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Obama begins Europe reassurance tour

November 15, 2016

Launching his final foreign trip as United States president, Barack Obama has said that a strong and unified Europe is "good" for the US. He also said NATO is "absolutely vital" for US security and prosperity.

US President Barack Obama arriving in Athens
Image: Reuters/K. Lamarque

Ahead of his meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and President Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Tuesday, outgoing US President Barack Obama sought to assure the Greek people of the US' commitment to NATO, despite president-elect Donald Trump downplaying the alliance's importance.

NATO "is something that provides significant continuity even as we see a transition of government in the United States," Obama said.

"Across Democratic and Republican administrations there is recognition that the NATO alliance is absolutely vital," he added.

Donald Trump's presidential election victory last week unsettled many of the US' allies, particularly in Eastern European countries, closest to Russia.

US-EU relations

As the EU's 28 member states look toward an uncertain future with the US, Obama said the trans-Atlantic relationship was "the cornerstone of our mutual security as well as prosperity," regardless of who was sitting in the Oval Office.

The US "believes a "strong, prosperous and unified Europe is not only good for the people of Europe but good for the world, and good for the United States," he added. 

Obama: Trump committed to NATO

Need for more than austerity

Addressing the Greek government on Tuesday, Obama warned that austerity alone cannot deliver prosperity to the Greek people, and that debt relief and other strategies will be necessary.

The US president has called on Europe to grant debt relief to Greece as it continues to push through on its economic recovery. 

President Pavlopoulos thanked Obama for the support from the US in a time of social and economic crisis in Greece, and said he was confident that Trump "will continue on the same path."

Next stop Germany

Following his trip to Greece, Obama plans on Thursday to travel to Germany for a two-day visit. While in Berlin, President Obama is expected to meet with a host of European leaders including French President Francois Hollande, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and British Prime Minister Theresa May, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Before returning home, Obama will wrap up his tour with a stop in Peru where he is likely to focus on the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit being held in Lima later this week, giving him a final chance to push for the US Congress to approve  the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact.

ksb/se (AFP, Reuters)

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