Barack Obama seeks to reassure Europe

"We have come together here in Lisbon to take action"

From Carrie Budoff Brown, POLITICOObama departs on a six-day trip Sunday, hoping to prove to his hosts that he hasn’t forgotten about them.

It’s a long-awaited embrace for a Europe that was eager to say goodbye to George W. Bush but deflated by Obama’s perceived snubs and real distractions — three military conflicts, a recession, the Arab uprisings and the need to build ties with Muslim countries and with emerging economies in Asia and Latin America.

“There is a perception in Europe still today that the president … and the administration don’t care about Europe, they care more about Asia, they care more about domestic issues,” said Kurt Volker, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO under Bush. “That is another thing [the administration wants] to convey: It’s a balanced partnership; we remain very much in this. . . .”

National security issues such as the conflict in Libya, the Arab Spring and the Afghanistan war, after the killing of Osama bin Laden, are expected to dominate the president’s attention during the trip, experts said.

But economic crises — both in the countries Obama is visiting and back home — will cloud his trip. . . .

“There’s one thing missing, I think, from this visit,” said Heather Conley, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “And this is the full acknowledgment of the extraordinary and profound impact that the European sovereign debt crisis is having on Europe itself politically, economically. Although the president may touch on this in Ireland, I think Washington needs to focus its energies and its attention on this dramatic crisis, and hopefully this visit will provide a lot of context for the president to put more leadership and follow this crisis as it unfolds.”  (photo: Getty)

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