Obama travelled in a motorcade from Berlin’s Tegel airport to a private meeting with Mrs. Merkel at the chancellery, opposite the glass-domed Reichstag parliament building. Chancellor Merkel’s spokesman said the German leader had “very open” and wide-ranging talks with Senator Obama, touching on foreign policy issues including Iran, Afghanistan and the Middle East peace process.
Their talks also covered the trans-Atlantic economic partnership, climate and energy issues, the state of the global economy and international cooperation to “solve important global questions,” Ulrich Wilhem, Chancellor Merkel’s spokesman, said in a statement.
Merkel and Obama stressed the “great significance of close and friendly German-American relations,” he said, adding that the talks were conducted in “a very good atmosphere”.
Obama paused as he entered the gates of the chancellery to wave at a group of Bavarian teenager school children, whose class happened to be ending its tour of the building.
“We were really close,” an excited Michaela Schmid said. “It was super, a real highlight.”
The chancellery is an imposing sandstone-and-concrete cube which, at 205,000 sq ft, dwarfs the White House.
After meeting with Merkel for about an hour, Obama’s motorcade went to Hotel Adlon, the hotel made infamous by pop singer Michael Jackson when he was criticized for holding his child out a window in 2002.
The hotel was closed off for 10 minutes while police specialists checked a suspicious package that was found to contain only a book.
Around 700 police officers have been deployed during Senator Obama’s visit, which lasts until Friday morning, when he is expected to depart for Paris.
Team Obama is sensitive to being seen as presumptuous, of acting like a president before the people have their say this November.
Did he look to the Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy speeches about Berlin for guidance when writing his own? He was asked by a reporter.
“You know, they were presidents,” Obama said, “I am a citizen. But obviously Berlin is representative of the extraordinary success of the post World War II effort to bring the continent together and the West together and then later to bring the East and the West together so, so I think it’s a natural place to talk about it.”
Does he see the speech as a way to describe how he could improve that relationship as president?
“No,” Obama said. “I’m just giving a speech.”
In English, he noted.
“My German is not real good,” he said. “I can speak Bahasi Indonesian but I don’t think…there would be a lot of appeal to that.”
Would you describe this as a campaign speech tonight? Another reporter asked.
“As opposed to?” Obama replied.
You’re in a campaign and you’re giving a speech, replied the reporter. Would it be okay to describe it as a campaign speech?
“The people in the crowd aren’t voters,” Obama said, “so in that sense it’s not designed to get them to the polls. You know, it’s not a political rally. Hopefully it will be viewed as a substantive articulation of the relationship I’d like to see between the US and Europe.”