Western Europe welcomes the reelection of Ronald Reagan and the American self-confidence it represents - and fervently hopes Mr. Reagan's stated desire to meet Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko will lead to nuclear arms control in the next four years.
Typically, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl hailed Reagan's ''psychological'' achievement in reaching ''the goal of restoring to Americans the sense of their own worth and self-esteem.'' Speaking on West German TV, Dr. Kohl continued, ''Despite some utterances that were misunderstood (Reagan) has quite consistently - especially in his last two years - acknowledged the need for international agreements. I am sure that ... he will very quickly take significant, decisive, and urgently necessary steps together with Europe and Germany in the field of disarmament and reduction of tensions.''
French President Francois Mitterrand sent his ''warmest congratulations'' to ''Mr. President, Dear Ron.'' He did not address policy issues in his message but noted, ''I am convinced that the friendly and trusting dialogue between our two countries can develop in the service of peace and progress in the world.''
In keeping with British custom, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made no public comment on the policy implications of Reagan's reelection. British diplomats spoke of their expectation of East-West dialogue and movement on arms control, however.
Regardless of party affiliation, European leaders are relieved by the continuity provided by a second-term president in the United States. In the past decade Europe has been buffeted by lurches in policies swinging from Gerald Ford to Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan.
With a continuity of their own deriving from their strong professional foreign-policy bureaucracies, the constricted spectrum of policy options in a crowded Europe, and their efforts to harmonize European foreign policy in the past 10 years, European leaders have looked askance at American shifts.
European leaders now hope for US initiatives in the Mideast. They refrained from taking any initiatives of their own when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak swung through here last month. Some Europeans, most notably the French, have expressed their hope for US restraint in military intervention in Central America after the election.
European hopes for a second Reagan term extend to domestic economic policy, since many blame soaring US budget deficits and interest rates and the overly strong dollar for some of their own economic difficulties. With the US economic spurt slowing, European businessmen tend to think a Reagan second term will provide a softer landing than a Mondale victory would have done - and they are glad not to have to face Walter Mondale's more protectionist trade policy. They are wary, however, of the possible toughening of unilateral American attempts to restrict European trade with the Soviet Union.