Obama says farewell to Europe

US President Barack Obama has been in Berlin since Wednesday and is meeting with Chancellor Merkel there. His farewell visit to Europe also took him to Athens, where he described Greece as the birthplace of democracy and called for debt relief for the country. Commentators discuss what kind of world Obama is leaving behind after eight years as US president.

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La Vanguardia (ES) /

Ex-president will maintain US's good reputation

Obama chose the right words in his speech in Athens, La Vanguardia comments:

“In the shadow of the Acropolis - and of Donald Trump - Obama described the three axes that should guide the world in these times of uncertainty: Democracy is the best system for guaranteeing economic growth. Returning to the past is not the antidote to globalisation. And the top priority of all governments should be to fight the inequality which has grown in recent years and is the main cause of the rise of populism across the globe. … Obama's moral credibility, his clear rhetoric and the economic situation enhance the importance of his speech. … His homage to Greece, the cradle of democracy, has had a healing effect on this nation which is a victim of its own excesses, but also of the economic forces that bet against it. With his global prestige Barack Obama seems destined to become an ex-president who can champion just causes and maintain the good reputation of the United States abroad.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Bitter facts say more than stirring rhetoric

Obama's wonderful speech still can't conceal the reality of the situation, diplomat and author Roberto Toscano laments in La Repubblica:

“His defence of democracy, which at the same time is a defence of his own eight years of presidency, comes at a time when the pluralistic and democratic principles outlined by Obama are under attack and stricken all over the world. … Obama has been beaten by someone who must be defined not just as an anti-Obama but as anti-democratic and illiberal. … Obama's defeat is the defeat of the grand project of liberal democracy and social capitalism. It is hard to imagine how the basis for political and moral recovery can be created now, but one thing is for sure: democracy cannot triumph over its enemies, the violent criminals and the fraudsters, merely by virtue of intellectual superiority. This also requires political passion.”

Proto Thema (GR) /

Obama won't bring debt relief

On his visit to Athens, Obama spoke out for debt relief for Greece. Proto Thema warns that the Greeks shouldn't get too excited:

“Obama stated the obvious, namely that continuous austerity cannot lead to growth. Growth is important for people's well-being and our debts also need to be settled - but this can only be done if we continue with the indispensable painful reforms. He expressed this very clearly. But there is one little detail: the US hasn't lent us a single dollar. The 330 billion euros in debt we have we owe to our European creditors, most of it to Germany. It's easy to express wishes and make suggestions to the creditors when you're talking about other peoples' money. But what counts is what the creditors themselves think and how they justify their actions to their citizens whose money they lent to us.”

Večer (SI) /

Athens a strategic choice as destination

The outgoing US president chose Athens as the destination of his farewell trip for practical reasons, Večer believes:

“Economically exhausted Greece is and important geostrategic partner for Nato and the US. This impoverished country still gives the military a greater portion of its GDP than any other European Nato member - a full 2.7 percent. Turkey, under authoritarian Erdoğan, is becoming more and more unpredictable. So the alliance with Greece is important. Greece is the US's bridge to its favourite, Israel, and also to tricky North Africa. Obama doesn't want Greece to collapse under the weight of its financial debts and the influx of refugees. Obama's meeting with President Prokopis Pavlopoulous and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was aimed at encouraging the Greek leadership to endure on the thorny path out of the recession.”