Wednesday 22 November 2017

'World can't hide behind wall' Obama tells Berlin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former U.S. President Barack Obama attend a discussion at the German Protestant Kirchentag in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former U.S. President Barack Obama attend a discussion at the German Protestant Kirchentag in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Niamh McIntyrne in Berlin

Barack Obama has said that the world "can't hide behind a wall" from the turmoil and poverty of other nations during a trip to Germany.

The pointed reference to Donald Trump came as both the current and former presidents find themselves in Europe, in a scheduling accident which invites direct comparison between their two radically different tenures.

He didn't mention his successor's name once, but made an apparent reference to Mr Trump's vow to build a wall on the southern US border with Mexico. "If there are disruptions in these countries, if there is bad governance, if there is war or if there is poverty, in this new world that we live in we can't isolate ourselves," he said. "We can't hide behind a wall."

The Obama Foundation says the former president accepted the invitation before the US election, so the overlap with Mr Trump's first presidential trip to Europe is purely coincidental.

Speaking in front of the Brandenburg Gate alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr Obama pushed his vision of continued openness between nations, saying that globalisation and technology were shrinking the world.

Answering a question on the refugee crisis, he said: "In the eyes of God, a child on the other side of the border is just as worthy of compassion and love as my own child. We can't distinguish between them in terms of their worth.

"But we are heads of nation states, and we have finite resources. Part of the job of governments is to express solidarity while operating within legal and national constraints."

"The world is at a crossroads," Mr Obama added. The widening inequality gap inside nations as well as between nations was a major concern, he said. At the same time, "the world has never been wealthier, more healthy and never been better educated".

"If we can sustain that progress, then I'm very optimistic about our future. My job now is to help them take it to the next step," Mr Obama said.

In another speech later in the southwestern town of Baden-Baden where he accepted a German media prize, Mr Obama said he was concerned about how technology advances had made "it ironically easier for people to retreat into our own bubbles".

Independent News Service

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