Obama’s Last Trip

A month ago, President Barack Obama made his last presidential trip to Europe and Latin America. He came on the losing side of two big political conflicts, “Brexit”, the vote by Great Britain to leave the European Union, and the 2016 United States election. Cracks have formed between European countries that the election of Donald Trump has only widened.

There has been a rise of nationalist, far-right politicians in Europe.

In France, far-right candidate Marine LePen, who was once a long shot to win the French presidency, could now possibly become the French president. LePen said in an interview that if she became the French president she would follow Great Britain and hold a referendum to remove France from the EU.

Other far-right politicians rising in the polls include Geert Wilders from the Netherlands, who wants to ban Islam from his country, and Frauke Petry of Germany, who wants to ban all immigration.

The EU is also divided north to south on issues of debt, with Italy and Greece both in the midst of it, and east and west on issues of immigration. Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic (called the Visegrad Group of Nations), have blocked refugees and forced them to move west, to France and Germany.

Viktor Orban, president of Hungary, visualizes Europe as countries and people united by  “national-cultural” identities and not common European values. He told the Telegraph newspaper in Britain:

“If we want to survive, this is the only way. To base our future on national-cultural identity. Otherwise we have no chance of surviving as Europe. We are not Europeans because we have ‘common European values,’ this is a misunderstanding.”

Obama spoke to the Greek people in Athens on November 16th, and focused on the challenges of globalization and interdependence of the global markets.

The president also visited Peru on November 19th. He addressed a town hall audience at the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative, a program supporting young entrepreneurs that Obama founded in 2015. He discussed the importance of democracy saying:

“Democracy can be frustrating because democracy means that you don’t always get 100 percent of what you want. Democracy means that sometimes you have to compromise. And it means that you know, the outcomes of elections don’t always turn out the way you would have hoped.”

Obama cautioned his audience to not “assume the worst” on how Trump’s presidency would affect policies, and to “wait until the administration is in place.”

Obama predicted that Trump’s presidency would not result in “major changes in policy” concerning the US-Latin America relationship. He did say that tensions may arise over trade.

Obama also met with the leaders of Italy, France, Germany and the United Kingdom in Germany on November 18th. He used this meeting to urge them to work with Trump to resolve conflicts in Syria and the Ukraine, the White House said. He urged the European leaders to work with Trump on the “basis of the core values that define the United States and Europe as open democracies.”

The White House also said that the leaders showed concern for the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo and called for the prohibition of humanitarian action in the city to stop. They agreed that attacks by the Syrian regime and allies such as Iran and Russia should be stopped. They also agreed that in regards to Ukraine, sanctions against Russia should continue until it resolves the conflict.

Obama also informed the other leaders of what progress had been made regarding liberating Mosul from Islamic State militants in Iraq. They agreed that stability was needed after the liberation of the city. Obama rallied the leaders to continue to try to enlarge information sharing to stop terror attacks.

The president spoke in several meetings with Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, about issues of globalization and and trans-Atlantic cooperation. The topic of these talks was what Trump might do regarding peace in Ukraine and Syria, the strength of NATO, trade agreements, efforts to fight climate change, other important matters.

Merkel stands in opposition to Trump and is the strongest leader in the EU to protect against these “European values.” Merkel said in a news conference with Obama on November 17th that she would be approaching Trump’s presidency “with an open mind.”

People around the world are looking to her, with one of the longest terms for leader of a world power, for guidance and leadership as Obama nears the end of his presidency. Obama thanked Merkel for her “deep friendship.” He said that he could not “ask for a steadier or more reliable partner on the world stage”, and that if she chooses to run for a fourth term in 2018 he would vote for her, if he could.