Lots of protestations from European leaders that they really can be credible partners for the United States:
Stung by a perception of America’s indifference to its historical alliance with Europe, senior European leaders are calling for a rebalancing of the relationship, promising the Obama administration that the Europeans can be partners for global challenges ranging from security to climate change.
A high-level conference here on Sunday was dominated by European efforts to get Washington’s attention, with promises of new, concerted action that were met with polite skepticism. American officials and European experts largely see European national leaders as focused on their own debates about Greece and the debt crisis afflicting the group of countries that use the euro, divided over China and Russia and tired of Afghanistan. Europe is seen just now as not a problem for the United States, but not much help, either.
But the European message here was striking, both as a response to criticism from Washington and as an effort by Europe’s new leadership, put in place under the Lisbon Treaty, to articulate a new foundation for an old relationship that most take for granted.
The European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, urged Europeans to “think global and act trans-Atlantic.” After President Obama’s postponement of a European Union-United States summit meeting, which caused resentment in Europe, Mr. Barroso, speaking to the conference here, the Brussels Forum of the German Marshall Fund, called for future summit meetings to be more substantive, less scripted and “much more efficient and results-oriented.”
The new president of the European Union, Herman Van Rompuy, said it was vital “to translate this shared history and our shared values into a shared future.” Both Europe and the United States “are entitled to ask the other: ‘What do you bring to the table?’ ” he said. “The only easy relationship is an empty relationship.”
I am all in favour of the Obama administration ignoring the European Union when it is divided and/or inward looking. But will the Americans create positive incentives for unity, by working hand-in-hand with the EU when it caucuses effectively on a global issue, and invests energy and resources in trying to reach agreement?
In the past, this has not been the case – think Copenhagen. Indeed, my impression is that many US policy makers instinctively (and perhaps unconsciously) prefer to see Europe weak and marginalised. In the future, a policy of divide-and-ignore needs to be replaced by one of notice-when-united.