Daily Archives: February 1, 2010

Gideon Rachman

Ingram Pinn illustration

Since the end of the cold war, discussions at the World Economic Forum in Davos have followed a reliable pattern. Everybody agreed that globalisation was a jolly good thing – but it was the delegates from the US and Europe who shaped the debate. It was informally accepted that the flow of ideas – as well as investment and jobs – was from west to east. 

Gideon Rachman

The State Department is making the best of President Obama’s decision to skip a planned US-EU summit in Madrid later this spring. It’s not to be understood as a snub, you understand – the president hugely values and respects the Europeans. And the Spanish. He adores Madrid and he thinks the EU is completely fab and really, really important. He’s just a bit busy. Maybe another time.

There is no doubt that the Spanish government, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU (You thought it had been abolished? Fooled you!), will treat this as a bitter blow. The Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Zapatero was royally snubbed by George W. Bush and so it was really important to him to underline that he has a great relationship with the sainted Obama. One European foreign minister who I encountered in Davos told me that the Americans were about to pull out of the US-EU summit and added, with a smirk that suggested a worrying lack of EU solidarity – “When the Spanish hear, it will be like a nuclear bomb has gone off in Madrid.”

The Spanish are not the only Europeans feeling snubbed by Obama. The president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, was enraged when – on a recent trip to Washington – Obama failed to schedule a lunch with him, and the Commission president was fobbed off with Joe Biden. Back in Brussels, Barroso was heard to rage – “Bush never treated us like this.” When the Europeans are getting nostalgic for George W. Bush, you know that their noses are seriously out of joint.