1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

US 'Europe's greatest ally'

Timothy Jones (AP, dpa, AFP)April 25, 2016

US President Barack Obama has emphasized the importance of a united and prosperous Europe for the whole world in a speech in Hanover. He called on the EU to reject moves toward nationalism.

Deutschland Barack Obama Rede in Hannover
Image: Reuters/K. Lamarque

On the final day of his two-day visit to Germany on Monday, US President Barack Obama used a wide-ranging speech to business leaders in the northern city of Hanover to highlight the importance of cooperation between his country and Europe.

Praising the European Union as "one of the greatest political and economic achievements of modern times," he pointed out values that the US and Europe shared with regard to the fight against bigotry and prejudice, and increasing prosperity for all.

"A strong and united Europe is a necessity for the world," he said, and described how the continent had overcome its divisions so that humankind was now "living in the most peaceful, most prosperous and most progressive era in human history."

He warned against any rejection of the values that had made Europe what it is today in the face of current challenges such as economic problems and the refugee crisis, saying that the world had already seen the disasters caused by populism and the pursuit of purely selfish national interests.

But he also called on Europe to cooperate with his country, particularly within NATO, saying that every member of the alliance should bear a fair share of the cost burden. He urged European governments to fulfill a NATO commitment to contribute 2 percent of their GDP to defense, saying Europe had sometimes been "complacent" in this regard.

Syrian deployment

He also touched on the issue of Russian aggression in Ukraine as a threat to European peace, saying that while he wanted good relations with Moscow, the global community should keep up sanctions on Russia until it fulfilled its commitments under the so-called Minsk agreements.

Obama also mentioned joint efforts to combat the jihadist group "Islamic State" ("IS"), to resolve the current migration crisis, and to deal with problems in the global economy.

He confirmed that the US would deploy up to 250 US military personnel, mostly Army Green Berets, to Syria to assist local forces fighting "IS" militants. At present, only some 50 US troops are in the country on an "advise and assist" mission, although a US-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes against the extremist group in Iraq and then Syria since the latter half of 2014.

US troops in Syria are mandated to advise and train both Syrian rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad and forces opposed to "IS."

Trade fair visit

His speech came ahead of high-level talks on current global issues together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and British Prime Minister David Cameron. The agenda of the talks was expected, among other things, to cover the fight against the "Islamic State" ("IS") extremist group in Syria and Iraq, EU membership, the migrant crisis, the proposed US-European TTIP trade deal and ways of countering Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Earlier in the day, Obama visited the Hanover industrial trade fair with Merkel, walking around amid the US and German exhibitors for some two hours.

"This is my chance to tell people come here and buy 'Made in America'," he said at the fair, adding that he was "proud to showcase America's spirit of innovation."

Deutschland Eröffnungsrundgang Hannover-Messe Merkel Obama
Merkel and Obama tried out some of the devices on showImage: Reuters/K. Pfaffenbach

For the first time this year, the US the partner of what is the largest industrial trade fair in the world, which was officially opened by Merkel and Obama on Sunday.

While he toured the fair, hundreds of people demonstrated outside the fairground against job cuts at the American technology and consulting company IBM, saying the measures could cost up to 900 German jobs.

Likely farewell visit as president

Obama's visit to Germany was the last stop on a six-day, three-nation trip that also took him to Britain and Saudi Arabia. It is very likely to be his last trip to Germany as president, with Americans gearing up to elect his successor in November polls.

He did, however, say in his speech that he wanted to return for the annual Oktoberfest beer festival in Munich.

"I have never been to the Oktoberfest," he said. "I suspect it's more fun when you're not president."

Obama has almost served out the two four-year terms as president allowed by the US Constitution and is therefore not permitted to run as candidate again.

Certainly at the beginning of his presidency, Obama enjoyed widespread support in Europe, with many welcoming what they saw as a less hardline approach to foreign policy than that espoused by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Interview with Christian Böllhoff - Digitization of industry in focus