U.S. President Obama is criticizing European crisis management to deflect attention from his own problems, but he is not completely in the wrong. Europe does lack a comprehensive solution.
America and Europe are behaving like a quarrelsome old married couple. “Your debt crisis is bringing the whole world into danger; rethink already and solve the problem,” says the American. “You just want to divert attention from your own problems,” counter the Europeans. “Your national deficit is as high as Greece’s and much higher than that of Spain, Portugal or Ireland, so clean your own house.”
The transatlantic bickering is taking place at the highest level. During an event in California, President Obama accused Europeans of not getting their problems under control after the onset of the financial crisis. The Greek crisis has thrown the rest of the world into fear and alarm. Beforehand, Obama had already expressed his displeasure with Europe’s handling of the crisis to Spanish journalists. The tone between the allies is becoming increasingly more irritable.
Now, let’s look at Obama's most recent scolding of the Europeans in the context in which it took place. It was a town meeting where the president was raising money for Democrats and where he wanted to explain to voters why the U.S. economy is so much worse off than he and his economic experts had, up until recently, believed. His criticism of the EU was simply campaign talk.
Nevertheless, the U.S. president is absolutely right in this matter. For far too long Europeans — Germans included — treated the financial crisis as a purely American problem, but they have not yet found a solution for their own debt crisis. Now Europe's problems are having a negative impact on growth and employment around the world, including in the U.S.
Without much speculation, one could say that Europe is threatening Obama's already precarious chances of reelection in 2012, which campaigners can’t leave alone. It does not help much to point out that once the Europeans have gotten their house in order, the financial markets will return their attention to America's debt crisis and its ailing political system. Currently, Europe is the most financially dangerous place in the world.
Still, almost more important is what is not happening: The G20, the group of large, industrialized and emerging countries that established itself as a relatively successful crisis manager in the first phase, is now playing a only a minor role.
There are no common solutions; Americans, Europeans and emerging countries cannot even speak openly because they systematically misunderstand one another, which only contributes to the general feeling that politics is hopelessly unable to cope in this crisis.
Deadlines and constraints continue to pressure national governments. This Thursday the Bundestag will vote on a European aid package, the EFSF. The majority must be large in order for the situation to be stabilized. Either way, Europe must live with biting criticism from Washington.