Barack Obama could better represent a new beginning in transatlantic relations than his Republican opponent John McCain, Elmar Brok, a conservative MEP from Germany, told EURACTIV in an interview.
German centre-right MEP Elmar Brok (Christian Democratic Union of Germany, CDU) is a member of both Parliament’s foreign affairs committee and its delegation for relations with the United States.
What are your expectations of the forthcoming US elections reagrding the future of transatlantic relations?
I hope that after the last eight years, there is a new beginning in the transatlantic relationship. And that we can together give more credibility to the West. This credibility has been partly destroyed in recent years.
Do you have a personal preference either for Barack Obama or John McCain as the 44th US president?
It’s very difficult for me to make a choice between McCain, whom I know well personally, and Obama, who can perhaps more easily stand for a new beginning. But when I compare the candidate vice presidents, I have problems with the Republican ticket.
You have a clear preference for Joe Biden?
With Sarah Palin [as a Republican candidate for vice president], I have a preference for the Democratic ticket. That’s odd, because as a German Christian Democrat, normally I’m on the side of the Republicans.
You also seem to be very critical of the two terms of President George W. Bush.
Yes, I think that the United States and the West are weaker now than eight years ago. And that’s a fact. That’s why I’m quite critical.
What were President Bush’s major mistakes? Was it Iraq? Or Kosovo? Or something beyond foreign policy?
First of all, I think President Bush did not have a real partnership with Europe. He though one can lead and the others had to follow. Secondly, I think we should have more possibilities to have strategic debates and discussions together, which was not done in the case of Iraq for example.
Do you believe that the G20 summit to be held in Washington on 15 November will achieve “real results” as French President Sarkozy wants?
I hope so, and I think everyone knows that especially on these financial regulation questions we need common rules. Because our national rules alone do not work any more in the global financial order. And because we are all in a big mess and in a big crisis, I think there should be an agreement on such rules.
Who is in a bigger mess in this financial crisis? The US or Europe?
I think the situation in Europe is very differentiated. Some countries are hit more than others. But this is not so important, because we are a whole. Therefore it’s very much important that they find these common rules and order, to avoid similar situations in the future.
Eastern Europe seems more vulnerable, because of its economic situation. A US agency, Stratfor, warned that Russia would use the situation to increase its economic and political penetration in these countries. How would you comment?
I think that everywhere in Europe the feeling of our populations is that there are questions our countries cannot solve alone, that Europe is needed. More countries are attracted by the euro and see the merits of the common EU currency. Even in Germany, the old critics who preferred the Deutschmark now see it differently.
George W. Bush seemed to have a preference for the Eastern European countries. His former Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld even commended ‘New Europe’ at the expense of ‘Old Europe’…
…But what was the political result for them? They may get a radar system. The real economic success of these countries, their stabilisation, was because of their membership of the European Union. I think that because of the present difficult situation, that understanding will grow and no country will try to make special deals. We can only win together.
Until recently, some new EU members were seen to be choosing between the EU and the US, as a child between mother and father. Is this over?
It should be over, because it doesn’t make sense. It’s not Europe or the United States, it’s Europe and the transatlantic community. Both need to be strengthened.
The Czech EU Presidency is perceived as being too weak, because of internal problems, to lead the Union. Do you expect some kind of troika to lead the EU instead, or any format where Prague would be backed by a bigger country like France?
No, I think the Czech Presidency should do it. But they already cooperate with other countries, such as in this troika of the present and the next presidencies. And I think there should also be a division of labour, with the [General] Secretary of the Council and the Commission, but also with some countries. And we are ready to help them. But we should give this new [member] country the assurance that we trust them.
One strong side of the Czech Presidency may be its ambition to make transatlantic relations a major priority, and to build upon the excellent relations between Prague and Washington. Will this be an asset?
Yes, I think it’s extremely important, and the Transatlantic Economic Council must be strengthened. I think this is precisely the intention of the Czechs.
Do you believe that certain circles in the US have influenced the vote in Ireland on the 12 June Lisbon Treaty referendum?
This is not the policy of American government, but it is for sure that Mr. Ganley [Declan Ganley, the major sponsor of the ‘no’ camp in Ireland] has good relations with certain circles in the United States.
And the European Parliament will investigate them?
I think what needs to be investigated – where the money comes from – must be done by the Irish authorities. It’s a question of Irish law and it will be investigated.