Reuniting Europe

US president Barack Obama invited selected East European leaders (the 10 Central and East European EU countries plus Croatia) to dinner in Prague, apparently to soothe their concerns over the ongoing distancing of Washington from the region since he took office.

Representatives from most of those countries recently wrote a letter to Obama, calling on the US for a “renaissance” of NATO as the most important security link between the United States and Europe. They also called on Obama not to abandon plans for US missile defence stationed in Europe, and warned against involving Russia “too deeply” in the plan.

The Prague dinner could be seen as an event outside the EU context, but critics said that this is the second time that Obama snubs the Union in recent weeks. The Spaniards still fume over the Madrid EU-US summit, canceled by Obama. This time around, he should have invited HR Catherine Ashton, or East European leaders should not have accepted to go to Prague in her absence, some pundits said.

I think that in both cases Obama is doing a favour to Europe. In the case of the summit, his message was that the transatlantic partners should seek substance rather than photo opportunities. In the case of the East European concerns, Obama told their leaders in substance: You are grown-ups now, you are in NATO and have the EU behind you. Stop complaining that NATO and the EU are weak. Instead, make them stronger.

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