Page last updated at 10:20 GMT, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Barack Obama is to skip a US-EU summit due in May

US President Barack Obama at the US-EU summit in Prague, 5 April 2009
Mr Obama has attended two previous US-EU summits

US President Barack Obama is to stay away from a Spanish US-EU summit scheduled for May, in what some see as a blow to Europe's diplomatic prestige.

The White House said Mr Obama had had no plans to attend the event, and aides pointed out he had visited Europe six times in 2009.

Mr Obama attended US-EU summits in Prague and Washington last year.

A Spanish official quoted by AP news agency said Madrid had assumed Mr Obama would be attending the May event.

In Washington, US National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said the American president was "committed to a strong US-EU partnership and with Europe in general".

"There were no plans for the president to travel to Spain for a summit this spring," he said on Monday.

"We are still working through the president's travel schedule for the rest of the year and will make announcements on trips and summits when those are set," he added.

At the same time, the White House announced Mr Obama would be visiting Indonesia, Australia and Guam in March.

'Fairly unimpressed'

Correspondents say there are signs the US leader will spend more time at home in 2010 after a packed schedule of foreign visits in 2009.

They point to his domestic battle on healthcare reform and Democratic Party concerns about a Republican revival in the mid-term congressional polls in November.

In Brussels, diplomats who requested not to be named told the Financial Times Mr Obama's avoidance of the Spanish summit was being seen not so much as a snub as a signal he was unwilling to cross the Atlantic for meetings that "risk lacking substance".

One of the diplomats said the US leader had been "fairly unimpressed" by the summit in Prague.

The newspaper said Spain, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, had "set great store" by an appearance by Mr Obama at the summit, mired as it is in a deep economic recession.

Spain is the first country to chair the 27-nation bloc under the Lisbon Treaty and has to co-ordinate with the new president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton from the UK.

A US official who spoke to AFP news agency pointed out Spain's head of state, King Juan Carlos, would meet Mr Obama in Washington on 17 February.

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Spectator Not yet a post-American Europe - 2 hrs ago
New York Times Europe Feels Snubbed by Obama - 4 hrs ago
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