Columnist Anne Applebaum -- who is married to the Polish Foreign Minister, and lives in Warsaw -- bucks conventional wisdom and salutes the decision in Friday's Washington Post:
The president is absolutely right to ignore what would certainly have been another boring meeting, accompanied by excellent food and inconsequential conversation. I write here as a paid-up Europhile, but also as a Europhile who is thoroughly fed up with Europe’s inability to come up with a united front in its dealings with Russia, a common energy policy, and a more forthright commitment to Afghanistan -- or anywhere else.See also Mats Persson in the Daily Telegraph (U.K.):
More to the point, I am fed up with the endless procedural debates. For a decade, Europe’s leaders wrangled over a constitution -- now called the Lisbon Treaty -- that was supposed to give the continent a clearer voice in international affairs. But when it finally came down to selecting a president and a foreign minister of Europe, the Europeans punted. They chose two perfectly nice, perfectly bland, and completely unknown politicians, neither of whom has yet said or done anything of any consequence. In other words, the real leaders of Europe -- Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France -- don’t want the continent to have a foreign policy at all. But if they don’t want to speak in unison, then why should the American president pretend to listen? He can get a lot more done by calling up Merkel, Sarkozy or Britain’s prime minister for the occasional off-the-record chat.
It didn’t have to be this way: A year ago, at the start of this administration, Europeans had a chance to make a real impression in Washington. All doors were open, all ears were listening, any European coalition that had wanted to help solve one or more of the world’s security issues would have been granted carte blanche.
Nothing happened, no such coalition emerged, and the window of opportunity closed.
[T]he fundamental question that EU leaders seem incapable of asking -- and much less answering -- is: what exactly did the EU want the US President to come all the way over to Madrid to talk about?Agreed.
We were told that the era of European navel-gazing would end with the Lisbon Treaty. But the EU is as obsessed as ever with gatherings, family photos and the institutional questions which bore both voters and the rest of the world to tears.
The truth is that the Lisbon Treaty locks in a failing model, an inward-looking model, that puts Brussels at the centre of the universe, when the challenges of the modern world are increasingly global. The awkward institutional set-up created by the Treaty does nothing to make Europe a more powerful or efficient global player. From Haiti to Copenhagen, this is becoming increasingly clear.
If EU leaders really wanted to lure Obama to Europe, they could start by dropping their protectionist trade and agricultural policies and take the lead in the WTO talks; or providing a pragmatic and cost-effective solution to lowering emissions -- one that the rest of the world could afford to follow; or spending its money on defence and security; or creating a financial and regulatory framework which underpins global, sustainable initiatives rather than undermining them.
Until the EU comes up with something actually worth talking about, it's not surprising that Obama thinks that it's more important to travel to Asia, South Africa and to attend NATO summits. Appearing in the EU's latest self-congratulation ritual is something that the leader of the world's most powerful nation has done well to stay clear of.
(via reader Helen W.)