President Obama to Visit Berlin

Fifty years after President John F. Kennedy’s historic visit to Berlin that symbolized a united German-American pursuit of freedom, President Barack Obama will deliver a keynote speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate this week. Upon his visit, he will sit down with Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the present state and the future of the transatlantic relationship. Recalling the challenges and victories of the past, the partnership has recently faced new obstacles and opportunities that have shaped a mixed sentiment over its future.

Issues the two heads of government will most likely address:

• Cyber security and data privacy: Leading up to his visit, Obama has faced quite a lot of criticism from Europe over the NSA internet surveillance program. With Germany being a major target of the surveillance measures, the program has drawn the attention of the media, the public, and the German government. Chancellor Merkel signaled her plans to address the issue during her meeting with Obama while German officials sought information on data privacy from private companies last week. The issue demonstrates major cultural and political divides within the transatlantic relationship that create a dilemma for future cooperation on security affairs.

• Syria: Similarly, German and American perspectives on Syria have not entirely paralleled each other. Even though Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stood united against Russia’s complicating of peace efforts in Syria, the United States and Germany differ on their own policies regarding Syria. Germany has maintained its opposition to the Obama administration’s recent decision to arm rebels in Syria.

• Trade: Unlike recent security issues, the planning of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has met with positive reactions on both sides of the Atlantic as it enables free trade and growth for the nations involved. However, the exclusiveness of the trade agreement may cause tension with other countries in the global economy, as stated in the Spiegel article above.

Overall, Obama’s visit to Berlin will provide an excellent basis for discussing the future of the transatlantic relationship, building on the shared history between the two countries over the past 50 years. This Spiegel article reflects on the development of the partnership and its potential for a promising future.

By Patrick Schmitz
The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.