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Europe

European Press Review: Welcome, Barack Obama

Most international newspapers seemed happily surprised by Barack Obama's victory. The election was a lesson in democracy, one Paris commentator wrote while others said disappointment may be on the road ahead.

Front pages of several newspapers

Papers in Europe and the USA hailed Obama's election win as landmark moment

Milan's Corriere della Sera writes: "Barack Obama, who was praised as the new Kennedy at the beginning of his campaign, instead crossed the finish line wearing the jersey of the 'black Roosevelt' -- the man who can save America from utter breakdown with a New Deal. (...) He even won over the financial markets, which is surprising, since the Democrats' new front man wants to give more power to labor unions and rein in free trade.

"But in fact, in the 1930s it took Roosevelt's policies a long time to create jobs, and it turned out to be a cure-all for the markets. Unsettled by the financial crisis, Americans are anxious for security. The country wants to see projects in the works, and it needs vision. This is what Obama gave the American voters early on, while John McCain continued to change his script throughout the campaign."

Paris I: Old cliches

The French newspaper Liberation writes: "In this election, a French bias about Americans is swept away. Every four years, we complain about the poor voter turnout in the USA -- which is a reality. But this year, given the election's historical significance and thanks to the technological advances of the Internet, we saw an exemplary mobilization of American voters. There were impressive lines at the voting booths, and voters showed a higher-than-usual level of interest.

"We also need to change our preconceptions about American prejudice. For the first time, an African-American and a woman were candidates for the highest office in the land. It seems like America could teach us a thing or two about democracy."

Paris II: In Harmony with the world

France's Le Monde writes: "Domestically, Barack Obama is defending a program that is better suited to the American economic crisis: reviving the role of regulation in the US; tax policies to smooth out increasingly wide socio-economic divides; planning a health-care system appropriate to the country's wealth. (...)

"In foreign policy, a Democratic president won't work miracles. But through his personality, Barack Hussein Obama will be in harmony with a world where the economic and political center is no longer the West. (...) Opposite him was John McCain, a longtime centrist who slipped farther and farther to the right. He thought he could only win by dividing America."

Oslo: Bush years brought frustration

"On the day after the US presidential elections, we have great hopes that we are standing at the dawn of a new era when it comes to ties between the USA and the rest of the world," writes Norwegian daily Aftenposten. "Attitudes towards this country mark some of the great paradoxes in modern politics. Mistrust and pessimism alternate with trust and optimism.

"Unfortunately, the George W. Bush years have brought about extreme frustration with the US -- not least from the European point of view. In particular his first term was marked by a foreign policy unilateralism that led to terrible stresses on previously friendly relationships. Today, the job is to keep looking forward. A US president must, first and foremost, take his own country's interests into consideration. But that doesn't mean the president should completely go it alone. The world needs the USA as a constructive player in international cooperation in all areas."

Vienna: Leave Iraq to its own devices

The Vienna Kurier believes the USA needs a "new realism" after the presidential elections. "The next US president will need to leave Iraq and its ethnic groups -- with their merciless fights over oil, money and power -- to their own devices. He will need to see that no power in the world will be able to force Afghanistan's warring mountain groups into the corset of parliamentary democracy -- a form of government that is useless there -- despite any 'we'll get Bin Laden' promises. This president will have to understand that neither the financial crisis nor global warming can be solved by the USA alone. (...)

"Not only the USA, but the rest of the world, too, needs a new American realism. America must learn to see itself as the debtor nation, the failed warmonger, and the technological latecomer that it is. Only then can it lay claim to the title of "Leader of the Western World."

Zurich: A new political map

"Obama has drawn a new political map, and triumphed in areas that for decades have been considered Republican strongholds," wrote the Neue Zuercher Zeitung: "The change of power is already historic because on the 20th of January, on the steps of the Washington Capitol, an African-American will for the first time be sworn in as president. Until the end, skeptics said America was not 'ready' for a black man in the White House.

"Based on thin facts, they thought the polls might be skewed because some white voters would only let their true racist feelings be expressed in the voting booth. But the oft-cited 'Bradley Effect' didn't occur on Tuesday. By overcoming old racial barriers, America left a long road behind itself. Racial tensions played an overall surprisingly limited role in the election. (...) America desperately needs political regeneration, and in this sense, Obama's victory brings welcome new blood.

"However, by electing Obama, Americans are jumping into the void of uncertainty. The lack of experience of the Democrat was clear during the campaign. Just how the newly elected president will rule remains an open question. His charisma will help him in his office but it won't be enough to overcome concrete challenges like securing pensions or the stabilization of Iraq."

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