As the European leg of his final foreign tour comes to an end, US President Barack Obama is meeting with European leaders from France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the UK. Top of the agenda is Donald Trump’s presidency.
Before the US President’s departure from Berlin for Peru on Friday, leaders from four other European countries are descending on the German capital to seek assurances from Barack Obama as Donald Trump prepares to enter the White House.
Faced with the uncertain future of a transatlantic relationship with Trump at the helm, Friday’s meeting marked the first time since Trump’s victory that UK Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Francois Hollande, Spanish Prime Minister Mario Rajoy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi all gathered together, along with Obama.
During his election campaign, Trump called into question the almost 70-year-old security shield for US allies under NATO, also saying he would withdraw from the hard-fought deal on Iran’s nuclear program.
Having described global warming as a “hoax,” the US president-elect has also raised concerns among environmentalists and climate scientists that the United States would once again pull out of an international climate deal.
Global warming ‘hoax’
In light of Trump’s campaign promises to tear up US free trade deals, the future of TTIP negotiations also look uncertain. Following his election, the European Commission has already put TTIP talks on hold.
Ahead of Friday’s the talks, however, Obama voiced a hint of cautious optimism that Trump could change his position once he takes on the role as president.
“There’s something about the solemn responsibilities of that office … that forces you to focus, that demands seriousness,” Obama said at a press conference following a meeting with his host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“And if you’re not serious about the job, then you probably won’t be there very long. Because it will expose problems.”
Call for EU unity
As the UK prepares to leave the EU following June’s shock Brexit vote, Obama also stressed the importance of a united Europe, and urged the 28-member bloc not to take the transatlantic relationship for granted.
“The EU remains one of the world’s great political and economic achievements, and those achievements should not be taken for granted,” he said.
“The achievements that we have seen on this continent in contrast to a divided Europe of the previous century, are ones that remind us of how important it is that we work together,” Obama added.
Trump’s friendly disposition towards Russian President Vladimir Putin also raised questions on his attitude toward the Kremlin’s support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as well as Moscow’s role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Obama stressed ahead of Friday’s talks, however, that he hoped Trump “is willing to stand up to Russia where they are deviating from our values and international norms.”
The outgoing US president went on to caution Trump against the temptation to “cut some deals with Russia” that hurt smaller countries because it may seem “convenient at the time.”
The meeting on Friday closes Oama’s two-day visit to Berlin where he held bilateral talks with longtime ally and friend Merkel, who is expected to announce soon – perhaps as early as Sunday – whether she will run for a fourth term in next year’s federal election.
Acknowledging that she would have heavy international burdens to shoulder, Obama said: “I wish I could be there to lighten her load somewhat. But she’s tough.”