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United States

Brantner: 'Obama was barely present in Europe'

Following his re-election, US President Barack Obama faces major foreign policy challenges. Franziska Brantner, a German member of the European Parliament, criticizes Obama's lack of concrete European policies.

Deutsche Welle: Opinion polls showed that most Europeans would have voted for Barack Obama, too. Is Obama the right president from a European perspective?

Franziska Brantner: As a European, you cannot say what is good for Americans, but you can say that the consequences of an election victory for Mitt Romney would probably have been disastrous for our region, whether we're talking about Iran or Israel/Palestine. I believe Romney's policies would not necessarily have been in our interest in that respect. But what is right for Americans within the US is solely up to them.

How do you rate Obama's European policies so far? What would you say were the positive and negative highlights?

The question is: did Obama even have European policies? As far as I can tell, Europe didn't crop up much over the past four years. A highlight I could name is a joint trip Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton took to the Balkans in order to show that there are common interests. That aside, one has to say, quite honestly, that Obama was not very present in Europe.

Europe was not mentioned during the TV debates between Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney. How significant is Europe nowadays for a US that is increasingly oriented toward Asia?

Fortunately, the significance of Europe as a political hot spot has decreased, and Europe is now regarded as a relatively stable partner. But many Americans do see Europe as a hot spot in the sense of it being a financial risk. Europe might gain in importance in connection with the euro crisis, but otherwise, Obama's focus is on Asia.

Obama, flanked by Herman Van Rompuy, left, and Jose Manuel Barroso (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

Van Rompuy and Barroso hope for closer ties with the US

You mentioned the financial crisis. There has been repeated US criticism about the handling of the euro crisis. Do you think Obama will get more involved with this issue in his second term - perhaps by being increasingly critical?

I believe that, in general, patience within the international community concerning Europe's crisis management is wearing thin. As far as we know, not just Obama but many within his administration are tired of Europeans not managing to save this small country, Greece. It appears even smaller to Americans than it does to us; after all, Greece represents just two percent of Europe's economic strength. People in the US can barely understand why it has not been possible to get a grip on the problem over more than two and a half years. I can imagine pressure will grow to make sure the crisis does not completely spill over to Spain, Italy, and other large states. I'm sure the American side will have more to say about that.

In a letter congratulating Obama, EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso and EU President Herman Van Rompuy expressed hopes of closer cooperation. They're interested in closer economic, security and foreign policy ties with the US. What concrete forms could such cooperation take?

For instance, Obama now faces the challenge of acting as mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, along with the other members of the Middle East Quartet - the UN, the EU and Russia. I think it will be important for them quickly to agree on a joint initiative after the Israeli elections in January. The same is true for Syria, where Obama - along with the Europeans - can presumably now invest more time. These are important foreign policy issues: Israel/Palestine, Syria, Iran and the Balkans. I believe there's much we can approach together, and where Obama might now have more leeway. However, he may have won a large majority in the Electoral College, but as far as the popular vote across the individual states was concerned the race was tighter. So we will have to see how things develop. The US Congress is split, too, but I hope it will be a bit bolder than it has been these past four years.

Franziska Brantner, born in Lörrach in 1979, has been a member of the European Parliament since 2009. She is also a member of the Foreign Policy Committee and has for many years engaged in issues such as European foreign policies, EU human rights policies, and the capacity for reform within the UN. Brantner is a member of the Green Party Committee for Peace and Security Policies, and co-author of the party's platform for the 2009 European elections.

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