While the American media paints Barack Obama’s European tour as a balm on strained relations with EU allies, Europeans have a much different reaction to Obama today. After Obama endorsed Turkey’s bid to enter the EU, the Continental grumbling has broken through in the media — and the political class. Der Spiegel reports that German and French officials have begun complaining about Obama’s arrogance in injecting himself into a European decision, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy:
US President Barack Obama says Turkey’s future is in the European Union. Not everyone agrees. Numerous politicians in Germany have gone on the attack, and even French President Sarkozy is unimpressed. Turkey’s role at the NATO summit has soured the mood. …
Now that Obama is in Turkey, however, some political camps — particularly in Germany — have discovered the political efficacy of Obama bashing. While in Ankara, Obama reiterated his support for Turkish membership in the European Union, a position he first voiced on Sunday in Prague. That doesn’t sit well with some.
“Turkey is bound to Europe by more than bridges over the Bosporus,” Obama told the Turkish parliament on Monday. “Centuries of shared history, culture and commerce bring you together. And Turkish membership would broaden and strengthen Europe’s foundation once more.”
It is a sentiment not universally shared in Europe. On Monday, a number of politicians, particularly in Germany, went on the offensive. “It is a meddling in the internal affairs of Europe,” Bernd Posselt, a member of the European Parliament from Bavarian’s conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), blustered in an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE. “The EU is not Obama’s plaything. … He should accept Turkey as America’s 51st state instead,” he continued. …
Indeed, Sarkozy was quick to reject Obama’s support for Turkish EU membership. Speaking after the US president said in Prague on Sunday that membership for Turkey would “ensure we continue to anchor Turkey firmly in Europe,” Sarkozy said: “I have been working hand in hand with President Obama, but when it comes to the European Union it is up to member states … to decide.”
As Glenn Reynolds is wont to write, they told me that if I voted for John McCain, we’d continue to alienate our allies through diplomatic arrogance. And they were right!
Once again, this is what happens when we elect a head of state with no experience in foreign policy, and an apparent lack of curiosity about policies and issues. Even a moderately interested observer of EU politics would know that Turkey’s membership application has generated a lot of resistance and controversy. A well-informed head of state would realize that the kind of declaration given by Obama would likely damage those prospects, as it would represent a challenge for the EU to show some autonomy from the US.
Instead, we elected a rookie, and he’s already acted more arrogantly and with less skill than his predecessor, whom Obama criticized indirectly but obviously in town-hall meetings in Turkey and France. After this episode, George Bush and his careful handling of the Turkish question might gain some new respect from the EU.
Update: Yes, this has been the position of the US for a while, at least since 2006. Notice that George Bush managed to voice it in a manner that didn’t tick off our allies and demonstrate American arrogance? I guess Bush was just more adept at diplomacy than the new guy.