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Friday, 27 July 2012

Definitely not in Kansas anymore – Mitt Romney’s unfortunate visit to Europe


Inspired by President Barack Obama’s visit to Europe during the 2008 Presidential Election campaign, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney hoped to boost his international competencies to his campaign by visiting Europe as well. His first station was the UK – the probably most loyal European ally during the George W. Bush Administration. Apparently, Romney was expecting a Republican revival of the US-British cooperation, although he did not make an excuse of his personal scepticism towards Europe as a whole – in economic as well as in social terms.
And his first visit in London went all wrong from the very beginning.

During his visit in London, which is counting down the final hours to the official opening of the Olympic Games, Romney criticized what he calls “a rubbish organization” of the games, and he does not believe that the British were able to plan and to organize such an event properly. However, British Prime Minister responded in a typically British manner to this remark by the simple matter that it is certainly “way easier to organize such an event in Utah, basically in the middle of nowhere” (Cameron was referring to the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, which were the last Olympic Games on US soil).

This was just the peak of the iceberg of Romney’s apparent lack of diplomatic abilities, a number of further mishaps continued to occur during interviews with NBC: a denial for stronger arm laws after the Colorado massacre, an obvious lack of interest for the upcoming Olympic competitions, or an utterly wrong address to the head of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, who was addressed by Romney as “Mr Leader”. That would have been o.k. if he had been talking to the leader of North Korea, but to the head of the British Labour Party? Well, Miliband was not amused, nor was Cameron.

Presumably, Romney was astonished by Obama’s ability to gather masses in Europe, specifically in Germany, when we held a speech at the Victory Column in the middle of Berlin in front of hundred thousand cheering Germans in 2008, awaking the impression that the Germans were voting their very own president. And this is also Romney’s biggest problem: he is not Obama, and he won’t be remotely able to gain a full broad support from Europe. Maybe that is a reason why he limited his visit to Europe to very few countries only, leaving Germany completely out of his travelling schedule.

In terms of the Transatlantic Relations, Europe is currently more concerned of a return to a US foreign policy similar to the one from the former Bush Administration, which caused a cleavage in Europe itself by former Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld. Back then, in the view of the Iraq conflict, Rumsfeld drew a line between “New Europe” (i.e. the UK) and “Old Europe” (i.e. France and Germany).

However, Obama’s foreign policy did not contribute to a “normalization” of the Transatlantic Relations after his predecessor George W. Bush, mostly because the contemporary transatlantic agenda is marked by the fight against the economic and financial crisis on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.  Cooperation on the security level was carried out on a relatively low level – compared to the much closer ties in the past. A complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, insufficient strategic linkages in current crisis regions, and a weak Middle East mediation were so far overshadowed by the common struggles against the global economic downturn.

The Transatlantic Relations are currently heavily affected by mutual struggles to restore economic growth and to rekindle employment, and no matter who is going to be the next President of the United States (either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney), the Transatlantic Relations will go on being affected by a mere economic and debt crisis agenda, definitely for at least five more years.

Obviously, Romney’s visit to London has recalled the evil ghosts of the former Bush-Administration. Ever since, most Europeans – above all the Germans – are reluctant towards any US Republican politician, especially when they are running for presidency. And his behaviour in London somehow restored the European reluctance towards US Republican, especially when they try to find partners in Europe. If Romney wants to be taken seriously in Europe, he is very well advised to completely rethink his approach towards Europe. So far, his first visit was embarrassing and far, far away from a potential statesman’s respect.

Romney can consider himself happy that he will not be elected by the European people. But this performance will have a massive negative impact on his future campaign.

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