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EU Ambassador to US, João Vale de Almeida interview with EurActiv on EU US Relations

Europe should not feel neglected by the United States, as relations with Washington have improved over the past two years. The culture of engagement established by Hillary Clinton and Catherine Ashton also has trickled down the whole system and will continue in the second Obama mandate, said the EU ambassador to the US, João Vale de Almeida in an interview with EurActiv.

You have witnessed the US electoral campaign for the past 18 months. What are the lessons from this extenuating process?

Let me start by saying that this was a very vibrant democratic debate. It was a long campaign by European standards. If you consider the link to the mid-term elections of 2010, it was almost a permanent election campaign for three years and also a very costly one, but overall it was fascinating to watch American democracy unfolding.

I don’t think anyone can really understand the United States if one does not witness the electoral campaign for the White House. I am happy to have had this opportunity.

But do you think Europe has something to learn from this process for its 2014 elections?

Frankly, I think the situations are quite different.  The US is not Europe, Europe is not the US. Different contexts, different democratic cultures. There are a number of issues here that are differently appreciated and approached if you compare with Europe. And, to be frank, I don’t think we need to learn lessons. We have a vibrant democracy in Europeas well.

Would you say the outcome of the election is good for Europe?

I think any outcome would have been good for Europe because I have no doubts that both candidates were very committed to the Atlantic ties and to the EU-US relationship.

If we had had a President Romney, the transition would have been longer, of course, before a new administration would be fully up and running. It would have taken him more time to get to know the files, to get to know the European leaders.

Having “Obama II” means we have someone that already knows the files and is very knowledgeable about the European situation and also very close to its leaders. You will only get a few months of transition. From a European angle, it is easier to engage with someone whom you know already and with an administration that already has a lot of experience. It is an established relationship.

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