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Press Conference: Barroso, Ferrero-Waldner & Rice

Jose Manuel Barroso President of the European Commission
Benita Ferrero-Waldner Commissioner for External Relations and New Neighbourhood Policy
Condoleezza Rice US Secretary of State
Transcript of Press Conference
Visit of Condoleezza Rice
Brussels, 9 February 2005

President Barroso: Good afternoon. Today I and Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner had the pleasure of receiving the United States Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, as part of the preparation for President Bush’s visit to the European Union on February 22nd.

We had a very substantial dialogue based on shared values and very many common interests which underpin our relationship. I also invited Secretary Rice to a meeting with External Relations Commissioners to discuss how Europe can best work with the United States to tackle the global challenge we both face. The meeting counted with the participation of the Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, but also the Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Enlargement, Development, and Justice, Freedom and Security as a true reflection of the diversity of fields that make up the trans-Atlantic relationship.

We agreed, too, that today, it is more vital than ever that Europe and United States, two longstanding allies sharing in essence the same values, work together to promote democracy, freedom, stability and prosperity throughout the world. The opportunities for making progress are before us, whether it be the Middle East, Afghanistan or the Balkans. We will succeed if we act together.

I'm also very much looking forward to the visit of President Bush here later this month to the heart of a united Europe made up of 25 member-states, 450 million citizens. This visit will symbolize the strong and enduring bonds of transatlantic cooperation that are stronger by far than any difference that may have existed between us. The President will find European Commission fully engaged in fulfilling its global responsibilities and ready to work with the United States to achieve our common goals.

More than ever, Europe needs United States, United States needs Europe. We must seize this opportunity with both hands. Today's international problems are too complex to go it alone and the joint attention of European and United States is needed immediately.

Yesterday, in the Middle East we saw real signs of hope for a new opening for peace between Israel and Palestinians. I strongly welcome the truce declared by Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. It is my hope that this will lead to a definitive end to years of violence in the Middle East and put us back on the path towards a lasting peace.

Let me now give the floor to Secretary Rice, and after that to Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner. Both have just returned from the Middle East and will surely have more to say on this and on other topics of our very constructive and friendly meeting.

Secretary Rice: Thank you. I'm very pleased to be here at the European Commission. Thank you very much, President Barroso. Thank you very much, Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner.

We also had a chance to meet in Washington not very long ago to begin the preparations for the President's trip here to the European Union in February -- at the end of February -- and we look very much forward to that trip.

We did have very good discussions. We began by affirming our history, which is a history of shared values; which is a history that goes back to the end of World War II, when the United States was one of the strongest supporters of the idea of European integration and European unity, believing that if Europe could be unified around democratic values that the chances for war in what was, at that time, a war-torn Europe, would be diminished and, indeed, eliminated.

And I think that this great European Commission and the European Union are a testament to the wisdom of that vision.

We look forward to continuing to work with a strong and united Europe. We talked about the importance of the United States and Europe taking on, now, the agenda of the common challenges before us: the importance of a Europe that is the -- one of the two pillars of a strong transatlantic relationship, NATO, where I was earlier, and the European Union; and the work that we have done together to, after the end of the Cold War, bring together a Europe that is whole, free and at peace. We still have a great deal of work to do in that regard, but this has been a remarkable period of the last 15-or-so years since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

We then talked about the many issues on the European...EU-U.S. agenda: the fact that the President will have an opportunity to talk about Afghanistan, about Iraq and about the broader Middle East. And we spent a good deal of time talking about the challenges and the opportunities in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

And Benita was saying that I think we were literally tracing each other's steps through the Middle East over the last day. And that just shows that the European Union and the United States are going to be very strong partners as we try and realize the opportunities before us in the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

We were remarking at how impressed we were with the fact that both Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas seemed to understand the historic opportunity before them, that this is a moment for optimism in what has been a longstanding and long-simmering conflict, but recognizing that we have not been able and the parties have not been able in the past to seize opportunities that have been before them.

We have pledged to work to redouble our efforts this time to see if we can bring about the conditions that will allow this to succeed. That includes the work that we will do at the London conference, at which the EU will be represented at that conference to help the Palestinians build the institutions of democracy, build the security institutions that can be a reliable security force for the Palestinian Authority, and, of course, work on the reconstruction of the Palestinian territories, most especially, first, Gaza, but also the West Bank, and to do that in a way that helps to ensure a peaceful and effective withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza and the four settlements in the West Bank, as the Israelis have, in their historic decision, decided to do.

We look forward to a meeting of the Quartet very soon, most likely at the time of the London meetings, where we -- the EU, the United Nations and the Russians are the members of the Quartet -- so that we can look at the task ahead of us and begin the process of getting back onto the Road Map, which is, after all, the reliable guide to President Bush's vision, but really our common vision of two states living together in peace, Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side in peace.

Thank you very much!

Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner: May I say, good to see you here, Condi; good to see you here as the Secretary of State. After Washington, it's really a pleasure to have you here.

Like you, I'm just coming back from the Middle East, as you said, and there we did really see the most positive developments since many years. The EU and U.S. -- and I agree with you -- share a commitment to peace in the region based on the two-state solution.

And as members of the Quartet, each of us will play our parts in making this goal a reality. Israel and Palestine have both -- we have to say that -- taken great risks for peace.

Now, what we have to do is to help them to stay the course and to see off those who resist change or who trust guns more than words. President Abbas needs to help to demonstrate that choosing peace brings tangible improvement in living conditions. On the other hand, the Israelis must make their contribution by allowing greater freedom of movement for the Palestinians and their goods. And the Palestinian leadership must rebuild confidence by consolidating the security measures already taken: destroying terminals, collecting illegal weapons, and so on.

So, let's be clear. Yesterday's declaration is only a beginning. It must lead us, as you very rightly said, to the longer process to implement the Road Map. We very much welcome the clear indications that United States intends to engage fully in this process. We, in the European Commission, will continue to offer also political and financial support, as we have done for over a decade. So, for instance, only for the year 2005, we have allocated 250 million euros to support the next steps in the peace process.

The EU and the U.S. share the objective of bringing stability and prosperity not only in Israel and Palestine, but also across the wider, broader Middle East. That is why we have done quite a lot to support the elections in Iraq and we'll continue also to support the political transition this year.

I know that journalists don't like to let facts get in the way of a good story, but the truth is EU-U.S. differences are routinely exaggerated and our common objectives stay on the plate. So I, for one, am looking forward to working as an effective partner of the United States and of you, dear, Condoleezza Rice.

Thanks.

Question: In the search of some facts for the elusive true story -- (laughter) -- maybe I could ask all of you about the EU arms embargo.

Madam Secretary, earlier you said that Europe has done some listening and has heard your concerns. Has it done enough so that the United States can now drop its objections to Europe's plans to lift the arms embargo? And on the European side, do you think that this dispute is now over?

Secretary Rice: This has been a period in which we have been able to make our views very clear about the arms embargo. We continue to believe that the human rights concerns need to be taken into consideration in any decision that was tied to Tiananmen and now would be reversed when, in fact, the elements of Tiananmen have not been resolved: the 2,000 prisoners.

Also, we have made clear our concerns about the military balance, the fact that there are still American forces in that region, and about the need to be concerned about the transfer of technology that might endanger in some way that very delicate military balance.

I do believe that the Europeans are listening to our concerns. As I understand it, a decision has not yet been taken, but we will continue to work with our European allies and we will see where we come out. All that we can ask is that the European Union is aware of our concerns, understands them fully and takes them fully into consideration in any decision that is made.

President Barroso: Yes, we are continuing discussions with the United States on this issue. As you know, the European Union is moving to lift the arms embargo. We understand the United States sensitivities in this regard. The European Union cannot be accused of rushing into this.

We agree with the United States that none of us has any interest in substantially increasing the quantity or the quality of the weaponry in Southeast Asia. We are working to ensure that the code of conduct is designed to take account of this.

Question: It's about Ukraine. Madam Rice has just said in NATO that the things that were unimaginable 15 years ago one can imagine today and that the doors to NATO are open to all European democracies. I would like to ask you, Mr. Barroso, can you say the same about European Union? Are the doors open for Ukraine if it fulfills all the reforms necessary? And to Madam Rice and Madam Ferrero-Waldner, on this issue, can Europe and United States put a plan together to bring Ukraine closer to the Western world? Thank you.

President Barroso: I'll start and afterwards I'll give the floor to both of you.

About Ukraine, I was receiving President Yushchenko. You know I supported him very much. Even before when he was in a position, I received him in another capacity. And we have a great, great admiration for his role and we fully support democratic Ukraine.

So I said, and I believe that the future of Ukraine is in Europe, but now the journey is not for European Union membership. We have the European Union's Neighborhood policy. It's a very ambitious program, very ambitious program, which includes the liberalization, trade liberalization, assistance, political cooperation, harmonization of standards in all issues.

So there is a lot of work to do under this Neighborhood policy of European Union, and I said that very clearly to President Yuschenko. So, I believe that it's the best way to ensure stabilization and consolidation of democratic institutions of Ukraine. And President Yuschenko and all democratic forces in Ukraine can count fully on our support.

I want to recall your attention, call your attention to the fact that we, during the crisis, we were very active. In fact, we were very much following the same line. The United States and European Union were very much following the same line in the message that we were giving to the Ukrainian authorities. And at that time, we adopted an action plan proposed by Benita Ferrero-Waldner, but we made the implementation of the action plan conditional to a true democracy in Ukraine, and after that there is a set of points made by Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Javier Solana about the role of the European Union in supporting Ukraine. So, this is the right framework to support fully the new democratic institutions of Ukraine.

Secretary Rice: We'll certainly be in close consultation, and already have. As President Barroso said, at the time that the Ukrainians were trying to resolve this difficult problem, of course, the EU had a representative there. We were in discussion with that EU representative, both through our ambassador on the ground, and indeed, at one point, through contact between Colin Powell and his colleagues.

We understand the steps that Ukraine needs to take to now support the democratic decision that the Ukrainian people have taken. The hard work is still ahead, although the hard decision for democracy was taken.

And so I'm quite certain that the action plan that the EU has, the steps that we are designing in the United States Government, that we will want to work together so that we don't have duplication of effort but so that we take account of all of the needs of the Ukraine in institution-building, in economic reform.

I said earlier that the Ukrainians have in front of them an action plan concerning NATO and we need to take now practical steps so that Ukraine continues to move toward the European mainstream. Everybody admires the difficult decision that Ukraine has taken for a democratic future. Now, we have to make certain that that difficult decision that the Ukrainians took is going to be supported by institutions and by prosperity and progress so that the Ukrainian people and their new government can succeed.

Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner: Let me add that our decision to make the action plan was not to have Ukraine far away, but, on the contrary, to bring Ukraine closer to the European Union. And there is still a lot to be done on the partnership and cooperation agreement but also on the actual action plan plus the Ten Points Plan that we hope Ukraine and us will decide upon on the 21st of February, and that, of course, we will be working very closely with them. I prepare a visit to go to Ukraine in the next few days, and so I think we will have a lot to discuss and then to sustain this positive development.

Question: Madam Secretary, you came to Europe about a week ago with a message that was believed by the Bush Administration to be vitally important to be delivered here. You're now one country, about an hour away, from your last stop, and I know you're tired. Twenty-four hours from your speech at Sciences Po, do you feel like the message has gotten through? Was there a moment, maybe today or earlier, where you felt like the message was coming through?

And I’d like to ask President Barroso, we heard many times from Colin Powell many similar things about the transatlantic relationship. What’s the difference now for Europe?

Secretary Rice: In fact, the interesting thing to me is that I actually think that the message was getting through before I got here and it was doing so because this is an alliance that understands that its future is one that is common. The times are different now than they were a year ago or two years ago when we did have our differences, not with everyone, but with a number of states, and when we didn’t have, while we still had common interests and common values I don’t think we had a common agenda for a while on what was really before us – at least in regards to Iraq. But of course we had continued to cooperate on a whole range of issues – Afghanistan, we were cooperating; the war on terrorism we were cooperating; everything from security issues like the Proliferation Security Initiative all the way out to issues of poverty alleviation and development and fighting the scourge of AIDS. So we were always cooperating, but we did have on Iraq not a common agenda.

We do now have a common agenda, and that is now that the war or the major military operations are behind us, now that we are facing the fact of an Iraqi people who are taking risks of their own for their democratic future, it’s very clear what is ahead of us.

I do appreciate very much the openness and the responsiveness of each and every government that I have met here, of the Commission, of NATO. It’s been a really great conversation. I feel very good about what we’ve done here and the conversation that we’ve had and the promise to continue that dialogue and conversation when President Bush comes.

But I also feel good about the concrete steps that have been shown here. The concrete steps that both we and the European Union have made to demonstrate our support for the Palestinian/Israeli rapprochement, whether it is the 250 million euros that Benita just talked about, or the 350 million dollars the President talked about in his State of the Union, or the Security Coordinator, the fact that we’re going to have a Quartet meeting. The concrete measures that people are taking on Iraq to support the political evolution in Iraq, and indeed some of the contributions that people talked about making when we were at NATO today.

So I do feel that it’s been a good trip. I enjoyed being at Sciences Po. I believe very strongly that even when we have differences or disagreements that we have to be able to debate them and discuss them in an open and honest way. After all democracy itself, which is our most common value, is the process of debate and discussion and overcoming differences and so it shouldn’t be surprising that democracies in their international relations have to do the same things. I think we’ve made considerable steps forward over the last, is it seven days, did you say? You’ve lost track, okay. The last six days. And I think we’re going to continue that when President Bush comes.

President Barroso: First of all let me say that Dr. Rice doesn’t seem to me at all tired. She was very energetic, and I think that energy, that enthusiasm is very good for the future of our relations.

As Dr. Rice said, there may be some points on which we do not agree. That’s quite obvious. We should not dramatize. We should not be saying that we agree on every issue. But I believe now there is a perception that we should work together. Let’s look at history. As Dr. Rice said, from the beginning the United States was supporting European integration. The founders of the European project after the 2nd World War like Jean Monnet and others were enthusiasts of a close relationship with the United States and the great statesmen of the United States were supporting the first steps of European integration. Let’s not forget, if I may say, like history that the United States itself is a creation, were born out of the great tradition of English liberalism and the French Revolution. Those were the ideals of democracy, of justice, of solidarity, of freedom. Those were the ideals of the French Revolution and the ideals of the British liberalism that were at the beginning the genesis of the United States. So let’s look at history.

But let’s look also at what’s going today. Very recently we had a catastrophe in Southeast Asia. I was there with the President of the Council, Prime Minister Junker, the predecessor of Dr. Rice was there, Colin Powell, representing the United States. Does anyone really think that the United States alone or Europe alone can meet the global challenges? It’s impossible. We cannot. European Union, alone we cannot do it. And I believe the Americans alone they cannot do it. So let’s work together, because the basic values are the same.

So that is the very good message that Dr. Rice has been conveying and that we fully support. And that’s the message I hope that when President Bush comes we will reinforce.

Question: Ms. Rice, you say and many –all—of the American officials say that Europe and the United States should now put behind them their divisions on Iraq. That’s very good. But there are still very profound divisions on other topics such as China and Iran. So what is the difference? Europe and the United States were divided on Iraq, now they are divided on China and Iran. Where is this new chapter you talked about in Paris? Or to put it differently, what lessons did you take, if any, from the Iraqi crisis as far as a transatlantic relationship is concerned?

Secretary Rice: I take the point that there were differences in the past and there may be differences in the future, but I have to say I don’t think we have a difference on China. I think we both – the United States and Europe – want to see the transition that is going on in China, which is a remarkable transition, a transition that is proceeding with incredible pace in terms of its economic growth. We want to see a China that as it rises as an influence and a factor in international politics rises as a positive factor in international politics and in the international economy. It is why, for instance, we were both supportive of Chinese accession to the WTO, because we recognized that this enormous economy had to be integrated into the international economy in a rules-based way, and the European Union has been clear in its messages to China that China must live up to the obligations that it undertook at accession including, for instance, on intellectual property rights.

We are not in disagreement about China that China should try much, much harder to take the lesson that has been there for so many, that economic liberalization and political liberalization need to go hand in hand. That is why human rights are a concern not just for the United States but for the European Union. Religious freedom is a concern not just for the United States but for the European Union.

So on the big issues about China the United States and the European Union could not be clearer in our agreement about where this is going. We’ve both engaged China, we have both worked with China, we both have good relations with China.

If there is an issue about the EU arms embargo with China, it too is understood in the context of a strategy that tries to get to a place where China is a positive influence in international politics.

As to Iran, we have unity of purpose about Iran where there are concerns worldwide – and here it’s not just the United States and the EU but many others in the IAEA that Iran’s efforts to, under cover of civilian nuclear power build components that could be used for the development of nuclear weapon, that that is in contravention of Iran’s obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

We have complete agreement that the funding and support of terrorism, particularly at a time when the Israelis and the Palestinians are trying to come to some rapprochement is not acceptable from any state, whether it be Iran or Syria. We all fight against these terrorist rejectionist groups. We are concerned about the human rights situation in Iran.

So again, I think it’s easy to say, well you disagree on some element here or there, but when it comes to the issues that really matter, what is going to be the future of a fast-growing influential China in the international community of states? What are we going to do about the dangers that the Iranian regime poses in not living up to its international obligations? We have unity of purpose. We have unity of message. And we are working to find the right means, the right methods to deal with both of those quite fundamental situations.

Thank you.


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