The meeting of the heads of the European Union took place in Brussels. European leaders originally intended to discuss the issues related to developing the EU’s stance regarding the anti-crisis struggle on the threshold of the G-20 summit in the United States next week.
However, the agenda of the meeting in Brussels had to be changed because of Barack Obama’s decision to shelve missile defense plans in Poland and the Czech Republic.
European leaders appeared at a joint news conference at night of September 18. The conference was entirely devoted to the latest decision of the US administration. European presidents and prime ministers were unanimous in their opinions on the matter.
“I view the shift as a hopeful signal for overcoming difficulties with Russia when it comes to a uniform strategy to combat the threat of Iran together,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy was very emotional in his remarks. He said that it was an extremely wise decision for the US administration to make.
“I hope that Russia will attach the importance to the decision that it merits. From the point of view of the relationship between Europe and Russia, and between Russia, Europe and the United States it is extremely positive," he said.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown strongly supported the decision, which would promote progress in the nonproliferation issue in the near future, Interfax reports.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed the decision saying it gives to all allied nations “an even greater role in the U.S. plans of missile defense.”
Polish and Czech leaders were more constrained in their remarks.
"There are no reasons for changes in our relationship with the United States. We are on a perfect level on bilateral basis and in the framework of NATO. We have strong allies and strong partners,” Czech PM Jan Fischer said.
Polish PM Donald Tusk only said that the decision was a prerogative of the US president and government.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski said he was concerned that Obama's new strategy leaves Poland in a dangerous "gray zone" between Western Europe and the old Soviet sphere, The Associated Press reports.
“Poland de-facto loses strategic alliance with Washington without the missile defense system,” a senior official with the Polish administration said.
Sergey Fyodorov, an expert with the Institute for Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said in an interview with Pravda.Ru that the positive reaction from European leaders to Obama’s decision was not surprising.
“Europe originally was not thrilled about the deployment of interceptor missiles and radar station in Poland and the Czech Republic. Most European leaders could only make vague statements over the pressure from the previous US administration. Many leaders of the European Union saw the missile defense project in Europe as a Cold War vestige. Russia promised to take adequate measures in return and deploy Iskander missile complexes in the Kaliningrad enclave.
“Many Czech politicians were against the deployment of the radar station in the republic. Poland had a different point of view, though. Prime Minister Tusk said last year that he had doubts about the whole project. President Kaczynski is a separate story. He is always ready to manipulate the “Russian threat” subject, but he does not find much support in Europe.
“As for Obama, he made a completely adequate decision. No one needs to aggravate tension in Europe. But one needs to wait and see what happens further,” the expert said.