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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why Obama is bypassing Brussels

Washington blogger and think-tanker Steve Clemons notes that Barack Obama will not be visiting Brussels on his tour of Europe.

He reckons that “what he is saying to Europeans, symbolically, is that their capital does not quite rank”, and suggests the omission of the EU’s institutional heart from Obama’s itinerary is a product of the candidate’s supposed inexperience and rumoured lack of understanding of international affairs.

But perhaps there is another explanation for Obama’s avoiding Brussels.

What is the core message of the Obama campaign? Vitality, dynamism, change, and popular empowerment are words that immediately spring to mind. But the way the EU is currently going is the polar opposite of these things.

Brussels’ as a concept just seems off-message for Obama’s brand. It’s pretty difficult to imagine him giving a rousing speech in front of the Berlaymont, or attending a photo call with the likes of Hans Gert Pottering.

1 comment:

The Dictator said...

I agree that Brussels (not helped particularly by the Belgian situation either) is an unfortunate symbol of sclerosis and inertia -- but only at the moment. Is Paris, London, or Berlin symbols for vitality, dynamism, change, ad popular empowerment? Yes, Berlin is a powerful symbol of peace and freedom, but the other two -- today? What Obama is doing (intentionally or inadvertantly) is that Europe still is the Old Europe, and the three capitals still quarrel pitifully over the American attention. Obama reinforces the division, the intergovernmentalism in Europe, and that's a traditional American strategy, notwithstanding the rhetoric of united Europe.

America is currently a negative symbol of a lot of things, but Obama supposedly wants to change that. I think it would have been innovative of his advisers (who probably made the routes) to include Brussels. After all, it's just one more day, even half a day, after one hour of flight. Since he wants to change America and be a world leader (and have the charisma to do so), it would have been wonderful to inspire even the European Union (which obviously couldn't have started without the U.S. push) to 'stand up for change'. In a sense, that would have been a monumental affront to the Europeans' pride but at the same time a game-changer in international relations -- an event that would have made Brussels more relevant and more respectable than ever -- from its member states as well as the rest of the world.