La Repubblica: Obama’s visit to Athens was “anything but a chance selection”

U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Athens had huge symbolic significance and was “anything but a chance selection,” Italian journalist and “La Repubblica” correspondent Ettore Livini told on Sunday.

122294-thumb-full-livini220213

According to Livini, Obama had highlighted both Greece’s importance in the history of western civilisation but also the difficult times that Greece is currently experiencing, using this to talk about the problems of globalisation.
“It was a speech of the highest level, a university speech on the issue of democracy,” Livini said, and one of real importance in light of Brexit, the U.S. elections and the refugee crisis. It was also a way for Obama to express a position on Greek debt and give examples about how the course of globalisation should be handled to avoid results like the referendum in Britain or Trump’s election.

Regarding Germany’s frosty reaction to Obama’s speech and his calls for debt relief, Livini insisted that Obama’s position was especially important “because it is clear and strong”. Alongside the initiatives and positions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and proposals made by the Greek finance ministry concerning the new targets for Greece’s surplus, this would “mobilise the whole train” and leave German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble “in the last car,” he said.

“I sincerely hope that the course followed by this train will be a good one because, otherwise, there will be a problem for Greece but also for Europe,” he added.

Livini also expressed optimism that some form of agreement on Greece will be reached by the December 5 Eurogroup. “At the very least, there should be an agreement on the new course that everyone wants to follow and to say, precisely, when this course will be concluded,” he said.

Commenting on Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s call for an end to austerity and whether this meant that Greek and Italian policy was now closer, Livini noted that both countries had abstained during the process for approving the new EU budget.

“This is something that indicates a basic coordination of action between the two countries because, at this stage, they have several common interests: Greece and Italy are both shouldering the burden of the refugee crisis, the tragedy of the relocations that are not taking place at the rate they should, and are struggling with austerity,” he said.

The big hurdle ahead for Renzi was the Italian referendum. If he succeeded in clearing this and remained strong, the countries of the European south could work together to push harder for a change in Europe, Livini added.