Barrack Obama’s triumph opens a new chapter in American and world history. Historically ethnonationalist and ethnoracial considerations have played an important role in national and international politics. And they will continue to do so. Obama’s victory, however, signifies the triumph of politics over such considerations. This is a most promising development.
The EU expects a new beginning in its relations with the US and a new shared vision. In our globalized world, challenges such as the environment, terrorism, socioeconomic instability and ethnic conflict, require multilateral and collective approaches. Τhe new US administration is expected to embark on a new approach leaving behind its unilateralism. This new approach in Euro-Atlantic relations should begin with closer consultation between the two sides before serious decisions are made. For the effective implementation of this process it will, however, become increasingly necessary for the EU to speak with one voice. This raises the issue of the future of the EU; and above all whether indeed the EU will move toward further political integration.
The EU expects that the US will also reassess its approach toward the Middle East given that this region may generate further destabilization. The prevailing perception is that US policy in the area is not even handed. And the strong anti-American feelings tend to, over time, also become anti-Western feelings. The implication is that Europe tends to share the costs of such perceptions. Already President Obama has indicated that US strategy in the broader region should be reevaluated. This reassessment should include the prospect of a deeper and more purposeful cooperation with the EU.
In this context there is also a need for a new approach to the challenge of a redefined European security architecture. Much work will be required for a successful outcome. And inevitably the constructive involvement and engagement of Russia would be necessary. The last years have shown that it is easier for Russia to disengage from the West when the West is divided. Bringing Russia in from the cold again should be a priority for the EU and the US.
For this to occur consistency and adherence to principles would be required. In various ethnic conflicts the positions adopted by many members of the UN Security Council are not consistent. For example, the US called for the respect of the territorial integrity of Georgia while in the case of Kosovo its policy had/has been contradictory. Likewise Russia’s policies in relation to Kosovo and the two provinces in Georgia, S. Ossetia and Abkhazia, are also contradictory. Closer to home there is no consistency in relation to Turkey’s policy over Cyprus and its own Kurdish minority as well as the Kurds in northern Iraq.
This raises the issue of advancing a minimum set of principles in dealing with ethnic conflict as well as external interventions. Cyprus as a country which continues to face serious challenges due to such issues has every reason to support a new approach. In this regard Cyprus also expects more solidarity from its partners in the EU. On the US’ position on the Cyprus question, a position seen in Nicosia as shaped not by the US’ adherence to the principles and values it espouses but by its traditional strategic relations with Turkey, a major question raised is whether President Obama will indeed make a difference.
Indeed, the new US government will need to revisit the way it engages on difficult international issues. Cyprus is one of them. In this regard it would need to understand that despite expectations for substantive progress in the new round of intercommunal negotiations which started again following the victory of D. Christofias in the presidential elections of February 2008, there is still a very serious gap between the two sides. Furthermore, the vast majority of Greek Cypriots are convinced that in any case the Turkish-Cypriot leadership cannot make independent decisions from Ankara which in its turn has its own agenda. The Cyprus question is a complex issue; and the bicommunal dimension – as the US know well – is not the most important one. This raises the challenge of how can the overall negotiating procedure be enriched. Certainly the EU acquis communautaire and the overall European value system must be taken into consideration. And the US must also convince Turkey to play a constructive role. In this regard most Greek Cypriots feel that over time pressures were directed toward them so as to accommodate the stronger Turkish side.
We need a new approach. The regional and the global challenges necessitate a credible and effective UN which itself requires restructuring and a redefinition of its role to suit the new world order. The US will be in a position to take an initiative toward this direction. Even before the elections several leading personalities – including from Republican quarters – had advocated that principles should be reincorporated into American foreign policy. President Obama will have a rare opportunity to make a new start for the US in a world that is eager for principled leadership and collective solutions. For the advancement of these goals President Obama will find in the EU an eager, natural and reliable partner.