Tuesday 2 February 2010

Obama doesn't love us anymore...

Obama won't be attending the upcoming EU-US summit in Madrid. Do you feel abandoned? Alone? Unloved?

Despite the talk this will generate, there's not really that much to say. Obama is a smart man, and if there's a point to attending, he will attend. We might wring our hands over the loss in status and perceived snubs, but at the end of the day if the EU doesn't prove itself to be a valid global actor, then it won't attract a global guest list to its summits. That the summit is in Madrid doesn't really matter (as Julien Frisch highlights), but it does indicate why Obama won't bother coming: the central institutions are loosing out to the member states.

The Economist has a very good article on the need for Ashton to assert herself against a Spanish rotating presidency meddling in EU foreign policy. If Ashton can't even slap down member states for floating policy ideas as policy fact, then what does that say for the credibility of the Lisbon institutions? Would you dial a number if the person at the end of the line is too afraid to speak?

In short, there's no point wringing our hands over this latest loss in prestige. We need to get to grips with where we want to go with our foreign policy (and on who will do what both in foreign policy and domestically), and how we're going to get there. Then others will be willing to talk to us about it.


  1. Conor: two points
    First, it's early days after Lisbon and the appointment of a High Representative for Foreign Affairs. Maybe we should give the system time to settle a little (though I have difficulty in raising enthusiasm for Lady Ashton as the appointee).

    Second, one of the EU's continuing problems is Barroso. He wants to be in charge of everything. But he's so oily and condescending in his actions towards Commissioners - and craven before national heads of government (I'm sure he's a nice man, really ....).00000

    So, you're right: who will emerge as the "real" face of the EU on the world stage - and when?

  2. I know it's early days for Ashton and the office of HR yet, but Ashton needs to assert the authority of her office. There seems to be an argument in some circles that the Spanish presidency should be just as prominent as the last because it prepared for a possible non-Lisbon presidency. I think that it's dangerous for Ashton to let the member states carry on just as before, since it will get harder to stop them politically later on.

    While the lack of resources is an understandable cause of a lack of action, permitting the rotating presidency to act out of its area is a bit different. I'd like to see a bit more assetiveness, even if her office can't be very effective at the moment in proposing or implementing policies.