(CNSNews.com) – Nine months after disappointing European leaders with a decision not to attend a scheduled United States-European Union summit, President Obama will meet with E.U. leaders on the sidelines of the NATO gathering in
Two hours reportedly have been set aside for the meeting on Saturday afternoon, with a crammed agenda topped by economic issues and including security – especially in the light of recent terrorism alerts in
Obama’s trip to
Medvedev, who will be in
The White House has not announced any bilaterals in
“The proposed U.S.-E.U. agenda is robust, but time is exceedingly short for discussion,” Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in an analysis Wednesday.
“In just two hours, E.U. leaders and the
She noted that “amidst a significant European economic crisis with major consequences for the
Conley likened transatlantic diplomacy to competitive figure skating, with marks awarded for technical merit as well as artistic ability.
The administration’s scores for technical merit were “fairly good,” she said, with officials from the two sides meeting frequently on a range of topics.
“The artistic marks, unfortunately, are low. There seems to be a deficit of energy, innovation, and enthusiasm on both sides.”
European Voice, an independent news outlet based in
“This so-called summit cannot even stand on its own: it is being attached to a two-day NATO summit, which itself will spotlight the discrepancies between military might and political willpower across the
Some analysts have a more optimistic view.
“A leaner and more focused summit will make it all the more palatable to President Obama, who seemed unhappy with the irrelevance of past agendas and Europe’s tendency towards navel gazing,” Brookings Institution senior fellow Justin Vaisse said in a paper previewing the Lisbon meeting.
A top priority, or downgraded relationship?
The administration argues that it prioritizes the relationship.
“When the Obama administration came into office, we made re-engaging with our European allies one of our top priorities,” assistant secretary of state for European affairs Philip Gordon said in a speech at
“President Obama did so because he recognized that we faced such a daunting international agenda that we could not possibly deal with it alone.”
Nonetheless, the relatively brief visit to
In contrast, Obama visited Europe seven times in 2009 – a G20 summit in March; NATO and U.S.-E.U. summits in April; WWII commemoration events in June; a G8 summit in July; a trip to Denmark in October to promote Chicago’s unsuccessful Olympic bid; a visit to Norway in December to accept the Nobel peace prize; and the U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen, also in December.
“I’d just also underscore that this is our eighth trip to Europe since the President took office, which I think again underscores the fundamental importance of our European allies to America’s security and prosperity and approach to the world,” Rhodes said in Tuesday’s White House conference call briefing.
That’s not the way many in Europe saw things last February when the E.U. officials learned – through media reports – that Obama would not be attending a U.S.-E.U. summit scheduled for
Regular presidential summits between the E.U. and
The administration denied that Obama had canceled, with Gordon saying he had “a very full agenda” and had never intended to go in the first place.
Widely described in
Far from seeing that as an opportunity for more effective collaboration, however, the administration suggested that the confusing E.U. structure played a part in Obama’s decision to skip
Apart from the newly-established E.U. Council presidency, a post now held by Belgium’s Herman Van Rompuy, the E.U. has two other “presidencies” – the president of the E.U.’s executive Commission, currently Jose Manuel Barroso of Portugal, and the leader of whichever country holds the E.U. six-month rotating presidency.
“Because of the changes involving the establishment of a E.U. Council president and a European Commission president on top of the rotating E.U. presidency, I think it’s taking some time to work through exactly how various high-level meetings will happen,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in February.
Although some of the reaction in
A week later, Obama chose not to attend a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton instead.
Analysts say Obama has been more focused on relations with an increasingly assertive
“Obama will continue to think of engaging
“The issues that will compete for the president’s attention over the next few years will be