This afternoon's town hall meeting with Hillary Clinton at the European Parliament was quite interesting to watch. I think it's safe to say that no visiting diplomat from the US has delivered such high-profile, specific, and glowing praise of the EU institutions and the integration project. It was as if Clinton was giving the EU her "seal of approval," something which could prove to be important in Ireland, where Clinton remains popular because of the Clinton administration's Northern Ireland work.
Secretary Clinton opened with glowing praise of the EU project, calling it a "miracle" which could replicate the success of the United States by creating a whole much greater than the sum of its parts. She went on to reaffirm and underline that the Obama administration intends to improve the United State's relationship with Europe, and she acknowledged the damage that has been done by the last eight years. Indeed I was struck by the sometimes decidedly undiplomatic language used by both herself and European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pottering to describe the previous administration.
But more than anything I was struck by the fact that the audience seemed to be hanging on her every word. There was definitely a sense that having this "seal of approval" for the EU institutions from someone with Clinton's celebrity status was hugely important. Pottering was certainly not exaggerating at the end of the town hall when he said the questions could have continued for hours.
EuroParlTV has the video from the town hall, and Adriano from CafeBabel was liveblogging the speech as well. I would recommend taking a look at it, whether you're European or American. It was a really interesting discussion.