The President's News Conference With European Union Leaders
President Bush. Thank you all. Please be seated. Thanks for coming. There will be opening statements from the three leaders, and then we'll take two questions from the American side, two questions from the European side.
I want to appreciate Council President Juncker and Commission President Barroso, the High Representative Solana and the delegation for coming to the White House today. I've really enjoyed our conversation and enjoyed our lunch. We've covered a lot of topics, and they're important topics.
During the conversation, our talks reminded me about the importance of our partnership and the fact that this partnership is based on common values and shared aspirations, a partnership that really has helped build a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace. The United States continues to support a strong European Union as a partner in spreading freedom and democracy and security and prosperity throughout the world. My message to these leaders and these friends was that we want a Europe strong so we can work together to achieve important objectives and important goals.
One of those important objectives and important goals is the advance of freedom in order to spread peace. We talked about the Middle East. We support the vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace.
We talked about Iraq. This week in Brussels, the EU and the U.S. are cohosting a conference of over 80 countries and international organizations to build support for a free and prosperous Iraq. And I want to thank the leaders for that important initiative. I think it's an important signal for people to hear loud and clear that there may have been past differences over Iraq, but as we move forward, there is a need for the world to work together so that Iraq's democracy will succeed.
We talked about Afghanistan, and I appreciate the contributions of EU member nations to—efforts of—within Afghanistan. After all, 23 members of the EU are contributing troops in Afghanistan, and 12 members of the EU are contributing troops in Iraq, and we appreciate those contributions.
We talked about the broader Middle East. We talked about the need for us to continually support democratic movements. We talked about the Ukraine and Georgia as well as the Balkans. The point is, is that we understand that democratic nations are nations that are—will answer to the hopes and aspirations of their people, and democratic nations are nations that will help us keep the peace.
We talked about terrorism. We talked about visas. We talked about the need to continue to share information to make sure that we cut off money flows to terrorist groups and prevent terrorist organizations from obtaining weapons of mass destruction.
We talked about Iran, and I complimented the EU, complimented Mr. Solana as well as the Foreign Ministers from Great Britain and Germany and France for sending a clear message to the leadership in Iran that we're not going to tolerate the development of a nuclear weapon.
We talked about our collaborative efforts in Darfur. The EU and NATO are working together to help deploy AU peacekeepers in Darfur. And I want to thank the leadership here.
We talked about our economies. There's about a trillion dollars' worth of trade that takes place on an annual basis between the EU and the United States, and that's important. It's important for people working here in the United States and people working in Europe to understand that trade helps keep—people keep a job. And I recognize that when there's that much trade, there's going to be disputes. But we'll work those disputes out for the sake of our respective countries.
We're committed to the Doha round of the WTO. We're committed to trade that is fair and free. We spent a lot of time talking about China and how to make sure that China understands there are WTO rules that must be adhered to and that China should work to do something with her currency so that the trade between our respective countries is fair. That's all we want. We just want there to be a level playing field. The people in Europe can compete and the people in the United States can compete if we have fair rules and fair trade. And so we talked about how we can work together to make sure that the world trades more freely and more fairly for the sake of our peoples.
All in all, we've had a great discussion. And I'm proud to welcome these two men here to the podium here in the East Room of the White House. I want to thank you for coming. I want to thank you for your friendship.
Which one wants to go first? The oldest guy. [Laughter]
Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker. As the Commission—as the Commission is slow in decisions, I'll take the floor immediately. [Laughter]
President Barroso and myself, we were pleased with the meeting we had with President Bush, the Vice President, and a certain number of Secretaries. We informed our strongest ally of recent developments and events in the European Union. We explained in detail what the real meaning of the French "no" and the Dutch "no" in the recent constitution referenda really are about. We were informing the President on the budgetary issue. As you know, we were unable during the recent European summit to agree on the so-called financial prospectus for the period 2007- 2013.
We made clear in our frank and open and friendly talks with the President that the European is not at its knees but that the European Union is playing the role it has on the international scene, that we feel strongly committed to the relations we have established with partners throughout the world and mainly with the U.S., the U.S. being not only a strategic partner but the most important partner we have, not only as far as political strength relations are concerned but also as far as heart relations are concerned, that the European Union will table its decisions after the next coming months and probably years on the Nice Treaty, which is in place and which allows the European Union to function in a proper way and not as proper way as the constitution would have allowed us to do, but the European Union is there.
We were discussing, which was of quite huge importance, economic reform in the European Union. We adopted a few months ago in March the midterm review, the Lisbon Strategy. This is a huge program of economic and social reforms. It's clearly paving the way for a more competitive Europe, for a Europe taking its part in the world's economic development. We were discussing a certain number of monetary issues concerning both the U.S. and the European Union, discussing our relations with other trade partners in the world and with other monetary players in the world.
In fact, the visit we paid to President Bush at the end of the Luxembourg's Presidency of the Council is a happy conclusion of the 6 months, Luxembourg's period. In Europe, we had the pleasure for having President Bush with us in Europe on the 22d of February. This was a huge signal the President was sending to Europe. It was in the course of that meeting that, in fact, both the President and myself, we decided to call for this Iraq conference, which will take place the other day in Brussels.
Although some of us had some differences and divergences with the U.S. when it came to Iraq, this—the fact that we are co-organizing and co-sharing this very important Iraq conference is showing that when it comes to substance, when it comes to progress, when it comes to democracy, to freedom, and to liberty, both the U.S. and the European Union are cooperating closely together and working in the same direction.
So it was an excellent moment.
President Bush. Thank you, sir.
President Jose Manual Durao Barroso. Thank you. Thank you very much. It was indeed a pleasure for me, for President Juncker, for all the European Union team to be here. We remember the very successful visit of President Bush to Brussels recently, to the European institutions. We really believe the world is a better place when Europe and the United States work well together and we can show results. We have been together promoting democracy, for instance, in Ukraine and in Lebanon, cohosting now the international conference on Iraq. We will continue our close cooperation on Iran and the Middle East, and we will make sure that the Doha round is a success.
Today we also adopted important decisions concerning, for instance, the economic cooperation. We have decided to go even further in our economic relations. Let me tell you that, per a day, our trade is around $1.8 billion. It shows how important our relation is. We will act together decisively to enhance our economic integration, namely in the field of regulatory environment. We believe a regulatory environment, as much as close as possible, is good for the economy of our space.
The European Union is and will remain a very strong and reliable partner for the United States. It's true that we have complex systems in Europe. We are now 25 countries. Very soon we will be 27, about 500 million of people. And we went through a very important enlargement, that it was, indeed, the reunification of Europe, 25, and very soon 27, countries that were very recently divided and now are together, sharing their sovereignty.
So it's no surprise that in this process, some problems may occur. But the European Union is there. We are on business. We are deciding. We are taking decisions every day, internally and externally, and we are committed to this very close relation with the United States.
Let me just underline two points that are very important also in our relation that we will be going on discussing in Gleneagles in the next G-8 summit in Scotland, is the cooperation in terms of environment. We are looking forward—our dialog in United States about climate change, new technologies to face those challenges, energy efficiency, energy security—we adopted an important statement on that— and also development, what we can do together for Africa and for the developing world.
We also adopted a common statement on Africa that shows our commitment. I think this is a real problem, and this is a task of a generation. We are, together, promoting democracy and freedom, but every day 25,000 people die because they don't have enough to eat or they don't have clean water to drink. This is really a shame for our generation, and you cannot accept it as a kind of a natural order of things. It's not natural. Now nobody thinks that slavery is natural, but it was natural for centuries—we could live with slavery. How can we go on living with people dying because they don't have the basic needs? There are enough resources in the world. There are enough resources in the world. What we need is political will and good organization.
And when I say good organization, I say good organization on the donors community but also on them, on the African leaders, on the third world leaders, that they can also work with us for better governance, for the rule of law, for accountability in their societies, and transparency in their societies. And I hope that this year we can take all advantage of this year with a high-level event in September in New York, with all—the Gleneagles summit and other occasions so that the United States and Europe will be in front running this battle against absolute poverty and also for freedom and democracy around the world.
President Bush. Thank you, Jose.
Couple of questions. Tom [Tom Raum, Associated Press].
Nomination of United Nations Ambassador
Q. Mr. President, by all accounts, the votes just aren't there to end the filibuster against your nomination of John Bolton to go to the U.N. Your Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, wouldn't rule out a recess appointment. There is a recess coming up. Where do you go from here? And would a recess appointment give Mr. Bolton enough time to do the kind of changes at the U.N. that you are looking for?
President Bush. I think Mr. Bolton ought to get an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. That's my call to the Senate. I nominated John Bolton to be the Ambassador to the United Nations for a reason. I'm sharing this now with my friends here. The American people know why I nominated him, because the U.N. needs reform, and I thought it made sense to send a reformer to the United Nations. The U.N. is an important organization, and the American people, I think, will take—will understand how important it is when the U.N. is reformed and is held to account. And so we want more accountability and transparency and less bureaucracy, and John Bolton will help achieve that mission. And so I think it's time for the Senate to give him an up-or-down vote, now. And I'm not sure if they've made the decision to have that vote. I think tomorrow there is going to be an up-or-down vote, if I'm not mistaken, Tom.
President Bush. Tonight? Tonight. Yes. Well, put him in. If they're interested in reforming the United Nations, they ought to approve John Bolton.
Do you want to call on somebody?
European Union-U.S. Relations
Q. Mr. President, you spoke of common values were with Europe and the United States, and a strong Europe. Would you say that today, after the two summits between the European Union and the United States, that the partnership has even become again a friendship between Europe and the United States, and how do you see the role of the Luxembourg Presidency in that issue?
President Bush. Well, I appreciate that. First, the relations with Europe are important relations, and they've—because we do share values. And they're universal values. They're not American values or European values; they're universal values. And those values, being universal, ought to be applied everywhere. And that's human rights, human dignity, rule of law, transparency when it comes to government, decency. And obviously, if the EU and the U.S. speak with one voice on these issues, it's more likely to hear—people will hear it.
I think the friendship between our respective countries in the EU are strong. Obviously, there's been a difference of opinion recently on certain issues, but that doesn't prevent the American people from holding the good folks of Luxembourg or Portugal in high esteem. There's a lot of traffic between our country, a lot of tourism, a lot of trade, a lot of commerce between individual countries within the EU and the United States. And that's because of mutual respect and the desire for people to get to know the world better.
In terms of your Prime Minister, he's an interesting guy. [Laughter] He's a lot of fun to be around. He promotes serious business in a way that endears himself to people. And so I think his Presidency has been an important Presidency for the EU during difficult times, and he's handled it well. And I was going to say he's a piece of work, but that might not translate too well. Is that all right, if I call you a "piece of work"? [Laughter]
Prime Minister Juncker. Okay.
President Bush. He's done a good job, and I value his friendship. I think—I know it's really important for people at our— when we sit down at the table, to have a friendship, so we can discuss things in a frank way, in an honest way, without fear of being able to tell people what's on our mind. That's the best way to get things done, and Jean-Claude certainly has been that way, as has Jose.
Adam [Adam Entous, Reuters].
Q. Mr. President, we were told that you planned to sharpen your focus on Iraq. Why did this become necessary? And given the recent surge in violence, do you agree with Vice President Dick Cheney's assessment that the insurgency is in its last throes?
President Bush. Adam, I think about Iraq every day—every single day—because I understand we have troops in harm's way, and I understand how dangerous it is there. And the reason it's dangerous is because there's these coldblooded killers that will kill Americans or kill innocent Iraqis in order to try to drive us out of Iraq. I spoke to our commanders today—Commander Abizaid today and will be speaking to General Casey here this week, getting an assessment as to how we're proceeding, if we're making progress toward the goal, which is, on the one hand, a political process moving forward in Iraq, and on the other hand, the Iraqis capable of defending themselves. And the report from the field is that while it's tough, more and more Iraqis are becoming battle-hardened and trained to defend themselves. And that's exactly the strategy that's going to work. And it is going to work. And we will complete this mission for the sake of world peace.
And you just heard the EU is willing to host this conference with the United States in order to help this new democracy move forward. And the reason why is many countries understand that freedom in the heart of the Middle East will make this world more peaceful.
And so, you know, I think about this every day—every single day—and will continue thinking about it, because I understand we've got kids in harm's way. And I worry about their families, and I—obviously, any time there's a death, I grieve. But I want those families to know, one, we're not going to leave them—not going to allow their mission to go in vain, and two, we will complete the mission and the world will be better off for it.
Q. Mr. President, many in Europe——
President Bush. You're offending people here, we got two other—[laughter]——
Detainees of the War on Terror
Q. Mr. President, many in Europe are worrying that with the fight against terrorism the commitment of the United States to human rights is not as big as it used to be—that has not only to do with Guantanamo but also with the secret prisons where the CIA holds terror suspects. My question is, what will happen to these people who are held in these secret prisons by the CIA? Will they ever see a judge? Or is your thinking that with some terror suspects, the rule of law should not apply or does not have to have applied?
President Bush. First of all, I appreciate that question, and I understand we—those of us who espouse freedom have an obligation and those who espouse human rights have an obligation to live that—to those— to live up to those words. And I believe we are in Guantanamo. I mean, after all, there's 24-hour inspections by the International Red Cross. You're welcome to go down yourself—maybe you have—and taking a look at the conditions. I urge members of our press corps to go down to Guantanamo and see how they're treated and to see—and to look at the facts. That's all I ask people to do. There have been, I think, about 800 or so that have been detained there. These are people picked up off the battlefield in Afghanistan. They weren't wearing uniforms. They weren't state sponsored, but they were there to kill.
And so the fundamental question facing our Government was, what do you do with these people? And so we said that they don't apply under the Geneva Convention, but they'll be treated in accord with the Geneva Convention.
And so I would urge you to go down and take a look at Guantanamo. About 200 or so have been released back to their countries. There needs to be a way forward on the other 500 that are there. We're now waiting for a Federal court to decide whether or not they can be tried in a military court, where they'll have rights, of course, or in the civilian courts. We're just waiting for our judicial process to move the process along.
Make no mistake, however, that many of those folks being detained—in humane conditions, I might add—are dangerous people. Some have been released to their previous countries, and they got out, and they went on to the battlefield again. And I have an obligation, as do all of us who are holding office, to protect our people. That's a solemn obligation we all have. And I believe we're meeting that obligation in a humane way.
As well as—we've got some in custody— Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is a classic example, the mastermind of the September the 11th attack that killed over 3,000 of our citizens. And he is being detained because we think he could possibly give us information that might not only protect us but protect citizens in Europe. And at some point in time, he'll be dealt with, but right now, we think it's best that he be kept in custody.
We want to learn as much as we can in this new kind of war about the intention and about the methods and about how these people operate. And they're dangerous, and they're still around, and they'll kill in a moment's notice.
In the long run, the best way to protect ourselves is to spread freedom and human rights and democracy. And—but if you've got questions about Guantanamo, I seriously suggest you go down there and take a look. And—seriously, take an objective look as to how these folks are treated and what has happened to them in the past, and when the courts make the decision they make, we'll act accordingly.
Thank you. I appreciate that. Thank you all very much for coming.
NOTE: The President's news conference began at 1:11 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. Participating in the event were Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg, in his capacity as President of the European Council; and President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso of the European Commission. President Bush referred to Secretary General Javier Solana of the European Council; Gen. John P. Abizaid, USA, combatant commander, U.S. Central Command; Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., USA, commanding general, Multi-National Force— Iraq; and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, senior Al Qaida leader responsible for planning the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack, who was captured in Pakistan on March 1, 2003.
George W. Bush, 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/213481