Remarks by President Obama and Chancellor Merkel of Germany in a Joint Press Conference
CHANCELLOR MERKEL: (As interpreted.) Ladies and gentlemen, I’m delighted to be able to welcome today for the sixth time the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, to Germany.
In his capacity as President of the United States, let us remind ourselves — visiting us in his capacity as candidate here in Berlin; we then met in Baden-Baden. We then met in Dresden and Buchenwald. We saw each other when he gave a speech at the Brandenburg Gate. In Elmau, we met again at the G7. Then Hannover Faire comes to mind. And today he is again here in Berlin.
So eight years are coming to a close. This is the last visit of Barack Obama to our country, to Germany. I am very glad that he chose Germany as one of the stopovers on this trip. And thank you very much. Thank you for the friendship you’ve always demonstrated. Thank you for the reliable friendship and partnership you demonstrated in very difficult hours of our relationship. So let me again pay tribute to what we’ve been able to achieve, to what we discussed, to what we were able to bring about in difficult hours.
It comes to mind, as I said, of those that had a bearing on the cooperation of our intelligence services, and I’m very grateful that Barack Obama, as President, very much put protection of privacy on the agenda today. Due to the fact of Islamist terrorism all over the world and the threat of IS, we recognize how important the cooperation with intelligence services, first and foremost, also with the services of the United States is. We need this cooperation. And we say this from a German perspective very clearly and unequivocally.
Our bilateral relations are very good, they’re very close. In the areas of business, of the economy, the United States of America last year were our most important trading partner. Both for Germany and the European Union, the European Union and the United States of America on the big, important economic areas for us, which is why I’ve always come out strongly in favor of concluding a trade agreement with the United States of America.
We have made progress, quite a lot of progress. They cannot be stopped, those negotiations. But we’ll keep what we have achieved so far, and I’m absolutely certain that one day we will come back to what we have achieved and build on it.
Because that is my deep conviction. Globalization — and I think we share this conviction — is that globalization needs to be shaped politically. It needs to be given a human face. But we cannot allow to fall back into pre-globalization times. So this conclusion of trade agreements that go beyond the scope of mere tariff agreements, customs agreements, are most important, and I’m very pleased that we were able to bring this to fruition between Canada and the EU.
We made great progress, particularly if we look at one of the great global issues — namely, climate protection. Without the engagement of the current administration under the leadership of Barack Obama, this Paris agreement would never have come about. There has been a change in the attitude in the United States towards that agreement, but there is also better cooperation with China. So last year, we were able to conclude a Paris climate agreement, which will lead the way for the rest of the world, which is ground-breaking. And together with the sustainable development goals of the agenda 2030 for the whole world, this is indeed a sea change, I think, that we see here, and, step-by-step, it will be implemented.
There’s another point that I wanted to mention here, particularly, the engagement and commitment to Africa. For us Europeans, Africa as a neighboring continent is of prime importance. The development of African countries is in our very own vested interest. We, as Germans, but also we, as members of the European Union, will have to deal with this. It will be at the very top of our agenda.
There are a lot of areas where we cooperate — the fight against ISIL, for example. Here, Germany was able to contribute to a certain extent, in certain areas. We’ll continue to do so
— for example, in supporting the Peshmerga, in air policing. But we also have to acknowledge that the United States of America bear most of the burden. They bear the brunt of this responsibility.
So I take your remarks very seriously, Barack, that the European Union as a whole, but also Germany, needs to recognize that this is our alliance, our common alliance, our transatlantic alliance, that we have to step up our engagement. Because, in the long run, we will not be allowed to accept this imbalance as regards the contributions we give to this alliance. And we have understood this message, and we have started to react.
We have worked very closely together, for example, in Afghanistan. We’re continuing to do so. I’m very pleased that this military engagement, together with a political road map that we’ve developed, we were able to continue. We want to bring about a political solution there.
We work very closely together on the issue of annexation of Crimea and Russia’s attempt to actually conquer Ukraine. And actually they did so — conquered part of the territory. We tried to come to a peaceful settlement here on this.
So our interests are very much aligned. Our attempts of cooperation are very much aligned. We continue to build on what we’ve already achieved in these last months of the administration, and we will continue also with the new administration.
This is the end of an eight-year cooperation that was very close, indeed. From a German point of view, German-American and European-American relations are a pillar of our foreign policy — a foreign policy that is obviously guided by interests, but that is very much also committed to shared values. So we have a platform — democracy, freedom, respect of human rights — that we would like to see respected all over the world, and also a peaceful world order. We have shared those values; we continue to share those values. And obviously we will continue to cooperate with the new administration.
But today, I think a word of gratitude is at hand. Thank you very much for this very close, very intensive cooperation.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, thank you so much. It is wonderful to be back in Berlin. This is my sixth visit to Germany. It will not be my last. I have somehow continued to miss Oktoberfest. (Laughter.) So that’s probably something that is better for me to do as a former President rather than as President — I’ll have more fun.
It’s also wonderful to be back with my great friend and ally, Chancellor Merkel. As I reflect back over the past eight years, I could not ask for a steadier or a more reliable partner on the world stage, often through some very challenging times.
So I want to thank you for your friendship, for your leadership, and your commitment to our alliance. And I want to thank the German people for the incredible partnership that our countries have been able to establish all these years.
Last week marked the 27th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The United States was proud to stand with the people of Germany as this nation and this continent reunited, and rebuilt, and reached for a better future. And it’s a reminder that the commitment of the United States to Europe is enduring and is rooted in the values we share — values that Angela just mentioned: Our commitment to democracy; our commitment to rule of law; our commitment to the dignity of all people — in our own countries and around the world.
Our alliance with our NATO partners has been a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy for nearly 70 years — in good times and in bad, and through Presidents of both parties — because the United States has a fundamental interest in Europe’s stability and security. The commitment that Angela and I share to this guiding principle has formed the basis for our conversations this afternoon.
We discussed our efforts to keep our countries competitive and to create jobs and opportunity on both sides of the Atlantic. The negotiations on agreements like T-TIP have been challenging, and obviously at a moment when there’s concerns about globalization and the benefits that accrue to particular people, it is important that those negotiations and channels of communication remain. Because, ultimately, what we have shown over the last several decades is that markets and trade and commerce can create prosperity in all of our countries — that it’s not a win-lose situation, but it can be a win-win situation.
And at a time when the European project is facing challenges, it’s especially important to show the benefits of economic integration by continuing to invest in our people and working to reduce inequality, both within and across our countries.
I reiterated our hope that negotiations over the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU will be conducted in a smooth and orderly and transparent fashion, and preserve as closely as possible the economic and political and security relationships between the UK and EU. And I continue to believe what I said in Hannover — that the EU remains one of the world’s great political and economic achievements and that those achievements should not be taken for granted, that they need to be nurtured and cultivated and protected and fought for.
Because the achievements that we’ve seen on this continent, in contrast to a divided Europe of the previous century, are ones that remind us of how important it is that we work together, and that we are willing to uphold principles that have resulted in unprecedented prosperity and security throughout Europe and around the world.
With the threat of climate change only becoming more urgent, Angela and I focused on the need for American and EU leadership to advance global cooperation. Both our nations were proud to join the Paris climate agreement, which the world should work to implement quickly. Continued global leadership on climate, in addition to increasing private investment in clean energy is going to be critical to meeting this growing threat.
Of course, we discussed our commitment to meeting shared security challenges — from countering cyber threats to ensuring that Iran continues to live up to the terms of the Iran nuclear deal. I commended Angela for her leadership, along with President Hollande, in working to resolve the conflict in Ukraine. We continued to stand with the people of Ukraine and for the basic principle that nations have a right to determine their own destiny. And we discussed the importance of maintaining sanctions until Russia fully complies with the Minsk agreement.
As part of the coalition against ISIL, we are putting that terrorist network under tremendous pressure. Here in Berlin, this week, coalition members are meeting to ensure we remain unified and focused on our mission to destroy ISIL. We are very grateful for the vital contributions Germany has made to this fight — training local forces in Iraq, sharing intelligence, providing reconnaissance aircraft, including the recent deployment of additional NATO AWACS. And as Iraqi forces continue the liberation of Mosul, I am pleased that NATO will be meeting the commitment we made in Warsaw to begin training additional forces in Iraq, which started this January.
We also continue to stand united with Germany and our NATO allies in our ongoing efforts to build peace and stability in Afghanistan.
On Syria, it’s clear that the indiscriminate attacks on civilians by the Assad regime and Russia will only worsen the humanitarian catastrophe, and that a negotiated end to the conflict is the only way to achieve lasting peace in Syria. Angela and I also agreed on the need for a comprehensive and humane response to the devastating humanitarian crisis in Syria and for the influx of migrants and refugees from around the world.
We need to build on the progress achieved at the U.N. Refugee Summit, which yielded new commitments from some 50 nations and organizations. The United States is doing our part by increasing the number of refugees we resettle. And I want again to commend Angela and, more importantly, the German people for the extraordinary leadership and compassion that you have shown in the face of what I know is a very difficult challenge. You are not alone in trying to deal with this challenge. This is not an issue that any one country should bear but is in need of an international response. And I not only intend to make sure that we have put in place more robust support from the United States, but I’m hoping that that continues beyond my administration.
On this final visit, I am reminded of the visit I made here before I became President. It was eight years ago. I had no gray hair. (Laughter.) But I believe today what I said then: If you want a model for what is possible, if you want to see how to build a peaceful and prosperous and dynamic society, then look at Berlin and look at Germany. Look at Chancellor Merkel. Her personal story helps to tell the story of incredible achievement that the German people have embarked on and I think is something that you should be very proud of.
It is not inevitable that we make progress; it requires hard work. Sometimes it may seem as if progress is stalled. But what the history of postwar Germany shows is that strength and determination and focus and adherence to the values that we care about will result in a better future for our children and our grandchildren.
And on behalf of the American people, I want to thank the German people, I want to thank Chancellor Merkel, for your deep friendship and your steadfast partnership. Vielen Dank.