European expectations about the upcoming G20 summit are rapidly on the decline.  Although most European nations began preparations with a relatively rosy outlook, many are now warning against an all-encompassing economic agreement coming out of the summit.

The United Kingdom has been forced into damage control due to Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s extremely cheerful initial forecast.  Even today, according to the BBC, Brown maintained an optimistic outlook:

The world is coming together and the results of this week will show that global problems… require global solutions. I believe the world will rise to the challenge and defeat those who say doing nothing is an option and defeat those who say protectionism is an option. I think you will find that we are prepared to do whatever is necessary to restore the world economy to the growth it needs and I believe the discussions we are having will show results in that way by the time we get to Thursday.

The Times disagrees with Brown’s exuberance, noting that:

Britain’s G20 ambitions were dealt another blow yesterday after it emerged that a deal on coordinated action to pump money into the world economy will be delayed until a second summit.

This came as leaders from China, Germany and Australia lined up over the weekend to warn that they were not yet ready to agree to further tax giveaways or benefits increases despite pressure from the US and Britain. Fears are rising that agreement at the London summit on Thursday may focus on more easily achievable goals, such as tax havens, rather than ensuring commitment to specific goals on spending and protectionism.

The article claims that John Hutton, the Defence Secretary, “has already warned Mr Brown not to rely too heavily on stardust from lining up alongside President Obama to yield electoral benefit.”  Chancellor Alistair Darling even “insisted yesterday that the Government was never expecting world leaders to make a budget announcement at Thursday’s G20 meeting.”

It appears that the Prime Minister is the only person left in the UK with such upbeat expectations for the emergency summit.  The Wall Street Journal certainly agrees:

It was supposed to be the inauguration of a Global New Deal, in the hopes of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a comprehensive policy response to the world economic crisis, a root-and-branch effort to reorder the way capitalism itself works.

But by the time the much-heralded Group of 20 meeting of heads of government ends Thursday, it may be difficult to spot a new world order.

It is already clear that the summit will mostly fall short of Mr. Brown’s original lofty goals.

Even those who started with less optimistic dialogue have begun to lower expectations.  Only two weeks ago, Deutsche Welle quoted German Chancellor Angela Merkel as stating, “I’m very positive, I’m very optimistic that we will be able to come to an agreement together with the United States, with emerging economies such as China and India.”  Then, two days ago, a new article said Merkel, “has warned against inflated expectations concerning next week’s G20 summit in London. She told the British newspaper Financial Times that she expected good results from Thursday’s gathering but emphasised that global leaders would not be able to solve all the world’s economic problems at just one meeting.”

The Spiegel staff released an in-depth piece today asking, “Can the G20 Save the World?”  Their diagnosis: probably not.  The authors begin in a forgiving mood, agreeing that there are no longer any easy answers; only difficult questions.  Their assessment: “Despite the fact that we now have a globalized economy, the world still lacks a global policy.”  In addition:

The conference is also burdened by the fragile personal relationship between the two protagonists. Merkel is dealing with a president with whom she has not yet been able to connect. Although the two leaders agreed last week to a joint approach to fixing the problems of carmaker General Motors and its German subsidiary Opel, they did so by videoconference. Merkel was not willing to travel to Washington for face-to-face talks with Obama, even though an acceptable date had already been found.

Despite their own bleak expectations, the authors conclude, “In the end, the summit, though unlikely to put an end to the current crisis, could very well make it easier to diagnose future crises before they begin.”

The overall G20 atmosphere in Europe seems to be one of dampening expectations.  Commentators and politicians alike are beginning to question if the summit really can save the world.  While hopes may have been higher that it could two weeks ago, today’s views are more modest.  The summit, with its limited timeframe and abundance of disagreeing national interests, has become a step in the process of global economic recovery rather than a magical anti-recession pill.

Valerie Nichols is a web editor at the Atlantic Council.