European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and other EU leaders congratulated Senator Obama on his election, expressing hope that there would be “renewed commitment” from Europe and the United States to tackling the ongoing financial crisis and foreign policy issues.
“On behalf of the European Commission and on my own behalf, I would like to congratulate Senator Obama on becoming the 44th President of the United States of America,” Barroso said in a statement on 5 November.
The senator from Illinois won the race for the presidency with about 52% of the vote, according to estimates, while his Democratic Party also made big gains in the Senate and the House of Representatives, giving the new president a comfortable majority to pass reforms.
Barack Obama is the first African-American to be elected to the White House. He will be sworn in on 20 January 2009.
“It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, at this defining moment, change has come to America,” the new president told a crowd of supporters in Chicago on election night.
“The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America: I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there,” he added.
Recent polls have shown Obama’s popularity levels surge well above that of Republican nominee John McCain, leading observers to speculate that the election would be a foregone conclusion.
In Europe, Obama’s rating reached unusual highs as he came to personify a change from the unpopular policies of President Bush. Recent polls showed as much as 69% viewed Obama favourably, with his most positive ratings found in France, the Netherlands (both 85%) and Germany (83%), where in July more than 200,000 people gathered in Berlin near the historic Brandenburg Gate to follow his public speech (EURACTIV 25/07/08).
Disgruntled politicians in particular had condemned the policies of the Bush administration and its hallmarks, the war in Iraq and the “war on terror”.
“President Bush squandered US potential to contribute to global progress by his divisive, unilateral approach to issues such as security,” said Martin Schulz, leader of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament.
“I hope that after the last eight years there is a new beginning in the transatlantic relationship,” said Elmar Brok, a centre-right MEP from Germany, in a recent interview with EURACTIV.
Brok said he hoped that Europe and the new US president could “together give more credibility to the West,” which he said had “partly been destroyed in recent years” under the Bush administration.