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In Europe, joy over outcome, recognition of work ahead
In Poland, in Italy, in Serbia, in France, the victory of Barack Obama was an all-night obsession. Morning across the Atlantic brought some giddy relief and sober reckoning about the problems that these countries and America face in the global economy.
In Serbia, early morning callers to Dragan Ilic's popular radio broadcast were ringing in the news. "It was a big surprise," Ilic said that callers kept repeating.
"We saw him win in real time," Ilic said. "It was like a presidential election night in Serbia. That's never happened before. And I think there was a personal attachment to Obama here.
"His first opponent, in the primary, was part of the Clinton gang and the Clintons have a certain legacy here. Bill Clinton ordered the bombing of Serbia," said Ilic, referring to the war in 1999 when NATO bombed Belgrade to stop a Serb army assault against ethnic Albanian rebels in the south. "His victory then was poetic justice.
"Now across Europe I think there is a feeling that he means real change. We see a friendly face in America now. George Bush was a symbol of arrogance, " Ilic said in a phone interview from Belgrade.
"We don't expect him to be pro-Serbia or pro-Croatia or pro-anything specifically in our region. But he seems like a man will approach problem in a more human way
You can bring a shoe to the table and pound it like Kruschev once did or you can come and listen. He seems like a modest guy who is willing to listen."
In Poland, the election was covered as heavily as any presidential election at home--with reporters broadcasting live from Washington, Alaska, Texas, Chicago. Internet traffic monitoring the race soared into the night. Polish political leaders were quick Wednesday morning, as the last votes were called, to assert that nothing would change with an America led by a President Obama.
Poland wrested itself free from communism with a Republican president in Washington. It joined NATO with the support of another Democratic president, Bill Clinton. Its recent deal with the Bush administration, another Republican ally, to locate a controversial missile defense program within its borders will not be affected by a change in administration, Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikoski told public Radio Three.
Obama's rise and the rousing vote for change would "renew America with a new card of trust in the world." Sikorski said. The missile defense agreement crafted this summer between the United States and Poland would not be adjusted, Sikorski said.
The missile defense program was raised within hours of Obama's win by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Medvedev said that Russia will deploy missiles in territory near NATO member Poland in response to U.S. missile defense plans.
In a state of the nation speech, Medvedev said he hoped Obama would act to improve relations with Russia.
The icon of Poland's Solidarity movement, former President Lech Walesa, who lived through decades of tumult and change, heralded the American vote. He also said, gently, that the world awaited more details.
"The victory of the first African-American in a presidential election is proof that America and the whole world wants change," Walesa said on Polish television. "I'm glad that a person who talks about change has won. Now I want to know what changes he wants to introduce."
In Spain, both conservative and left-leaning papers across Spain on Wednesday hailed Obama as a fresh, young, agent of change.
El Mundo focused on the breaking of a racial barrier--"Obama Changes the Color of History"--and the left-leaning El Periodico de Catalunya filled its front page with a photo of Martin Luther King. "No Longer a Dream," it proclaimed.
But there was caution by commentators over what it would mean for Spain and for Europe. "America has amazed us all again," wrote Joan Canete Bayle, Washington correspondent for El Periodico de Catalunya. "But one thing to remember: Obama is a genuine U.S. product. We Europeans may adore him
but he will be an American president.
"The Hope and Change of which he speaks
apply far more to the United States than to the Berliners who so adored him this summer [in a visit]. His 'new dawn of American leadership' means Obama wants the U.S. to be the world superpower, liked and respected maybe, but all powerful." Canete wrote.
In France, the Obama victory was celebrated in parties in such famous haunts as Harry's Bar and the Swan Bar in Montparnasse. Most crowds, as portrayed in Paris newspapers, were overwhelmingly pro-Obama. But the election apparently has also touched off sensitive internal discussions.
Obama as an African-American president raises questions, again, about people of color in France who live in the restless and tense multiracial banlieues of the big cities. In an interview widely noted in the French press Wednesday, black association leader Patrick Lozes was blunt: "The great lesson is that 40 years of struggle against discrimination in the United States is worth more than many more years of racial struggle here in France."
The French press lampooned Bush as much as they lauded Obama.
Blogger Pierre Avril in the normally conservative Le Figaro opined "Rid of Bush at least! ... After eight years of a Republican mandate Europeans can celebrate the change at the White House."
The blogger did warn that Obama will likely bring other problems for Europe. Obama will be likely more open to environmental concerns, but "the election of Obama would herald more [economic] protectionism than McCain."
In Rome, the parties began a few hours before midnight and many Italians confessed that they stayed up through the night to see Obama win. No one expects any real changes in U.S.-Italian relations but many expressed hope that Obama could turn the U.S. into what many here would consider a more responsible financial and foreign policy partner.
The financial meltdown on Wall Street has infected people across Europe with fear. McCain was seen, by many, as an extension of Bush.
Roberto Riccis's family has roasted coffee beans at the Sant' Eustachio cafe near the Pantheon for 70 years. They have served cups of strong brew to Henry Kissinger, Mikhail Gorbachev and Romano Prodi. In the past two months, traffic into the legendary store has slowed uncomfortably.
"Italians are being very careful now," said Ricci, who watched television coverage into dawn. "Clearly one single individual can't change this quickly but we hope [Obama] has a team to make some changes.
In Arsenale, a high-end clothing shop on Via del Governor Vecchio, designer Patrizia Pieroni pulled on a black "Obama for President" T-shirt before she walked into work Wednesday morning. Her eyes were puffy from lack of sleep. She didn't miss a minute of the historic night, switching between Italian and American cable news coverage. Her two assistants--an Italian and a native Colombian who has lived in Rome for eight years--had also pulled election all-nighters.
All squealed with delight when asked about Obama's win. Pieroni was also going to take her celebration to the outskirts of Rome: She would head to her factory with cakes to share the joy with her seamstresses.
"People were full of fear," Pieroni said about the final vote count. "They saw Obama as an answer to our joint futures--to stop the war, to help the economy. The hope is big. I think he can match our hopes. "He's the new Kennedy for a generation," she said.
Halina Potocka in Warsaw and Julius Purcell in Barcelona contributed to this report.