© POOL/AFP / by Jerome Cartillier | On the second day of a European farewell tour, US President Barack Obama will discuss the “frustration and anger” of an electorate that feels left behind by globalisation
ATHENS (AFP) – US President Barack Obama will Wednesday sketch out his vision of democracy at a time of mounting global populism, seeking to soothe European allies anxious over a Donald Trump presidency.
On the second day of a European farewell tour, Obama will build on a topic he outlined on Tuesday — the “frustration and anger” of an electorate that feels it has been left behind by rapid globalisation.
“The lesson I draw — and I think people can draw a lot of lessons but maybe one that cuts across countries — is we have to deal with issues like inequality,” said Obama.
The 55-year-old Obama has chosen the “cradle of democracy” Greece to deliver a speech addressing the uncertainties that have led to the rise of populists like Trump.
Trump was able to tap into “a suspicion of globalisation, a desire to rein in its excesses, a suspicion of elites and governing institutions,” Obama noted.
Obama’s visit to Europe — his last foreign trip as American leader — has been all about reassuring traditional allies worried about Trump’s campaign rhetoric.
Trump welcomed Britain’s shock vote in June to leave the European Union and has cast doubts on the NATO alliance that has guaranteed relative peace on the continent for decades.
However, Obama was at pains to stress that Europe — and NATO — would remain the cornerstone of US foreign policy.
The US-led NATO grouping is “absolutely vital” to US interests and a strong, unified Europe was good for America and the world, Obama said in comments aimed at reassuring old partners.
“We know what happens when Europeans start dividing themselves up… the 20th century was a bloodbath,” he said pointedly.
Obama was expected to visit the Acropolis ahead of his much-anticipated speech before heading to Germany to visit Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom he has described as “probably … my closest international partner these last eight years”.
During his time in Berlin, he will also huddle with the leaders of Britain, France and Italy, as European leaders desperately seek clues to future US policy in a Trump world.
– ‘Extraordinary compassion’ –
While Obama has generally been welcomed in Greece, some demonstrators hit the streets to protest against his visit.
Some 2,500 people brandishing banners denouncing US “imperialism” and calling Obama “non grata”, or not welcome, were turned away by police firing tear gas and stun grenades as they tried to breach barriers and head toward the city centre.
Many Greeks are suspicious of the United States after it helped install a repressive seven-year dictatorship in the country in the 1960s, and trade unions, leftist and anarchist parties denounce US involvement in wars in the Middle East.
Several hundred of the protesters appeared to be from Greece’s vocal anarchist movement, police told AFP.
On the first day of his visit, Obama also touched on issues that have shaken Greek society — a dramatic influx of migrants fleeing war and poverty and a crippling financial crisis.
He lauded the Greek people’s “extraordinary compassion” to hundreds of thousands of people arriving during Europe’s worst migrant crisis since World War II.
He also pledged support for Greece’s economy, as Greek leaders seek a fresh US pledge to help alleviate the country’s enormous public debt, a measure actively sought by the International Monetary Fund but opposed by leading European lender Germany.
“In my message to the rest of Europe I will continue to emphasise our view that austerity alone cannot deliver prosperity,” Obama told Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Greek police, protesters clash in Athens during Obama visit
Riot police fired teargas on Tuesday at protesters demonstrating just a few kilometers (miles) from the presidential mansion where Greek leaders were hosting a state banquet for visiting U.S. President Barack Obama.
About 7,000 people, among them many hooded protesters and members of the Communist-affiliated group PAME, marched through the streets of central Athens holding banners reading “Unwanted!”
The police clashed with the protesters after they tried to break through cordon lines to reach the parliament building and the U.S. embassy. Some demonstrators threw two petrol bombs at police before dispersing into nearby streets close to Athens’s main Syntagma Square.
In a separate protest in the northern city of Thessaloniki, protesters burned a U.S. flag.
The visit comes only two days before the anniversary of a bloody 1973 student revolt that helped topple the 1967-1974 military junta which was backed by the U.S. government.
Obama, who will be succeeded in January by Donald Trump, arrived in Greece on Tuesday on his last foreign tour as president of the United States.
(Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Gareth Jones)
Obama: I was closest to Angela Merkel in Germany
President Obama has delivered a final parting snub to Britain – by claiming Angela Merkel has been his “closest partner” during his time in office.
The outgoing US leader made the remarks before setting off to visit the German Chancellor in his final overseas trip, which will also include stops in Greece and Peru.
Speaking at the White House, he said: “In Germany, I’ll visit with Chancellor Merkel whose probably been my closest international partner these last eight years.”
The President did not mention he would also be meeting with other European leaders including Theresa May and French President Francois Hollande.
The snub comes after he warned Britain earlier this year it was going to be “in the back of the queue” for trade deals if it voted to leave the European Union.
Two years earlier he also tossed aside the long-standing ‘special relationship’ between the US and Britain after saying choosing a “best ally” between France and the UK would be like choosing his favourite daughter.
“I have two daughters,” the president said, referring to Sasha and Malia, “and they are both gorgeous and wonderful, and I would never choose between them.
“And that’s how I feel about my outstanding European partners. All of them are wonderful in their own ways.”
Obama has been accused of cosying up to Germany after it emerged last year the US National Security Agency tapped Merkel’s phone calls for years and spied on the staff of her predecessors.
Currently, concerns are high over the ‘special relationship’ after Donald Trump’s shock election last week, he spoke to nine other world leaders before Prime Minister Theresa May.
However when the pair did finally talk by telephone Trump described the relationship as “very, very special” and invited the UK leader to meet him in the US at the earliest opportunity.
Ukip’s interim leader Nigel Farage has already flown out to meet the President-elect, but No 10 have rejected calls for him to play a part in talks with America.
The news that the U.S. was listening to Angela Merkel’s phone conversations caused a loss of trust in the U.S. and Mr. Obama among Germans….
The German People Turned Against Mr. Obama
How Germany Soured on Obama
Barack Obama addresses a crowd estimated at 200,000 in Berlin, January 2008. (Associated Press)
After eight years of George W. Bush, Mr. Obama seemed to promise not just a course correction, but a new enlightened era in American global leadership. The decision to award him the Nobel Peace Prize at the start of his presidency reflects the Continent’s initial high hopes that he would prove a more “European” president.
His farewell visit to the city on Wednesday, however, will be a more somber event, and not only because of what will follow his two terms. Over the past eight years, the Germans have grown increasingly disillusioned with the American president, and the euphoria of his first visit, at the height of summer, has given way to the melancholy of fall.
Read the rest at the Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/16/opinion/how-germany-soured-on-obama.html?ref=world&_r=0
After Mr. Obama’s wonderful Berlin visit before he was president in 2008, he was never again able to capture the love and attention of the German people again in that same way. His popularity among Germans has diminished ever since. What Mr. Obama does not seem to understand, is that the longer people know him — the less they like him. Or at least the more they dislike his inability to put all his wonderful talk into action. This can probably be seen because his accomplishments have never measured up to his hopeful rhetoric….
Tags: Alexis Tsipras, Brexit, Britain, Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Union, France, Germany, greece, Greece's debt, Greeks are suspicious of the United States, immigrants, International Monetary Fund, Italy, last foreign trip as American leader, left behind by rapid globalisation, migrants, NATO, reassuring traditional allies, refugees, UK