Obama praises Germany ahead of Merkel visit

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama praised Germany’s environment policies and success at taming unemployment in an interview released on Sunday ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Washington.

In an interview with German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, Obama said the United States could learn lessons from Germany about connecting environmental and economic policies.

“Germany’s commitment to the environment is admirable, and there are things we can learn from Berlin about how becoming greener can actually push economic growth,” he said, according to a transcript provided by the paper.

Washington and Europe have not always agreed on the best way to boost global economic growth as the world struggled with recession and financial crisis. Merkel has pushed for fiscal austerity, while Obama was an advocate for stimulus spending.

Obama referred to those differences while praising the results that Germany has achieved.

“We’re all working on finding the right balance between providing the support the economy needs for a strong recovery and taking the steps that are required to guarantee our long-term fiscal sustainability,” he said.

“Germany has done a great job on employment, and I understand that there are more Germans currently employed than ever in the history of unified Germany.”

German unemployment fell in May for the fourth month running, hitting its lowest since reunification two decades ago. The adjusted jobless rate fell to 7.0 from 7.1 percent a month prior.

Those figures contrasted with less rosy data in the United States. Employers in May hired the fewest number of workers in eight months and U.S. unemployment rose to 9.1 percent, up from 9.0 percent in April.

The White House is now in talks with Republicans and Democrats in Congress to reach a plan for long-term deficit reduction. Appetite for further stimulus spending is low.

“Our fundamental goals are the same — we agree on the need to ensure that markets work well, and that both Germany and the United States need to be at the center of efforts to ensure that global growth is sustainable and balanced,” Obama said.

“Germany, like a lot of other European countries, has had to make some tough choices in terms of spending and budget cuts, and this is something we’re dealing with as well.”

Obama will present Merkel with the “Medal of Freedom” — the highest U.S. civilian honor — during her visit on Tuesday. Obama said she “embodies the promise of freedom and the opportunities of democracy.”