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A sigh of relief from France

By Alan Austin - posted Friday, 9 November 2012

Europeans are amazed Obama won the presidential election. Leaders presiding over disastrous economies here are simply thrown out: Nicolas Sarkozy in France, Gordon Brown in Britain, Spain's José Luis Zapatero, Ireland's Brian Cowen and Portugal's José Sócrates. The Greeks now have their fifth prime minister since 2009.

Surprised and delighted you could say. But also dismayed at troubling aspects of the campaign.

The overwhelming response across Europe has been elation. French President François Hollande offered Obama his "warmest congratulations" as did other leaders.


Hollande summed up why the re-election is so welcome. Obama, he said, "is fully engaged on the international scene and well aware of current global challenges: peace, economy and the environment."

The economy is the principal reason Europeans are relieved. Despite its recession during the global financial crisis, the US remains the world's biggest economy by a fair margin. The EU and the US generate nearly a third of global trade. So there is some interdependence.

A dossier spécial in le Monde diplomatique feared that a Republican victory would have weakened Europe's ideological resolve. Obama's defeat "would be immediately interpreted as a failure of progressive strategies of Keynesian stimulus and health care reform."

Obama's interventionist stimulus program, the prestigious daily claimed, helped him win. "He showed that federal aid can contribute to economic growth."

The Republican strategy of "making this election a referendum on how the President had managed the economy" was parfaitement sensée – perfectly sensible. Le problème, however, was that they "did not appear more credible in this area".

Close second to the economy as a reason to celebrate Obama's win is global security.


"Un soupir de soulagement" – a sigh of relief – was the response of Le Figaro's Jean-Jacques Mevel. That and "fingers crossed for the future".

"There is concern about the precedent that a second-term US president is more interventionist in foreign policy", Mevel noted. "The next term is likely to be more aggressive."

But this was more portent than warning. "The US is tired of divisions over Euroland's inability to end the interminable Greek ordeal."

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About the Author

Alan Austin is an Australian freelance journalist currently based in Nīmes in the South of France. His special interests are overseas development, Indigenous affairs and the interface between the religious communities and secular government. As a freelance writer, Alan has worked for many media outlets over the years and been published in most Australian newspapers. He worked for eight years with ABC Radio and Television’s religious broadcasts unit and seven years with World Vision. His most recent part-time appointment was with the Uniting Church magazine Crosslight.

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