Tuesday 4 November 2008

Europe, don't expect a transatlantic paradise to start tomorrow

Steady, careful now. Don't get your expectations up too far. These are the wise words from German Bundestag member Rolf Mutzenich, writing on the Fabian website about what Europe expects from the next few days, weeks, months and beyond in the transatlantic upgrade of relations Europeans might be hoping for.

Mutzenich's point is a reasonable one. No American president is going to the be the president that Europeans want, and that's because he is an American. Obvious perhaps, but worth stating.

Yes, we might believe everything is going to be perfectly wonderful when Bush goes, but Mutzenich is right to sound that note of caution. Let Europe be Europe, but let it build a stronger relationship with the US, one that is based on partnership not pandering, or bullying.

Mutzenich wants to create a 21st century agenda for a new kind of transatlantic relationship, and he wants Europe to get in early. Being ahead of the game in these kind of discussions works.

For the past few years, the US-Europe relationship has been low down the agenda in Washington as they obsessed about China, India and the Middle East.

It's time to remind Americans not to take Europe for granted, and that Europeans have good, useful advice and expertise.

Denis MacShane is also well ahead of the game in thinking about the shape of the Europe/US relationship, before the presidential result is announced. Europe must decide who they want to answer the telephone when America wants to call, he says, referencing that famous Henry Kissinger quote.

MacShane, who speaks at the America Votes, Europe Responds conference this weekend, is also worrrying that Europeans have invested too much in thinking Obama is the man of their dreams.

OK Denis, but allow us a feel-good moment (hopefully) for a change. Then let's get down to business.

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