Full Text Obama Presidency June 19, 2013: President Barack Obama & German Chancellor Angela Merkel Remarks at a Joint Press Conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama and German Chancellor Merkel in Joint Press Conference

President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in BerlinPresident Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Germany, June 19, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama and Chancellor Merkel Hold a Press Conference

President Obama and Chancellor Merkel Hold a Press Conference

Source: WH, 6-19-13

German Chancellery
Berlin, Germany

12:46 P.M. CEST

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  (As interpreted.)  A very warm welcome to the President of the United States, Barack Obama.  A very warm welcome indeed to Berlin.  It’s his first visit to Berlin as President of the United States — certainly not his first visit to Germany.

We have had on numerous occasions the opportunity to talk.  We have established ties of friendship based on trust.  And I would like to thank you for this.  Our cooperation is based on ties of friendship that have lasted for many, many decades between the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States.  And this is such a very good relationship because it is based on shared values.  When the President addresses the crowd in front of the Brandenburg Gate, it will be a President who can do this in front of a gate that is open.  The President had to remind us all of the wall needed to be torn down and the wall is down.  And this is what we owe to our American partners and friends.

But we also see that the world is changing and changing at a very rapid pace, so new challenges come to the fore.  And we want to tackle them with resolve and we want to tackle them together.

What looms most prominently on our agenda here in Germany, but also in Europe and, I trust, in the United States, and could be a very valued project to these two great economies of the world, the free trade agreement.  I’m very glad that we were able to conclude the negotiations leading up to the mandate.  We will throw our effort behind this fully and squarely because we think that economies on both sides of the Atlantic will very much benefit from it.  It’s going to be a win-win situation and it also is an eloquent testimony to this globalized world where we can work better together, both politically and economically.

So this is why I think this is a very, very important free trade agreement.  And I say this on behalf of the federal government as a whole.

We talked about questions of the Internet in the context of PRISM.  We talked at great length about the new possibilities and about also the new threats that the Internet opens up to all of us.  The Internet is new territory, uncharted territory to all of us.  And it also enables our enemies.  It enables enemies of a free, liberal order, to use it, to abuse it, to bring a threat to all of us, to threaten our way of life.  And this is why we value cooperation with the United States on questions of security.

I also outlined, however, that although we do see the need for gathering information, there needs to be due diligence also as regards the proportionality.  Free, liberal democracies live off people having a feeling of security.  And this is why an equitable balance needs to be struck; there needs to be proportionality.  And that is something that we agreed on, to have a free exchange of views on, between our staff but also the staff of the Home Secretary in the States and also the Minister of Interior here in Germany.  And this is going to be an ongoing battle.

We talked about a number of foreign policy issues.  We are, both of us, engaged in Afghanistan.  A new process has been initiated there of a transition of responsibility.  This is a process that we are going to tackle together, just as we tackled the greater military challenges of the past together — building up the security forces in Afghanistan together.  We will stand together with the United States and solve outstanding problems that are very difficult, indeed, still.

We also addressed Iran.  We addressed the Middle East situation as regards the peace process in the Middle East.  I think that the initiative of Secretary Kerry offers a very good opportunity to revive, revitalize peace talks.  The region needs peace.  The partners ought to take up the offer that is on the table, because it is urgently necessary to bring about negotiations.  And we will continue also to work on Iran, on the nuclear program of Iran.  That is also something that we agreed on.

We had very good talks.  We had, as usual, very open and candid talks.  So, yet again, a very warm welcome to you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, thank you very much.  Guten tag.  It is wonderful to be back in Berlin.  I’ve always appreciated the warmth with which I’ve been greeted by the German people, and it’s no different today, although I’m particularly impressed with the warmth of the weather here in Berlin.

And I’m also very grateful for Chancellor Merkel’s invitation, 50 years after the visit of President Kennedy.

The Chancellor and I are just back from the G8 summit, just one of the latest meetings that we’ve had together.  During my time in the White House, I’ve had the privilege of working with Angela on a whole host of issues.  The last time she was at the White House I had the privilege of presenting her with the Medal of Freedom, our highest civilian honor that a President can bestow.  And that speaks to the closeness of our relationship, the strength of our alliance.

I know that here in Germany, sometimes there’s been talk that the Transatlantic Alliance has been — is fading in importance; that the United States has turned its attention more towards Asia and the Pacific.  And in both conversations with Chancellor Merkel and earlier with your President, I reminded them that from our perspective, the relationship with Europe remains the cornerstone of our freedom and our security; that Europe is our partner in almost everything that we do; and that although the nature of the challenges we face have changed, the strength of our relationships, the enduring bonds based on common values and common ideals very much remains.

We began today talking about economic issues, following up on the discussions that we had at the G8 summit.  Overall, Germany is our largest trading partner in the EU, so we’ve got a profound stake in each other’s success.  We agreed that there’s more work to do.  Not only do we have to grow, but we also have to reform our economies structurally.

And when you look within Europe, obviously different countries are at different stages in that reform and restructuring process.  We’re going through our own need to reform, for example, our health care system, which is much more expensive than most of the developed world and largely accounts for our deficits and our debt.  The good news is, though, that we have gone through the worst recession in years and we are poised to come back stronger if we take advantage of these opportunities.

One of the opportunities that we spoke about, obviously, was the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or T-TIP.  The U.S.-EU relationship is already the largest in the world economically.  Thirteen million Americans and Europeans have jobs that are directly supported by mutual trade and investment.  And the Chancellor and I share the conviction that if we are successful in these negotiations, we can grow economies on both sides of the Atlantic, create jobs, improve efficiency, improve productivity and our competitiveness around the world.  And by doing so, we’re also raising standards for free trade around the world that will not just benefit us but benefit everyone.

When it comes to our security, the United States and Germany are more than just NATO allies.  More American personnel are stationed in Germany than any other country outside of the U.S.  We are extraordinarily grateful for the hospitality of the German people.  One of the last times I was in Germany I had a chance to visit our facility where everyone who’s injured in the battlefield comes through, and to see the dedication, but also the hospitality that Germans are providing for our young men and women when they’ve been grievously injured I think is a strong symbol of how much this means to us.

Our men and women have been serving side-by-side in Afghanistan.  Germany is the third-largest troop-contributing nation there.  We’re both grateful for the sacrifices that our servicemen and women and their families have made in this common effort.  And because of those efforts, Afghanistan now has the opportunity to secure itself and determine its own destiny.

We welcome President Karzai’s announcement yesterday that Afghan forces will soon take the lead for security across the country, which is an important milestone — one that we established in our NATO summit.  Even as we wind down the war responsibly and NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan comes to an end, we’re going to have to continue to invest in the shared capabilities and interoperability painstakingly built by the tremendous sacrifices of our troops.  And I appreciate Germany’s interest in making sure that even after our troops are no longer involved in combat operations that we can continue to see progress in Afghanistan.

And many of you noted that yesterday there was an announcement about the Taliban opening an office for purpose of negotiations in Qatar.  I said yesterday, this is going to be a difficult process.  The parties there have been fighting for a very long time, even before 9/11, and we don’t expect that it will be easy, but we do think ultimately we’re going to need to see Afghans talking to Afghans about how they can move forward and end the cycle of violence there so that they can start actually building their country.

We also discussed the other challenges in the region, including Syria.  We are united to see a negotiated political settlement to that conflict.  We want to see a Syria that’s unified, democratic, and at peace.  Right now, we need to see an end to the bloodshed, and we have to make sure that chemical weapons are not used on the ground.  I thought we saw some progress at the G8 in reaffirming the need for a transitional governing process and a U.N. investigation of the potential use of chemical weapons there.

I thanked the Chancellor for Germany’s unwavering support of the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and I briefed her on my Secretary of State, John Kerry’s efforts to find common ground there.

And finally, I want to thank Chancellor Merkel’s not only generous invitation but also the humbling privilege that I’ll have to address the people of Berlin from Pariser Platz on the Eastern side of the Brandenburg Gate — the other side of the wall that once stood there, the wall that President Reagan insisted be torn down.  A quarter century since then has been one of extraordinary progress.  We can witness this in the incredible vibrancy and prosperity of Berlin.  But one of the things I’ll address today is the fact that given the extraordinary blessings that we enjoy as Americans and as Germans, we have an obligation to make sure that walls around the world are torn down.  And we can only accomplish that together.

So I’m grateful for our alliance.  I’m grateful for our friendship.  And I’m looking forward for an opportunity to answer some questions.

Am I starting off?

MR. CARNEY:  From the American press, Julie Pace of the Associated Press.

Q    Mr. President, I wanted to follow up on your comments about the Taliban talks.  When you announced those talks yesterday, you praised Afghan President Hamid Karzai as being courageous for being willing to take that step.  Yet, today, Karzai says that he is suspending talks with the U.S. in response to the Taliban negotiations.  How is it possible for you and President Karzai to be on such different pages about this key decision?  And is Karzai saying different things to you privately than he is publicly today?

And, Chancellor Merkel, you mentioned that PRISM came up in your discussions today with President Obama.  Are you more reassured now about the scope of those programs following the discussions?  And did President Obama give you any reassurances that the programs don’t violate German privacy rights?  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  We had extensive conversations with President Karzai both before and after the Taliban opened the office in Doha.  As I think has been reported, there were some concerns about the manner in which the Taliban opened it, some of the language that they used.

We had anticipated that at the outset, there were going to be some areas of friction, to put it mildly, in getting this thing off the ground.  That’s not surprising.  As I said, they’ve been fighting for a very long time.  There’s enormous mistrust.  Not only have the Taliban and the Afghan government been fighting for a long time, they’re fighting as we speak.  We’re in the middle of a war.  And Afghans are still being killed and, by the way, members of the international forces there are still being killed.  And that’s not abating as we speak.

But what we also believe is that alongside the process in which we are training, equipping a Afghan government that can be responsible for its own security — even as we go through some, frankly, difficult negotiations around what it would mean for the international community to have an ongoing training and advising presence after 2014, we still believe that you’ve got to have a parallel track to at least look at the prospect of some sort of political reconciliation.

Whether that bears fruit, whether it actually happens, or whether, post-2014, there’s going to continue to be fighting, as there was before ISAF forces got into Afghanistan, that’s a question that only the Afghans can answer.  But I think that President Karzai himself recognizes the need for political reconciliation.  The challenge is how do you get those things started while you’re also at war.  And my hope is, and expectation is, is that despite those challenges, the process will proceed.

Chancellor Merkel, if you don’t mind, even though the question was directed at you, I think it would appropriate for me to go ahead and talk about the NSA issue, which obviously caused controversy back home, but also here in Europe.  And then, obviously, Chancellor Merkel will have her own views on this.

What I explained to Chancellor Merkel is, is that I came into office committed to protecting the American people, but also committed to our values and our ideals.  And one of our highest ideals is civil liberties and privacy.  And I was a critic of the previous administration for those occasions in which I felt they had violated our values, and I came in with a healthy skepticism about how our various programs were structured.  But what I have been able to do is examine and scrub how our intelligence services are operating, and I’m confident that at this point, we have struck the appropriate balance.

Now, let me be very specific in terms of — and this is what I described to Chancellor Merkel — what these programs are that have caused so much controversy.

Essentially, one program allows us to take a phone number that has been discovered separately through some lead that is typical of what our intelligence services do — but we get a phone number.  And what we try to discover is, has anybody else been called from that phone.  And we have both data that allows us to just check on phone numbers and nothing else — no content; nobody is listening in on a conversation at that point.  It’s just determining whether or not if, for example, we found a phone number in Osama bin Laden’s compound after the raid, had he called anybody in New York or Berlin or anyplace else.

If, in fact, we discover that another call has been made, at that point, in order to listen to any phone call, we would have to then go to a judge and seek information through a process that is court-supervised.  And this entire thing has been set up under the supervision of a federal court judge.

When it comes to the Internet and email, as Chancellor Merkel said, we’re now in an Internet age and we have to make sure that our administrative rules and our protections catch up with this new cyber world.  What I can say to everybody in Germany and everybody around the world is this applies very narrowly to leads that we have obtained on issues related to terrorism or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

So there are a few narrow categories.  We get very specific leads.  And based on those leads, again, with court supervision and oversight, we are able then to access information.

This is not a situation in which we are rifling through the ordinary emails of German citizens or American citizens or French citizens or anybody else.  This is not a situation where we simply go into the Internet and start searching any way that we want.  This is a circumscribed, narrow system directed at us being able to protect our people.  And all of it is done under the oversight of the courts.

And as a consequence, we’ve saved lives.  We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information not just in the United States, but, in some cases, threats here in Germany.  So lives have been saved.  And the encroachment on privacy has been strictly limited by a court-approved process to relate to these particular categories.
Having said all that, what I’ve said in the United States is what I shared with Chancellor Merkel, and that is that we do have to strike a balance and we do have to be cautious about how our governments are operating when it comes to intelligence.  And so this is a debate that I welcome.

What we’re going to be doing when I get back home is trying to find ways to declassify further some of these programs without completely compromising their effectiveness, sharing that information with the public, and also our intelligence teams are directed to work very closely with our German intelligence counterparts so that they have clarity and assurance that they’re not being abused.

But I think one of the things that separates us from some other governments is that we welcome these debates.  That’s what a democracy is about.  And I’m confident that we can strike this right balance, keep our people safe, but also preserve our civil liberties even in this Internet age.

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  For the German people, I can only say the following.  It’s important, it’s necessary for us to debate these issues.  People have concerns, precisely concerns that there may be some kind of blanket, across-the-board gathering of information.  We talked about this.  The questions that we have not yet perhaps satisfactorily addressed we will address later on.

But there needs to be a balance; there needs to be proportionality, obviously, between upholding security and safety of our people and our country — and there are quite a lot of instances where we were getting very important information from the United States, for example, the so-called Sauerland Group.  And at the same time, obviously people want to use those new, modern means of communication and technology and do so freely.  And as we learn to live and deal responsibly with other new means of technology, we have to learn and deal responsibly with this one.

And I think today was an important first step in the right direction, and I think it has brought us forward.

Q    Madam Chancellor, Mr. President.  First, a question addressed to you, Mr. President.  There were a number of hopes in the world that were in a way shattered as regards your legislative term — for example, closing down of Guantanamo, or scrapping the death penalty throughout the whole of the United States, in all of the States.  And now, as regards Asia, are you singling out Germany because there’s a big risk here?

And, Madam Chancellor, the Nobel Prize winner, Obama is waging a drone war also via Germany.  And is he allowed to do that, according to German law?

THE PRESIDENT: Let me see if I understood your question properly.  The first question was related to policies back home, related to Guantanamo or the death penalty.  And then you wanted to talk about drones, or did you just want to focus on the drone question?  I just want to make sure that I’m responsive to your question.

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  I guess I ought to answer on the drones.   And Guantanamo, that was a question I believe addressed to you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Okay.  Well, it continues to be my policy that I want to close Guantanamo.  It has been more difficult than I had hoped, in part because there’s been significant resistance from Congress on this, and on some issues I need congressional authorization.

But about a month ago I gave a speech in which I said that I would redouble my efforts to do so.  Because 9/11 happened, and we now have been involved in one form or another in a war for over a decade.  One war, I think, in Afghanistan was necessary.  One war I disagreed with strongly.  But in either case there are dangers if we get on a perpetual war footing.

The threat of terrorism remains real, and we have to be vigilant and we have to take steps to protect ourselves, consistent with our values and consistent with international law. But we also have to guard against being so driven by fear that we are not changing the fabric of our society in ways that we don’t intend and do not want for the future.  I think closing Guantanamo is an example of us getting out of that perpetual war mentality.

Some of the people at Guantanamo are dangerous.  Some of them did bad things.  But we cannot have a permanent outpost in which they’re being held even as we’re ending a war in Afghanistan that triggered some of these — the capture of some of these detainees in the first place.

So I’m confident that we can continue to make progress on this front, although, you’re right, it has not been as fast as I would have liked.  One of the things you discover as a politician is that people don’t always do exactly what you want.  It’s shocking.  And then you have to keep on working at it.

One thing with respect to drone policy — in that speech that I gave I also addressed that issue of the lethal targeting of identified terrorists.  This also is a source of controversy. We have constrained it tightly, and as we defeat al Qaeda, we have to, I think, very carefully examine how these technologies are used.  I can say, though, that we do not use Germany as a launching point for unmanned drones to go after counter — as part of our counterterrorism activities.  And so I know that there have been some reports here in Germany that that might be the case.  That is not.

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  Let me complement by saying that the United States of America have bases here, they have soldiers here.  They fulfill a very important function, particularly in the fight against terrorism.  I think of Ramstein, for example — and also supplies to soldiers, but also caring for wounded soldiers.

We as allies, as members of NATO, stand shoulder-to-shoulder here.  And we provide bases for activities, and our work is based, also, on shared values.  As I said, we have exchanges on values.  And I think it’s good.  I think it’s the right thing to do for the United States of America to be present here with military bases in Germany.  It’s a normal thing within an alliance, and this is as it should be and as it will be, and continue to be.

Q    Thank you.  Mr. President, on Syria, for the purposes of transparency, can you be specific about what military arms the United States will be providing to Syrian rebels and about which groups will be receiving them?  And on the same subject, President Putin appeared resolute and isolated on Syria at the G8.  How can a political process succeed in bringing peace if Russia continues to support Assad, both militarily and politically?

Madam Chancellor, if I may in German, the federal government has always argued along the lines that weapons, exports and deliveries of supplies would always lead to an escalation because they could land in the hands of terrorists.  Don’t you think that the situation is going to be exacerbated if America supplies it? Perhaps you would also comment on Mr. Putin.  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:   Well, first of all, Jeff, I’m very impressed with your German.  (Laughter.)  And I don’t know if you had to practice, but you sounded great.  Chancellor Merkel said you were just okay.  (Laughter.)

I cannot and will not comment on specifics around our programs related to the Syrian opposition.  What I can say is that we have had a steady, consistent policy, which is, we want a Syria that is peaceful, non-sectarian, democratic, legitimate, tolerant.  And that is our overriding goal.  We want to end the bloodshed.  We want to make sure that chemical weapons are not used, and that chemical weapons do not fall into the hands of people who would be willing to use them.  And so we’ve had a consistent view in our desired outcome in Syria.

It’s also been our view that the best way to get there is through a political transition.  And we said that a year ago; we said that two years ago.  President Assad made a different decision and has brought chaos and bloodshed to his country and has been killing his own people.  And it is our view that it is not possible for him to regain legitimacy after over 100,000 people have been killed and millions have been displaced inside the country.

So the question now is just, as a practical matter — and this is what I said to President Putin — as a practical matter, if, in fact, Syria is to remain a unified country and the bloodshed is going to end, how do we do that?  The only way to do that is through some sort of political transition process.

And the good news out of the G8 meeting was — is that you saw all the countries, including Russia, reaffirming the communiqué coming out of the first Geneva talks that said we need to create a transitional governing body with full powers.

The second good thing that came out of the G8 discussions was that all of us, including Russia, said we have to investigate use of chemical weapons inside of Syria, and all the parties including the government of Bashar al-Assad have to cooperate with that investigation.

We’re confident that, in fact, the government has used chemical weapons.  The Russians are skeptical.  We said, fine, let’s have the United Nations get in there but do a serious investigation of it — because we don’t want anybody using chemical weapons.

Now, the issue for us is how can we continue to support a political opposition and a military opposition that becomes more capable, becomes more unified, that isolates extremists who have incorporated themselves into the opposition forces inside of Syria, so that if, in fact, and when we get a political transition, there’s somebody there who can take over and function in governing and lead to a better future for all Syrians.

That’s a difficult process.  It’s not one that’s happening overnight.  But all the assistance that we are providing both to the political and military opposition is designed for that purpose.

Some of the stories that have been out there publicly have, I think, gotten a little over-cranked in terms of the idea that somehow the United States is preparing to go all in and participate in another war.  What we want to do is end a war.  But the only way it’s going to end is if, in fact, we have the kind of transition that I described.

And although, you’re right, that at this point President Putin believes that what would replace Assad would be worse than Assad himself, what I think will become more and more apparent over the coming weeks and months is that without a different government you can’t bring peace and, in fact, you’re going to see sectarian divisions get worse and worse, and start spilling over into the other parts of the region, and that would be good for nobody.

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  On the issue of arms supplies, Germany has very clear, strict rules on this, legal rules, according to which we are not allowed to supply arms into areas where there is civil strife.  And that is not specifically designed for the Syrian question; it is a general rule.

But that does not mean that we do not wish, and can play, a constructive role as regards the political processes — for example, as regards humanitarian assistance; as regards also the debate on which is the right way to go about this.  How can we strengthen the opposition, those forces that work in the best interest of the people in Syria, on the ground?  And the situation is somewhat vague as regards the members of the opposition and quite different.

It is our task also, as we see it, that those who wish for a good future for Syria who are not linked with terrorists get a chance to achieve full legitimacy — because Germany, too, is of the opinion that Assad has certainly lost that legitimacy.

The Russian President, as I understand him, says not so clearly what I said just now, that the Syrian President namely has lost his legitimacy.  But we have found common language in the sense that we wish to work for a transition government.  And the question also has to be asked, what is going to come after that? And that is a question we need to address, and we did so.  And in the language of the communiqué of the G8 it says, we, all of us, reject terrorist forces in Syria because they would, again, exacerbate the suffering of the people there.

Now we have to see to it that, step by step, all of these different strands are brought together because, unfortunately, as yet, there is no common U.N. position because Russia so far was not on the side of the others.  But we must leave no stone unturned in trying, as we did during the G8, to find a common basis on which we can also speak with Russia.

And there are certain areas where we obviously differ, but our political responsibility is to, time and again, seek to bring this matter forward in the right direction.  And since the situation — if we look to Jordan, if we look to other countries in the vicinity — becomes more and more unstable, what with the flow of refugees and all, I think it’s worth every effort to try, all of us to try to do something, based on the language of the communiqué of yesterday, to do something in the interest of the people in Syria.

Q    Mr. President, in the past, there were some different points of view about the best way out of the global financial crisis.  Chancellor Merkel stands for a policy of cutting back budgets to reach that of financial stability throughout the eurozone to win back trust of the markets.  Did you talk about this issue?  And what’s your position on that?

And, Madam Chancellor, same question addressed to you — has there been a discussion on the eurozone, and do you wish to abide by the policy, in view of the problems that the countries in the south have?

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  Maybe I will just start with something because your question insinuates something that we don’t want.  We want prosperity.  We want competitiveness.  We want economic strength in order to bring about reduction of unemployment.

We talked about this at some length.  And I also said Germany in the long run will only be able to live well if Europe as a whole is doing well.  So it would be a very wrong tack for our policy to take if we were pursuing a kind of policy where we weaken those countries into which we, after all, wish to export our goods.  I think the world is changing, however, and Europe is not competitive enough in all areas.  And budget consolidation is one piece of the mosaic.  Structural reforms have to come into this.

And the Italian Prime Minister addressed this issue at some length during the G8.  What does this mean for young people?  What does it mean for jobs for young people?

But still the task is, if 90 percent of growth globally is generated outside of Europe, than we need to produce goods that are so competitive — as competitive for other markets to actually buy them.  And this is something that we need to undergo.  We need to draw down red tape, bureaucracy.  We need to be more open for research and development.  We need to have structural reforms.  We need to have, for example, affordable energy.  If I look at the energy price development in the United States, all of this needs to be done.  And part and parcel with that also is, particularly in a continent that is growing ever older, that we are able to reduce our budget deficits so that we don’t leave at the expense of future generations.

That is what this is all about.  This is what I am fervently asking for and working for.  Europe can only help that is strong. And so a future without Europe is something that I cannot envisage for Germany.  It’s two sides of one and the same coin.  On the one hand, Germany needs and wants to be competitive, and we also want others to be competitive and improve their competiveness.  And we all belong together.  This is why we showed solidarity time again, and this is, too, something that we addressed.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:   Well, as Angela said, all of us want the same thing.  We want to have an economy that is growing, where people, if they’re willing to work hard, are able to succeed, and can find jobs that pay a living wage, and can retire with some dignity, and can send their children to good schools, and have health care that is affordable.  And we have to do all those things in a way that’s fiscally prudent so that we’re not mortgaging our future or burdening our children and our grandchildren.

And I think all developing countries — or all more developed countries have been going through some of the same challenges.  And we just went through the worst recession in many years.

The good news is, is that we’ve seen some progress.  In the United States, we fixed our banks, which was the source initially, the trigger for some of these major problems.  So we have a much stronger banking system now, with much tighter supervision.  The housing market has begun to recover.  We’ve now grown for close to four years — three and a half years — and we’ve created 7 million new jobs.

But we still have some reforms that we have to do.  We’ve got to improve the skills of our workforce.  We’ve got to improve our infrastructure.  We have to continue to invest in research and development.  In all countries around the world, you’re seeing growing inequality, and so we have to find ways to make sure that ladders of opportunity exist for those at the bottom, and that profits and increased productivity all does not just benefit those at the top.

And so what’s true in the United States is also true in Europe.  Europe has different sets of problems.  Part of the challenge of the eurozone is that you have countries at different stages and levels of productivity and are further or less far along on this path of restructuring and reform.

So we’ve been discussing this — this has been a four-year conversation that we’ve been having, and I don’t think there’s a perfect recipe.  All of us have to make sure that our budgets are not out of control.  All of us have to undergo structural reforms to adapt to a new and highly competitive economy.  What’s true is, though, all of us also have to focus on growth, and we have to make sure that in pursuit of our longer-term policies, whether it’s fiscal consolidation or reforms of our overly rigid labor markets, or pension reforms, that we don’t lose sight of our main goal, which is to make lives of people better.

And if, for example, we start seeing youth unemployment go too high, then at some point we’ve got to modulate our approach to ensure that we don’t just lose a generation who may never recover in terms of their careers.  And that’s the struggle that I think all of us are going through.  That’s the discussion we had at the G8.  That’s a discussion that Angela and I had here today.

I’m confident that Germany will succeed in this process.  I’m confident that Chancellor Merkel cares about maintaining the eurozone and the European project.  And she, I think, is confident that the United States wants to do everything we can to get Europe through this difficult patch so that it can be a force for growth and prosperity well into the future.

Thank you very much, everybody.

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  Danke schön.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Danke schön.

END
1:32 P.M. CEST

Full Text November 4, 2011: President Barack Obama at the G20 in France — Press Conferences Transcripts

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Progress at the G-20

Source: WH, 11-4-11
20111104 POTUS G20 Press Conference

President Barack Obama answers a question at his press conference at the G20 Summit in Cannes, France, Nov. 4, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

When world leaders gathered this week in France, they acknowledged that the global economy was facing significant challenges that put recovery from the recession at risk.

The debt crisis in Europe has put stress on the continent’s banking system, and countries like Greece and Italy are struggling to restore fiscal order.

In our country, the economy hasn’t rebounded how anyone had hoped. We’re adding jobs, but not at anywhere near the pace we need, and too many remain out of work.

And in emerging economies, the rate of growth seems to be slowing as continued financial instability in the rest of the world begins to drag these countries down, as well.

To counter these threats, the G20 leaders in France pledged to coordinate actions and policies to reinvigorate the global economy.

And the focus of that coordination? Jobs.

“There’s no excuse for inaction,” President Obama said in a press conference earlier today. “That’s true globally and it’s certainly true back home right now.”

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (229MB) | mp3 (22MB)

While European governments were vowing to do everything necessary to ensure the stability of the euro, the United States made a pledge of its own in the G20 action plan:

The US commits to the timely implementation of a package of near-term measures to sustain the recovery, through public investments, tax reforms, and targeted jobs measures, consistent with a credible plan for medium-term fiscal consolidation.

Press Conference by President Obama After G20 Summit

Press Center
Claude Debussy Theater
Cannes, France

3:40 P.M. CET

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I want to begin by thanking my friend, President Sarkozy, for his leadership and his hospitality.  And I want to thank the people of Cannes for this extraordinary setting.

Over the past two years, those of us in the G20 have worked together to rescue the global economy, to avert another depression, and to put us on the path to recovery.  But we came to Cannes with no illusions.  The recovery has been fragile.  And since our last meeting in Seoul we’ve experienced a number of new shocks — disruptions in oil supplies, the tragic tsunami in Japan, and the financial crisis in Europe.

As a result, advanced economies, including the United States are growing and creating jobs, but not nearly fast enough.  Emerging economies have started to slow.  Global demand is weakening.  Around the world, hundreds of millions of people are unemployed, or underemployed.  Put simply, the world faces challenges that put our economic recovery at risk.

So the central question coming into Cannes was this:  Could the world’s largest economies confront this challenge squarely — understanding that these problems will not be solved overnight, could we make progress?  After two days of very substantive discussions I can say that we’ve come together and made important progress to put our economic recoveries on a firmer footing.

With respect to Europe, we came to Cannes to discuss with our European friends how they will move forward and build upon the plan they agreed to last week to resolve this crisis.  Events in Greece over the past 24 hours have underscored the importance of implementing the plan, fully and as quickly as possible.

Having heard from our European partners over the past two days, I am confidence that Europe has the capacity to meet this challenge.  I know it isn’t easy, but what is absolutely critical, and what the world looks for in moments such as this, is action.

That’s how we confronted our financial crisis in the United States — having our banks submit to stress tests that were rigorous, increasing capital buffers, and passing the strongest financial reforms since the Great Depression.  None of that was easy, and it certainly wasn’t always popular.  But we did what was necessary to address the crisis, put ourselves on a stronger footing, and help rescue the global economy.

And that’s the challenge that Europe now faces.  Make no mistake, there’s more hard work ahead and more difficult choices to make.  But our European partners have laid a foundation on which to build, and it has all the elements needed for success:  a credible firewall to prevent the crisis from spreading, strengthening European banks, charting a sustainable path for Greece, and confronting the structural issues that are at the heart of the current crisis.

And here in Cannes we’ve moved the ball forward.  Europe remains on track to implement a sustainable path for Greece.  Italy has agreed to a monitoring program with the IMF — in fact, invited it.  Tools have been identified that will better enable the world to support European action.  And European finance ministers will carry this work forward next week.

All of us have an enormous interest in Europe’s success, and all of us will be affected if Europe is not growing — and that certainly includes the United States, which counts Europe as our largest trading partner.  If Europe isn’t growing, it’s harder for us to do what we need to do for the American people:  creating jobs, lifting up the middle class, and putting our fiscal house in order.  And that’s why I’ve made it clear that the United States will continue to do our part to support our European partners as they work to resolve this crisis.

More broadly, we agreed to stay focused on jobs and growth with an action plan in which each nation does its part.  In the United States, we recognize, as the world’s largest economy, the most important thing we can do for global growth is to get our own economy growing faster.  Back home, we’re fighting for the American Jobs Act, which will put people back to work, even as we meet our responsibilities to reduce our deficit in the coming years.

We also made progress here in Cannes on our rebalancing agenda.  In an important step forward, countries with large surpluses and export-oriented countries agreed to take additional steps to support growth and boost demand in their own countries. In addition, we welcome China’s determination to increase the flexibility of the RMB.  This is something we’ve been calling for for some time, and it will be a critical step in boosting growth.

Finally, we also made progress across a range of challenges to our shared prosperity.  Following our reforms in the United States, the G20 adopted an unprecedented set of high-level financial reforms to prevent a crisis in the future.  We agreed to keep phasing out fossil fuel subsidies — perhaps the single-most important step we can take in the near term to fight climate change and create clean-energy economies.

And even as our countries work to save lives from the drought and terrible famine in the Horn of Africa, we agreed on the need to mobilize new resources to support the development that lifts nations out of poverty.

So, again, I want to thank President Sarkozy and our French hosts for a productive summit.  I want to thank my fellow leaders for their partnership and for the progress we’ve made to create the jobs and prosperity that our people deserve.

So with that, let me take a few questions.  I’ll start with Jim Kuhnhenn of AP.

Q    New jobless numbers today back in the States.  You’re on a pace to face the voters with the highest unemployment rate of any postwar President.  And doesn’t that make you significantly vulnerable to a Republican who might run on a message of change?  And if I may add, given that you have just witnessed the difficulties of averting economic problems beyond your control, what state do you think the economy will be in when you face reelection next year?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Jim, I have to tell you the least of my concerns at the moment is the politics of a year from now.  I’m worried about putting people back to work right now, because those folks are hurting and the U.S. economy is underperforming. And so everything that we’re doing here in the — here at the G20 mirrors our efforts back home — that is, how do we boost growth; how do we shrink our deficits in a way that doesn’t slow the recovery right now; how do we make sure that our workers are getting the skills and the training they need to compete in a global economy.  And not only does the American Jobs Act answer some of the needs for jobs now, but it will also lay the foundation for future growth through investments in infrastructure, for example.

So my hope is, is that the folks back home, including those in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives, when they look at today’s job numbers — which were positive but indicate once again that the economy is growing way too slow — that they think twice before they vote “no” again on the only proposal out there right now that independent economists say would actually make a dent in unemployment right now.  There’s no excuse for inaction.  That’s true globally; it’s certainly true back home as well.  And I’m going to keep on pushing it regardless of what the politics are.

Chuck Todd.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Clearly, there was some sort of dispute between you and the European leaders about how to fund this bailout.  And you, in your remarks, emphasized the fact that TARP was done with U.S. funds, that there wasn’t any international involvement here.  Are you confident now that the European leaders are going to own this firewall or bailout fund themselves, not looking for handouts from other countries, and that they will do what they have to do?

And the second part of my question is, how hard was it to convince these folks to do stimulus measures when your own stimulus measure — you’ve mentioned it twice now — is not going anywhere right now on Capitol Hill?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, first of all, we didn’t have a long conversation about stimulus measures, so that was maybe two or three G20s ago.  We had a discussion about what steps could be taken to continue to spur economic growth.  And that may not always involve government spending.  For example, the rebalancing agenda that I talked about is one way in which we can make a big difference in spurring on global demand.  It requires some adjustments, some changes in behavior on the part of countries.  But it doesn’t necessarily involve classic fiscal stimulus.

It wasn’t a dispute with the Europeans.  I think the Europeans agree with us that it is important to send a clear signal that the European project is alive and well, and that they are committed to the euro, and that they are committed to resolving this crisis.  And I think if you talk to European leaders, they are the first ones to say that that begins with European leaders arriving at a common course of action.

So essentially, what we’ve seen is all the elements for dealing with the crisis put in place, and we think those are the right elements.  The first is having a solution to the specific problem of Greece.  And although the actions of Papandreou and the referendum issue over the last couple of days I think got a lot of people nervous, the truth is, is that the general approach — which involved a voluntary reduction on the part of those who hold the Greeks’ debt, reducing the obligations of the Greek government — Greece continuing with reforms and structural change, that’s the right recipe.  It just has to be carried out. And I was encouraged by the fact that despite all the turmoil in Greece, even the opposition leader in Greece indicated that it’s important to move forward on the proposal.

The second component is recapitalization of Europe’s banks. And they have identified that need and they are resourcing that need.  And that I think is going to be critical to further instill confidence in the markets.

And the third part of it is creating this firewall, essentially sending a signal to the markets that Europe is going to stand behind the euro.  And all the details, the structure, how it operates, are still being worked out among the European leaders.  What we were able to do was to give them some ideas, some options in terms of how they would put that together.

And what we’ve said is — and I’m speaking now for the whole of the G20 — what we’ve said is the international community is going to stand ready to assist and make sure that the overall global economy is cushioned by the gyrations in the market and the shocks that arise as Europe is working these issues through. And so they’re going to have a strong partner in us.  But European leaders understand that ultimately what the markets are looking for is a strong signal from Europe that they’re standing behind the euro.

Q    So you’re discouraging them from looking for money — outside money?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  No, what we were saying is that — and this is reflected in the communiqué — that, for example, creating additional tools for the IMF is an important component of providing markets overall confidence in global growth and stability, but that is a supplement to the work that is being done here in Europe.

And based on my conversations with President Sarkozy, Chancellor Merkel, and all the other European leaders, I believe they have that strong commitment to the euro and the European project.

David Muir.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I’m curious what you would say to Americans back home who’ve watched their 401(k)s recover largely when the bailout seemed a certainty, and then this week with the brand new political tumult in Greece, watched themselves lose essentially what they had gained back.  You mentioned you’re confident in the bailout plan.  Are you confident this will actually happen, and if so, that it will work?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, first of all, if you’re talking about the movements of the U.S. stock market, the stock market was down when I first took office and the first few months I was in office about 3,000 points lower than it is now.  So nothing has happened in the last two weeks that would suggest that somehow people’s 401(k)s have been affected the way you describe.

Am I confident that this will work?  I think that there’s more work to do.  I think there are going to be some ups and downs along the way.  But I am confident that the key players in Europe — the European political leadership — understands how much of a stake they have in making sure that this crisis is resolved, that the eurozone remains intact, and I think that they are going to do what’s necessary in order to make that happen.

Now, let’s recognize how difficult this is.  I have sympathy for my European counterparts.  We saw how difficult it was for us to save the financial system back in the United States.  It did not do wonders for anybody’s political standing, because people’s general attitude is, you know what, if the financial sector is behaving recklessly or not making good decisions, other folks shouldn’t have to suffer for it.

You layer on top of that the fact that you’re negotiating with multiple parliaments, a European parliament, a European Commission — I mean, there are just a lot of institutions here in Europe.  And I think several  — I’m not sure whether it was Sarkozy or Merkel or Barroso or somebody, they joked with me that I’d gotten a crash course in European politics over the last several days.  And there are a lot of meetings here in Europe as well.  So trying to coordinate all those different interests is laborious, it’s time consuming, but I think they’re going to get there.

What is also positive is — if there’s a silver lining in this whole process, it’s the fact that I think European leaders recognize that there are some structural reforms, institutional modifications they need to make if Europe and the eurozone is to be as effective as they want it to be.

I think that what this has exposed is that if you have a single currency but you haven’t worked out all the institutional coordination and relationships between countries on the fiscal side, on the monetary side, that that creates additional vulnerabilities.  And there’s a commitment on the part of European leaders, I think, to examine those issues.  But those are long term.  In the short term, what they’ve got to do is just make sure that they’re sending a signal to the markets that they stand behind the euro.

And if that message is sent, then I think this crisis is averted, because some of this crisis is psychological.  Italy is a big country with a enormous industrial base, great wealth, great assets, and has had substantial debt for quite some time — it’s just the market is feeling skittish right now.  And that’s why I think Prime Minister Berlusconi’s invitation to the IMF to certify that the reform plan that they put in place is one that they will, in fact, follow is an example of the steady, confidence-building measures that need to take place in order for us to get back on track.

Norah O’Donnell.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  The world leaders here have stressed growth — the importance of growth.  And yet growth back at home has been anemic, the new jobs report today showing just 88,000 jobs added.  The Republicans in Congress have made it clear that they’re going to block your jobs bill because they believe the tax hikes in it hurt small businesses.  At what point do you feel that you declare stalemate to try and reach common ground?  And do you feel like you have been an effective leader when it comes to the economy?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, first of all, wherever Republicans indicate an interest in doing things that would actually grow the economy, I’m right there with them.  So they’ve said that passing trade bills with South Korea and Panama and Colombia would help spur growth — those got done, with significant bipartisan support.  They’ve suggested that we need to reform our patent laws — that’s something that was part of my long-term program for economic growth; we’ve got that done.  What I’ve said is all those things are nice and they’re important, but if we want to grow the economy right now then we have to think bigger; we’ve got to do something bolder and more significant.

So we put forward the American Jobs Act, which contains ideas that are historically supported by Democrats and Republicans — like rebuilding our infrastructure, our roads and our bridges; putting teachers back in the classroom; providing tax credits to small businesses.

You say, Norah, that the reason they haven’t voted for them is because they don’t want to tax small business.  Well, actually, that’s not — if that’s their rationale then it doesn’t fly, because the bill that they voted down yesterday — a component of the American jobs bill — essentially said we can create hundreds of thousands of jobs, rebuilding our infrastructure, making America more competitive, and the entire program will be paid for by a tax not on millionaires but people making a million dollars a year or more, which in the United States is about — a little over 300,000 people.

Now, there aren’t a lot of small businesses across the country that are making that kind of money.  In fact, less than 3 percent of small businesses make more than $250,000 a year.  So what they’ve said is, we prefer to protect 300,000 people rather than put hundreds of thousands of people back to work and benefit 300 million Americans who are hurting because of low growth.

So we’re going to keep on pushing.  Now, there are steps that we can take absent congressional action.  And the refinancing proposal that we put forward in Las Vegas is an example of that — helping students with student loans.  We’re going to keep on rolling out administrative steps that we can take that strengthen the economy.  But if we’re going to do something big to jumpstart the economy at a time when it’s stabilized but unemployment is way too high, Congress is going to need to act.

And in terms of my track record on the economy — well, here’s just a simple way of thinking about it:  When I came into office, the U.S. economy had contracted by 9 percent — the largest contraction since the Great Depression.  Little over a year later, the economy was growing by 4 percent, and it’s been growing ever since.

Now, is that good enough?  Absolutely not.  We’ve got to do more.  And as soon as I get some signal from Congress that they’re willing to take their responsibilities seriously, I think we can do more.  But that’s going to require them to break out of the rigid ideological positions that they’ve been taking.  And the same is true, by the way, when it comes to deficit reduction.

We can solve all our problems.  We can grow our economy now, put people back to work, reduce our deficit.  And you get surprising consensus from economists about how to do it, from both the left and the right.  It’s just a matter of setting politics aside.  And we’re constantly remembering that the election is one year away.  If we do that, there’s no reason why can’t solve these problems.

All right?  Thank you, everybody.

END
4:04 P.M. CET

President Obama at the G20

Source: WH, 11-3-11
20111103 President Obama at the G20

President Barack Obama is greeted by French President Nicholas Sarkozy for the start of the G20 Summit in Cannes, France, Nov. 3, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Today, President Obama is in France for a meeting of the G20 — a gathering of 20 nations that represent the world’s most important industrialized economies. In addition to working sessions with the full assembly of leaders, the President also held bilateral talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In his conversation with President Sarkozy, he discussed the focus of this week’s talks:

I think it’s no surprise that we spent most of our conversation focused on strengthening the global economic recovery so that we are creating jobs for our people and stabilizing the financial markets around the world. The most important aspect of our task over the next two days is to resolve the financial crisis here in Europe. President Sarkozy has shown extraordinary leadership on this issue. I agree with him that the EU has made some important steps towards a comprehensive solution, and that would not have happened without Nicolas’s leadership. But here at the G20 we’re going to have to flesh out more of the details about how the plan will be fully and decisively implemented.

The President elaborated on that theme in his conversation with Chancellor Merkel:

This is going to be a very busy two days. Central to our discussions at the G20 is how do we achieve greater global growth and put people back to work. That means we’re going to have to resolve the situation here in Europe. And without Angela’s leadership we would not have already made the progress that we’ve seen at the EU meeting on October 27th.

 

Remarks by President Obama and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France in a Joint Statement

Convention Center
Cannes, France

10:38 A.M. CET

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it is wonderful to be back in France. And I want to thank my excellent friend and colleague, Nicolas Sarkozy, for his hospitality. He and I obviously have worked together on a wide range of issues since I’ve been President, and I always welcome his frank and honest assessment of the situations here.

It’s also nice to be back visiting in France — the last time I was in the south of France — or the first time, rather, was as a college student, and I’ve never forgotten the extraordinary hospitality of the French people and the extraordinary views that are available here.

This morning, President Sarkozy and I reaffirmed our strong and enduring ties, and I’ve said on many occasions that France is not only our oldest ally, but also one of our closest, and I consider Nicolas to be an outstanding and trusted partner on the world stage.

I think it’s no surprise that we spent most of our conversation focused on strengthening the global economic recovery so that we are creating jobs for our people and stabilizing the financial markets around the world. The most important aspect of our task over the next two days is to resolve the financial crisis here in Europe. President Sarkozy has shown extraordinary leadership on this issue. I agree with him that the EU has made some important steps towards a comprehensive solution, and that would not have happened without Nicolas’s leadership. But here at the G20 we’re going to have to flesh out more of the details about how the plan will be fully and decisively implemented.

And we also discussed the situation in Greece and how we can work to help resolve that situation as well. And the United States will continue to be a partner with the Europeans to resolve these challenges.

We had the opportunity to also talk about a range of security issues. One in particular that I want to mention is the continuing threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. The IAEA is scheduled to release a report on Iran’s nuclear program next week and President Sarkozy and I agreed on the need to maintain the unprecedented international pressure on Iran to meet its obligations.

And finally, I’m looking forward to joining Nicolas and service members from both of our countries tomorrow to celebrate the alliance between our two countries, which spans more than 200 years — from Yorktown to Libya.

And finally, I want to make mention that this is our first meeting since the arrival of the newest Sarkozy, and so I want to congratulate Nicolas and Carla on the birth of Giulia. And I informed Nicolas on the way in that I am confident that Giulia inherited her mother’s looks rather than her father’s — (laughter) — which I think is an excellent thing. And so now we share one of the greatest challenges and blessings of life, and that is being fathers to our daughters.

So again, Nicolas, thank you for your friendship. Thank you for our partnership. And thank you for your gracious hospitality.

PRESIDENT SARKOZY: (As interpreted.) Well, you see Barack Obama’s tremendous influence. For four years now, he’s been explaining to me that to be a father to daughters is a fantastic experience — he who has two daughters. So I have listened to him. As a matter of fact, I followed his example.

I must tell you that we had a heavy agenda because there is no lack of subjects for our concern. We need the leadership of Barack Obama. We need the solidarity and the support of the United States of America. We need joint common analysis as to the way we can put the world back on the path of growth and stability.

Together, President Obama and myself are trying to build the unity of the G20. And I wish to pay tribute to the United States for understanding about all the issues we’ll be discussing over the next 48 hours, and in particular, the issue of the Greek crisis — the difficulty that the euro is facing, the need to be hand-in-glove with the United States on the language of the final communiqué.

Again, I want to thank President Obama for his understanding on all matters, including that of a levy or a tax on financial transactions, where I think we found common ground, at least common analysis, mainly that the world of finance must contribute to solving the crisis that we are all facing today.

I also want to say how delighted I am that President Obama has agreed to stay a few hours after the end of the summit in order to participate in ceremonies to pay tribute to American and French troops who have fought together so many times throughout the course of our joint histories. And I’m delighted to have the opportunity to join President Obama in a television interview, because he is much loved and much liked here in France.

So we have a very heavy agenda ahead of us, and we’ll have many opportunities to see you again and explain to you what decisions we’ve been led to take.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much.

END
10:53 A.M. CET

 

Remarks by President Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany Before Bilateral Meeting

Intercontinental Carlton Cannes Hotel
Cannes, France

11:05 A.M. CET

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It’s wonderful to be back together with my good friend, Angela Merkel. I think that the last time we were in Washington, D.C. together we presented her with the Medal of Freedom, and that indicated the high esteem that not only I, but the United States, hold her and her leadership.

This is going to be a very busy two days. Central to our discussions at the G20 is how do we achieve greater global growth and put people back to work. That means we’re going to have to resolve the situation here in Europe. And without Angela’s leadership we would not have already made the progress that we’ve seen at the EU meeting on October 27th.

We are now, having seen some progress, looking forward to working together to figure out how we can implement this in an effective way to make sure that not only is the eurozone stable, but the world financial system is stable as well. And hopefully during our bilateral meeting we’ll also have the ability to discuss a wide range of other issues, including security issues that are so important to both our countries.

But I just want to say, once again, how much I enjoy working with Angela. She exhibits the kind of practical common sense that I think has made her a leader not only in Germany but around the world.

So thank you very much.

Hold on, hold on, hold on — translation. (Laughter.) All the Americans reporters speak German, but just in case. (Laughter.)

CHANCELLOR MERKEL: (As interpreted.) Thank you very much, and let me say that I’m delighted that we have the opportunity for this meeting here. And mainly, the G20 will afford us an opportunity, during these two days of meeting, not only to talk about European matters but also about global matters that matter to both of us and that are of common interest.

And let me say, again, that I very fondly remember the evening in the White House and the award.

Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you, everybody.

END
11:08 A.M. CET

Full Text June 7, 2011: President Obama on the Official Visit of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel: “A Partnership Between Our Peoples”

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

On June 7, 2011, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Federal Republic of Germany to the White House. During the Germany Official Arrival Ceremony the President spoke of the strong alliance between our two countries.

Remarks by President Obama and Chancellor Merkel in Official Arrival Ceremony

South Lawn

9:36 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good morning, everybody.  Chancellor Merkel, members of the German delegation — on behalf of Michelle and myself, it is our great pleasure to welcome you back to the White House.  And on behalf of the American people, it is our great honor to welcome you back in the United States.  (Applause.)

Today marks the first official visit and State Dinner for a European leader during my presidency.  It’s only fitting.  The transatlantic alliance is the cornerstone — is the heart — of our efforts to promote peace and prosperity around the world.  And Germany — at the heart of Europe — is one of our strongest allies.  And Chancellor Merkel is one of my closest global partners.

Our alliance, at its core, is a partnership between our peoples.  The generations of German Americans who helped build a strong America.  The Americans who, during a long Cold War, helped to defend a free Germany.  And citizens of both our countries — entrepreneurs, innovators, students, scientists, and soldiers — who work together, and forge the future, every day.

At a time when some have asked whether the rise of new global powers means the decline of others, this visit reaffirms an enduring truth.  Our alliances with nations like Germany are more important than ever.  Indeed, they’re indispensable to global security and prosperity.

As two of the largest and most dynamic economies, the United States and Germany can show that the prosperity we seek is best achieved when nations invest in our greatest resource — our people and their ability to compete and innovate in the 21st century.

As members of the most successful alliance in human history, our commitment to our common defense is also a pillar of global security, from completing our mission in Afghanistan to preventing terrorist attacks to achieving our vision of a world without nuclear weapons.

And finally, as people around the world imagine a different future, the story of Germany and our alliance in the 20th century shows what’s possible in the 21st.  Wars can end.  Adversaries can become allies.  Walls can come down.  At long last, nations can be whole and can be free.

Madam Chancellor, the arc of our lives speaks to this spirit.  It’s obvious that neither of us looks exactly like the leaders who preceded us.  (Laughter and applause.)  But the fact that we can stand here today as President of the United States and as Chancellor of a united Germany is a testament to the progress, the freedom, that is possible in our world.

Chancellor Merkel, to the members of the German delegation — we are honored to have all of you here — as allies, as partners, but most of all, as dear friends.  So, herzlich willkommen.  (Applause.)

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  (As translated.)  Mr. President, dear Barack, dear Michelle, Mr. Vice President, members of both Cabinets, guests of honor, my fellow countrymen, ladies and gentlemen — thank you very much for this very warm and very moving reception that is overwhelming.  I am indeed delighted — and I say this on behalf of all of the members of my delegation — to be back in Washington, D.C., again.

About 20 months ago — and this was almost 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall — I had the great honor and privilege to address both houses of Congress, a wonderful moment.  And I’m certain this day today shall be another such unforgettable moment.

Mr. President, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from you tonight is something that I consider to be not only an exceptionally gracious gesture of appreciation, and I see this as a gesture of appreciation for the whole of this united Germany.  It is also a testimony of the very, very close ties that bind our two countries together.

We Germans know that America has always been a true friend to us.  Our friendship has grown and matured throughout the decades, and every day it is filled with new life.  More than 600,000 Americans are working for German companies here in the United States, and the reverse is also true — more than 600,000 Germans work for American companies in Germany.

There are many and diverse exchange programs at schools and universities, and they help us to win over numerous young people to serve as bridge builders between our two countries.  Seventeen million members of the Armed Forces of the United States — and their families — have lived in Germany ever since the Second World War.  And they have served their country with honor and distinction and rendered an inestimable service to their country and to us.  The more than 50,000 American soldiers who are currently stationed in Germany are more than welcome every day.

I could mention many more examples of the close ties that bind our two countries together, but let me underline one thing in particular.  When Germany and Europe were divided by the war and barbed wire, America consistently stood on the side of freedom and resolutely stood by us Germans as we made our way towards unity and freedom, and this we shall never forget.  (Applause.)

Today, we are just as closely linked to each other by the bonds of friendship as we were those 20 years ago.  We are standing on a firm foundation, and standing and supported by this firm foundation we tackle the current challenges we both face.  Germany and the United States are partners, sharing responsibility for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.  We are pulling in the same direction trying to keep Iran from following its course of developing a nuclear forces capability.  In North Africa, we support the struggle for freedom.  And in the Middle East, we support efforts to fill the peace process with new life.  Together, we mastered the aftershock of the global economic and financial crisis.

Yes, Germany and the United States do share the same values — democracy and freedom, rule of law, and the universality of human rights.

And it is for this very reason that a close partnership with the United States is just as much part and parcel of Germany’s raison d’être as is European integration.  Both belong together.  Both are and remain the pillars of German foreign policy.

(Speaking English.)  Mr. President, dear Barack, in Berlin in 2008, you spoke to more than 200,000 people.  And in your address, you said America has no better partner than Europe.  And now it’s my turn to say Europe and Germany have no better partner than America.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
9:52 A.M. EDT

Remarks by President Obama and Chancellor Merkel in a Joint Press Conference

East Room

11:41 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Please, everyone, have a seat.  Good morning again.  It is an honor to welcome my good friend and partner Chancellor Merkel back to the White House.  We had a wonderful dinner last night, one on one — although, as you saw again this morning, Angela’s English is much better than my German.

Michelle and I are very much looking forward to hosting the Chancellor and Professor Sauer at tonight’s state dinner, where I’ll have the privilege of presenting Angela with the Medal of Freedom.

As I said earlier, Germany is one of our strongest allies.  We see our partnership in the drive of our workers and businesses who sustain the largest trade relationships in the world.  We see it in the students and teachers, the scientists and researchers who are unlocking new innovations, including the clean, renewable energy sources that we need to combat climate change and create the industries of the future.

We see our partnership in the courage of our service members who stand shoulder to shoulder in Afghanistan — where Germans serve under Americans and Americans serve under Germans.  Chancellor Merkel, I want to thank you and the German people for your strong commitment to this vital mission, and our hearts go out to the wounded warriors and all the families, American and German and others, whose loved ones have given their lives to keep us safe.  We remember and honor them all.

We see our partnership in the skill of our diplomats who prevent the spread of deadly weapons and stand up for democracy in Europe and beyond; and in the passion of our development experts as they work to avert suffering in countries like Sudan.

This is the essence of our alliance — two peoples, bound by common values and committed to the security, the prosperity, and the dignity not just of our own citizens, but those far beyond our borders.  And that’s also the essence of my partnership with Chancellor Merkel.

Angela, I believe this is our tenth meeting together.  That doesn’t include the many phone calls and video conferences that we seem to have at all hours of the day and night.  There’s hardly any global issue where we don’t consult one another.  I’ve said before I always value Angela’s pragmatic approach to complex issues, her intelligence, her frankness.  I trust her.  And as she’s said herself, it’s just fun to work together.  And it has been, again, fun today, even as we’ve addressed some very urgent challenges.

Germany is one of our largest trading partners, and we discussed how to keep our economies growing and create the jobs that our people need.  As Angela mentioned in her remarks at the opening ceremony, hundreds of thousands of American jobs are supported by our exports to Germany; hundreds of thousands of Americans work for German companies that have chosen to invest in America.  I’m pleased that billions of dollars more in German investment is making possible new plants — steel in Alabama, manufacturing in Tennessee — all of which go to create thousands of new American jobs.

The Chancellor and I discussed the need to eliminate regulations and barriers so we can unleash even more trade and investment, including in the area of electric vehicles, where both our countries are leaders and where the possibilities of American-German cooperation are enormous.  And of course, I very much appreciated the Chancellor’s views on the financial situation in Europe, which we agree cannot be allowed to put the global economic recovery at risk.

With regard to security, we discussed our progress in Afghanistan, where we’ve broken the Taliban’s momentum, trained Afghan forces, and are now preparing to turn a corner in our efforts.  We’re scheduled to begin the transition to Afghan lead.  And I reiterated that we’ll begin reducing American forces this summer, even as we join with Germany and our NATO allies in supporting Afghans in their political and economic efforts to forge a lasting peace.

I thanked the Chancellor for her support for the principles that I laid out last month as the basis for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.  And I want to commend Angela for her personal efforts to bring the parties back to the negotiating table.  Just as we agree that both sides will need to make difficult choices, we agree that unilateral actions — such as Palestinians seeking a vote on statehood at the U.N. General Assembly — should be avoided.

We agreed that Iran’s continuing nuclear program, and its refusal to engage in any meaningful talks with the international community, remain a very serious concern.  So we agreed that if the International Atomic Energy Agency this week determines again that Iran is continuing to ignore its international obligations, then we will have no choice but to consider additional steps, including potentially additional sanctions, to intensify the pressure on the Iranian regime.

Finally, we discussed the historic changes underway in North Africa and the Middle East.  With regard to Libya, I’d note that Germany’s deployment of additional resources and personnel to Afghanistan has allowed other NATO allies to increase their support for the mission to protect the Libyan people.  The Chancellor and I have been clear — Qaddafi must step down and hand power to the Libyan people, and the pressure will only continue to increase until he does.

And following our agreement with our G8 partners in Deauville, the Chancellor and I discussed our support for political and economic reform across the Middle East and North Africa, especially in Tunisia and Egypt.  The United States and Germany are the two largest donors of assistance — largest donors of assistance to the region, and we agree that this historic moment must not be squandered.

Along with the entire world, we have an enormous stake in seeing that these transitions to democracy succeed.  And given the Chancellor’s own remarkable life story — and her experience helping to heal the wounds of the past and build a united Germany — I very much appreciate her leadership and her partnership in this effort.

So, again, I’m very grateful to the Chancellor for being here.  I’m confident that the great alliance between our nations is going to remain an indispensable pillar of a world that’s more secure and more prosperous and more just.  And I very much appreciate the personal friendship that I enjoy with the Chancellor.  So, Angela.

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  (As translated.)  Well, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. President, dear Barack, I would like to use this opportunity to thank you most warmly for this wonderful reception.  I’m saying this also on behalf of the members of my delegation.

This reception I say to the White House is welcome that I see as a testimony of our very close friendship, of our partnership.  If we remind ourselves of the fact that every fifth American today rightly points and perhaps also with a certain degree of pride to his German ancestry or her German ancestry, we can safely say that we, indeed, share common roots.  And if we look at the names that loom large in American history, Frederick Steuben, but many leading leaders of the German — of the American business community, Guggenheim, Steinway, Strauss, Singer — all of these German names.  So that is a broad foundation on which we can build.

And we are still grateful that so many Germans found asylum and a safe place to live during the Second World War in the United States.  We have a broad-based exchange of students.  We have cooperation in science.  We work in air and space with the ISS.  We share a lot of successes.  I mentioned the 50,000 soldiers — American soldiers — that are present today in Germany are very welcome, indeed, in my country.

Let me say this on a personal note.  Without the United States of America, I would in all probably not be able to stand here before you today.  Overcoming the Cold War required courage from the people of Central and Eastern Europe and what was then the German Democratic Republic, but it also required the steadfastness of Western partner over many decades when many had long lost hope of integration of the two Germanys and Europe.  Many perhaps didn’t even want this anymore.  But the then-President George Herbert Walker Bush said German unity, European unity, is indeed something that deserves our support.

So there are a lot of tasks that we have in common, a lot of challenges that we need to meet together.  We’re doing this in this spirit of freedom, of shared values.  We want to bring these values to bear on the international agenda.  We’re dealing and — ever since the month of January with these issues, the Arab Spring in Syria, in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Libya.  That is a very great challenge.

But if I remember — let me take you back perhaps to the period after the Second World War when, through the Marshall Plan, Germany was able to get back on its feet again.  I see this also as our common task, as a task of the Europeans and of the Americans and the Germans to support this change, to make it possible for these young people to have a perspective for the future.

We talked about this.  We talked about Germany in particular with its experience and vocational training schemes, offering an alliance for jobs, for training and education.  We’re working together with the Egyptians and the Tunisians on this with our foundations.  Building up institutions, for example, is something that we want to do.

I said that we after all opened up an office in Benghazi that will serve as a clearinghouse for training schemes, for example, for the security forces, the police there on the ground, and we will also, through an additional commitment to Afghanistan, lend a contribution to mastering the common challenges.

We talked about economic issues in the G20.  We worked very closely together, and I believe we have been able to make a lot of progress there and be successful.  The situation in the Euro group in Europe obviously is also of very great interest over here.  Finance ministers talked about these issues, but we, too, talked about this at some length.  And I said, yet again, for Germany, Europe is not only indispensable, it is part and parcel of our identity.  We’ve always said German unity, European unity and integration, that’s two parts of one and the same coin.  But we want, obviously, to boost our competitiveness.

We are very much aware — very well aware of the fact — both of us, I think — that we are in a tough competition with the emerging economies.  So Europe needs to be competitive and we also need to be competitive if we wish to remain an interesting economic partner for the United States.  This has to be done on the basis of strength, of competitiveness.  So this is why the Germans are pursuing a policy of a competitive Europe, and this is — and it is also an approach of solidarity, so we need to show solidarity to the countries that need it, but they also need to come to enhance competitiveness.

We talked about the Middle East peace process.  I think this was a very important initiative to point out yet again that the United States of America, just as Germany and the European Union, wish to promote a further development of the peace process.  We’re saying this to both countries:  We want a two-state solution.  We want a Jewish state of Israel and alongside a independent Palestinian state.  Unilateral measures are not helping at all to bring about this cause, and we agree that we wish to cooperate very closely on this, because as we both say, time is of the essence.  And looking at the changes in the Arab area and the Arab region, it would be a very good signal indeed if it came out that talks between the parties are again possible.

The commitment we take in Afghanistan shows that we’re very close.  We’re very grateful for the close cooperation in the north of Afghanistan; that has turned out excellently.  We share the opinion that in Afghanistan we wish to approach an — the matters in the sense of an integrated security approach, a network security approach.  It was said we want to build up not only the military side of it, but the civil side of it.  We wish to go in together, out together.  Afghanistan will need our support, however, in the long run.  So we will not abandon them.

Barack, thank you very much again for the very friendly talks, for this very warm atmosphere, for making it possible to have this exchange of views in a very candid manner.  I think even though we make look differently than our predecessors we have a lot in common, I think, and we have a lot to discuss.

Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I’ll start off with Steve Holland of Reuters.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You both face economic troubles.  Mr. President, how worried are you about the threat of a double-dip recession?  What specific policies are you considering to help head it off?  And abroad, do you expect Germany to fund another bailout for Greece?

And Chancellor Merkel, is Europe concerned about the possibility of the U.S. defaulting on its debt?  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I’m not concerned about a double-dip recession.  I am concerned about the fact that the recovery that we’re on is not producing jobs as quickly as I want it to happen.

Prior to this month we had seen three months of very robust job growth in the private sector.  And so we were very encouraged by that.  This month you still saw job growth in the private sector, but it had slowed down.  We don’t yet know whether this is a one-month episode or a longer trend.

Obviously we’re experiencing some headwinds, gas prices probably being most prominent.  It has an enormous impact on family budgets and on the psychology of consumers.  And so we are taking a range of steps to make sure that we’ve got an energy policy that can bring some stability to world oil prices.

But the overall trend that we’ve seen over the last 15 months — 2 million — over 2 million jobs created over the past 15 months — a rebounding of the manufacturing sector in the United States that’s exemplified by the recovery of the Big Three automakers here — all indicates that we have set a path that will lead us to long-term economic growth.

But we’ve still got some enormous work to do.  And as long as there are some folks out there who are unemployed, looking for work, then every morning when I wake up, I’m going to be thinking about how we can get them back to work.

Some of the steps that we took during the lame duck session, the payroll tax, the extension of unemployment insurance, the investment in — or the tax breaks for business investment in plants and equipment — all those things have helped.  And one of the things that I’m going to be interested in exploring with the members of both parties in Congress is how do we continue some of these policies to make sure that we get this recovery up and running in a robust way.

We then have a set of long-term competitiveness challenges that aren’t so different from what Germany or any advanced country is having to go through in the 21st century, where we have emerging markets who are becoming more competitive themselves.  And we’re going to have to step up our game.

So making sure that our school systems are working well and we’ve got the best-trained workers in the world; making sure that we’re investing in infrastructure so that we can attract businesses to our shores; making sure that we reform our tax system so it’s less complex, more transparent, and is encouraging of business investment; and getting a hold — getting a handle on our deficit in a way that’s balanced and sensible.

So we’re going to have some days where things aren’t going as well as we’d like.  There are going to be some times where we’re surprised with better economic data than we expected.  We are on the path of a recovery, but it’s got to accelerate.  And that’s going to require a continuation of a lot of the steps that I’ve already discussed.

With respect to the European situation, I have had extensive discussions with Angela about the situation there.  It’s a tough situation and I think we all acknowledge it.

Greece’s debt is significant, and it is taking some difficult steps to improve its situation.  But they’re under the gun from the international capital markets, and as part — as a member of the euro zone, they necessarily are going to be looking to other members of the euro zone to help them figure out a path forward.

Germany is going to be a key leader in that process.  And the politics of it are tough.  You recall how difficult it was for us to make investments in our own auto industry or to make sure that we didn’t have a financial meltdown here.  Well, imagine if you’re having to make those same decisions with 27 other countries with respect to somebody else’s economic problems.  That gives you some sense of how tough the politics are.

But I am confident that Germany’s leadership, along with other key actors in Europe, will help us arrive at a path for Greece to return to growth, for this debt to become more manageable.  But it’s going to require some patience and some time, and we have pledged to cooperate fully in working through these issues both on a bilateral basis but also through international and financial institutions like the IMF.

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  Well, in Europe we are very well aware of responsibility for the global economy.  Barack just outlined what the Americans are doing in order to generate growth and combat unemployment, which is what we’re doing in Europe as well.

Through the global financial and economic crisis, we’ve seen how interdependent we are.  And the stability of the euro zone is therefore an important factor of stability for the whole of the global economy.  So we do see clearly our European responsibility and we’re shouldering that responsibility together with the IMF.

We’ve seen that the stability of the euro as a whole will also be influenced if one country is in trouble.  And that is what this assistance is all about.  There are actually — there’s actually a ban on bailouts in the treaties underpinning the stability and growth pact.  But if a country is in danger and thereby endangers the euro as a whole, it is in each and every country’s vested interest to see to it that this common currency area is not endangered.  And we will act in such a way, however, that sustainability is guaranteed, as I said previously.

As far as the situation in the United States is concerned, I think each and every one ought to deal with his or her own problems.  We in Europe have our hands full already with what we need to do, and I’m absolutely convinced that as we shoulder our responsibility and meet our responsibility, so will the United States of America.

Q    (Off-mic) — of her accomplishments in the past, or is it as well an expression of the expectations that you would have for the future?  And if so, where do you see areas globally where the Chancellor and Germany can do more?

(As translated.)  And Madam Chancellor, addressed to you, Germany is after all actually being praised in America through its economic might, its progress.  Does this mean, however, also that it entails certain enhanced responsibilities and where you have to live up to responsibilities, or do you think Germany needs to do more in the future?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  With respect to the Medal of Freedom, it certainly is a recognition of the Chancellor’s remarkable career.  I think not only has she been an excellent steward of the German economy and the European project, but she represents the unification of Europe through her own life story and the capacity to overcome the past and point towards a brighter future.

So the extraordinary work that she’s already done I think would by itself merit the Medal of Freedom.  Fortunately she’s going to be around quite a bit longer.  And so she’s going to be doing outstanding work in the future.  Her leadership will be critical on economic issues of the sort that we just discussed in the euro zone.  And I very much compliment her on the courage with which she approaches some of these very difficult political issues, at some significant political costs to herself.

On the international stage, there’s no issues that we don’t coordinate closely with Germany.  And our work in Afghanistan, our work together with NATO, the approach that we’ve taken with respect to the Middle East and the Arab Spring, our approaches to development issues and how we help the poorest countries find their place in the international economy, these are all going to be areas where I think Angela’s leadership will be welcomed and will be absolutely critical for us to be able to achieve the kind of more peaceful and prosperous world that we want to see.

So she’s not finished yet; she’s got a lot more work to do.  I know sometimes she probably wouldn’t mind a couple of days off, but she’ll have to wait for that.

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  Well, I believe when you see me standing here before you today and receiving this prestigious award of the Medal of Freedom, it will perhaps also be a moment where one needs to look back to 1989 and German unification, and what actually happened there.

If you like, Germany entered into a qualitatively new phase.  We were all of a sudden a reunited country, a country with all rights, but also with all the obligations.

If I think back to the beginning of the ‘90s, we were struggling for a decision that would enable us to send ships on the Adria, taking part in reconnaissance missions.  And if you compare this to where we are today, you see the road that we have traveled in the direction of assuming more international responsibility.  Military missions — participating in military missions are part and parcel of that — on the Balkans, in UNIFIL, in Afghanistan, in combating piracy, and in many other areas.

But what’s also important in this context — and that’s an approach that we both share, Barack and I — is that we need to combine military and civil engagement.  And so I think we live up to our international responsibilities.  The world is full of problems that we need to address.  That’s a reality and you cannot have enough partners that work together with you in a coordinated way, and this is why this cooperation is so extremely important for our common future.

I’m saying this also as someone who comes from Europe.  The changes in North Africa are changes that happen on our doorstep.  Those are our immediate neighbors and we have a choice.  Either this works out well or we have an enormous refugee problem.

And so it’s not only out of charity that we help people.  There’s not only a moral obligation.  But we have also a vested interest in seeing to it that this continent, this region, comes on its feet.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President, Chancellor Merkel.  Mr. President, you called Chancellor Merkel one of your closest global allies, but you have differed in approach on a couple of key issues — Libya and the global economic recovery over the years.  In Libya, do you believe more German military involvement in that operation would bring it to a faster, more decisive conclusion?  And did you ask Chancellor Merkel for such a commitment?

And on the European economic question, did you ask her specifically to drop her insistence that the private sector become involved in the Greek debt bailout, which is holding up that and which you’ve blamed the European sluggishness for America’s own stalled recovery?

Chancellor Merkel, if I could ask you, do you believe NATO was mistaken in getting involved militarily in Libya?  And if not, why are you not more directly involved militarily there?  And what more can you do to promote an accelerated European economic recovery?  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, first of all, with respect to Libya, I think it is important to note that this is a NATO operation that’s fully integrated, which means you have German personnel who are involved actively in these activities in their NATO role.  As I indicated before, Germany has stepped up and taken additional responsibilities in Afghanistan that have freed up resources for us to be able to conduct our operations in Libya.

Chancellor Merkel and I share the belief that Qaddafi needs to step down for the sake of his own people.  And with respect to the pace of operations and participation, I think if you look at where we were three months ago and where we are now — or two months ago and where we are now — the progress that has been made in Libya in significant.

Our goal there was to protect the Libyan people from a potential slaughter.  We have done so.  Benghazi is free from threat of the Libyan regime right now.  They are hunkered down.  Misurata, which was under severe attack, is now in a situation where although still threatened, Qaddafi’s forces have been pushed back.  So what you’re seeing across the country is a inexorable trend of the regime forces being pushed back, being incapacitated.  You’re seeing defections, oftentimes of some very high-profile members of the Qaddafi government, as well as the military.  And I think it is just a matter of time before Qaddafi goes.

And each country that is part of this coalition is playing a different role.  So we did a whole bunch of stuff at the front end to disable Qaddafi’s air defenses, to take out some of their most significant firepower.  Now we are in a more supportive role as other countries have stepped up.

Germany — we did discuss last night Germany’s role, and there is going to be a lot of work to do when Qaddafi does step down, in terms of getting the Libyan people back on their feet — economic, political work that’s going to have to be done.  And my expectation is going to be that there will be full and robust German support as there has been in the past from Germany on a wide range of issues.

With respect to the economy, as I said before, this is a tough and complicated piece of business.  And ultimately, Europeans are going to have to make decisions about how they proceed forward.  What you have to do is balance the recognition that Greece has to grow, and that means that there has to be private investment there.  They’ve got to make structural reforms that make them more competitive.  They have to have greater transparency in their economic system.

But given their level of debt, it also means that other countries in the euro zone are going to have to provide them a backstop and support.  And frankly, people who are holding Greek debt are going to have to make some decisions, working with the European countries in the euro zone about how that debt is managed.

What we’ve done is to say to Germany and other countries that are involved; we will be there for you; we are interested in being supportive; we think that America’s economic growth depends on a sensible resolution of this issue; we think it would be disastrous for us to see an uncontrolled spiral and default in Europe, because that could trigger a whole range of other events.  And I think Angela shares that same view.

And so we’re going to have to work through this issue methodically, and we will be supportive in any ways that we can to make sure that all the best ideas are brought to bear on the problem.

But let me just make one larger point about — because it relates also to the question that Steve asked earlier.  I think people on both sides of the Atlantic are understandably frustrated with the ups and downs of the economy, the world economy.  And it’s just very important for folks to remember how close we came to complete disaster.

The world economy took a severe blow two and a half years ago.  And in part that was because of a whole set of policy decisions that had been made and challenges that had been unaddressed over the course of the previous decade.  And recovering from that kind of body blow takes time.  And recovery is going to be uneven, and there are going to be times where we are making progress but people are still skittish and nervous, and the markets get skittish and nervous, and so they pull back because they’re still thinking about the traumas of just two and a half years ago.

And so economic data that in better times would pass without comment, now suddenly people wonder, well, are we going to go back to this terrible crisis?  And all that affects consumer confidence, it affects business confidence.  It affects the capital markets.

And so our task is to not panic, not overreact, to make sure that we’ve got a plan, a path forward in terms of how we make our economies competitive; making sure we’re dealing with the structural issues and the basic fundamentals that will allow us to grow and create a good, sound business environment.

So in America, for example, the need for us to get a handle on our debt and our deficit is going to be important, making sure that our investments in education, in clean energy, in infrastructure — that we find a way to do that.

In Germany and Europe, there are going to be different sets of challenges.  But the important point is, is that — I think Angela would agree — what we try not to do is to look day to day at whatever is happening in the marketplace or whatever headlines are taking place and be reactive.  Our job is to set a course for the medium and the long term that assures that not only both our economies grow, but the world economy is stable and prosperous.  And I think we can do that together.

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  Well, maybe I should comment briefly on this as well.  Two and a half years ago, we experienced something that didn’t exist for decades — ever since the ‘20s and ‘30s of the previous century.  And generally around, because we cooperated so well, we were able to ward off the worst that could have happened.  And now we have a situation that we believe is something that meets the challenges of the future.

Before the crisis, we discussed what sort of format are we to choose — a G20, G8, G30.  Now we have the G20, which is a good format, has proved to be a good format, and has, for example, as regards settling this situation and setting up rules for the financial markets, has been able to come up with credible solutions.  And that has strengthened our cooperation, although we do debate matters in a controversial manner.  For example, do we need more stimulus?  How much do we need?  How many savings programs and cuts programs do we need?  What structural programs do we need?

I think that shows great openness because we’re all breaking new ground.  These are unchartered waters, and we cannot, with all due respect, rely completely on the financial business community to give us good advice every day.  They have their own vested interest.  So we were dependent on our own good and sound judgment.  And exchanges will be necessary on this in the future as well.

As regards Libya, the United Nations resolution is apply — still applies.  Qaddafi needs to step down and he will step down.  I’m convinced of that, because we have made great progress.  And then there will still be a lot of work to do.  And in the future when we have the talks on this, we agree that Germany is showing — will be showing that it is responsible and committed to the Libyan cause.  There will be a lot of problems still to contend with, and we’ll be in the closest possible contact.

We support — Germany supports the NATO operation simply by being present in the stance there, and also by stepping up our commitment in Afghanistan.  It is our joint will that this NATO mission is successful.  And this is important for the people in Libya, but it’s also important for NATO, for the alliance at large.  And here we have one heart of allies that beats with the other allies.

Q    (As translated.)  The German decision on Libya has burdened the German-American relationship somewhat.  Were you surprised by these irritations and this warm reception?  Is this something like a reset button or a breaking up out into a new future?  And you, President Obama, were in Buchenwald and Baden-Baden, but as a new President not in Berlin.  Why not?  And will this happen once you have your new term of office?

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  Well, I believe that this present event here today after all has been agreed for a long time, and our partnership, our friendship rests on a very broad basis, as I said this morning.  And sometimes there may be differences of opinion in such a friendship and partnership.

What’s important is that we wish each other every success.  Not each and everyone can be in on missions.  For example, we participated in UNIFIL where the United States are not participating.

Without sort of mixing up things here, there will be areas in the world where we shoulder different responsibilities.  Partners are doing together with others things that we believe can be useful.  And this is what we want to do.  We want to see to it that our contribution is bringing about a success, is encouraging other people to now see we wish to live in a democracy, this is good, this is sensible.

So I see today’s event as a wonderful reception, but it’s not something that’s so unusual.  I see it in a continuity of our very close relations, and I do see it as another starting point, if you like, for meeting other challenges of the future.

On the question of Germany, you said that the American President some people say in Germany has not really been to Germany at all.  He was in Dresden, he was in Buchenwald, he was in Baden-Baden for the NATO conference.  Berlin opens its arms to him every day.  But the Berliners can also wait.  They have proved this throughout their history.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I look very much forward to being in Berlin.  And the last time I was there we had a lot of fun.  (Laughter.)  And I’m sure that I’ll have a wonderful time the next time I’m there as well.  And I appreciate you assuming that I’ll have another term.  (Laughter.)  And so I’ll have plenty of time to be able to put Berlin on my schedule.  All right?  Thank you very much, everybody.

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  And I can promise that the Brandenburg Gate will be standing for some more time.

END 12:18 P.M. EDT

Remarks by President Obama and Chancellor Merkel in an Exchange of Toasts

Rose Garden

7:31 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good evening.  Guten abend.  Michelle and I are honored to welcome you as we host Chancellor Merkel, Professor Sauer, and the German delegation for the first official visit and State Dinner for a European leader during my presidency.  (Applause.)

Angela, you and the German people have always shown me such warmth during my visits to Germany.  I think of your gracious hospitality in Dresden.  I think back to when I was a candidate and had that small rally in Berlin’s Tiergarten.  (Laughter.)  So we thought we’d reciprocate with a little dinner in our Rose Garden.

Now, it’s customary at these dinners to celebrate the values that bind nations.  Tonight, we want to do something different.  We want to pay tribute to an extraordinary leader who embodies these values and who’s inspired millions around the world — including me — and that’s my friend, Chancellor Merkel.

More than five decades ago — in 1957 — the first German chancellor ever to address our Congress, Konrad Adenauer, spoke of his people’s “will of freedom” and of the millions of his countrymen forced to live behind an Iron Curtain.  And one of those millions, in a small East German town, was a young girl named Angela.

She remembers when the Wall went up and how everyone in her church was crying.  Told by the communists that she couldn’t pursue her love of languages, she excelled as a physicist.  Asked to spy for the secret police, she refused.  And the night the Wall came down, she crossed over, like so many others, and finally experienced what she calls the “incredible gift of freedom.”

Tonight, we honor Angela Merkel not for being denied her freedom, or even for attaining her freedom, but for what she achieved when she gained her freedom.  Determined to finally have her say, she entered politics — rising to become the first East German to lead a united Germany, the first woman chancellor in German history, and an eloquent voice for human rights and dignity around the world.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest honor a President can bestow on a civilian.  Most honorees are Americans; only a few others have received it, among them Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, and Helmut Kohl.  So please join me in welcoming Chancellor Merkel for the presentation of the next Medal of Freedom.  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Presidential Medal of Freedom to Dr. Angela Merkel.  Dr. Angela Merkel came to symbolize the triumph of freedom by becoming the first East German to serve as chancellor of a united Federal Republic of Germany.  She also made history when she became Germany’s first female chancellor.  A dedicated public servant, Chancellor Merkel has promoted liberty and prosperity in her own country, in Europe, and throughout the world.

[The medal is presented.]

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  You can all applaud.  (Laughter and applause.)

I’ve got to do the toast.  (Laughter.)  I want to conclude by inviting all of you to stand and join me in a toast.  And I want to do so with the words that Angela spoke two years ago when she became the first German leader to address our Congress since Chancellor Adenauer all those decades ago.

Her words spoke not only to the dreams of that young girl in the East, but to the dreams of all who still yearn for their rights and dignity today:  to freedom, which “must be struggled for, and then defended anew, every day of our lives.”

Cheers.  Zum wohl.  (Applause.)

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  (As translated.)  Mr. President, dear Barack, dear Michelle, ladies and gentlemen — the first political event during my childhood that I distinctly remember is the building of the Berlin Wall 50 years ago.  I was seven years old at the time.  Seeing the grownups around me, even my parents, so stunned that they actually broke out in tears, was something that shook me to the core.  My mother’s family were separated through the building of the Wall.

I grew up in the part of Germany that was not free, the German Democratic Republic.  For many years, I dreamt of freedom, just as many others did.  Also of the freedom to travel to the United States.  And I already had planned this out for the day that I would reach retirement age.  That was the age of 60 for men — sorry, for women at the time, and 65 for men.  So we as women were somewhat privileged at the time.  (Laughter.)

But imagining that I would one day stand in the Rose Garden of the White House and receive the Medal of Freedom from an American President, that was certainly beyond even my wildest dreams.  And believe me, receiving this prestigious award moves me deeply.

My thanks go to the American people, first and foremost, for this extraordinary honor, knowing full well how much you have done for us Germans.  And I thank you personally, Mr. President, because you are a man of strong convictions.  You touch people with your passion and your visions for a good future for these people, also in Germany.

You have been able time and again to put down important international goalposts, injecting issues such as disarmament, the question of how to shape our relations with the countries of the Middle East, and last but not least, the Middle East — the solution to the Middle East conflict with new dynamism.

Mr. President, I see the award of the Medal of Freedom as a testimony of the excellent German-American partnership.  Our countries stand up together for peace and freedom.

History has often showed us the strength of the forces that are unleashed by the yearning for freedom.  It moved people to overcome their fears and openly confront dictators such as in East Germany and Eastern Europe about 22 years ago.

Some of those courageous men and women are with me here tonight.  And the Medal of Freedom you so kindly bestowed on me, you also bestowed on them.

The yearning for freedom cannot be contained by walls for long.  It was this yearning that brought down the Iron Curtain that divided Germany and Europe, and indeed the world, into two blocs.

America stood resolutely on the side of freedom.  It is to this resolve that we Germans owe the unity of our country in peace and freedom.

Also today, the yearning for freedom may well make totalitarian regimes tremble and fall.  We have followed with great interest and empathy the profound changes in North Africa and in the Arab world.

Freedom is indivisible.  Each and every one has the same right to freedom, be it in North Africa or Belarus, in Myanmar or Iran.

Still, the struggle for freedom is demanding far too many sacrifices, and claiming far too many victims.  My thoughts are with our soldiers, our policemen, and the many, many volunteers who try to help.  I humbly bow to all those who risk their lives for the cause of freedom.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the horrible attacks of 9/11.  Over the past 10 years, we have stepped up significantly our joint fight against terror and for freedom and this in many ways.

We see that living in freedom and defending freedom are two sides of one and the same coin, for the precious gift of freedom doesn’t come naturally, but has to be fought for, nurtured, and defended time and time again.

Sometimes this may seem like an endless fight against windmills.  But you see, my personal experience is a quite different one.  What we dare not dream of today may well become reality tomorrow.

(Speaking in English.)  Neither the chains of dictatorship nor the fetters of oppression can keep down the forces of freedom for long.  This is my firm conviction that shall continue to guide me.  In this, the Presidential Medal of Freedom shall serve to spur me on and to encourage me.

Mr. President, thank you for honoring me with this prestigious award.  (Applause.)

END
7:51 P.M. EDT

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