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Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Secretary of Education Richard Riley,
French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine and
European Commissioner Chris Patten
Remarks at Signing Ceremony for U.S.-E.U. Higher Education Agreement, Blair House
December 18, 2000, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Commissioner Patten, Foreign Minister Vedrine, Secretary Riley, colleagues and guests, good morning. I am very pleased to have the opportunity today as part of our summit with the European Union to renew for five years a unique and highly successful program of cooperation between the EU and the American Departments of Education and State.

In a moment, I will join Secretary Riley in signing on behalf of the United States the E.C.-U.S. Agreement on Higher Education and Vocational Education and Training. It is under this Agreement that we carry out some of our most valuable and well-known international student exchanges, such as the Fulbright Program. It also includes less renowned, though still very important, programs in vocational education.

This Agreement reflects President Clinton's strong commitment to international education. In April of this year, he set out a clear policy of support for existing programs and for exploring a variety of new initiatives in this field. This policy makes sense for America and for our partners in EU member states. The more our people learn about each other and from each other, the stronger our friendships will be and the broader the ties across the Atlantic will become.

International education helps our citizens to explore and appreciate the rich heritage and modern diversity of our European allies and friends, while enabling their citizens to examine firsthand the unique dimensions of America's economy and democracy.

In recent weeks, at the State Department and in partnership with Secretary Riley, we have had several events to emphasize the importance of promoting understanding among different cultures and the value of our international and education exchange programs. I must say that we have had a very good time through all of those and have learned a lot, and I consider it one of the highlights of the work that we have all done together.

And this morning's events I think really help to underline those themes, and I am really delighted to be a part of it. And I am also very pleased to be joined by two leaders for whom I have enormous affection and great respect and with whom I think we have proven that it is the more we learn about each other, the better it is. So Commissioner Patten and Foreign Minister Vedrine are here with us, and they are symbolic of the great relationship. And obviously also my great friend and partner, Secretary Riley, I think it is fair to say the most successful and accomplished Secretary of Education in American history -- and my best friend.

(Applause.)

SECRETARY RILEY: Thank you so much. I am so honored to be here with Secretary Albright and Commissioner Patten and Minister Vedrine. And I want to thank and recognize some of my colleagues here from the Department of Education, Assistant Secretary Lee Fritschler, who is in charge of higher education; Ken Tolo, who is the Director of FIPSE; FIPSE Program Officer Frank Frankfort; and Terry Peterson, Counselor.

Last week, I visited Ireland and -- Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom with President Clinton. As Secretary of Education, I visited a number of European countries, including France. And everywhere that I've gone in Europe and in the world I have seen a great surge of interest in education. And I've seen a strong desire to cooperate with the United States and to improve learning of all our people. And I call this education diplomacy. I cleared that with the Secretary of State. (Laughter). And I believe that it is one of the most important aspects of international relations in this Information Age. It is what moves things now in the world. It used to be only trade and commerce and other factors; Education is a factor out there now.

So I am really pleased to renew our friendship and strengthen our capacity to work together. I am so proud of this EC-US consortia program. It includes over 1,200 US and EC students who are pursuing programs to study abroad. It also includes over 4,000 students who are participating though distance learning. Over 400 institutions of higher education and vocational educational training have been active partners in the program.

This new Agreement will add two new formats to the existing three-year grants. There will be a series of one-year preparation grants to widen access to the program for those with very little experience in international education. And there will be a number of complementary activities grants that will enhance the field of international education for all providers. I am especially pleased that this Agreement will strengthen the vocational education component of our partnership.

But when you talk about diplomacy, education kind of puts a human face on diplomacy, and I think it is a fine way for us to proceed in the future. I believe that one of the most exciting and promising developments in education in recent times has been this extraordinary growth of interest in international education. Here in the US, it has received strong support from President Clinton and from Secretary Albright, and I want to thank them and thank all of you here who have had a role and a part in it for leading the world into this bright new era of learning and of understanding.

Thank you so much.

FOREIGN MINISTER VEDRINE: (Unofficial Translation of Remarks in French.) Madame Secretary of State, Mr. Secretary of Education, Mr. Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I am very happy to be with you here today to renew this Agreement, which is a concrete manifestation of the ties between the European Union and the United States of America in the fields of higher education and professional training.

The origin of this document we are signing goes back to the new transatlantic agenda adopted by the EU-US Summit in December of 1995, which revolved around the lofty image of building bridges over the Atlantic. Starting at that time, this vast and innovative program began being drawn up. Although it has been but five years since its implementation was initiated, we can already see that the results are considerable.

This cooperation has involved more than two hundred higher education and training establishments on both sides of the Atlantic, between the European Union and the United States. It has covered a broad range of disciplines, ranging from the environment to medicine to engineering and business.

We should also point out today that 2,000 European students have been able to benefit from exchanges with American universities this may have existed in the past, but not on such a vast and ambitious scale as this expanded program. It is a very important experience for each individual. We know that any person who has the opportunity to study at a foreign university during his education remembers it for the rest of his life; The experience affects open-mindedness and the desire for future exchanges.

Let us not forget the aspect of vocational training in this Agreement, which is also very important. We support what has just been said about its role in building bridges across the Atlantic. This seems to me a wonderful way to cooperate on an intellectual, human, and political level, and I hope that examples of this kind will continue to multiply.

COMMISSIONER PATTEN: Secretary of State, Mr. Secretary, Minister, I am delighted to be present at the renewal of this important Agreement today, which covers, as others have said, higher education and vocational learning and training. As you said, Mr. Secretary, it covers scores of projects, or scores of institutions, hundreds of projects, and literally thousands of professors and students. It is an excellent Agreement.

I am particularly pleased to be one of the signatories to the Agreement, and as somebody who in his copious spare time is chancellor of a university, and even more, I am pleased to be signing this Agreement as somebody who, when a student, benefited from exactly the sort of project that we're endorsing today.

As the Minister said, these projects cover a range of activities, from veterinary medicine to nurse training to aeronautics engineering, and they cover the whole waterfront. And I think this is one of the best and most practical aspects of our cooperation, and long may it continue. And I hope it produces in future years many Secretaries of State, Secretaries, Ministers, and even Commissioners. (Laughter.)

(The Agreement is signed.)

(Applause.)

[End of Document]
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