Obama and Tusk: A meeting of two presidents

Christoph Hasselbach, Deutsche Welle, 09.03.2015

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The White House has a reputation of caring little for the European Union. Individual European states may be important to Washington, but the US has always been wary of the EU as an institution. And this is especially true for President Barack Obama, who has repeatedly stressed the importance of the Pacific region for the United States. The difficult negotiations between the US and EU on their free trade and investment agreement, TTIP, are probably confirming Obama's doubts about the EU. [...]

"Who do I call if I want to call Europe?," former American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once asked. Is that Tusk's number now?

Janis Emmanouilidis, who works for the European Policy Centre, a Brussels think tank, said, "It depends on what you need to talk about. For TTIP, it would be the number of the Commission President and other commissioners, because they have the negotiating authority."

But if, for example, the topic is Ukraine and the relationship with Russia, the President of the Council would be the first choice - in other words, Tusk. But, Emmanouilidis said, "The first number that many would call is the Chancellery in Berlin."

Obama's video conference

In fact, in recent years the importance of some key member states in the EU power structure has grown in relation to European institutions, and especially Germany, Emmanouilidis said. "Nothing gets past Berlin, regardless of whether it's in the economic or political sphere."

And while the White House's warm words for Tusk haven't changed this, he said, Tusk's visit underscores the importance of cooperation between the EU and the US. The transatlantic video conference last week about Russia and Ukraine could be a further sign of the EU's involvement. In it, Obama consulted with the leaders of the most important EU states - Germany, France, Britain and Italy - but also with Tusk.

Europe as a consensus case

Unlike his predecessor, the quiet, unassuming Belgian Herman Van Rompuy, who hardly even voiced his own opinion in public, Poland's Tusk clearly feels comfortable on the international stage.

"Tusk comes across differently than Van Rompuy. He was prime minister of an important country that plays a central role, especially in Eastern Europe," Emmanouilidis said. [...]

See original text at Deutsche Welle here



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