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U.S.-European Partnership

U.S. - European Partnership

Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
Press Roundtable
Brussels, Belgium
November 17, 2005

Assistant Secretary Fried: Let me start off by giving you a summary of the last week I spent which started in Bahrain at the Forum for the Future, the Ministerial meeting, where Foreign Ministers from Europe, the United States, the region of the broader Middle East and civil society from the broader Middle East gathered in support of reform and reformers in that region. This is an initiative which was launched at Sea Island and has gained momentum. The Forum launched two initiatives, one on creating a foundation to support civil society and the other a fund to support entrepreneurship inspired, by the way for our Polish colleague, by the Polish-American Enterprise Fund. It won't surprise you when you hear about it, the thought may have occurred to you, the idea that occurred to many of us in the same way.

That is one example. The Forum for the Future is an example of the U.S.-European cooperation which is now gaining traction.

The United States and Europe have the ability, the power, and the wealth. We have common values, and we therefore have the responsibility to work together to advance freedom, prosperity and security in the world, whether it's in the broader Middle East, whether it's to help earthquake victims in Pakistan, whether it's to help the democracies in Ukraine and Georgia consolidate, whether it's to help promote democracy in Azerbaijan. Europe and the United States are centers of democracy and power in the world and therefore we have responsibilities -- and we are carrying them out.

From Bahrain I went to Germany for talks with the incoming team of the Chancellor-elect, Angela Merkel, and also with some senior German Foreign Ministry colleagues about U.S.-German relations. And we discussed the U.S.-German agenda, which is a positive agenda of cooperation through NATO, through the U.S.-EU relationship along the lines I had discussed. I must say, I said so in Berlin but I'll repeat it here. I welcome and I think we all welcome the coalition agreement language that Europe and the United States are partners, and Europe must be a partner to the United States, not a counterweight. That is exactly right. We look forward to working with our German friends.

From there I went to Vienna, where the Austrian government that is about to assume the presidency of the EU, hosted a moving conference on Islam in a pluralistic world. Presidents Talibani and Karzai spoke and they were greeted -- I remember Foreign Minister Plassnik greeted them and applauded their commitment to democracy and the democratic process that they are seeking to carry out in their countries under difficult conditions. It was an indication of solidarity with these two leaders, but also speaker after speaker at this conference made the point that democracy and Islam are not incompatible, as is claimed by some including the Islamic extremists, but that democracy is a system applicable and achievable for all peoples and all cultures.

From there I went to Spain for talks with the Spanish government. The United States has had, as you all know, an interesting couple of years in relations with Spain, with ups and with downs. We're now on a more even and positive keel, looking ahead again on issues of common concern. Spain is supporting and is part of the Forum for the Future and Foreign Minister Moratinos participated at Bahrain.

We also discussed issues in Latin America, particularly the challenge posed by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. We discussed issues as between allies. We discussed the NATO Summit next year, we discussed U.S.-EU relations. These were good talks and I'm looking forward to a way ahead with our Spanish friends.

Finally I'm here. I arrived late last night from Madrid. I'm here today for talks with the EU and I had a number of talks this morning. I met informally with some friends and colleagues under the auspices of the German Marshall Fund. Tomorrow I'll meet with NATO colleagues and fly back to Washington.

Again, before I take your questions, the theme of my visit is putting the U.S.-European partnership to work. We should not spend our time analyzing the U.S.-European partnership, taking its pulse, taking its temperature, anxiously checking as if it were a sick child, how is it doing? It needs to go to work and is doing so.

Just this week we had a spectacular success in the Middle East where Secretary Rice helped broker an agreement opening up the Rafah Border Crossing which is critical to make Gaza disengagement a success. And the European Union is going to have a major role in supporting the operations of that border crossing.

This is real progress, and who would have thought this possible two years ago, three years ago? Very few. Here we are. We are putting the U.S.-European relationship to work in the service of freedom, security and prosperity in the world.

So with that, your questions.

Question: You talked about mending the split. You talked [inaudible] and getting to work. What are you talking about? When we write to our readers saying the U.S. and Europe are cooperating, working on a common strategic agenda, what are you focusing on? And how can you work well with the dysfunctional Europe that we have today?

Assistant Secretary Fried: Now "dysfunctional Europe" is a phrase you used, not a phrase I would use.

We want to see a strong Europe as a partner. Not as a counterweight, but as a partner. Politics is what it is. We in government have to work together and we are working together.

What is our agenda? Oh, good heavens. There are two principal immediate fields of activity where the U.S. and Europe are working together. One is in the broader Middle East and its constituent problems, and I'll just list those to give you a sense of the breadth of what we're doing.

Afghanistan, where NATO is taking over security responsibilities, working with the Afghan forces. NATO in Afghanistan five years ago would have been considered too wild even for a tabletop exercise at NATO, and here we are.

Iran, the United States and the EU-3 are working together to deal with the serious and rather sobering challenge of Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions.

Iraq, about which much has been said and much will continue to be said, but where we are working to help the Iraqi government present and future after the elections, advance security and democracy, build a state in Iraq at peace with itself and its neighbors.

Syria, where the United States and Europe with U.S.-French activity, and some leadership if I may say so, have helped the Lebanese people regain their sovereignty. Israel-Palestinian issues that I mentioned, and of course reform in the broader Middle East.

That's just the broader Middle East. There is also work that we are doing along what might be called Europe's frontiers of freedom, and a lot of my discussions today had to do with support for democracy in Azerbaijan and encouraging President Aliyev to carry out his commitment to investigate and correct deficiencies in the election.

Support for Georgia where we want to see Georgia's reforms continue and want to see regional disputes in the south resolved peacefully.

Ukraine, we want to see the achievements of the Orange Revolution consolidated and that country move ahead.

Belarus, long discussions about Belarus and the problem that Lukashenko's regime constitutes. It's been called Europe's last dictatorship.

Now that's an exhaustive list. You asked. You said "Gee, what do I tell my readers where's the beef?" This isn't an abstract list. This isn't a wish list of things I'd like to talk about. This is what I actually talked about today with my EU colleagues. And these weren't introductory conversations. It was more like - well, okay, here's how we see the situation, what are we doing to do next? Do you think we should do this, should we do that? How are we going to do it together? When are we going to do this? Those are operational discussions. The U.S.-European partnership is real, it is at work.

Question: Turkish Foreign Minister Gul went to Syria yesterday and supported cooperation with the Mehlis investigation. The visit was made in consultation with Madame Rice from the United States to ask the Syrians to cooperate with the investigation. Do you think this will help relations in the region?

Assistant Secretary Fried: First of all I want to express my thanks to Turkey in general and Foreign Minister Gul for Turkish leadership in the Broader Middle East Initiative. I don't know whether it's widely known, but Turkey, along with Italy and Yemen, has led a democracy project involving support for civil society and has produced a very powerful body of conclusions which have come from the region about the need for democracy, for freedom of the press, for civil liberties, for freedom of association. This has been the work of Turkey over the past year and a bit and it is to be commended.

I thought since I saw Foreign Minister Gul and Prime Minister [inaudible] [Achmed] [inaudible], I thought I would express my thanks.

We work very closely with Turkey on regional issues and I certainly hope, I can't say, but I certainly hope that President Assad listens to someone's good advice about how to get his country out of the terrible position it has been put in by its behavior. So I hope so.

Question: On Iraq, I think in Berlin you made it clear that you wouldn't be asking Germany to send troops to Iraq. That was not on the U.S. wish list.

Assistant Secretary Fried: Well, whether it's on the wish list in the abstract is one thing, but it's not on the ask list, that's for sure.

Question: Right. Thank you. What specifically would you like the European countries to be doing to help the U.S. in Iraq right now?

Assistant Secretary Fried: There are a number of European countries, and our Polish colleague is here so I should mention once again the thanks of the United States for the contributions of all the coalition partners, including Poland, which has really demonstrated leadership and military skill.

We hope that the countries who have troops will keep them at least long enough to allow the Iraqis to step up and as the Iraqis step up the coalition forces will be able to step back, so that's one thing. But every country, no matter what its position on troops, on troops in Iraq, can help the Iraqi government by providing political support, by providing training, by providing economic support.

The stakes in Iraq are high. The difficulties are real. The progress is manifest. The outcome is still in play, although as progress continues the possibilities for a better outcome, a better set of outcomes, grow.

This is a time, and especially I'm thinking of the time after the new Iraqi government democratically elected under the new democratic Iraqi constitution comes to power, for all of us to put aside whatever differences may have existed about the decision to remove the dictator Saddam Hussein from power and work for the good of the Iraqi people. Whatever our differences, and without prejudice to those differences.

Question: You mentioned the new German government. Do you think it could be even a stronger supporter for U.S. policy? The first thing is the [inaudible] government that [inaudible] soldiers will stay longer in Iraq. And the other thing is the [inaudible] government to participate in the so-called [inaudible]? Do you welcome it?

Assistant Secretary Fried: Well look, I welcome Poland's contributions in Iraq and I welcome Poland's contributions as an active and one of the most active and creative NATO allies. I also welcome Polish contributions to the support of freedom along what I call Europe's frontiers of freedom. We won't forget, I don't think anyone will forget what an important role Poland played in Ukraine in brokering a peaceful and democratic resolution of the crisis last year over the attempted stolen elections.

Poland's new government is filled with people with whom the United States has worked. This are not Poland's first elections. Poland's been a democracy now for 15 years and we've seen governments left, right, center, peasant, center left, center right, all possible combinations. We've worked with all of them. I have no doubt we'll work with this one as well. And we have, we want to deepen our agenda with Poland, whether it's military cooperation, cooperation in the world at large. Poland is a good ally. We look forward to working with the government of Prime Minister Kaczynski and President Kaczynski. President-elect Kaczynski, I guess they haven't taken office yet.

Question: You said you hope that more countries will keep troops in Iraq.

Assistant Secretary Fried: We hope the ones that have them are able to keep them for a while, yes.

Question: But the British government is now talking about withdrawing troops next year, December next year, May next year. Do you fear other countries might follow suit and say - now the British are leaving we'll leave as well?

Assistant Secretary Fried: I think there are certain issues which tend to get over-written and over-interpreted, if I may say so. I think this issue has been over-written.

Obviously all governments, including mine, would like to see the day come when Iraqi security forces are able to handle Iraqi security on their own. That's obvious. It's not as if military service in Iraq is so pleasant that we wish to stay there forever. But we have a responsibility and the trouble with talks about withdrawals and timetables and the rest of it is that the Iraq mission is a mission worth doing. It is important. We're not there to make a point. We're there to get a job done. That is why American soldiers, British soldiers, Polish, Italian soldiers, Koreans, Japanese, others, have sacrificed greatly - because there is a mission that is worth doing that needs to be done. We need to stay until that mission is successful. That is a good mission and it is only staying until it is successful that will justify the sacrifice. That's why I'm bothered by the notion of timetables.

I don't like concepts of exit strategies. I like strategies to achieve what it is we've set out to achieve when what you've set out to achieve is important.

So I have no doubt that -- I'm not sorry there's a debate in various countries. Of course there's a debate. There should be a debate. These are issues of war and peace.

What kind of a democracy would it be that didn't question an issue of war and peace? I'm glad I live in a country where people raise questions and these issues are debated. Good Lord.

But I think that debates tend to produce outcomes where people understand why they're there. Even though the sacrifice is hard.

Question: If I could just follow up on my colleague's question the timetable he was referring to which you said you were slightly worried about, was in fact --

Assistant Secretary Fried: Timetables in general. I didn't speak to any particular timetable.

Question: The timetable my colleague was referring to was in fact set down by the Iraq government. What happens if the British [inaudible] agreed with it? The Iraqi government was saying perhaps this time next year, next December. The British government agreed with it. Just to confirm what you're saying, -- does that worry you, that timetable? Are you concerned about that?

Assistant Secretary Fried: I think this is, again, I think this is an issue where it tends to get over-written and over-interpreted. If you ask a hypothetical question -- would it be a good thing if conditions were right that the Iraqis were able to step up and take over more security forces and therefore coalition forces are in a position to step back. The answer is, obviously, yes. You shouldn't interpret -- no one should over-write and start thinking that that automatically means timetables. We want to see it happen as soon as it can happen. No one wants to stay in Iraq a day longer than is necessary, but the point is that the job needs to get done. We all hope that day comes sooner rather than later, but the point is to get the job done.

Question: You were talking about more cooperation between Europe and the United States. Don't you think that for this cooperation to be possible there should be more support from the public opinion? And isn't it difficult to get the support of public opinion with stories like the CIA planes for example landing in Spain, which has put the government in trouble and which makes cooperation difficult after because any gesture which made it [inaudible] gives a bad image to the United States. I don't know whether it is --

Assistant Secretary Fried: Oh, I am familiar and I spoke to --

Question: Did you discuss the subject in Spain with the authorities and --

Assistant Secretary Fried: Yes, it came up with Spanish authorities. If you're asking me whether I would like to have universal approval among European publics for the United States and everything it does, well sure.

Public opinion in Europe has gone up and down about the United States ever since World War II. Spanish opinion has always been more skeptical than the European norm. There are various historical reasons for that.

I mean if you look at the numbers, there are various historical reasons for that but it hasn't prevented U.S.-Spanish cooperation from developing. It hasn't prevented U.S.-European friendship from developing. In the 1950s, the anti- [inaudible] movement. You're too young, you don't remember that. I sort of remember it.

In the 1960s, there was anti-U.S. feeling. In the 1980s, huge demonstrations. Wild, emotional stuff in the 1980s, but no one can quite remember what that was all about.

I'm not denigrating European public opinion or denying the reality of a certain skepticism. It's there. It's exacerbated by stories like the ones you've discussed. But we have to work, we in government have to do two things. We have to work on the reality of cooperation and we have to explain that cooperation to our various publics.

And we have to be patient, not give way to -- Not jump every time a poll number comes out. We have to focus on the long-term issues, but we also, quite frankly, have to do a better job explaining what we're trying to do.

I admit there's room to do a better job explaining this, and to work -- to talk to European publics, and I didn't say talk at, either. I mean listen as well.

We have listened to European publics and in many cases the way we look at the European Union is a function of our respect for the commitment of many Europeans to the European Union as an ideal, and we understand that. It's especially true in Spain and we respect that.

We have to do the best job we can. We have to do the best job we can explaining what we're trying to do in the world and how we're trying to do it with Europe. And get up and do it again the next day.

Question: Has the Spanish government been informed about these flights?

Assistant Secretary Fried: I'm not going to get into the details of my discussions. I'm not going to speculate either way. These issues have -- we are in close and regular contact with our Spanish friends. We have conducted our struggle against terrorism in accordance with our values and our international obligations, and I am quite confident that we have not violated Spanish law.

Question: I'm not sure how you measure progess on the ground. Just [inaudible] progress being manifest in Iraq.

In terms of the Middle East as a whole, about ten years ago the Europeans had this economic outreach program, Euro-Med, and next week I think this is --

Assistant Secretary Fried: Sure. The Barcelona talks.

Question: It's not been a great success. I always suspected that the only country that has benefitted from it is Israel and I don't think that was quite the intent.

But there is no stability, there is no democracy despite 20 billion in all manner of aid -- How important is it that this is turned around? And is it going to be turned around?

Assistant Secretary Fried: It is very important that political reform, modernization, and democracy advance in the broader Middle East.

For a long time, for too long, successive American administrations sought to buy stability at the expense of democracy and as a result we got neither. And President Bush quite eloquently expressed that view in a speech in London two years ago when he committed the United States to work to support reform and reformers in the broader Middle East.

Since then, we've seen a number of very hopeful developments. We've seen elections in Afghanistan, elections in Iraq, a huge popular expression of sentiment in Lebanon, the so-called Cedar Revolution -- in which the Lebanese patriotism and sovereignty and democracy seemed all to be combined. We've seen elections in the Palestinian territories. We've seen Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. The beginning of a process, now assisted greatly by the Rafah Agreement, will hopefully point the way to a Palestinian state living in peace with Israel.

We have seen calls for reform sprouting up in the broader Middle East, from East to West. And if anyone believed, and many did, and many still argue, two years ago that democracy was an alien concept. That is a position that cannot seriously be maintained in the face of the NGOs who have participated in the Forum for the Future, who participated in the Turkish battalion, Yemeni-led democracy assistance dialogue, and who are calling for reform and democracy.

Reform is front and center in the agenda now in the broader Middle East. Not because the United States says it should be, but because the people of the region say it must be. That is an achievement -- it is not our achievement as Americans, it is their achievement as people who are seeking freedom.

And yes, a democratic, modernizing Middle East is going to be a peaceful place because prosperity and peace and democracy are one, and dysfunctionality, despair, and terrorism are another. We must advance reforms.

Is it likely to be a triumphant march forward? Hardly. But we must make a start and so we have.

Question: You said twice that Europe should not be a counterweight, should not behave as a counterweight. What do you mean exactly? What kind of behavior do you have in mind? Is there any feeling that Europe and the European Union are trying to behave as a counterweight and not as a partner?

Assistant Secretary Fried: Well, what I was doing initially was quoting the German coalition agreement, and they said that Europe should be a partner and not a counterweight. There was a curious theory floating around a couple of years ago, propelled possibly by the political heat generated because of frictions over Iraq. The purpose of European unity was not to advance prosperity to Europe, peace for the Europeans, in order to help peace, prosperity, modernity abroad. But the purpose of European unity was to check the United States. I look upon such theories with profound misgivings.

It doesn't mean that I expect Europe and the United States will always agree on every issue. They won't. Europe will make up its own mind. But the United States and Europe together worked a miracle in the second half of the 20th Century. The United States and Europe together built a transatlantic community, a Euro-Atlantic world which was whole, free and at peace for the first time in history. This was a miracle. And it was a miracle in which the European Union played an enormous and perhaps leading part, but the United States also played a major part.

Having achieved an undivided Euro-Atlantic world, living in unprecedented security and prosperity which is how we felt ourselves ten years after the end of the Cold War, to then turn inward on ourselves and start looking nervously at each other.

When we have such responsibilities outside the Euro-Atlantic community, so many opportunities and so much responsibility to use our peace and our power for good, that I would consider it a moral abdication were we to abandon what we have achieved in favor of some repeat of balance of power politics.

So I have very strong views on the subject and I don't like those in Europe, or in America for that matter, who argued in favor of some kind of trans-Atlantic divorce as if this would help anybody or anything. It wouldn't. Now it won't. And now I thank God that period is in the past and we are working together as we should.

Question: If I could, [inaudible], tomorrow the military leaders seem to have come to an agreement on what the rules of engagement might be for ISAF. Now that it's moving south. I wanted a reaction --

Assistant Secretary Fried: Terrific.

Question: So you --

Assistant Secretary Fried: I was not aware of it. I've been in motion all day, so I don't want to react to things that I hear. I hope it's true. But certainly it is very impressive that NATO has managed to do this.

This is a big deal and it isn't easy. Let us simply stipulate that in its 40 years of Cold War existence NATO didn't really spend a lot of time thinking about going into Afghanistan.

Ten years ago NATO operations in the Balkans, in Europe for God's sakes, was considered "out of area" and therefore beyond NATO's area of responsibility.

So NATO has really changed. NATO is becoming the central arm of security for the trans-Atlantic democratic community in the world. That's a tremendous achievement and I'm glad that NATO is able to work through these issues, and NATO has work to do to live up to its potential and we'll be doing that work in the next couple of years. I'm glad to hear that this is moving forward.

Question: The sequence of cooperation between ISAF and [inaudible]?

Assistant Secretary Fried: Oh, I think everyone agrees that that cooperation has to be closer and I think the exact mechanisms will be worked out. It makes obvious sense, if you think about it. You don't want two uncoordinated, parallel, military operations running on the same territory. That doesn't make any sense. The question is how you bring them together.

And also, since Brussels is also the headquarters of the European Union, we will find ways I am confident to smooth EU-NATO cooperation so that both institutions do what they do best and do things together.

Thank you very much.

Question: Excuse me. Is the United States sending anyone to the Barcelona Summit?

Assistant Secretary Fried: I have -- It's next weekend, isn't it?

Question: Yes.

Assistant Secretary Fried: The trouble is, and this is a real world answer, it comes on Thanksgiving weekend, and if Americans aren't at home they are in serious, serious trouble. [Laughter].

But we welcome this, we congratulate Spain on this achievement, and by the way, I didn't get a chance to say it. I don't quite share the view that the Barcelona process hasn't produced much. It's done a lot of good and we look forward to working with Spain.


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