Europe's disappointment with President Barack Obama's presidency was laid bare Thursday as the EU’s most senior figure called for a dramatic effort to revive transatlantic relations.
The president of the European Commission said the new era at the White House was in danger of becoming a “missed opportunity” for Europe.
José Manuel Barroso said the EU-U.S. relationship was not living up to its potential. The criticism follows a series of fundamental disagreements on how to deal with the economic crisis, climate change and trade reform.
The feelings of a deepening rift are mutual. Senior U.S. figures said Obama could never live up to Europe’s sky-high expectations.
Barroso revealed his frustrations with Washington during a wideranging interview in which he also admitted that the euro had acted like a “sleeping pill,” luring some countries to the edge of economic disaster with an “illusion of prosperity.”
It has been a fractious few months for EU-U.S. relations, culminating in a fundamental clash of ideas at the G20 summit between Europe’s austerity strategy for ending the economic crisis and Obama’s call to maintain fiscal stimulus.
Speaking days before U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron visits the White House, Barroso said: “The transatlantic relationship is not living up to its potential. I think we should do much more together. We have conditions like we have never had before and it would be a pity if we missed the opportunity.”
The U.S. defended itself forcefully against claims that it had neglected Europe.
“Expectations were probably so high that they could not have been met when you looked at the European response to the election,” a senior official in the Administration said.
The view from Washington is that communication with Europe on a range of crucial issues is difficult because the EU still lacks “a clear foreign policy apparatus.”