Obama's warnings to Europe

In an urgent appeal Barack Obama called on Europe to strengthen its unity. During a visit to Hanover the US president warned against extreme nationalism and praised Angela Merkel's refugee policy. Commentators speculate on why Obama is so focussed on Europe now that his presidency is drawing to an end.

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The Guardian (GB) /

Encouraging words from a friend

The Guardian hopes that Obama's speech will remind crisis-ridden Europe of its great achievements:

“Sometimes it takes a friend to point out your virtues or stiffen your resolve, and the American president has been such a friend on his visit to Europe. ... It was a flattering discourse, and much of it was cliche, but if there is anyone who can lift cliche to a higher level it is Obama. Almost 60 years after its founding, the European project needs a resounding narrative for itself, something to restore the confidence of citizens courted by populists of all stripes. ... Thanks, Mister President. We needed that.”

Diário de Notícias (PT) /

Obama cares about Europe after all

Diário de Notícias believes the US president has revised his priorities at this late stage of his presidency:

“Obama may have focussed on the Asia-Pacific region [during his term in office] but he will end his mandate in Europe. The EU crisis, the unrestrained Putinism in Ukraine and elsewhere in the EU, the danger of a Brexit and the insecurity in the Mediterranean region leave him no other choice. … Obama must accept criticism not to the effect that he was absent but that he wasn't there in the right way at the right time. … Now he has no choice but to make appearances in Europe and speak out against Brexit and for the TTIP trade deal. In this way he is trying to keep Moscow in check - and hoping that Brussels, Berlin and Athens will reach an agreement that prevents other European capitals from catching fire too.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Out of the blue a fan of the EU?

The fact that Obama is focussing on Europe as his presidency comes to an end has a lot to do with the next president, the Corriere del Ticino believes:

“Particularly on the last two stops of his farewell tour, in the UK and Germany, Obama's desire for a rapprochement with Europe became clear. A Europe towards which he adopted a distanced stance in the last eight years. … So one may well ask why Obama has suddenly decided to move closer to Europe once more. There are two reasons for this. On the one hand the US president has realised that it isn't in America's interests to dispense with the Old Continent, either militarily or economically. On the other hand Obama has come to Europe to beat the election drum. Not for himself but for Hillary Clinton - and against the threat of isolationism that the Republican frontrunner Donald Trump represents.”

Die Tageszeitung taz (DE) /

Pretty words won't help

Obama praised Merkel's refugee policy - also in view of the rise of nationalist parties, but he did so purely out of self-interest, the daily paper taz suspects:

“With the exception of their Eastern European offshoots these right-wing upstarts all have one thing in common: in terms of foreign policy they look to Moscow rather than Washington. If their rise continues, transatlantic relations will face the biggest crisis since the end of the Second World War. So it is also in the US's best interests to bolster the pro-European forces and their figurehead Angela Merkel. But will pretty words be enough? Or shouldn't Obama offer his European friend a little practical help? The US contributed to the causes of the current exodus yet it hasn't even taken in 10,000 refugees from Syria. If Obama were to take in a contingent worth mentioning the pressure on Europe would ease. ... The right-wing populists might really lose momentum.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Taking a critical view of praise for Merkel

Obama's praise for Merkel's refugee policy overlooks the fact that Germany's unilateral approach here also puts the European project at risk, the daily paper La Vanguardia warns:

“In praising Chancellor Merkel for taking in refugees Obama was also urging the other EU member states to assume more responsibility. Germany's leading role is a double-edged sword: it keeps the European flag flying high in times of crisis, but it also encourages a certain passivity on the part of other member states struggling with their own internal problems, with the risk that they evade the collective responsibility.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Europe must save itself

Particularly in times of great crisis we can no longer rely on our ally across the Atlantic to always come to the rescue, De Standaard stresses:

“It is becoming increasingly clear that the US still wants to protect its own interests but won't step in to protect ours. This distanced stance comes at a time when Europe's internal cohesion is more precarious than it has been for half a century. We are letting Turkish President Erdoğan make fools of us and Putin challenge our authority. At the same time a major member state is allowing itself the luxury of an exit referendum. It's as if we're toying with our own weaknesses. In today's world and no doubt in tomorrow's too, we will pay a high price for such laxity.”