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31 Mar, 2009 05:16

Europe awaits no miracle from Obama

It seems Barack Obama's honeymoon with Europe is well and truly over. Following cat calls of hypocrisy and American selfishness, Obama heads to the G20 summit in London trying to find harmony amid the economic discord.

The first trip overseas since taking office for the US president comes amid a growing chorus of critics of American financial regulation and fiscal policy.

While Obama might be very popular personally, some countries hold the US responsible for the global economic downturn, pointing to lax financial regulation and what they view as capitalism in chaos.

“I think there is one thing he could do that would be enormously helpful – and that would be very encouraging to the developing world – that would be to apologize for the problems that have been caused,” said Vanessa Rossi, Senior Research Fellow on international economics at The Royal Institute of International Affairs.

The feeling that President Obama ‘has a miracle to deliver’ seems to be slowly fading away, at least in Europe.

“There was a remarkable optimism last year about the changeover in the US administration and a great welcoming of Obama even before he was president – and now because of the wrangles of this crisis and the policies that they would pursue – there’s clearly a massive change in tone, much more caution, uncertainty about where the US type policies will lead…in the current circumstances,” Vanessa Rossi added.

The scale of the rift between America and Europe was exposed last week when the current EU President Mirek Topolanek branded Barack Obama’s programme “a way to hell”.

With such differences on the table, many experts doubt the summit will deliver concrete results.

“America seems to be very concerned about Wall Street, but doesn’t seem very concerned about the City of London, never mind other financial centers across the world. In general I wouldn’t be too optimistic about any breakthroughs,” Adrian Pabst, Research Fellow at the Luxembourg Institute for European and International Studies, said.

Some go as far as saying the whole summit was doomed from the start.

“Personally, when I heard that Britain had been chosen as the venue for this G20 meeting, I realized it was going to be totally pointless. You must remember Gordon Brown is one of the leaders who simply have nothing to say. He has no vision for how to get out of this crisis, so any summit under his chairpersonship is going to be doomed to failure from the start,” Richard Sakwa, Professor of Russian and European Politics at the University of Kent, said.

The main question now is what action President Obama is ready to take and what kind of cooperation he will receive in Europe. Nevertheless, he is still an eagerly awaited guest, as many harbor the hope that he is going to listen as well as to lead.