January 20th, 2009
02:55 PM ET
10 months ago

European leaders line up to befriend new American president

LONDON, England (CNN) – Almost everyone wants to be the friend of newly inaugurated U.S. President Barack Obama - none more so than his fellow European leaders.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Many claim he has already had his first meeting with a foreign head of state.

Obama met with Mexican President Felipe Calderon last week, afterwards telling media that there was an "extraordinary relationship."

“My message today is that my administration is going to be ready on Day One to build a stronger relationship with Mexico,” President-elect Obama added.

But the meeting had less to do with Obama's intentions - although he is keen for a strong relationship with Mexico - and more to do with tradition.

Every incoming U.S. president since Ronald Reagan in 1980 has made a point of holding talks with his counterpart across the border before taking his place in the Oval Office.

So, who will Obama meet first?

Any move is likely to hinge on Obama's keenness to repair some of the damage caused by U.S. foreign policy during George W. Bush's administration, and in particular the split with continental Europe over the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

That military action was backed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, but such support could count against his successor Gordon Brown in his relationship with Obama.

Brown's spokesman played down the relevance of being the first leader to meet Obama in comments reported by the British Press Association Tuesday.

"We wouldn't attach too much importance to who has what meetings when," said the spokesman.

"The important thing is whether or not you share the same values and have similar approaches and are able to work together on challenges."

Britain's traditional rivals, Germany and France, both opposed the invasion.

Nicolas Sarkozy gave Obama a warm welcome at the Elysee Palace, the official Parisian residence of the French presidents, when he visited in July - and afforded him a much higher profile press conference than that given to Republican rival John McCain (in contrast Brown gave both leaders equal treatment).

Then-French President Jacques Chirac was also the first European leader to visit President George W. Bush, the previous holder of the Oval Office, in 2005.

And then there is Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany, which Obama visited in July, drawing a crowd of some 200,000 people to a speech at the Victory Column in a central Berlin park.

Commentators said the event evoked the historic "I am a Berliner" delivery in 1963 by then U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who Obama has been compared to.

Of course Obama could look beyond Europe and perhaps make his first meeting with a leader from the Middle East, Asia - or even Mwai Kibaki, president of Kenya, the new U.S. president's ancestral homeland. After all, Obama's presidency has long heralded its fresh approach to the rest of the world.

But perhaps his priorities have been hinted at in comments made by Hillary Clinton, the designated U.S. secretary of state, earlier this week.

"The new administration will reach out across the Atlantic to leaders in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and others including and especially, the new democracies."


Filed under: Inauguration • President Obama
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Perusing-through

    President Barack Obama sent a very clear message to nations around the world – - – AMERICA IS UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT!!!

    May GOD Bless the United States of America!
    May GOD Bless the "Obama-Biden-Clinton-Gates" Leadership Team!

    January 20, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  2. adcook

    It is time for all Americans to get involved with the actions and decisions of government. We can no longer stand by and allow the minority to rule the majority. We must unite as a people and educate ourselves, arm ourselves with knowledge and understanding of all the issues and policies. There is not time and or recourses to find fault and or to cast blame but initiate change. I congratulate President Obama and recognize him as President of the United States of America. Now I will do all I can to help America succeed, not in a party, not with an agenda, it will take all of us to revive American spirit. We need to let all of government know how we feel, what we think will work and when we feel the actions are not in our best interest. And one of the most important actions we can take, letting them know when they have achieved our confidence and trust.
    We have developed an invaluable tool for citizens and the Presidency to evaluate progress, read news and give opinion. A live platform for Americans to utilize and become part of American History.
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    January 20, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  3. Joe R.

    I am an Evangelical Christian, Republican Filipino who did not vote for Obama. However, despite my disagreements with the new President, I can say that I was proud to be an American seeing the American form of government and election work its course. The candidate I voted for didn't win, however I will not whine about it as others have in the past. Instead I will celebrate the freedoms we have here in this country, realize this is how administrations have changed and will hopefully continue to change, and trust that Obama will work hard for the nation as a whole. If anything, I would also like to see this country go back to the principle of "majority rules" and NOT the loud, vocal few.

    January 20, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  4. Mari

    Indeed! I am delighted that PRESIDENT OBAMA extended the hand of friendship to the ENTIRE World! Its time to heal, to work together for the betterment of our World!

    GOD BLESS BARACK, MICHELLE, MALIA & SASHA! I PRAY THAT OUR NATION WILL INDEED HEAL FOR THE EIGHT YEARS OF DIVISION AND ANGST AND COME TOGETHER!

    BUSH LEFT A DISASTER....... LET'S GET TO WORK!

    HOPE WON.......... HOPE WON............ HOPE WON............ HOPE WON!

    January 20, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  5. Kris D, Toronto

    "So, who will Obama meet first?"

    It's been widely reported up here in Canada that President Obama's first state visit will be to Canada, reviving a long-standing tradition that was broken by Dubya.

    Has CNN not heard this?

    January 20, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  6. Steve Smith

    Was this written by some high school intern?
    "his fellow European leaders." Obama is not a European leader!

    January 20, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  7. Del

    With Obama in office we are stronger now than ever. Wisdom is strength and he is a wise man

    January 20, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  8. Raymond Casati

    I am a canadian citizen. I have always had an interest in american politics. At first I was a Hillary Clinton supporter, but after hearing Mr. Obama's speaches, I became convinced that he had the qualities of a leader, not only of the U.S., but a world leader. I followed every day on CNN the presidential campaign, until the final elections. I don't expect miracles to happen overnite, but at least I know that things will get better, if everyone of us participate in making our fragile planet a better place to live.

    January 20, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  9. Bill

    Hope won but will be dashed by the end of 09. Calderon is a bum.

    January 20, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  10. demwit

    " the new democracies"

    As in Iraq and Afganistan??

    January 20, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  11. Ed H.

    We have turned a corner. We are on a different path. I am so proud that the world can see the greatness of this country.

    January 20, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  12. derrick

    today is a good day. a day in which we as americans can rise and stand in front of the rest of the world and say im american and my president is barack obama and yes he is black and yes this is the america where dreams come true if you try

    January 20, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  13. OKIE

    Yep, they are lining up to kiss butt!

    January 20, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  14. MEP

    What about Canada?
    Except during the Bush administration traditionally the first meeting has been with Canada. We are not even mentioned in your article. Is Obama going to be a new anti Canadian president? Your silence is deafening.

    January 20, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  15. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    Let the world leaders put their compliments and praise where their votes are. Let them open up their political systems to true minority participation.

    Now that would be a miracle!

    In this single day, America has shown herself to be THE world leader again.

    January 20, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  16. John

    Sarkozy and other euro-elites must be a bit nervous about the implications of Obama's election in the US. They'll have to face the prospect that minorities in France, Germany, Britian, etc might soon be tempted to challenge the reigning status quo for leadership roles.

    January 20, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  17. Nick D

    What a blessing this day is for all Americans and the world. Let us remind ourselves and each other, that we are brothers and sisters. We are connected to one another, in some cases, not by our choice. Americans must come together as one nation with a common cause. Our welfare depends on our ability to live this. We are in trouble now and if we are united as one, we will stand strong...and leave a world we can be proud of, to our children.

    January 20, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  18. Jerry from Oregon

    I still find it remarkably cool that on electoin day when Obama's victory was clear there were celebrations everywhere. not only in the United States but in Berlin, and other cities around the world.

    Why?

    Because like it or not the United States has become the world's beacon of hope, promise, and integrity. The W. Bush presidency was a disturbing break from that tradition; as this beacon of hope, promise and integrity was going it's own way. acting without regard for other people in the world.

    Obama's election symobolized a return of the only nation on this planet with the democratic history and military might to lead in our troubled times.

    Barack Obama posseses the intellectual gifts to become a stellar diplomat now thrust onto the world stage. He will guide the US back to economic prosperity; which will bring the rest of the world back into prosperous times.

    January 20, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |