WASHINGTON (AP) — A year after President Barack Obama made an emphatic pitch to Europe's economic powers to focus more on economic growth than austerity, much of the eurozone remains mired in or near recession. Obama's appeals have had mixed results in softening the demands on some of the most debt-ridden European nations to cut their spending.
Still, the region's crisis is no longer perceived as an urgent threat to the global economy, and while the U.S. still wants Europe to temper the debt trimming and increase global demand, Obama is not expected to be as insistent with other leaders of the Group of Eight industrial nations when they meet in Northern Ireland next week.
Last year, the G-8 leaders gathered at the Camp David, Md., presidential retreat in the aftermath of European elections that represented a revolt against the austerity measures pushed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Obama himself was facing re-election and the U.S. economy was dominating the campaign. When Obama greeted Merkel and asked how she had been, the German leader merely shrugged. "Well, you have a few things on your mind," Obama replied then.
These days, the furor has died down, high-debt nations have been given more time to work on their fiscal cuts, and even the language has changed from "austerity" to "growth-oriented structural reforms."
"Relative to last year, things are somewhat better in that the European situation is more contained," said Matthew Goodman, a former Obama international economics adviser now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "The risks that people were worried about have been somewhat diminished."
Moreover, Obama arrives at the G-8 with Syria foremost on his mind. His decision to authorize lethal aid to Syrian rebels inevitably will be front and center during the summit, complicated by the attendance of Russian President Vladimir Putin, one of Assad's most powerful backers.