How Barack Obama and Angela Merkel have both had a hand in the undoing of their liberal legacy in the US and Europe

little over eight years ago as a fresh-faced Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama found himself carrying the hopes of a world yearning for a change.

At Berlin’s Brandenberg Gate where John F. Kennedy made his own statement of transatlantic solidarity in 1963 by declaring ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’, Mr Obama summoned the ghost of the ever-youthful president to make his own promise to share the “burdens of global citizenship”.

America and Europe must not “turn inward” urged Mr Obama, or the world would fail to meet the most pressing challenges of the 21st century – from climate change to global terrorism; nuclear proliferation to trading arrangements that saw some people “left behind in a globalised world”.

“No one nation, no matter how large or powerful, can defeat such challenges alone. None of us can deny these threats, or escape responsibility in meeting them,” he said.

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BBC News

Trump election: Obama meets Merkel on farewell visit to Germany

Barack Obama and Angela Merkel at the Federal Chancellery in Berlin on 17 November 2016

Barack Obama and Angela Merkel have enjoyed a strong working partnership. EPA Photo

US President Barack Obama is holding talks with close ally Angela Merkel on a last visit to Germany before he hands over to his successor, Donald Trump.

As he arrived in Berlin late on Wednesday, Mr Obama and the German chancellor issued a joint statement strongly defending globalisation.

They said that with the world economy developing faster than ever, co-operation between nations was vital.

Mr Obama is meeting other European leaders before he leaves Berlin.

He is expected to hold talks with UK Prime Minister Theresa May and the leaders of France, Italy and Spain on Friday, before flying to Peru.

In pictures: Obama-Merkel relationship

Trump’s rude awakening for Germany

Trump and trade: A radical agenda?

Officials say his talks will cover the crises in Ukraine and Syria, the fight against so-called Islamic State and transatlantic trade, as well as the outcome of the US election.

Mr Obama and Mrs Merkel have forged a strong partnership over the years, even surviving the revelation that American spies had listened to her mobile phone calls.

He has called her “probably… my closest international partner”.

Obama at the Brandenburg Gate on 17 November 2016

Barack Obama arrived in Berlin late on Wednesday. AFP

In an article in business magazine Wirtschaftswoche (in German), the two leaders voiced their support for the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and the EU.

By contrast, Mr Trump is a fierce critic of global free trade agreements and welcomed the UK’s decision in June to leave the EU.

“There will be no return to a world before globalisation,” Mr Obama and Mrs Merkel wrote.

“We owe it to our companies and our citizens, indeed to the entire world community, to broaden and deepen our co-operation.”

Mr Trump’s win has left many in Germany uneasy as they see parallels with the sweep of right-wing and populist parties through Europe, reports the BBC’s Jenny Hill in Berlin.

‘Love is flying out of a window’: German media’s reaction

German media have adopted an elegiac tone in their coverage of Mr Obama’s visit, noting that the close relationship between the outgoing US president and the German chancellor is unlikely to be repeated with Mr Obama’s successor.

Focus Online says these are “gloomy days” for Mrs Merkel, as this is “the last time that she will have Barack Obama at her side as president of the United States. It is doubtful that the chancellor will be able to forge a similarly close relationship with Obama’s successor Donald Trump”.

Several outlets describe the visit as the final flowering of a political love affair that was at first slow to get going.

Typical of these is Zeit Online, which carries the headline “Merkel and Obama: Late Love” and says: “This is the story of a rapprochement between two opposing politicians. And of how they were finally able to get together. The crucial factor was their shared liberal view of the world.”

And in the tabloid Bild, columnist Franz Josef Wagner addresses an open letter to Mr Obama in which he writes: “Saying goodbye is difficult for me. It’s as if love is flying out of a window, like a butterfly. After Obama we have Trump, and I am closing the window.”


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