By Pietro De Matteis
Such a strong decision was in the air especially in Washington. The US was expecting a new EU after the Lisbon treaty: more coherent, stronger and more comprehensible. An Europe that after about 8 years since the Laeken Convention, that started the path towards EU’s institutional reform, could finally become an effective partner to manage international issues and challenges. Also Americans as well as Europeans were expecting that the EU could finally have a, meaning ONE, face to represent its stances in the international arena, thanks to its new President and “foreign minister”. However less than one month was sufficient to see those hopes vanishing or at least to postponed for another while.
It will take in fact some time before the EU manages to think strategically and at the moment it still struggles in understanding what it means being a strategic partner, in this occasion for the US. Many sources tell us that at the end of the last EU-US summit in Prague in 2009, the US were very disappointed by the lack of content of the discussions. This by itself made the foundation for a new summit this year shaky. However the Obama administration has kept calling for a stronger transatlantic partnership and very recently, on January 30th in France the Secretary of States Hillary Clinton underlined that: “A strong Europe is critical to our security and our prosperity”.
Unfortunately as we have all found out on Monday (January 1st) Obama have finally decided that he will not take part in the EU-US summit. According to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. officials claimed that the reasons were the uncertainties over the location and on who should represent the EU especially in light of the new institutional framework. On the other hand in the previous days, voices were telling that Obama would prefer to meet with EC President Barroso and European Council President Von Rompuy, nonetheless the Spanish presidency stuck firm in its decision of holding the summit in Madrid.
This is very unfortunate. The EU once again, has not been able to show its consistency and relevance, while the interests of one Member State have made lose credibility to the Union as a whole. However we can difficulty disagree with Obama’s decision: he has several challenges in front of him both domestically and internationally which are more relevant to his administration than fixing our institutional confusion and internal conflicts. Sure thing is that Obama might wish to have stronger allies especially as China is getting more assertive as we have seen lately over US decision to sell arms to Taiwan or to meet with the Dalai Lama.
However this could not be it. The Spanish presidency seems to be keen to make another Transatlantic-gaffe and in the voice of its Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos claimed on January 26th that France had been one of the main supporters of lifting the embargo and “Spain is following that line”. It comes without saying that the US would not appreciate that move as they did not about 5 years ago in the latest attempt to lift an arms embargo imposed against China since Tian an Men.
If a positive note can be drawn from this umpteenth EU disappointment is that hopefully this will teach European leaders that the EU structure should stop being the issue at stake in international discussions and instead become a credible player because; as they say in Italy, “dirty clothes are washed at home”. Also in the EU we should stop expecting our partners to struggle understanding how the EU works, especially in light of the fact that many of our leaders still have of it a blurred idea. Demanding so would be “asking for the moon”, which during a global economic crisis is beyond reach even for the US.
A slightly modified version of this article was also published on:
– The New Federalist: http://www.thenewfederalist.eu/Obama-to-skip-the-EU-summit-there-is-confusion-over-the-summit-US
– Le Taurillon: http://www.thenewfederalist.eu/Obama-va-manquer-le-sommet-de-l-UE-Il-y-a-de-la-confusion-sur-le
I will not hide that I was expecting a similar decision by the US administration. It is also in this light that about a week before the announcement by President Obama of his intention to skip the EU-US summit, I started a “Facebook Action” to lobby the Spanish Presidency to reconsider its stance on holding the Summit in Madrid instead of Brussels (link below).
In the news:
— Spanish PM accused of pushing to host EU-US summit (27/01/2010)
— El Gobierno intenta evitar que la cumbre UE-Estados Unidos se vaya a Bruselas (27/01/2010)
— Obama to Skip Annual EU Summit (01/02/2010)
— US blames Lisbon Treaty for EU summit fiasco (03/02/2010)
— Clinton calls for stronger trans-Atlantic partnership (30/01/2010)
— China calls for end to “prejudiced” EU arms embargo (28/01/2010)
— Facebook Action: The next EU-US summit (May2010) MUST BE IN BRUSSELS, NOT MADRID!