European Press Review: Welcome, President Obama! | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 21.01.2009
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European Press Review: Welcome, President Obama!

Europe's media praised Barack Obama's inaugural speech for setting the right tone at the right time. But commentators pointed out that the new president had his work cut out for him. Obama is, after all, just a man.

Newspapers with coverage of Barack Obama's presidential inauguration

Like those in Britain, Europe's newspapers had one cover boy on Wednesday

European papers agreed that Barack Obama was breathing a fresh breath of air onto the world political stage. Yet many warned that he would have difficulties meeting the tasks ahead of him.

French daily Le Figaro said that the majority of US citizens and millions of people around the world have been gripped by a "frenetic-benevolent, but also a naive Obamania." They believe "a single man can change the fate of the world."

But the Paris paper wrote, the realities of a world characterized by various interests would also impose themselves on the new president. George W. Bush and his advisors -- who had been blinded by the "axis of evil" -- had lost control of these realities for too long.

Crowd at inauguration ceremony of President Obama

Some two million people crowded onto the National Mall for the inauguration

"Barack Obama would be well advised to meet this new world by accepting that the revision of the rules for the world economy must be established with the whole of all players around the globe," it said.

The Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende said a task "of historical dimension" lay before President Obama.

"His inauguration speech showed that he is aware of this fact," the Copenhagen paper wrote. "That is why he set recreating America as a goal. One must hope, not only for the good of the US but for the entire world, that he can now turn his words into deeds."

Obama's inauguration speech included a number of tasks to tackle. Yet Austria's Der Standard said it was not decisive that Obama didn't offer a master plan to do so.

"If it's true that psychology is one of the most significant reasons for the crisis, then Obama can also be the right president for these difficult times without a master plan," the paper said. After all, Ronald Reagan already once inculcated optimism into the buckled Americans in the 1980s.

"And who would be better suited for that today than the adept mass psychologist and cheerleader of hope, Barack Obama?" it wrote.

Germany's Frankfurter Rundschau warned, though, that Obama should set himself apart from the people.

"He is now president. He is no longer a part of this 'we' that is the people," the paper said, adding that it was crucial for Obama to realize this quickly.

"A government is based on checks and balances and not on this lofty, direct access to the will of the people," the paper said. "It's good that he stresses the danger of the United States' demise. It's good that he also makes clear that he believes he can avert this demise. But this will only succeed if he stops depicting himself as the speaker of the people's will."

President Obama with former president Bush

Most Europeans are relieved that Obama has taken over from George W. Bush

The Dutch paper de Volkskrant welcomed Obama's conciliatory tone and said the president made it clear that the US would not force its ideals on others with force. Obama had said that America is stronger precisely if it employs its military force with caution and in accordance with the ideals which the country itself strives for.

"These are welcome words after years in which the rift between the US and the rest of the world appeared to get ever larger," the Amsterdam paper said. "The concrete realization of his intentions remains to be seen."

Switzerland's Basler Zeitung said that Obama's small mishap during the inauguration ceremony, in which he began speaking his oath too soon, showed that he was not the "infallible redeemer" the masses believed him to be during his campaign.

"He is also just a human being," the Basle-based paper wrote. "In that his call to us all to support him in his task appears even more authentic."

Britain's Guardian said that the inauguration ceremony so "brimming with tradition" was a platform for a president who is anything but traditional.

"Obama delivered a message that was anything but conservative, offering a thorough rebuttal of his predecessor's foreign policy and signaling a break in the nearly 30-year grip the notion of limited government has exerted on US politics," the paper wrote. This suggested an approach that could come to characterize the Obama presidency.

"It is conservative in style, radical in substance," the daily said.

Italy's Corriere della Sera said Obama's speech completed his rhetorical cycle from his campaign. He had led his country "out of the joyous days of hope into a new era of responsibility."

"The hope has thereby not been laid to rest: the change we can believe in is still way at the top of Obama's agenda," the Milan-based paper said. "But his sky has a metal color, it is full of clouds and the horizon is no longer clear."

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