June 7, 2011 President Obama and the First Lady welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the United States on the South lawn of the White House. Despite the strong sun and famous Washington humidity, the event was certainly worth attending.
Finding the ideal location for photographs was a challenge, though White House staff did do an amazing job ensuring all guests were appropriately accommodated. After much pageantry, the two leaders spoke of the great importance of the German-American relationship, and shared hopeful messages about the future of the two economic powerhouses.
President Obama underlined the strategic nature of this country’s relationship with Germany, the country at the geographic and economic heart of Europe. He also spoke of the dynamism of the two countries’ economies, and of the importance of investing first and foremost in human capital.
Sadly, both Chancellor Merkel’s remarks and the English translation were barely audible. That said it was evident that Dr. Merkel intended to reinforce her country’s alliance with the United States, which she declared remained as strong today as it was when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.
The recent uprisings in North Africa will likely dominate discussions between the two leaders. Merkel did point out in her opening remarks that Germany stood by people struggling for democracy in North Africa, though her country has been noticeably absent from NATO involvement in the Libyan conflict. At this time France, the UK, and the U.S. have been leading airborne and naval bombardments against Gaddafi’s forces.
The need for a new head of the IMF to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn will likely be at the top of the agenda as well. Traditionally reserved for a European, the IMF chairmanship is now up for grabs as many argue that it is time the organization be led by some one from outside the continent.
At the same time, President Sarkozy’s Minister of Finance, Christine Lagarde, has also become a contender for the position. Though European herself, Lagarde is viewed by many to be the perfect public relations cure for the IMF: a competent, experienced woman who can change the image of an organization now marred by a sexual assault scandal.
Though it is yet unclear which issues the two leaders can resolve together, it is evident that the discussions will circle around two extremely important matters: economic policy and military involvement.