New energy, familiar themes

Finnish Institute of International Affairs
Public debaters were unanimous in saying that the relations between the EU and the US will improve. While there was a lot of excitement about the new era, expectations were often quite unspecific. Many pointed out that more effort is now needed from the EU side than before. Moreover, the wish lists are not similar on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean.[1] The Finnish Foreign Minister, Alexander Stubb, fears that more obstacles for productive cooperation will now be found in Europe rather than in the US.[2] Many Finns would very likely agree to several of the points on Minister Stubb’s wish list when he said that he would like the US and the EU to form a better team with regard to world trade, crisis management, human rights, climate change and rebuilding in Iraq. He also wished Europe and the US had other noticeable forms of cooperation than just the NATO operation in Afghanistan. All transatlantic collaboration should not be related to wars.[3]

Cooperation and stabilisation of the post-1991 security architecture

University of Tartu

A strong and stable partnership between the United States and Europe, as well as the improvement of the international reputation of the USA, is a key priority for Estonia.[1] In his recent ‘advice’ to the president-elect of the United States, President Ilves argued that “(o)f all the international issues that will demand President Barack Obama’s attention, two will be increasingly urgent: restoring the still-fragile relationship with Europe and addressing the collapse of the continent’s post-1991 security architecture”. The top three Estonian priorities for re-vitalizing the EU-US relationship appear to be the following:

Denmark and the USA: allies under Bush – allies under Obama

Danish Institute for International Studies

The transition from President Bush to President Obama has been intensely discussed in Denmark in terms of Danish-US relations and transatlantic relations. The Danish government’s close relations to Bush had been demonstrated by Danish military participation in Afghanistan and Iraq – on his last day in office Bush spoke to Prime Minister Rasmussen by phone.[1] But while Rasmussen does not comment on Bush’s record as President, his fellow party member, Søren Pind, described the Bush era as ‘morally corrupt’ in reference to allegations of torture and mistreatment of terrorist suspects by US personal.[2] During the election campaign Barack Obama had been critical of US allies, including Denmark, for not doing enough to help the Iraqi refugee crisis.[3] Prime Minister Rasmussen hoped to maintain very close ties between the USA and Denmark, but in the first week of the Obama administration these hopes dissolved as Denmark (and the Netherlands) did not want to help take freed detainees resettled from Guantánamo Bay detention centre.[4]

Focusing on Obama’s visit

Czech Republic
Institute of International Relations
The current centre-right government is more ‘Atlanticist’ in its outlook than the previous one. The biggest party in the coalition, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), presents itself as a strong supporter of transatlantic ties. Smaller coalition partners – the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) and the Greens (SZ) – are either affirmative (KDU-ČSL) or too weak to change the Atlanticist shift (SZ). The current government still respects the general trend and the continuity of Czech foreign policy as based on ‘two pillars’ – membership in the EU and an alliance with the USA.[1] On the other side, there were moments when the Atlanticist leaning of the government became evident. The prime example is the support of the US radar base in the Czech Republic. Also, the Czech government is quite sceptical regarding the ability of the EU to provide ‘hard’ security to its member states (through the European Security Defence Policy (ESDP)). Thus, the EU membership is perceived rather as an ‘economic pillar’, and the strategic bond with the USA (either bilateral or multilateral within the NATO) is seen as vital for the hard security of the Czech Republic.

Cyprus hopes on Obama’s active support for reunification

Cyprus Institute for Mediterranean, European and International Studies
The Cypriot people were quite enthusiastic about Barack Obama’s election. Among other things, this was because during his campaign he promised to the Greek-American community that if elected, he will seek to negotiate a political settlement on Cyprus. As President Obama put it, “there must be a just and mutually agreed settlement of difficult issues like property, refugees, land and security”. Most importantly, he added that “a negotiated political settlement on Cyprus would end the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus and repair the island’s tragic division while paving the way to prosperity and peace throughout the entire region”[1].

Intensified cooperation for approaching common challenges

Bulgarian European Community Studies Association
Approaches and top priorities for a re-vitalization of the transatlantic and EU-US relations seem to differ depending on whose perspective we will consider. In the US perspective, Europe is needed as a supporter for recovering global US leadership based on the power of example and inspiration for all people in the world.
It will be up to Europe’s maturity to acknowledge either a position of a junior partner of the US in a global alliance for global good, or try to survive on its own quite insecure domestic and international agenda, while at the same time being squeezed by an emancipated Russia and a frustrated Turkey.
It has to be crystal clear, that any debate about the redefinition of transatlantic relations cannot evade the uneasy questions related to Russia and Turkey. If the US and the EU continue to approach Russia separately, and if within the EU some member states still prefer dealing with Russia on a bilateral basis, then it will be irrelevant to speak about anything transatlantic. If Turkey continues to hang in the abyss with no clear geopolitical future, if the EU stays inhibited with its relatively small problems, then no future for a transatlantic unity could ever be foreseen.

More about the personality of Obama than about political priorities

Centre d’étude de la vie politique, Université libre de Bruxelles

The presidential elections in the United States of America were extensively covered by the Belgian press, however, it must be noted that the focus was on Obama’s personality, career and the USA electoral system and not on the impact for transatlantic relations.[1] Nevertheless, if we have to define the three main elements relevant for the EU-US relationship, it would be NATO, the place of Europe in the world after the inauguration and finally, climate change and human rights.

Many issues to tackle – but also more engagement needed

Austrian Institute of International Affairs

The three top priorities for a re-definition or re-vitalisation of the transatlantic EU-US relationship is the establishment of peace and stability in the Afghan region, fighting climate change and the closing-down of the Guantanamo prison camp. Barack Obama is expected to demand more engagement in Afghanistan from the Europeans, not only in terms of financial support but also through the increase of troops deployed in the country.
In a commentary in the newspaper “Der Standard”, Austrian EU-Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner stated that it was crucial to revitalise the transatlantic relationship. As most pressing topics for both parties she mentioned the economical crisis, climate change and energy scarcity. On a more international level she highlighted the Middle East peace process, Afghanistan and the convention on climate protection as the three top priorities. But she was also very clear in saying that Europe would not get a better partnership for free, and that a lot of engagement from European side was needed.[1]

[1] “’Yes we can!’ Soll auch für Europa gelten”, Der Standard, 19 January 2009, available at: (last access: 17 February 2009).