BERLIN (TIP): The world is a lot different than when then-presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke to a euphoric Berlin crowd in 2008. After a visit to Greece, he was back in Germany – first for talks, a press conference and a private dinner Thursday, November 17 with Chancellor Angela Merkel and then a meeting Friday, with the leaders of the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain. That Obama and the others are visiting Merkel is a sign of her importance in a world facing crises in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine. His farewell foreign visit also comes on the heels of the election of Donald Trump, whose victory has caused shock waves in Europe.
Obama spent most of his time huddling with Merkel, his closest counterpart who is now Europe’s most powerful leader as the continent prepares for Trump’s presidency.
She expressed guarded optimism about Trump Thursday, her controlled demeanor barely reflecting an iota of worry about the man who lambasted her as a candidate. She praised Obama for facilitating a smooth transition, and said she was approaching Trump with an “open mind.”
As her European counterparts face political challenges at home, Merkel has assumed a critical role in transatlantic ties, voicing strong support for Obama’s priorities on climate change, Russian sanctions and economic reform.
The personal chemistry between the leaders was on display Thursday, Obama winking as he sat for talks in Merkel’s chancellery, and Merkel grinning as she anticipated a visit from Obama in his post-presidency.
“I’m game!” she said.
The German leader has not yet said whether she’ll run for a fourth term next year, though her political allies have signaled she will. Like leaders in France, Britain, the US and elsewhere, she’ll face challenges from far-right politicians who are running on an agenda of populist nationalism.
Obama declined to push her to run Thursday, but suggested he would vote for her if he was German.
President Obama praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a joint press conference in Hannover. He said he would continue to admire “his friend and partner Angela” as a private citizen, after he leaves office.