comprehends the nature of the task facing him by putting into place a top notch administration of experts. The choice of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is most telling as it has the potential to equip America with two top leaders at a time when the only superpower will require all the leadership it can muster to cope with the multitude of existing challenges.
 
Israeli-Palestinian conflict: new opportunities for UN resolutions
 

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

Luxembourg
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]
 

Transatlantic relations should be strengthened

Lithuania
Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University

There is a general agreement in Lithuania that the transatlantic relations should be strengthened. During a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Ministers, former Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister, Petras Vaitiekūnas, emphasized that “for the EU it is useful to strengthen the cooperation with the USA. It is especially important to develop a strategic dialog and practical cooperation in such fields as the common evaluation of the threats and crisis management”. According to the Minister, crisis in Georgia and dependency on the single supplier of the energy resources, increase the importance of the transatlantic dialogue.[1]
 
The new Lithuanian government formed after the autumn elections to the parliament, further sustains this position – in its programme the new government set a goal to seek for strengthening the relations between the EU and the USA. According to the government programme, direct participation of the USA in Western, Central, Eastern Europe, and the Baltic region, is an important factor for strengthening both Lithuanian and European security.[2] Speaking about the priorities of the Czech Presidency it is always emphasized, that the Czech goal to strengthen the transatlantic dialogue completely matches the interests of Lithuanian foreign policy.

Obama has not prompted Latvia to re-examine Latvian-US relations

Latvia
Latvian Institute of International Affairs
 
In Latvia, as in other European states, the election of Barack Obama as the President of the United States was met with widespread public approval. Despite the fact that ‘change’ was the principal theme of Obama’s campaign, there was in 2008 and there is in early 2009 no reason to anticipate fundamental changes in US-Latvian relations. These can be characterised as a strategic partnership.
 
Given the preoccupation of Latvians, particularly since November 2008, with their own problems, the election of a new US President has not prompted them to re-examine Latvian-US, let alone transatlantic relations. There has been no commentary in the Latvian media in recent months devoted specifically to redefining or revitalising European-American relations during the Obama Presidency.
 
From the meagre discussions on topics related to transatlantic relations in the Latvian media and public statements of officials, it appears that the more prevalent views on improving EU-US relations reflect many of the mainstream views of leading EU officials and political pundits elsewhere in Europe. A tentative list of recommendations from Latvia could be:
 

Beginning of a new era in international relations

Italy
Istituto Affari Internazionali
 
At present, both the Italian public opinion and the political elite seem to be thinking that the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States will lead to a change in the EU-US relationship. In any case, many commentators share the opinion that, in order to have a real turning point in transatlantic relations it will be necessary for both the US and the EU to address some priorities which, once dealt with, will open the way to a revitalised partnership. This will not be an easy task, since, as an Italian journalist noted, “the new US President will deal with a Europe which is different from that of eight years ago, when George W. Bush was elected: it is a Europe that is closer to the US as a political and institutional subject, but that has moved farther away at the level of public opinion”[1].
 

Three top priorities for a re-definition or re-vitalisation of the transatlantic and EU-US relationship

Ireland
Institute of International and European Affairs

1. The issue of greatest importance is almost certainly contributing to a global solution to the global financial crisis. The lack of liquidity in domestic and international markets is of concern for Ireland, with cutbacks in public services and increasing unemployment dominating the attention of government, media and ordinary citizens. Avoiding a growth in EU-US protectionism, reassuring and encouraging US investment (and conditions for EU investment in the US), and establishing better international financial regulation are pressing issues for Ireland in future EU-US relations.[1]
 
2. Climate change continues to dominate the international relations agenda in the run-up to the international conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. In the December 2008 European Council and during his January 2009 visit to Japan, the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, made continual references to the importance of taking action against climate change.[2]
 

Balanced and fruitful EU-US ties

Hungary
Institute for World Economics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
 

Obamania versus anti-Americanism

Greece
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]
 

Transatlantic relations with Obama: renewed but not reinvented

Germany
Institute for European Politics

The new president-elect of the United States of America, Barack Obama, was also the favourite candidate of the majority of Germans. In fact, the Financial Times Deutschland, in cooperation with the opinion research institute Forsa, found out that Obama would win three quarters of all votes if the Germans were his electorate.[1] Thus, support for his agenda is widespread but also fuelled by high expectations.
 
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, from the Christian Democratic Party (CDU), offered close cooperation to the newly elected American President. In a phone call to Obama, she pointed in particular to “the challenges that the international community is facing”, such as the Iranian nuclear programme, the stabilisation of Afghanistan, the climate change and the financial crisis.[2] In reaction to Obama’s presidential speech, Merkel expressed that she “anticipates more multilateralism from now on.” However, the expectations on the new President are extremely high and one should not forget that he is ‘only a human’ too.[3]
 

Hope may be replaced with deception

France
Centre européen de Sciences Po

In France, like in other EU member states, the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States has been warmly welcomed. French President Nicolas Sarkozy in his letter of congratulations to Obama informed him of the immense hope in France, Europe and beyond: “the hope of an open America, characterized by solidarity and strength that will once again lead the way, with its partners, through the power of its example and the adherence to its principles”.[1] According to philosopher André Glucksman, this hope even led European public opinion to overlook the more inconvenient sides of Barack Obama. Europeans, he thinks, have delegated to him the task of looking after the woes of the world and the challenges of the near future.[2] According to Ezra Suleiman, political science Professor, they are expecting too much and this hope may be replaced with deception.[3]
 
First priority: reinforcing multilateralism