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    French President Francois Hollande (C) looks up during a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and other European leaders at the German Chancellery in Berlin, Germany November 18, 2016.

    Obama Urges Transatlantic Solidarity at Last Summit in EU Before Trump Takeover

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    US President Barack Obama held his final meeting with a number of EU leaders on Friday (November 18), urging them to continue to press ahead with the transatlantic agenda in a new era under the presidency of Donald Trump, whom many political figures in Europe derided in the run-up to the election.

    Obama held final talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in Berlin, alongside French President Francois Hollande, UK Prime Minister Theresa May, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

    In a statement released following the meeting, the White House said: "The leaders agreed on the necessity of working collectively to move the transatlantic agenda forward, particularly on bringing stabilization to the Middle East and North Africa, as well as securing diplomatic resolution to the conflicts in Syria and eastern Ukraine.

    "The leaders also affirmed the importance of continued cooperation through multilateral institutions, including NATO," the White House added.

    Merkel's choice of guests at what will be seen as the "last supper" summit with Obama is noteworthy, given Obama's failure to deliver on so many fronts.

    Special Relationship?

    UK PM Theresa May stands out as being one of the two most influential women in the EU at the moment — the other being Merkel.

    May's predecessor, David Cameron, enjoyed a very close relationship with Obama.

    US President Barack Obama, right, stands alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron
    © AP Photo /
    David Cameron and Barack Obama

    Cameron hired Jim Messina as senior adviser to his Conservative Party ahead of the last election in 2015. Messina had been the White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations under Obama from 2009 to 2011. Cameron won a slim majority at that election.

    However, Cameron's gambit to get Obama to go to Britain and put the case of Britain remaining in the EU — ahead of the Brexit referendum, warning that the UK would "go to the back of the queue" in any future trade negotiations if it left Europe — completely backfired, leaving Cameron politically dead and Obama tarnished.

    US President Barack Obama (L) talks during a press conference with then Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (R) at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in central London on April, 22, 2016 following a meeting at Downing Street.
    © AFP 2019 / Ben Stansall
    US President Barack Obama (L) talks during a press conference with then Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (R) at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in central London on April, 22, 2016 following a meeting at Downing Street.

    Theresa May will have to plow her own furrow with Trump — who left her some way down the list before calling her following his win, November 9, and who has rolled back from overusing the phrase "special relationship" with the UK.

    German Spies

    Merkel herself has a few disappointments in Obama.

    He failed to close Guantanamo Bay — as may in Germany wanted him to do, in following up his pre-presidential promise. He was also implicated in the use of German airbases in the use of drone attacks in the Middle East, which went against the post-war German philosophy of non-military intervention abroad.

    Most of all, Obama's administration drew anger over the collaboration between the US National Security Agency (NSA), the UK intelligence service GCHQ and the German spy agency BND over the use of mass surveillance to intercept communications on German citizens, companies, politicians and — allegedly — Merkel herself.

    The spying affair dates back to 2013, when it was alleged that the NSA had bugged German Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone.
    © AFP 2019 / Julian Stratenschulte
    The spying affair dates back to 2013, when it was alleged that the NSA had bugged German Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone.

    TTIP, NATO Divisions

    Meanwhile, Merkel, May and the other leaders — Hollande, Rajoy and Renzi — will all have to pick up the remains of the faltering Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal that Obama put so much of his weight behind.

    He wanted to create the world's biggest tariff free zone between the EU and the US by the end of his presidency — it failed.

    TTIP will not have to wait until Trump deems fit to blow off the dust on the millions of pages of paperwork in Brussels and Washington to decide if the deal works for the US — a "red line" he has drawn over all such trade deal, which he instinctively disapproves of for working against the interest of US employment and manufacturing.

    Meanwhile, all EU leaders will be aware that Trump has made NATO a major live issue — demanding Europe pays its way in the military alliance, with the veiled threat that the US is no longer prepared to be an umbrella peacekeeper for the whole of Europe, at a time when the EU is facing an uneasy standoff with Russia over Ukraine.

    Obama will leave Berlin and his EU allies knowing that much of his "transatlantic agenda" remains disappointingly unfulfilled or even broken.

    One agenda closes and another opens, but few in Europe yet know what Trump's initial draft looks like, which is a first in the recent history of US-European relations.

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    Tags:
    state visit, global politics, trade deal, tour, Guantanamo, talks, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), 2016 US Presidential election, UK Referendum, Brexit, NATO, European Union, Angela Merkel, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Theresa May, Germany, Europe, United States, Berlin
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