The President's News Conference With European Union Leaders
President Clinton. It's a great pleasure to welcome President Chirac and President Santer to the White House, the first visit for both leaders in their present positions to the Oval Office.
I begin with congratulations to President Chirac on his outstanding victory last month. From our many contacts with him throughout his long public service, the United States knows that he is a true and reliable friend, and he will be a strong and effective leader for France and for Europe. In his short time as President, he has already demonstrated this leadership. We applaud his determination to create jobs and economic growth for his own country, and with Jacques Chirac as President, we are sure that the French commitment to peace, stability, and progress is in excellent hands. France, as all of you know, was America's first ally. We know that our relationships will grow even stronger in the coming years.
It was a pleasure as well to meet President Santer, whose leadership in the cause of Europe follows in the great tradition that began with Jean Monnet. More than 30 years ago, President Kennedy spoke of a strong and united Europe as an equal partner with whom we face, and I quote, "the great and burdensome tasks of building and defending a community of free nations." This is more true than ever. And our summit today shows the United States partnership with Europe is a powerful, positive force.
The three of us reviewed a lot of economic and security issues: our efforts to help the countries of Central Europe and the former Soviet Union; we reaffirmed our commitment to strengthening NATO and proceeding with the steady process of enlarging the alliance; we agreed to continue liberalizing trade. We agreed that senior representatives of the U.S. and the EU will work together to develop a common agenda for the 21st century. Secretary Christopher has already provided a road map for this dialog in his recent speech in Madrid.
We discussed our efforts to strengthen the U.N. peacekeeping forces and to reduce the suffering in Bosnia. In the midst of the tragedy, we must not forget that the common efforts have already saved thousands of lives, and we must continue to work together.
We also explored a number of issues that the leaders of the G-7 will deal with in Halifax, and I'd like to mention a couple of them if I might. The Halifax conference marks another step in our effort to build the structures of the global economy for the 21st century. In the face of astonishing change, the growing economic ties between nations, the rapid movement of people and information, the miracles of technology, our prosperity depends upon preparing our people for the future and forging an international system that is strong enough and flexible enough to make the most of these opportunities.
At home we have been working hard to establish a steady record of growth, investment in our people, in bringing down our budget deficit. I am proud that our deficit today is now the lowest of all the G-7 countries. Our new budget proposal to balance the budget in 10 years will permit us to do this and continue to invest in the education and development of our people.
Abroad we have set out clear goals: to open world markets, to help the former Communist countries transform themselves into free market democracies, to promote economic reform in the developing world, to speed reforms in the international financial institutions. These efforts have yielded tremendous successes: NAFTA, GATT, agreements with the Asia-Pacific region and in our own hemisphere. We have supported the nations in Central Europe, the New Independent States, and the developing world in their historic turn toward free markets. Now we have a chance to reap enormous benefits in better jobs, greater opportunities, and growing prosperity.
We will build on our agreements last year in Naples when we meet in Halifax to focus on reforming the institutions of the international economy. The IMF, the World Bank, the regional banks have served us very well over the last half-century. And they have grown, taken on new missions as the times demand. But to deal with a new economy, we have to give them new guidance and new momentum.
First, we must work to identify and prevent financial problems like Mexico's before they become disasters and rock the global economy. And when crises occur, we must have efficient ways to mobilize the international community.
Second, we have to examine how best to adapt for a new era the multilateral development banks and the social and economic agencies of the U.N. These organizations have helped dozens of countries to build their economies and improve the lives of their people. We must not walk away from those banks and our obligations to the developing world. This is a point that President Chirac made to me in our meeting and one with which I strongly agree.
Finally, together with Russia, we will discuss a range of political issues that include Bosnia, Iran's nuclear ambitions, European security, and reform in Russia. We will consider new forms of cooperation to combat international crime, terrorism, and nuclear smuggling, because prosperity without security means little.
Also, I will be having some bilateral meetings, as all of you know, including a meeting with the Prime Minister of Japan, at which time we will review the position the United States has taken on our trade disputes with Japan regarding autos and auto parts. As you know, we are going to be meeting about that again shortly after the Halifax summit. My determination there remains as firm as ever. I believe we can reach a successful conclusion, and I intend to do everything I can to see that it is done.
Let me again thank President Chirac and President Santer and offer them the opportunity to make a couple of opening remarks.
President Chirac. Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen. Mr. President, 40 years ago, when I was working as a soda jerk in the Howard Johnson restaurant—[laughter]—I didn't think that one day I would be in the White House beside the President of the United States for a press conference. And I appreciate it very much. It's rather moving for me. Since that time, I unfortunately forgot most of my English. [Laughter] That's why I'm going to speak French, if you don't mind—[laughter]—just to say a few words to start with.
Firstly, I would like to thank you very much for the welcome you have extended to me. I'd also like to tell you how pleased I am to see that on the main issues we are facing in the world today, and namely relations with France and with Europe, we have total convergence of views.
We're living in a world that is becoming increasingly disintegrated. We see a rising trend of selfishness and isolationism in many, many countries. And so, it is very reassuring indeed to see that the world's greatest nations realize how important it is to have solidarity amongst one another. This is true in politics. This is true in the social and economic areas. It's also true when we face challenges together throughout the world and crises together throughout the world. And this is why I said that we are in agreement on most of the points, even if on some issues we do have divergent views.
Mr. President, as the President of the European Union for a few more weeks, I would like to express my gratitude for the stance that you have taken on Bosnia, which is of great concern to me personally. I would like to say to you that we would like the entire Western world to be more attentive to the problems of the developing issues. And this is something that I will take up in Halifax. This is something that we must do something about. It's an ethical problem, a moral problem. It's also in our own interest, given the population growth that we see in many of these countries.
I think that we must also work more closely together when it comes to addressing regional crises. We've seen the eruption of regional crises in many different parts of the world, in Africa, in Europe, elsewhere. I think that we must, again, think more carefully about the main issues, the main challenges we are facing today, mainly employment. And this is why I am very pleased to make—that my request that a second G-7 meeting be held on employment and that you welcomed that. The first meeting was indeed a success.
I also think that we ought to undertake great efforts to fight against organized crime. In the United States some recent successes have been achieved in the fight against drugs. And I think that everything that deals with money laundering, fighting against drug trafficking, fighting against the spread of AIDS, again we must pool our efforts, enhance our efforts, and make sure that we work together in a complementary fashion. Now, in Halifax I will be touching on those points as well.
Now, we have an additional issue, monetary insecurity, currency fluctuations. This is something that is a worldwide problem and a European problem, in particular. So these are the issues that I, as President of the European Union, have raised in my conversations with the President of the United States and will also be discussed during our meeting in Halifax.
President Santer. Thank you, Mr. President. The wide range of issues we covered in our stimulating discussions today is testimony to the importance of our mutual relationship. Ours is undoubtedly the world's most important bilateral partnership. The regular six-monthly meetings between the United States and the European Union as such are catalysts for announcing our cooperation. The continued strengthening of the Union allows this cooperation to be balanced and effective.
Despite the excellence of our relations, there is no place for complacency. In a world searching for new equilibrium, every opportunity must be taken to broaden and deepen the relationship. This will provide the foundation for global stability and prosperity.
That is why I called at the beginning of this year for a review of the transatlantic partnership and launched the year with a transatlantic treaty. I am happy that since then, on both sides of the Atlantic, vivid debate is starting on the future of American and European relations. Today's meeting shows that there is a clear political will to explore the various means of structuring our relationship in view of the 21st century.
It is too early to commit ourselves to precise concepts. This will need more time. But what we must achieve is a formula which would integrate the political, economic, and security components of that relationship. A lot will obviously depend on the outcome of the 1996 intergovernmental conference which will define the future shape and role of the European Union itself. But it is not too early to immediately improve our consultation mechanism and to concentrate on concrete action, delivering tangible results in the short term. And that is what we have done today.
We have also discussed the idea of launching a new transatlantic initiative at our next meeting in Madrid in December. I very much welcome that, as I welcome the decision to charge a small group of senior-level representatives to examine ways of strengthening the European Union and the United States relationship and prepare the Madrid meeting.
Today's meeting has confirmed my belief that we are on the right track and that the transatlantic partnership will further prosper, to the benefit of our peoples and indeed of the whole world.
Thank you so much.
President Clinton. Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International].
French Nuclear Tests
Q. President Chirac, your decision to resume nuclear testing has provoked worldwide consternation. Are you willing to reconsider? And also, President Clinton, has his decision handicapped the drive for a comprehensive test ban?
President Chirac. Well, obviously, the question that you've put to President Clinton is a question that he shall answer. But for me, I would say that no, I am not at all willing to go back on the decision that I've taken. But I would like to recall that we are talking about a very limited number of tests for a preestablished time frame, that is, from September to May 1996, and that France has made a commitment to sign without reservations once it is ready to do so, that is, in the autumn of 1996, we will then be in a position to sign the comprehensive test ban treaty.
Q. So the protests don't bother you? I mean, the fact that the rest of the world really is disarmed by your decision?
President Chirac. Well, unfortunately, haven't really seen that the rest of the world is unarmed in this. [Laughter]
President Clinton. As you know, we regret the decision, and we have worked hard to try to stop the test as a way of setting up greater willingness to have a comprehensive test ban treaty. And we have forgone testing ourselves. But I do want to point out that the French have pledged before President Chirac came here—and he has reaffirmed that pledge, which you just heard—to achieve a comprehensive test ban treaty by next year. Also, France was very helpful in supporting the indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
So I believe on the larger goals that we still are united, and I believe we will achieve the success that we seek.
Mr. President, would you like to call on a French journalist?
President Chirac. A French journalist, is there a French journalist who would like to ask a question?
Q. A question to both Presidents: Concerning the way of dealing with Iran as a terrorist state, are both of the governments on the same wavelength, or is it still a bone of contention?
President Clinton. You think I should go first? [Laughter]
President Chirac. Yes, you are the host. [Laughter]
President Clinton. It's the least I can do as the host.
I don't know that we're on the same wavelength. As you know, many countries disagree with the position the United States has taken, but we believe the evidence is clear that Iran is a major sponsor of terrorism. And we believe the evidence is clear that they are attempting to develop the capacity for nuclear weapons. And we think that neither of those things should be supported and, in fact, should be opposed.
We also believe, regrettably, that the evidence is that a constructive engagement with the Iranians has at least so far failed to produce any positive results, failed to change the course of conduct of the country. And that is why we decided to take even stronger action recently and stop our direct and indirect trade with Iran. And I believe it is a proper course. I will attempt to persuade others that it is a proper course, at least insofar—certainly insofar as it affects sensitive things like technologies which can be used for military benefit and certainly to develop nuclear capacity.
Q. I'd like to ask President Clinton, thousands of government troops are converging on Sarajevo vowing to break the 3-year-old Serb stranglehold on the capital. Do you think that a military solution is possible there? And do you think that the U.N. peacekeepers should get out of the way and open the way for any attack?
President Clinton. Well, you really asked two different questions there. In the first—whether the road can be opened to Sarajevo militarily is not the same question as whether a military solution is possible in a larger sense. And my judgment is, and I think President Chirac agrees, that in the end a military solution is not available to the Bosnian Government. And I'm quite concerned about it.
And therefore, I believe that what we are trying to do in strengthening UNPROFOR— you know that President Chirac has taken the lead, and the United States certainly supports him in principle, in developing a rapid reaction force to try to strengthen the UNPROFOR troops there and to protect his own troops more. And we believe that that and a vigorous continued pursuit of diplomacy offers the best hope of saving the Bosnian state and minimizing casualties.
In terms of whether in this narrow moment such an action would succeed, I think our military leaders' judgment would be better than mine. But I think the larger point is that we have discouraged all the parties from continued violence. That's one of the reasons that we agreed with the U.N.'s request for a bombing support when Sarajevo was shelled by the Serbs recently. We think that the position of the United States should be to support our allies who are there on the ground, to support strengthening the U.N. mission, and to discourage all increases in violence, to try to keep the lid on the violence and put the pressure on all parties, including Serbia proper, to support those actions which would lead to a negotiated settlement.
Would you like to comment on that?
President Chirac. On Bosnia, we share the same view. Firstly, the UNPROFOR soldiers have been scattered throughout the country as part of a humanitarian and peacekeeping policy. They have been spread out across a vast territory, which is, furthermore, occupied by terrorists and, in particular, Serbian terrorists.
Now, the inevitable happened, that is to say, availing themselves of the first pretext that came along, the Serbians took hostages, and the UNPROFOR soldiers on the ground were incapable of defending themselves. Now, a soldier ought to be able to defend himself at all times, especially if he is running a risk of physical danger or death. And in that kind of case, it is impossible to allow for him to be humiliated. But the soldiers of UNPROFOR have become increasingly humiliated. So it's a question of honor, and that called for a reaction.
And so, France and the United Kingdom, along with some Dutch reinforcements, we have decided to create a rapid reaction force. The objective of this is not to attack anyone. It is going to be part of the existing U.N. mission and will cooperate with NATO, of course. The mission here is to react, to react anytime U.N. soldiers are attacked, humiliated, or deprived of their freedom. In order to achieve this, we had to develop a force that has the means to react, namely artillery, helicopters, and tanks.
Now I have heard, in some quarters, from some political leaders who are wondering whether or not this Franco-British initiative is just a first step towards a withdrawal of UNPROFOR in Bosnia. Well, this is obviously absurd. If such a withdrawal were ever to take place—and I certainly hope that it does not— this is something that has already been planned for. We've already come up with contingency plans for a withdrawal.
So what I would—what we were trying to do with the creation—what we are trying to do with the creation of the rapid reaction force is to enhance the capability of the soldiers to carry out their mission. And the quicker we can do this, the quicker the Serbs themselves will realize that they can't get away with murder.
And this is why we require the general agreement of the Contact Group. And I can say that the Russians have agreed to this and almost all the countries we've consulted have agreed. Now, it is up to the United States Congress to give the green light to this initiative. And obviously, I hope that it will.
It's important to bear in mind that any delay shall be seen by the Serbs as a glimmer of hope. And they shall be banking on internal dissension within the Contact Group—shall give them more time. And they have to understand that time is running against them. So that is the rationale behind this rapid reaction force which is being set up and which is, for the most part, composed of French and British troops.
President Clinton. If I might just make one other response to the original question. You know that the sympathies of the United States and this administration are with the struggle of the Bosnian Government to preserve the territory, certainly the territory that has been agreed to in the Contact Group proposal, and to end the kind of behavior that we saw in the taking of the U.N. hostages.
The question here is, therefore, would this action, even if it could succeed, ultimately strengthen or weaken the efforts of UNPROFOR to strengthen itself. President Chirac is taking bold actions here to try to strengthen UNPROFOR. Would it increase or decrease the chances that ultimately these objectives that we all share would prevail? What other consequences could occur in other parts of the country as a result of this? All these things need to be taken into consideration, which is why the United States has taken the position that, for the time being, all the parties should take as much care as possible to avoid further actions, because we believe that we have the best chance now of strengthening UNPROFOR and getting some new energy behind a lot of these diplomatic initiatives. This had nothing to do with where our sympathies are in terms of whether that road ought to be opened.
Yes, it's time for a European journalist. Go ahead.
Q. Did you talk about Algeria?
President Clinton. No, but we will tonight. Let me say I'm very interested in Algeria and the implications of what happens there for other countries. And President Chirac knows much more about it than I do. Your country has had a very long history there. And I look forward to a rather detailed discussion about it this evening.
Q. Mr. President, you're being urged by Members of Congress and by, we're told, officials of your own State Department to proceed with the establishment of full diplomatic relations with Vietnam. Do you think the time is right for that? And in your view, does Vietnam now meet your criteria for the establishment of these relations?
President Clinton. I have discussed this issue with some Members of Congress; you're correct about that. I specifically have talked with Senator McCain and Senator John Kerry in my office, and I had a—and Senator Robb. I also had a passing conversation with Senator Bob Kerrey about it. And of course, I've talked with Herschel Gober, the Deputy Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs, who just went to Vietnam on a mission.
They brought back a number of documents, a significant number of documents which I am now having analyzed with a view toward trying to determine whether or not the standards that I have set forth have been met. When that analysis is complete, I will then reach a judgment and, of course, make it public. But I think I should await the analysis of the documents.
I will say that the Vietnamese have been quite forthcoming. They have worked with us. If you look at the extraordinary efforts the United States has made to determine the fate of POW's and MIA's and the level of success that has been achieved, even though, to be sure, there are still outstanding cases, there's nothing quite like it in the history of warfare. And I think that the American people should be very proud of the efforts particularly made by our military, our active duty military and those supporting them, to determine the fate of every possible POW and MIA.
But I cannot answer your question until the review of the documents has been completed.
Middle East Peace Process
Q. Mr. President Clinton, what are your thoughts about the July 1st deadline which was set between the Palestinians and the Israelis for implementing the second phase in the Oslo accords? And what are the economic incentives that you are envisioning to guard and promote the peace process in the Middle East?
And a question for President Chirac. What is the package, the economic package that the European Community is about to promote or to advance to strengthen the peace in the Middle East?
President Clinton. Well, we're working toward the deadline, and we're working closely with the Israelis and the Palestinians. As you know, we're in constant contact with both of them. And we're doing what we can to get other supporters involved in the process of rebuilding the Middle East. We support the establishment of a development bank, which we believe is the least costly and most effective way to leverage public capital with private investment to redevelop the region.
And I can tell you that today I feel pretty hopeful about where we are and where we're going there, both in terms of the relationships between Israel and the Palestinians and in terms of the larger issues of Middle East peace. I have been pleased by the courage and the vision shown by all the leaders there in achieving the progress that's been achieved thus far.
And of course, as you know, we still have two countries to go. We have to resolve the differences between Israel and Syria, which are difficult, but they are both working on them. And then, of course, we would then hopefully get an agreement with Lebanon and Israel.
So I feel hopeful about it, and we're prepared to invest quite a lot of money in it. And we believe that the institution of a development bank is not only that favored by the people in the Middle East but also is the most costeffective way to leverage a large amount of private capital with public investment. We do have to show the Palestinian people some benefits of the peace. And we are committed to doing that.
President Chirac. Yes, I would just like to make a brief reply to that last question. Development in these countries is a categorical imperative. What do the Palestinians today need? They need a house, and they need a job. And for that, it takes money.
Let me just remind you that France is the largest financial contributor to the Palestinian Authority's budget. And France has every intention of participating in the development efforts, which to us seem to be exemplary. Now, we fully agree with the idea of setting up a financial system that would be as efficient as it is quick in bringing forward results.
Now obviously, none of this has been fully decided yet. Is it going to be a bank or is it going to be something that's easier to set up over the short run? I think that that is more a matter of technical detail. But France will be there, and we'll be participating.
President Clinton. [Inaudible]—point, and then I owe this journalist a question because she thought I was calling on her.
The other thing that I would emphasize in addition to investment is—to pick up on a point the President made in his opening remarks— is that we, all of us, have to be involved in a stronger effort to combat terrorism because insofar as the Israelis and others can succeed in combating terrorism, the relationships between Israel and the Palestinians can be more open. The biggest threat to the success of the peace has been closing up the borders as a necessity of dealing with the terror, so that it drives the income of the Palestinians down. So they will develop a lot of their own economic opportunities if we can permit them to do so in peace and openness. And we should work on it.
Q. Mr. President, is the United States prepared to pay its share of the creation of a rapid deployment force for Bosnia under the U.N.? And President Chirac, you have suggested that the time may have come for the United States to get tough on Bosnia. What did you mean by that remark, and what specifically are you asking the United States to do to help your troops on the ground?
President Clinton. The answer to your first question is that it depends upon whether the Congress is willing to participate as well. And so, I have received correspondence and contacts with Congress about this. I have begun opening discussions about it, and I am consulting with them. But that is up to the Congress as well as to the President. I support, in principle, this rapid reaction force, and I think it has a chance to really strengthen the U.N. mission there. To what extent we can contribute depends upon congressional consultations which have only just begun.
President Chirac. Well, perhaps I must have misspoken, even in French, because I never said that the United States had to take a tougher stand on Bosnia. I never even mentioned the idea that they ought to send ground troops. We have a convergent strategy for the time being, and I fully support the American stance. I hope that this time my point has been made understood.
NOTE: The President's 97th news conference began at 5:15 p.m. in the East Room at the White House, with President Jacques Chirac of France, in his capacity as President of the European Council, and Jacques Santer, President of the European Commission. President Chirac spoke in French, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.
William J. Clinton, The President's News Conference With European Union Leaders Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/221146