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Obama seeks European help on Middle East

Stephen Beard May 23, 2011

Obama seeks European help on Middle East

Stephen Beard May 23, 2011

Kai Ryssdal: We learned two things about President Obama today. One involves a pint of Guinness — that we’ll get to a little bit later on. The other is that there’s clearly something about the president’s trips to Europe that Icelandic volcanoes don’t much care for.

For the second time in as many trips, the president’s been forced to change his travel plans because of a cloud of volcanic ash. It happened on a trip last summer and it happened again today. The president’s left Ireland a day early so as not get grounded by the most Icelandic recent eruption.

It’s mostly a relationship-building swing through the continent, ending with the G8 summit in France this weekend. He’s also aiming to raise a thorny financial issue with the Europeans: more cash for the Middle East.

From the European Desk in London, Marketplace’s Stephen Beard reports.

Stephen Beard: The president will call on Europe to pour more cash into Egypt and Tunisia. Obama will argue that it’s vital to create jobs and prevent these countries from sliding back into autocracy.

Ken Gude is with the Center for American Progress in Washington. He says the Europeans should answer that call if they don’t want a tidal wave of migrants from north Africa.

Ken Gude: They could be looking at migratory flows into Europe as those economies continue to struggle. So it’s a challenge they’re going to have to face one way or another.

But right now, Europe is facing plenty of challenges on the homefront, says Simon Tilford of the Center for European Reform.

Simon Tilford: Europe is in the middle of a sovereign debt crisis, and unfortunately that is not a great back drop for a debate about Europe’s responsibilities outside of its immediate borders.

Indeed, some Brits regret the U.K.’s military involvement in Libya. The U.K. is struggling to cut its budget deficit, but may soon have spent more than $1.5 billion enforcing the no-fly zone.

Dan Plesch of the School for Oriental and African Studies says the Brits are suddenly feeling the effect of America’s low profile in the conflict.

Dan Plesch: They, in a sense, have for years got along with riding on Washington’s coattails in military expeditions without having to pick up the bill.

He says while Obama urges the Europeans to give more cash to the Arab world, the Brits will be urging him to step up America’s military commitment in Libya.

In London, I’m Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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