Originally published on 2012/11/23

On November 6, 2012, Barack Obama was re-elected, extending the duration of his mandate as President of the USA by four more years. Let us assess one of the effects of this re-election on the European Union foreign policy by focusing on one area in particular: The Pacific.

As the “America’s first Pacific President”, Obama has shown his strong commitment to the region. His pre-election visit to three South-East-Asian countries (Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia) and his active roles in Asia, show that the US has understood the global economic shift to the East and emerging regions.

Now, what about Europe? What about the EU? The EU has made considerable efforts to turn its policies towards the East, and has shown its commitment through many declarations and programmes on its agenda. However, it has somewhat failed to gain the same level of clout and influence as the US. There are of course plenty of reasons for this: The EU, with no common defence policy, lacks an important diplomatic tool. Furthermore, it seems like EU member states prefer to have bilateral relations with Asian countries. This reflects the division within EU countries about the policies they have to adopt towards the East. The only diplomatic solution the EU could eventually come up with  is a “soft-power” approach. Trade is undeniably an important element, but surely we can find some other solutions, inside or outside our own picket fence.

I argue that we should use the coming 4 years of Obama’s administration as a period to re-think the EU’s foreign policy. How should we re-shape our relationship with the rest of the world and retain a position of global importance? Are we too focused on ourselves? What do you think?