Obama Faces Cold Reception in Europe

President's economic stimulus plan isn't popular in Europe, though he is.

ByABC News
March 28, 2009, 9:14 PM

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2009— -- The last time President Obama went to Europe, he was greeted with raucous applause and 200,000 Europeans choking a Berlin square, chanting "Obama" and "Yes We Can."

This time, as the president heads to London this week to press the Group of 20 nations for a global economic stimulus plan, he's likely to get a warm reception but cold comfort from many European leaders.

European Union chief Mirek Topolanek, the recently ousted leader of the Czech Republic, calls the plan the Obama administration has been pushing "a way to hell."

Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel is also a skeptic.

"We must look at the causes of this crisis," she said. "It happened because we were living beyond our means. ... We cannot repeat this mistake."

That sounds a lot like Obama's Republican critics at home.

In the weekly Republican address, Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., repeated what has become an old Republican saw: "This plan spends too much, taxes too much and borrows too much."

Why the dramatically different European reception since last summer?

"That was then and this is now," ABC's George Will said. "Back then he was Not George Bush -- capital N, G and B -- and that was enough. Second, he was a novelty -- an African-American, a new figure on the world scene. You can only be a novelty once. After that, you're a familiar face."

Many European nations want more regulation and less direct spending.

"Some European welfare states have such a thick social safety net that an econ slowdown doesn't alarm people as much as it alarms people here," Will said.

Mark Zandi, an economist with Moody's economy.com, told ABC News that explains the timing of the president's financial reforms last week. He predicted slow progress.

"It's not likely we're going to get any explicit agreement at this meeting," Zandi said. "But it will lay the foundations for some efforts that may succeed weeks, months ahead."

Obama is relying on Britain's Gordon Brown, the host of the London summit. He's calling for a global New Deal and promises "detailed results" from the meeting. Whether Brown can bridge the gap has become the trillion-dollar question.