Former President Barack Obama’s upcoming trip to Germany is scheduled to coincide with President Donald Trump’s first meeting abroad with foreign leaders, potentially complicating the kick-off of Trump’s summer tour of Europe.
Obama will arrive in Germany on May 25 to participate in celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. He’ll appear alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a panel discussion titled, “Being Involved in Democracy: Taking on Responsibility Locally and Globally.” Obama and Merkel will talk on stage in front of the Brandenburg Gate, a symbol of European unity where Obama spoke in 2013. The appearance is expected to be Obama’s first public talk since leaving office in January.
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The former president can expect a warm welcome in Berlin, where he is well-liked and where he and Merkel cultivated a close working relationship. Merkel may hope that her discussion with Obama may give her a boost ahead of German elections in September. On his last visit to Germany as president in November, Obama said, “If I were German and I had a vote I’d support her,” adding, jokingly, that he wasn’t sure his endorsement “helps or hurts” the German leader.
President Trump will arrive in Brussels on the same day for a summit of NATO leaders, where he is expected to reaffirm his commitment to the alliance and reiterate the need for member nations to meet the alliance’s 2% defense spending recommendation. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is visiting Trump at the White House on Wednesday. The president’s daughter, Ivanka, will visit Berlin later this month for a summit of women leaders.
While Trump and European leaders have recently found common ground over their response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons, the president’s dealings with European leaders hardly got off to a smooth start. When Merkel visited the White House last month, Trump seemed to ignore her when she asked if he would like to shake hands during a photo op. The president also commented on their meeting on Twitter, saying, “I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nevertheless, Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!” The White House later denied claims that Trump had presented Merkel with a fake bill totaling around $376 billion.
Trump’s first official visit to Germany is expected in July, where he will attend a meeting of G20 leaders in Hamburg.