Thursday

22nd Feb 2018

Obama speaks to star-struck audience in Brussels

  • Some 2,000 people came to see Obama speak in the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels (Photo: EP Technology)

Obama, following his pledge of solidarity with the EU on Ukraine on Wednesday (26 March), delivered a 40-minute speech to an audience of some 2,000 at the Palais des Beaux Arts centre in Brussels.

Despite his late show, Obama’s entrance was met with a standing ovation from the mixed crowd of EU chiefs, Belgian leaders and royalty, young people from around Europe and Nato officials.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

His speech sought to further isolate the Russian leadership and to bring Europe and the United States closer together by highlighting what the President described as shared values and principles.

Democracy, independent judiciaries, civil society, uncensored information, and free and fair elections were cited.

Russia's annexation of the Crimea is a throwback to the "old ways of doing things", said the US leader.

"Once again, we are confronted with the belief among some that bigger nations can bully smaller ones to get their ways," he said.

"This is not another Cold War we are entering into. After all, unlike the Soviet Union, Russia leads no bloc of nations, no global ideology. The United States and Nato do not seek any conflict with Russia," he added.

With references to war at the turn of the last century to the more recent atrocities in the Balkans, Obama said that young people are now living in a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity.

"But that is not because man's darkest impulses are vanished. Even here in Europe, we've seen ethnic cleansing in the Balkans that shocked the conscious," he noted.

Ukraine and Russia did not stray far from his speech.

But he did make references to the European project, which he said had been strained by the difficulties of integration and globalisation.

Compounded by a financial crisis, he noted the pressures had "stirred the rise of politics that too often targets immigrants or gays or those who seem somehow different".

Obama called upon European leaders to insist on policies that benefit the many and not just the few.

"Instead of targeting our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters we can use our laws to protect their rights, instead of defining ourselves in opposition to others we can confirm the aspirations we hold in common," he said.

Contentious issues such as the US-led snooping and bulk collection of Europeans' personal data was not mentioned.

He spoke of trade and open markets as interests that meet the needs of nations' citizens but did not reference the EU and US free trade deal negotiations.

At a press conference earlier in the day, Obama said he had no interest in signing a trade agreement that would weaken environmental standards or rollback consumer rights.

But his assurances are unlikely to appease critics, who complain the negotiations are conducted in secret and risk curtailing EU standards on health, food, labour rights and the environment.

For some in the audience, Obama's speech did not resonate.

"Putin is laughing in our faces," said Mihael Rotaru, a 29-year old entrepreneur from Bucharest.

Others such as a 24-year-old French student from the College of Europe in Bruges were inspired.

"It reminded me of how important peace is for us," she said.

Poland shows no sign of concessions to Commission

While the dialogue between Warsaw and the Commission has improved since new prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki entered office, there is no sign of compromise over rule of law concerns - as the clock ticks towards a March deadline.

MPs demand Council become more transparent

Three Dutch MPs, on behalf of 26 national parliamentary chambers across the EU, are demanding more transparency. 'The Eurogroup is the most opaque of them all,' complained Dutch MP Omtzigt.

News in Brief

  1. Belgian PM to host 11 EU leaders ahead of summit
  2. Tusk all but rules out pan-EU candidates in 2019 elections
  3. Tusk: EU budget agreed before 2019 elections 'unrealistic'
  4. Commission fines car cartels €546m
  5. Juncker: 'nothing' wrong in Katainen meeting Barroso
  6. Juncker appoints new head of cabinet
  7. MEPs decide not to veto fossil fuel projects list
  8. Factory relocation risks drawing Vestager into Italian election

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  2. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  3. International Climate ShowSupporting Start-Ups & SMEs in the Energy Transition. 21 February in Brussels
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  9. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  10. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  12. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP

Latest News

  1. UK seeks flexible transition length after Brexit
  2. Commission defence of Barroso meeting leaves 'discrepancies'
  3. MEPs bar WMD and killer robots from new EU arms fund
  4. Canete gets EU parliament pension while still commissioner
  5. Bank of Latvia sends deputy to ECB amid bribery probe
  6. We are not (yet) one people
  7. Intellectual property protection - the cure for Europe's ills
  8. Eastern states push back at rule of law conditions on funds