Obama Expands His Portfolio . . .

. . . mainly to include the 500+ million European Union! That at least is the message of Libération Brussels correspondent Jean Quatremer in the lastest post on his Coulisses de Bruxelles, UE (=”Brussels Corridors”) weblog, entitled “Barack Obama, the president of the European Council (Potec).” The basic assertion Quatremer wants to make here is that Obama should get the main credit for the bold/desperate €750 billion emergency aid package that European leaders cobbled together last Sunday night – just after voting in the crucial Nordrhein-Westphalen German state election had closed but just before Asian markets started trading again on the Monday morning of a new week, you understand.

Sure, the President was nowhere near Brussels at the time. Still, in Quatremer’s view it was the key telephone calls he placed to the main decision-makers – mainly France’s Sarkozy and Germany’s Merkel, of course – that made sure something big and decisive would happen. And then it seems he also gave a call on Monday to the Spanish premier, Zapatero, to persuade him to buckle down with some serious government cost-saving measures (that included lowering public employees’ salaries and cutting pensions), and he may have similarly bent the ear of Portuguese premier Socrates as well.

The Libération correspondent’s just-below-the-surface point is that none of Obama’s interventions should have been necessary – quite apart from the fact that he carries no official post or authority within the EU or any of its member-states. It was clearly an emergency situation (and it may still be), but it seems that the European leadership actually in place was itself not equal to the task, and instead had to be persuaded by the US President to do the right things.

Actually, it is not clear that EU leaders would have failed to take appropriate measures absent the President’s calls – it’s also not clear that the measures they did take, despite the huge-sounding €750 billion figure, were sufficient to the emergency – but that is a historical experiment no one really desired to undertake for real. It does seem a more convincing case that Zapatero would not have acted as he did without the American intervention, and also that the official who actual does hold the “EU Council President” title that Quatremer says Obama usurped – namely Herman van Rompuy – was fairly useless throughout. (Quatremer: “If during this crisis the former Belgian prime minister was useful for anything, you’ll have to explain that to me.”)

Another thing that this tale gives the lie to: that Europe’s current economic and financial travails need be no concern to the Americans, something asserted recently by no less than Treasury Secretary Timonthy Geithner. No, says Quatremer in rather dramatic fashion, Obama realized all too well the “risk of unleashing a [financial] tsunami capable of ravaging the planet.”

BTW in recent times I’ve repeatedly picked up glowing praises and recommendations of Quatremer’s blog – written in French, of course. So I think it’s time that I finally start to read it more regularly and have added it to my RSS reader under a label that should ensure that subsequent entries do attract my attention (even though there’s really something wrong with the clunky way he embeds photographs into his posts! Mais ça, ce n’est rien . . .).

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Comments are closed.