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Remarks by the Vice President at a Meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels, Belgium

February 06, 2015

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Mr. President. It's -- I'm happy to be back in Brussels. Deepening and strengthening the U.S. relationship with the European Union is one of our administration's highest priorities, and that's why I'm happy to be back here and happy to meet with the new EU leadership.

But, Mr. President, excuse, as we used to say when I was a U.S. senator, a point of personal privilege, you and I have been friends for a long time. I've admired you from the days of your roots in Solidarity when I was a young senator working very closely with Solidarity -- and my admiration for the Polish people and your leadership. So it's like --- it's seeing an old friend in a new role. And I'm delighted that you're in this role right now.

The fact is the President is correct, Ukraine is fighting for their very survival right now. Russia continues to escalate the conflict by sending mercenaries and tanks. And as we euphemistically say in the United States, little green men, without patches (inaudible) very sophisticated special operations soldiers. And President Putin continues to call for new peace plans as his troops roll through the Ukrainian countryside, and he absolutely ignores every agreement that his country has signed in the past and he has signed recently, including at Minsk.

And so we have to stand -- we, the United States and Europe as whole -- has to stand with Ukraine at this moment. Ukraine needs our financial assistance and support as it pursues reforms. And even in the face -- in the face -- of this military onslaught, they are attempting to push forward with their reforms.

I have been in Ukraine I believe four times in the last several months, or maybe a little longer than that, and I've met with both the Prime Minister and the President. They are doing all in their power to keep faith with the commitments they made.

But this is a moment where the United States and Europe must stand together -- stand firm. Russia cannot be allowed to redraw the map of Europe. Because that's exactly what they are doing.

Mr. President, you articulated an inspired vision how Europe can ensure new energy security. Again, why? Russia is using -- there are sort of two new aggressive tools of foreign policy they have made into a weapon -- the use of oligarchs and corruption, as well as the use of energy as a foreign policy tool and national security tool. We agree more needs to be done, and I'm looking forward to discussing this issue with you, as well.

Both Europe and the United States face the threat, as you mentioned, of violent extremism -– abroad, in the form of ISIL, or as they say in the region, Daesh; and sometimes here at home. The tragic terrorist attack here in Brussels and Paris demonstrates how real that is. We Americans understand and share the pain and outrage of everything that the people of Brussels, as well as Paris have gone through in the recent past. And we're committed to collaborating very closely with all of Europe to mitigate this threat and to protect our citizens.

And this includes fighting ISIL where we have worked with the EU and member states as part of a global coalition. We have to continue to degrade the group's resources, their capacity, their finances; alleviate the humanitarian suffering caused by the terrorists; stop the flow of foreign terrorists, which is increasingly a problem in Europe. It's interesting how the terrorists try and go at everything we think sacred and free. The more open the system is, the more they attempt to take advantage of it. And we cannot let them. We cannot let them change our way of life in order to defeat them, and we will not.

We also need to address the foundation of our security, and that's our collective economic resilience and -- you and I, I know, plan to discuss today ways to boost domestic demand and create jobs in Europe, as we have done in the United States, but also how we can move further and further enhance our trade and commerce for the benefit of people on both sides of the Atlantic.

And in particular, we hope (inaudible) here the efforts, as I heard today from -- from others with whom I've met that the Greek government and its European partners are trying to work together to follow through on recent reforms and chart a course for Greece and stabilized recovery.

This year, as we work to close important trade negotiations, as you mentioned, in Asia, we also hope to make substantial progress toward an ambitious and comprehensive trade agreement here in Europe. One of the things we have to convince the American people of is that Europe is as interested in this process as we are. When I'm here I'm asked by Europeans why we seem not to be more interested, the United States. And at home I get, why is Europe not interested? We're interested, and we know it's very much in the interest of both continents. And working together, the U.S. and the EU are committed to breaking down and -- remaining barriers to trade that have been holding us back some from achieving the full potential of what is already an incredibly robust transatlantic alliance.

And looking forward, we're faced with a complex set of global challenges. But I'm confident that our steadfast U.S.-EU partnership and coordination is up to the challenge.

Mr. President, you've said, relations between Europe and the United States are the backbone of the community of democracies. We share that view 100 percent. We consider this relationship the cornerstone -- the cornerstone -- of our engagement with -- not Europe -- but the rest of the world. This is the cornerstone of the U.S.'s ability to engage fruitfully with the rest of the world.

So we have a great deal to do. And I look forward to sitting down with my old friend, Mr. President, to discuss the work ahead and maybe we can get (inaudible). Thank you.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks by the Vice President at a Meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels, Belgium Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/321769

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