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Obama to reunite with Merkel in Germany next month

Former President Barack Obama is slated to reemerge on the international stage next month for a panel discussion on democracy with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who maintained a close relationship with the former U.S. leader during his time in the White House. The event coincides with current President Donald Trump’s tour of Europe. (John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images)

Former President Barack Obama will be in Europe at the same time as current President Donald Trump next month, and he apparently plans to take the opportunity to meet with at least one foreign leader.

In May, Obama is set to reemerge on the international stage, taking part in a panel discussion on democracy alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who maintained a close relationship with the former president during his eight years in the White House.

The panel, titled “Being Involved in Democracy: Taking on Responsibility Locally and Globally,” is part of a 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, Politico reported, and it will coincide with Trump’s summer tour of Europe.

On the same day, May 25, Trump is slated to appear at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders’ summit in Brussels. In January, Trump called NATO “obsolete.”

Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chairman of the Evangelical Church in Germany, said in a press release that he extended the invitation to Obama in May of last year to visit Germany during the religious anniversary. The panel Obama is taking part in is being jointly sponsored by the German Protestant Kirchentag and the Obama Foundation.

For his part, Trump has had a rocky relationship with Merkel in his short time in the Oval Office. During Merkel’s visit to the White House last month, Trump reportedly handed her an “invoice” for $374 billion, the amount of money he believes Germany owes NATO.

According to The Independent, the White House arrived at that number by backdating it to 2002, the year former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder pledged to spend more money on defense. NATO’s member states pledged in 2014 to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defense.

Germany — like Canada, Spain, Italy, and others — has consistently failed to meet that threshold. So Trump reportedly told his aides to calculate how often Germany’s defense spending has fallen below 2 percent of GDP over the past 12 years and add interest.

While Germany was quick to describe the White House’s move as “outrageous,” Merkel did commit during her meeting with Trump to abide by the 2 percent minimum over the next seven years.

“We committed to this 2 percent goal until 2024,” she told reporters.

Despite the tension between Trump and Merkel, the president took to Twitter after their White House summit to say he had a “great” time with the chancellor, though he did follow up by saying the U.S. ally owes “vast sums of money to NATO.”

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