|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright,
Foreign Minister of Finland Tarja Halonen,
EU High Representative for Common and
Security Policy Javier Solana, and
EU Commissioner for External Affairs Chris Patten
Joint Press Availability following the U.S.-EU Ministerial
November 9, 1999, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good afternoon. Today was the first of my regular biannual meetings with the European Union under the new Prodi Commission and we made a strong start toward next month's U.S.-EU summit here in Washington.
Personally, it has been a great pleasure to spend the last three hours plus meeting with three of the finest international officials in the world today.
Finnish Foreign Minister Halonen is to be congratulated for all that she and her country have done in the EU Presidency, especially by working for expanded US-EU cooperation from Southeast Europe to East Timor.
Chris Patten is a valued friend who has already become an effective and close colleague as EU Commissioner for External Affairs.
And I've been looking forward to working with another old friend in a new role, and that is Javier Solana as EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy. The United States has welcomed the creation of this new post. By allowing the EU to speak with an increasingly unified and certain voice, it will make Europe a stronger partner for America in security and foreign affairs.
Today's agenda was characteristically broad and I'd like to highlight just a few items.
We discussed at length our mutual efforts to support a democratic transition in Serbia and to intensify our dialogue with Yugoslavia's democratic opposition. We agreed on the need to work even more closely together to support them, taking into account the ideas of the leaders of that opposition.
We also discussed the flight ban and oil embargo against Serbia. As I announced after meeting with the democratic opposition leaders here last week, the United States favors suspending these sanctions only after free and fair elections at all levels are held in Serbia. We agreed on the importance of maintaining a united front on these issues.
The Stability Pact for Southeast Europe figured prominently in today's meetings. The Pact is off to a good start but to maintain momentum we need to lay the basis for further progress at the Istanbul Summit next week. We must make clear our ongoing commitment to Southeastern Europe.
The conflict in Chechnya was also raised during our talks and will also figure prominently in Istanbul. Hopefully, the international community can play a role in easing what has become a very severe humanitarian crisis.
My EU colleagues and I had a positive discussion of Europe's efforts to develop a strong European Security and Defense Identity. I believe we all share the view that ESDI must reinforce trans-Atlantic ties, improve European defense capabilities, while avoiding duplication and serve as a bridge, not a barrier, to close relations between the EU and NATO.
And, finally, we covered economic and trade issues in light of the upcoming WTO Ministerial in Seattle. The United States and the EU have shared responsibility to be engines for global growth by supporting trade that is freer and fairer, create jobs and promotes development, and raises the quality of life and work around the world.
One area that we agree requires additional discussion is biotechnology, specifically how to manage the approval and marketing of agricultural and other biotechnology products. This is an important issue for the 21st century and we're committed to continuing our discussion and raising public confidence in these beneficial products.
All in all, we had a very useful set of discussions and I look forward to seeing my partners again in a week's time.
Foreign Minister Halonen.
FOREIGN MINISTER HALONEN: Thank you, Madame Albright. I think that here also in the front of your media, it's good to repeat that the cooperation between the European Union and USA is an excellent one and also this meeting today has been useful, productive, I could say fruitful, and we have had a wide range of issues and we have dealt with them like the close partners do. So I think that's the main message of what I would like to say -- really good, close, cooperation.
Then about some subtitles. First, the Southeast Europe. We have worked together to solve the Kosovo crisis. I think we both can say that much work has been achieved but of course much still remains to be done and we have also seen how to do it for the future.
What I'm very happy about is that we all want to see the democratic Serbia join the European mainstream and what we have -- but we have said, and you have just said, that the US and the EU have agreed to work even more closely together, taking into account the wishes of the opposition leaders. I think that that could help the Serbian side become more democratic, more rapidly.
So we are hoping that we could get free and fair elections hopefully soon and -- but we are also doing like you said. I don't want to repeat all. What we need to work for, the stability back there and let's hope that that will hope the whole region. So that's good and close cooperation between the European Union and USA.
Coming to the Russia, so we share the great concern over the events in Chechnya and as some of you might know, I have visited Ingushetiya some -- it was ten days ago and we have spoke about the humanitarian aid situation. We are very happy, of course, that United Nations inspected the case and have announced that it will work to see what the possibilities to get the humanitarian aid to there and what are the needs.
We share also our concern about the situation in Chechnya and we have urged the Russian Government to respond to both the humanitarian crisis -- defined also the political solution, not military solution to the crisis in Chechnya.
Coming to the European security and defense policy, yes, this is one of the duties of the European Union Presidency to prepare for the Helsinki Summit. And we have tried to work very effectively and also to show the transparency because this is something what is needed by the Europeans but it's also the question of what we would like to be seen to have a close cooperation also in the future in this challenging tasks what we have together with the USA. So it's no intention to create a division between the European Union and North America.
So I'm ready to discuss on that. Europe just wants to be better equipped and prepared, not only in military but non-military to manage crisis situations in our neighborhood. So I think so that you will witness a very harmonious European troika.
The next one to have a common this is Javier. Please.
MR. SOLANA: Thank you very much. Very, very , very briefly, as you can imagine for me it is very special to be again in this room in a different capacity but serving, after all, the same aims and the same goals. I would like to say that these three -- over three -- hours we have been together, to me have been very, very fruitful because I always believe, and I continue to believe, that when the European Union and the United States get together in a common policy this is the best news for success. We have done it in the Balkans. We continue to do that, and we are going to continue to do it in other topics that we have discussed today.
Let me say a word about a European Security and Defense Identity. That is an important endeavor the European Union has now, but I would like to emphasize that with that what we want to do is to strengthen the trans-Atlantic link who has given so important for the security of Europe in the past and will continue to be in the future. And I would like to thank the Secretary of State for chairing these meetings with the Minister of Finland which has been, for me, quite an important experience.
Thank you very much.
MR. PATTEN: I would just like to follow one thing which the Secretary said. We had a very good exchange today about the Stability Pact and how we can make sure it's a success. We have had a number of discussions over recent weeks about the Pact. We are all committed to making it a success. We recognize that the announcements about the Pact have raised expectations in the region and beyond and that it's imperative that in the European Union we do everything we can to make sure the Pact is a success.
I hope that we'll underline our commitment to success at the Kosovo Donors' Conference next week and we'll also, I hope, be doing that at the OSCE Summit in Istanbul next week. There is a great deal for us to do in the region and it is extremely important that Europe makes clear that it's committed to the success of the Pact, and in the Commission we want to try to make sure that the considerable investment we make in success in the region is applied more successfully and arrives rather more rapidly in the future.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, if I could ask you a question about another story in the news. You are probably aware of a letter that was addressed to the American people by the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar. I am wondering whether or not your interpretation of the letter is that it is, indeed, threatening to the American people and what your reaction to this letter, asking the American people to use their pressure on the US Government to keep those sanctions from going into place, the UN sanctions. Thank you.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that the letter is based on a misunderstanding that he has. We have nothing against the Afghan people. We have something against the Taliban that, in effect, is suppressing its people and has some of the most backward kinds of policies in terms of the way it deals with its people and women particularly.
But we are also extremely concerned about the fact that they continue to have in their midst Usama bin Ladin, who is a threat to the American people. And that is what this is about. I think that the American people understand that this is a considerable threat and that it is important for the United States to have taken the action that we have on the sanctions issue.
QUESTION: Yesterday, President Clinton renewed the American sanctions against Iran, including oil field equipment and such. I would like to ask the European side if they still think these sanctions against Iran are not a good idea.
MR. PATTEN: I think that we were able to have an exchange on that issue today. We understand the American position but we do think that it's important to have contact with the more moderate administration in Iran. We think that it is important as well to get across our own message to the Iranian authorities about proliferation and about similar activities.
We have not always seen eye to eye on this issue but I very much hope that, through meetings like this and through the sort of discussions that we've had today, that we can avoid too many divisions about an important issue like this one.
QUESTION: This is for anyone or everyone that chooses to answer. I am wondering if you have any reaction to the resignation today of Michel Camdessus as head of the International Monetary Fund.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me just say from our perspective we believe that Michel Camdessus has made a tremendous contribution to the financial stability and growth of the whole economic system and we appreciate the strong leadership at the IMF that he has given during what has clearly been a crucial period.
MR. SOLANA: If you will allow me, I would like to say, having been a very, very good friend of Michel Camdessus, I think and I would like to underline that he has done a splendid job at IMF and I see with a certain sadness to see him leave.
MR. PATTEN: The first time I came to Washington as a British Government minister, he was doing the job at the IMF. It's a reminder of how long he has been at the center of global international affairs, and I think he will be regarded as one of the great international public servants of the post-war years.
QUESTION: A question for Commissioner Patten. You in your new Commission have sort of inherited this Helms-Burton mess or whatever you want to call it. There was an understanding that was struck last year and it sort of exists but Congress hasn't amended Helms-Burton law the way it said it might. How long can this thing continue to exist before it falls apart, especially in light of continued US attacks against investment in Cuba through things like Section 211 and other pressure?
MR. PATTEN: I very much hope that we can avoid this issue poisoning our relationship. We recognize how much importance many American politicians attach to the whole question of the sanctity of property rights and the law of contract. We recognize why they see a close relationship between property rights and pluralism and the rule of law. We understand that. I think they understand, for their part, our concerns about extra-territoriality.
What we have to do, in my view, is to make the May 1998 agreement work as effectively as possible. I think that is the best way of ensuring that investment can take place in an environment not just in Cuba but around the world, in which basic legal rights are recognized. So I hope that we can find a way of resolving some of the issues that have caused quite a bit of friction over the last year or two. That's what I'm determined to try to do without sacrificing any of the important principles which have been enunciated on both sides.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you are going to go to Greece and Turkey -- I believe it's today and in the next couple of days, in Athens, several protest meetings and the bombs exploded. Do you plan to cut short the trip to Greece?
And, also, second part of the question, did you discuss Turkey's full membership in the European Union?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say, first of all, as the President said yesterday in a speech that he gave, he is looking forward to going to Greece. We have been working with the government of Greece to try to have the smoothest kind of visit. And while I do many different things, I am not in charge of scheduling so I can only tell you that we are looking forward to the trip.
Let me also say that we have discussed many, many times the whole issue of Turkey and the EU. We actually did not spend a lot of time on it today.
FOREIGN MINISTER HALONEN: I think so that both the USA and you here, you will know that the EU enlargement is one of the main issues in Helsinki Summit after, I think, five weeks, if I have counted correctly. Then, of course, all the details have been discussed very much and already beforehand.
We have already the Commission reports and we have the first reactions by the member states and we have had, I could say, a very constructive atmosphere in the European Union concerning the whole enlargement process. Of course, Turkey is a very interesting issue and Turkey's foreign minister, Ismail Cem, has visited. Now, what's this? I think again, now, a good signal to discuss with us about possibilities, both challenges and the benefits.
Then also what I want to say here very openly, I have supported very strongly, but it's not because of that, but I have supported and I will support very strongly the good relations between Greece and Turkey and both foreign ministers, Yeoryios Papandreou and Ismail Cem, have done wonderful work.
QUESTION: A question to Javier Solana. Mr. Solana, how worried are you about the possible renunciation of the ABM treaty next year by the US Administration?
MR. SOLANA: Well, we have been, as you know, we have been in touch and we continue to be in touch with the US Administration on this very important topic and I have all the assurances by the Administration that they will keep in touch with their European allies before taking a final decision.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me add to that, please. We have talked generally about nonproliferation issues and the fact that President Clinton has made quite clear that we will abide by our testing moratorium on the CTBT, that we have a very broad nonproliferation agenda. And I can tell you very specifically, that we know that the ABM treaty has been the keystone of an arms control regime that has kept the peace for a long time.
So as we discuss new threats and the issue of NMD, we are very mindful of the central role that the ABM has played and will obviously, as Mr. Solana has said, stay in very close touch. But I would not state it as boldly as you did, that the renunciation, that is not in our plans.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, if you will indulge me on another subject, the Trilateral Commission of the US, Japan and South Korea met today to coordinate policy on North Korea. If you have anything on what had happened in that meeting today and any outcomes, and how is the US position going into the talks next week in Berlin on North Korea?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say I have not had a readout of that because I have been with these fine people talking about different things. But we are very encouraged by the very close cooperation that we have with the South Koreans and the Japanese on this subject and looking forward to keeping that trilateral relationship together and working this issue through together, and that obviously will have an effect on how we face the talks in Berlin. But I am encouraged and I have not, as I said, had a specific readout on today's talks.
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