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USA-EU relations in holding pattern

USA-EU relations in holding pattern
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One of the areas in which the American voters’ choice of president is not expected to make much difference is the United States’ relationship with Europe.

Yes, the older continent has traditionally had a privileged partnership with the US, but policy analysts agree this is increasingly taken for granted, in favour of addressing other American priorities. Neither Obama nor Romney have felt a need to mention Europe on their campaign trails.

Ian Bremmer, President of the think tank Eurasia Group, said: “You would think, given that the EU is the world’s largest common economic space and given how problematic Europe might have been or may still be for the US economy, someone would have something to say about it: they did not. And while the US is very willing to dispense advice to the Europeans, no one is bringing a cheque book. Clearly the American position is that Europe has to fix Europe’s own problems – so, I really don’t see a significant difference on Europe with either of these candidates.”

Some suggest that Washington’s global attention has shifted definitively, as both sides of the Atlantic struggle with urgent debt, spending and tax matters, while facing competition from other serious economic players.

Ted R. Bromund with the Heritage Foundation said: “I think the era of the US focusing on Europe as the most important part of the world has gone, regardless of whether Mitt Romney or Barack Obama is in the White House next year. That was a different era in US foreign policy; Europe is at peace; it is losing economic importance vis-a-vis Asia; and naturally the US is going to look at where there are foreign policy crises and where the economy is growing.”

Europeans are largely in favour of continuing to deal with the Democrat they have come to know, and if the Republican candidate wins it would be testing for everyone.

In the context of such a scenario, journalist Jay Newton-Small at TIME Magazine said: “It will be a challenge for Romney to convince people that he’s not George W. Bush. That he is someone very different. And that it will also be a challenge for him to convince the Europeans to go along in ways that is stronger than Barack Obama.”

The European Union’s ambassador in Washington sounded pretty sure the friendship will last.

Ambassador João Vale de Almeida said: “I have no doubt that whoever wins the election in the US will continue to be strongly committed to trans-Atlantic ties. We will remain committed on our side and will be ready for business whoever the Americans elect as the next president.”

Our correspondent Paul Hackett in Washington said: “There is a general feeling here in Washington, with a few exceptions, that relations with the EU are solid. The one big concern of course is the eurozone’s debt crisis. Both Republicans and Democrats are deeply frustrated that the Europeans can’t get their economic house in order quicker. That feeling is unlikely to change, regardless of who wins the White House.”