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Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With European Union Leaders

December 18, 2000

Middle East Peace Process

Q. Mr. President, are you making any progress on the Middle East, and do you think you may try to make a trip in that direction before you leave office?

President Clinton. Well, let me say, first of all, the parties are reengaging, and they've asked us to be involved, and that's good. But we're going to be on their timetable, so I can't say for sure. I'm willing, as always, to do whatever I can, and I will do whatever I can. But the timetable will be up to them.

President's Future Plans

Q. Mr. President, millions of people at home, in France, and in Europe are wondering: What is Bill Clinton going to do after the 20th of January? So, outside the library and the Democratic Party's future, are you set onto anything international?

President Clinton. Well, I hope that I will be able to be involved in a lot of the things that I have cared greatly about here. I'm very interested in the economic empowerment of poor people around the world. I'm very interested in efforts that President Chirac and President Prodi and we're all making together to try to fight AIDS and deal with public health problems around the world.

But I think it's important that at least that, for a time, that I do what I can to help President-elect Bush have a good transition and that he have the chance to do his job in a way that is uninterrupted by me or anyone else, and I need to find an appropriate way to continue my activities.

And of course, now I have a Senator to support. I have to go out and make a living, so I'll do that, too.

European Union-U.S. Relations

[At this point, a question was asked, and President Jacques Chirac of France answered in French.]

President Clinton. Will you translate what he said to the press? We've got some Americans over there, though. Just roughly summarize what he said.

Interpreter. I can't because I didn't take any notes. I'm sorry.

President Clinton. Jacques can tell him what he said. [Laughter]

Interpreter. Well, essentially, President Chirac said that the relationship between—first of all, he thanked President Clinton for his role in helping at the construction of Europe, and secondly, he also mentioned that the relationship between the Europeans—I hope I understand you correctly, Mr. Chirac—and the Americans would be, he said, brotherly.

President Chirac. I think that there is too much preoccupation at the moment. The relations must change, of course, because the world is changing. Europe is large, but we are all convinced that there is no future if there is not a strong, strong common action between the U.S. and Europe. And NATO is the natural place for this. I see only necessity of adaptation, not necessity of change.

Q. President Chirac, like, I imagine, for a lot of people, you will miss President Clinton. I think you had friendly relations with him. How do you see the relationship with the new American President?

President Romano Prodi. Concerning Europe, European troubles?

President Chirac. I want to repeat that I think that the action of President Clinton has been extremely positive for Europe and also for our transatlantic relations. And for that, I want to express the credit to the esteem and the friendship of all Europeans for President Clinton.

And so the path is now open, and I have no doubt that there is a will, a determination both in the United States and in Europe, to continue to advance, hand in hand, in order so progress can be made, both on a human and on a political level in order to continue to construct Europe. And I will say that I hope that this will be done in a spirit of universal solidarity. And I have no doubt that our relations with the new American President will also be excellent.

President Clinton. Let me say, I basically agree with that. I would like to—we've gone through a period here, an 8-year period in the aftermath of the cold war in which we dealt with three very large questions, and we in the United States, one of them indirectly: How do we feel about the European Union, the deepening of the European Union, and the expansion of the European Union?

From the time I started running for President, I strongly supported that. I think that's good. I want Europe to be more integrated if the Europeans want it, and I want the European Union to be bigger if the Europeans want it. I think, on balance, that's a very good thing for world peace and prosperity and for the strengthening of freedom.

Second question: What would we do with NATO? Well, we expanded NATO. I expect it to continue to expand. President Chirac has got some countries he wants in NATO, and I agree with him. And we had a new relationship with Russia, which I hope will be strengthened, and with Ukraine.

The third big question: What would we do with southeastern Europe, with Bosnia and Kosovo, Serbia? And I think while there is a great deal of work still to be done in all three places—and we're going to talk about that— on balance, the fact that the United States and Europe stood for freedom, stood against ethnic cleansing, stood together for an entire Europe that is free, was a very great thing and gives a much brighter prospect to the 21st century.

So I believe that the new administration will find that these three developments are all positive, and I think that the relationship between the U.S. and Europe will be positive. Will there be trade disputes and other disputes? Of course there will. But that's natural, and I would say that those are high-class problems.

We're not worried about the survival of freedom here. We're not worried about the survival of our democracy. We're not worried about whether we share the same values. So I feel very good about this, and I think the future will be quite good between the United States and Europe.

Thank you. It's been a great honor. These men have done a great job, and I've enjoyed their personal friendship and our partnership, both of them. I'm very, very grateful.

President's Future Plans

Q. Will you meet again?

President Clinton. I certainly hope so. You know, they might not have as much time for me when I'm out of office, but I'll have more time. And I love France, and I love Italy, so maybe I can find some reason to walk the streets and see the people, be of some use in the future.

NOTE: The exchange began at 12:09 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. The President met with President Chirac, in his capacity as President of the European Council, and President Romano Prodi of the European Commission. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.

William J. Clinton, Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With European Union Leaders Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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