USA-Europe, a new beginning

1657.jpgDecember 2009 | Jose Maria de Areilza, Dean IE Law School

Obamaâ??s success opens a window of opportunities for Europe, but it also brings challenges as we find out how capable the old continent is of performing alongside its US partner.

Barack Obama´s election to the presidency of the USA may be a defining moment not only for his country but also for the international projection of the European Union and its member states. The transformational figure of the President-elect, to use a term coined by Colin Powell, will have two immediate effects on the watered-down relations between Europe and the USA. On the one hand, eight difficult years of tension and division, especially in the area of politics and the military, are now wiped off the board; on the other, the economic interdependence of the transatlantic community has not stopped growing, as shown by the financial crisis itself. The new White House will no longer classify Europeans into new and old and certain Europeans will have no reason at all for defining themselves as anti-Americans. Those who spread the word of anti-Americanism have suddenly been left behind and, for a few months at least, we will not have to listen to a choir of European politicians preaching to the USA on how to do things better from a the moral high ground, but incapable of practising what they preach.

As the best observers explain, we are witnessing the greatest public relations coup in the history of the USA and the best example of a hegemonic countryâ??s instant recovery of legitimacy or ´soft power´ ever seen. Barack Obama symbolises a new generation, a new way of doing politics based more on stories and emotions than on ideologies and parties; he also embodies an aspiration to global citizenship. His election not only breaks down racial barriers, but also makes his country and the American dream attractive again all over the world, something that is the opposite of what the Bush administration achieved during its eight years in power. It is true that the new president awakens such expectations on our continent that he will undoubtedly be unable to fulfil them, first of all because in many areas of security and foreign policy, the USA policy that has been in place since the fall of the Berlin Wall will continue. Indeed, the USA will continue to look towards the Pacific and pay less attention to a Europe that is less relevant in the current reconfiguration of world power. However, with the election of Barack Obama, the notion of the West begins to be more appealing, not only on both sides of the Atlantic.

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