ATHENS, Greece - During his last foreign visit as President of the United States, Barack Obama called for “course correction” to ensure the benefits of technology and ...
• Obama appeals to guard humanity from crude nationalism, populist movements and tribalism
• U.S. election cannot be compared with the scenario of the whole world, Obama claims
• ‘Brexit and other populist movements influenced U.S. elections’
ATHENS, Greece - During his last foreign visit as President of the United States, Barack Obama called for “course correction” to ensure the benefits of technology and globalisation can be shared broadly.
At a joint news conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens, Obama said, “The current path of globalisation demands a course correction. In the years and decades ahead, our countries have to make sure that the benefits of an integrated global economy are more broadly shared by more people and that the negative impacts are squarely addressed. That’s how democracies can deliver the prosperity and hope that our people need.”
At the birth place of democracy, Obama had a hour-long news conference where without naming anyone, he mentioned the importance of unity and asked to let go the differences.
He said, “We are going to have to guard against a rise in a crude sort of nationalism, or ethnic identity or tribalism that is built around us and them, and I will never apologise for saying that the future of humanity and the future of the world is going to be defined by what we have in common, as opposed to those things that separate us and ultimately lead us into conflict.”
“We know what happens when Europeans start dividing themselves up and emphasising their differences and seeing a competition between various countries in a zero-sum way. The 20th century was a bloodbath” he added.
He claimed that what happened in the U.S. election, could not be compared with the scenario of the whole world and suggested that it would be vice versa if people start to target others according to their race, cast or religion.
Obama said, “In the United States we know what happens when we start dividing ourselves along the lines of race or religion or ethnicity. It is dangerous, not just for the minority groups that are subjected to that kind of discrimination, or in some cases in the past, violence, but because we then don’t realise our potential as a country when we are preventing blacks or Latinos or Asians or gays or women from fully participating in the project of building American life.”
“So my vision is right on that issue, and it may not always win the day in the short term in any particularly political circumstance, but I am confident it will win the day in the long term. Because societies which are able to unify ourselves around values and ideals and character, and how we treat each other, and cooperation and innovation, ultimately are going to be more successful than societies that don’t.”
“Presidential elections, they turn on personalities, they turn on how campaigns are run, they turn on natural desires for change if you’ve had an incumbent who’s been there for eight years; there’s a temptation to think, ‘Well, let’s maybe make a change’,” Obama added.
He believes Britain's vote in June to leave the European Union, and other populist movements around the world to some extent have also influenced the U.S. election and they all have some common factors in between.
“Globalisation, combined with technology, combined with social media and constant information, has disrupted people’s lives, sometimes in very concrete ways. But also psychologically, people are less certain of their national identities or their place in the world. It starts looking different and disorienting,” he said.
“And there is no doubt that has produced populist movements, both from the left and the right, in many countries in Europe. When you see a Donald Trump and a Bernie Sanders, very unconventional candidates, have considerable success, obviously there’s something there that’s being tapped into. I think at times of significant stress, people are going to be looking for something, and they don't always know exactly what it is that they're looking for, and they might opt for change, even if they’re not entirely confident what that change will bring,” Obama added.
During the news conference, Tsipras said that the government of Greece hoped that Obama would help convince some of Greece’s more reluctant international creditors to grant debt relief, and pressure other European countries to share more of the burden of the continent’s refugee crisis.
However, the American President-elect, Donald Trump’s stance on refugee crisis has been different than Obama’s that cast doubts over future alliance with the European Union and nations under its hood.
Obama however believes that his last foreign visit to Europe would help American allies strengthen relations with the Trump-led nation after his presidency.
Tsipras praised Obama for his continuous support over the years and felt hopeful about the future of U.S.-Greece alliance.