Commentators Admit: EU Summit Not Worth the Trip

If Europeans can't get along, then why should Obama bother?

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President Obama has decided not to attend a joint U.S.-EU summit in Madrid in May. The move, of course, was immediately pronounced a snub, an insult to Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero, and a diplomatic row. But as time has passed, cooler appraisals have prevailed, and even European editorials are now calling the decision reasonable. In fact, a number of commentators agree that the summit would have been a waste considering European disunity.

  • Obama's 'Well-Known Allergy to International Summits,' says Ronald Flamini, is only part of the picture: "Europeans must accept a lot of the blame for disappearing off Obama's radar screen. Is there much point to these twice-yearly E.U.-U.S. summits, when lack of European cohesion continues to offer Washington backdoor access to the governments that it wants to do business with when and as it needs to?" Furthermore, he argues, the post-Lisbon-Treaty Europe has done little to show itself worthy of more attention.
  • 'Conversations that Matter' British publication The Independent's Adrian Hamilton says you can "call it a snub if you like, but the simpler explanation is that he simply saw no point in it. And he is right." Hamilton also tells Europeans not to wail about this being the consequence of European disunity: "The real lesson of Obama for Britain is that ... the new President is no longer interested in dealing with 'special relationships' any more than unions which can't get their act together."
  • Well Done, Obama "I see the whole thing as a positive development all around," declares Foreign Policy's Stephen Walt. "Obama's absence is an ideal opportunity to show they are beginning to stand on their own two ... feet after a half-century of supine dependence on Washington (De Gaulle notwithstanding)." Also, the American president has "plenty of other problems to deal with these days, and Europe is perhaps the one major part of the planet that doesn't need his attention right now."
  • 'Europeans Can Only Blame Themselves,' mourns the French Le Monde. Europe "has attested that it is not an important strategic partner. It is its responsibility to draw the lesson from this, if it does not wish to find itself marginalized again."
  • Post Pages Divided John Bruton, former president of the Council of the European Union, is--unsurprisingly--disappointed, writing as much in The Washington Post. He believes "that regular top-level contact between teh European Union and the United States is a good use of time." The Post's Anne Applebaum, however, thinks Obama made the right choice: "I am fed up with the endless procedural debates," she acknowledges.
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