From Ana Palacios, the American Interest: But even as the glitz and glitter of celebrity culture politics seemed to define the Transatlantic mood, a deeper reality was dawning on Europeans who were paying attention to substance instead of spectacle. Obama remained an American President, protecting American interests, as he faced one of the most challenging agendas both at home and abroad since World War II. He declined one European invitation after another to “meet again”, as he did for the U.S.-EU summit in Madrid in May, and he also spun a globalist rhetoric that consistently devalued European power assets. European governments began to feel disillusioned and abandoned. Here was a man who would call European leaders to chastise them about Greece when that crisis started to affect the U.S. economy, and who would fly to Europe to stump for Chicago’s Olympic bid but not to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The gist is that America is once again the focus of the world’s hopeful interest, but it is an interest that has come largely at Europe’s expense.
The ebbing popularity of the European model is above all the consequence of a collision between symbols and realities. The European future was oversold, while the opposite applies to the Transatlantic relationship, whose actual strength exceeds its image. This is why Europeans cheering at the Brandenburg Gate over an American delivering a speech, mere gestures and words, is not the name of the game. Standing up for the Transatlantic partnership and working to upgrade it is, and both sides have much work to do. The United States, above all, needs to recognize Europe’s continuing strategic significance, something that can no longer be taken for granted in a world where rule of law and commonly shared principles are under assault. But Europe needs to do much, much more. Europeans are embroiled in bureaucratic squabbling while the real deal in the global village calls for decisions and actions. Hesitant about imposing sanctions on Iran in the UN Security Council, incapable of speaking with one voice on any important international issue, unable to take seriously its own commitments to defense modernization and coordination, Europe is anything but an equal partner in the Transatlantic relationship.
Ana Palacio is a lawyer specializing in European law. She has served as Foreign Affairs Minister of Spain and has held different senior positions in the EU institutions. (photo: Jae C. Hong/AP)