The President's News Conference With European Union Leaders in Shannon, Ireland
Prime Minister Ahern. Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to begin this press conference of the EU-U.S. summit here in Dromoland by welcoming President Bush to Ireland for this important summit and thank him for coming to us and for the participation with President Romano Prodi and under the Irish Presidency.
Our meeting has not only been extremely productive, I think it's, for us, also been historic, because it's the first summit between the enlarged EU of 25 and the United States. And it's also the first since we succeeded in concluding the negotiations in the European constitution last weekend.
From the outset, the transatlantic relationship has been a core focus of our Presidency, and it is my steadfast belief that a close transatlantic partnership is essential for prosperity and for growth on both sides of the Atlantic as well as for the broader international community. And I'm pleased that this summit has reaffirmed the strength, the depth, and the significance of our relationship in the spirit of partnership.
The economic relationship between the European Union, United States has been a central focus of our discussions today. It's a relationship that generates 12 million jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. We agreed at joint declaration on strengthening our economic partnership, which includes a commitment to work for successful outcome of the World Trade Organization negotiations. And we also launched a comprehensive review to maximize investment and reduce barriers to trade across the Atlantic. And the review will be concluded in time for the next summit this time next year.
We also focused on common challenges facing the European Union and the United States, including the pressing need to promote peace in the Middle East, on how we can best work together to support the people of Iraq as they start the process of building a sovereign, secure, and democratic country. We discussed and have issued joint declarations on Iraq as well as on counterterrorism, on nonproliferation, the fight against HIV and AIDS, Sudan, and partnership with the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
So the European Union and United States share, ladies and gentlemen, a common set of values based on the unshakeable commitment to democracy, to human rights, and the rule of law. And it's these shared values which make us enduring partners, a partnership that has been fundamental to the stability and prosperity of both Europe and America over the last 50 years.
And this summit has added significantly to our close relationship, and I thank the President, and I thank President Prodi for the good work that we've done today.
President Bush. Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. Thanks for your hospitality. Thanks for doing such a great job at the EU President Prodi as well, thanks for your welcome.
Taoiseach, we—Laura and I thank you for your hospitality. And we appreciate the people of this great country for welcoming us as well.
I want to thank the people who work at this beautiful resort for their warmth and their great service. It's a wonderful place. Not only is it beautiful, but the people who work here are really fine people.
I congratulate the nations of Europe on the enlargement of your Union at 25 members. With this historic achievement you are erasing the last traces of the Iron Curtain and creating a new beginning for the continent.
Tomorrow I will travel to Turkey for the NATO summit—actually, today I will travel to Turkey. [Laughter] Tomorrow is the NATO summit. Turkey is a proud nation that successfully blends a European identity with the Islamic traditions. As Turkey meets the EU standards for membership, the European Union should begin talks that will lead to full membership for the Republic of Turkey.
Europe and America are linked by the ties of family, friendship, and common struggle and common values. We're also bound to each by common responsibilities. Because we met our responsibilities in the last century, we realized the vision of a continent that is whole, free, and at peace. As we meet our responsibilities in this new century, we will defeat the forces of terror and help to build a freer, safer, and more prosperous world.
The advance of freedom led to peace and prosperity in Europe, and it can do the same for the wider world. And so our Alliance is looking beyond the borders of Europe to support the momentum of freedom in the broader Middle East. The people of that region are eager for reform, and we are listening to their voices.
Earlier this month, the nations of the G-8, four of them members of this Union, pledged their energies and resources to working in partnership with the peoples of the broader Middle East to advance the universal values of human dignity, freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and economic opportunity.
A free and democratic Iraq is rising in the heart of the broader Middle East. We just concluded a constructive discussion on our common efforts to help the Iraqi people achieve the stability, prosperity, and democracy they seek. As Iraq moves toward the transfer of sovereignty next week, the EU and the United States are united in our determination to help the people of Iraq.
We also discussed the many actions our nations are taking to secure our homelands from the threat of terror. We took new steps to strengthen our efforts to freeze and block terrorist finances. And to make travel and transportation safer, we established new guidelines for sharing airline passenger records to improve the way we screen for terrorists while protecting the privacy of innocent travelers. We agreed to increase and improve the sharing of information and intelligence. We pledged to build on this progress by launching a new dialog on transportation and border security. Travel between our nations is the lifeblood of our friendship, our economies, and our Alliance, and our travel system must not only be safe but efficient.
Earlier today, we also signed an agreement that ensures compatibility between America's Global Positioning System and its future European counterpart, Galileo. This agreement will protect our common security, improve the delivery of emergency services, and further our economic cooperation. This was a hard agreement to make, but because we worked together, we now have an agreement. The two systems will be compatible and interoperable. And users from business to science to government in America and Europe will benefit.
The U.S. and EU share a fundamental interest in the health of the global economy. Our trade and investment relationship is the largest in the world, one that creates millions of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet we're always exploring ways to make it stronger, and we did so in these meetings. Lowering trade barriers increases the prosperity of all our nations. And so we're looking at new ways to open markets on both sides of the Atlantic. Free and fair trade has the power to lift nations out of poverty. So we reaffirmed our commitment to the Doha Development Agenda, which seeks to remove obstacles to global trade and growth in the developing world.
As I said, tomorrow I'm going to go to Turkey for the NATO summit. Today I'm going to Turkey—tomorrow is the summit. [Laughter] I look forward to working with our European Allies on many of the same issues we addressed here in Ireland. The unity of the Transatlantic Alliance in the face of new challenges and the advance of freedom in the world—that's what we're going to talk about.
NATO continues to transform itself to meet the new threats of the 21st century. The NATO mission in Afghanistan is helping the people of that country establish democracy after years of tyranny. And NATO has the capability—and I believe the responsibility—to help the Iraqi people defeat the terrorist threat that's facing their country. I look forward to discussing NATO's response to Prime Minister Allawi's request to help train Iraq's new security forces. Together, we can forge a new relationship between NATO and the Iraqi people.
Taoiseach, this has been a very useful summit. I appreciate your leadership. I appreciate President Prodi's leadership as well. I look forward to working with the nations of the European Union to increase our common prosperity, to strengthen our common security, and to advance our common interest in the spread of liberty.
Prime Minister Ahern. Mr. President. President Prodi.
President Prodi. Thank you, George, and thank you, Bertie, for the success of this summit. This is, for me, the last summit in which I have taken part as the President of the Commission. And over the past 5 years, Europe has gone through an enormous transformation. We have helped to deliver the euro, and now the single currency is the currency of more than 300 million people.
We have negotiated and completed the biggest expansion in the history of the European project by bringing in 10 new countries. And together, with the skillful Irish Presidency, we have negotiated and completed the biggest step ahead in our institution, adopting a new European Constitution. As a consequence, this Union has become an important and political actor in the global scene.
And now, in discussion with President Bush, we, Prime Minister Ahern and myself, have today spoken in the name of more than 450 million Europeans. This is the new reality in Europe and the new reality in European Union-United States relations.
Everyone here knows how close the ties between Europe and U.S. are. We know as well that these ties are not based only on our historic, cultural, political links but on our rock solid economic partnership as well. I remind you only one figure, $2 billion per day flow across the Atlantic—per day—in investment or trade. In this summit, our cooperation has broken new frontiers. The agreements on cooperation between our two global satellite navigation systems, Galileo and GPS, is a win-win situation. I am certain that the repercussion for the global market of civilian uses of satellite navigation systems are very positive. And this system will become operational in 2008 and will create 150,000 jobs in Europe alone.
Galileo is also good example of how European Union, strengthened by the euro, the constitution, and the reunification of the continent, can and will play its full part as an international actor. Together, European Union and U.S. can meet the global, regional challenge as well as threats to our security. But—and I want to emphasize this strongly—we must work together as true partners and friends can do.
Prime Minister Ahern. Thank you, President Prodi.
Mr. President, do you want the first question?
President Bush. I have to?
Prime Minister Ahern. Yes. [Laughter] We rotate them.
President Bush. I didn't ask for an answer. I just thought, "Do I have to?" [Laughter]
NATO and Iraq
Q. Mr. President, today's statement talks about shared commitments in Iraq and support for training Iraqi security forces. Does that mean that NATO is going to shoulder a larger military role in Iraq and that the bitter differences over the war are over?
President Bush. Let me start with the latter half of that question. I think the bitter differences of the war are over. I think people—some people didn't agree with the decision that I made and others made as well, but we all agree that a democratic Iraq, a peaceful Iraq, an Iraq which is— has its territorial integrity intact is in the benefit of the—is in all our benefit. And so there is a common interest and a common goal to work together to help the Iraqi people realize the benefits of a free society.
Prime Minister * Allawi has written a letter to NATO asking for training and equipment. And I hope NATO responds in a positive way, because the ultimate success inside of Iraq is going to depend upon the ability of the Iraqi citizens to defend themselves.
We'll be turning over full sovereignty on June the 30th. That means complete, full sovereignty. The Iraqi government will now make the decisions that are necessary to rebuild their country and to get to free elections. They have asked for our help, but they fully recognize what I've just described as necessary, that they have to have their forces, their police well-trained and well-prepared to meet the threat of the few who want to derail the ambitions of the many.
Q. Do you think NATO will take that step?
President Bush. Well, we'll find out tomorrow. That's why I'm traveling to Turkey today—[laughter]—to be——
Q. Mr. President——
President Bush. Which President?
Q. Number 43. [Laughter] Mr. President, your predecessor, Number 42, has, I understand, described Northern Ireland as the passion of his Presidency. Where does it sit on your list of priorities? And do you regard it as a model for the resolution of conflicts like the Middle East? Thank you.
President Bush. That's a great question. I do view it as a model for resolution of conflict, whether it be in the Middle East or elsewhere. And we view this issue as a very important issue in my administration and stand ready to help. There's a special envoy from our Government that is participating in the process. I have constantly asked the Prime Minister today whether or not the envoy is doing his job the way the Prime Minister thinks he ought to do the job, and the answer has been yes.
I'm fully aware that the Prime Minister of both Great Britain and Ireland are going to advance the process this early September. And we stand ready to help. I wish them all the best, because when this conflict is resolved, it will be an example for others that long-simmering disputes can be put behind them and free societies and peaceful societies can emerge for the interest of the peoples which have been involved in those disputes.
Steve [Steve Holland, Reuters]. Go ahead and yell it out. If I don't like the question I'll—[laughter]——
Abu Musab Al Zarqawi
Q. Thank you. Should America see the June 30th handover as the beginning of an exit strategy from Iraq? And how big a threat is Zarqawi to the new government?
President Bush. Yes, well, Zarqawi has been a threat to lot of people. He was such a threat that he was the person that ordered the killing of Mr. Foley, who worked for the USAID. He was an American citizen working for our Government, worked for Colin Powell. Zarqawi ordered him to be killed. He had been in and out of Baghdad, by the way. This is prior to the liberation of Iraq.
He is a problem because he's willing to kill people, innocent people, in order to shake our will and shake our confidence. In other words, he's willing to use death to stop the advance of freedom. He recruits suiciders, orders suiciders, and has them attack on a regular basis. Because he wants us to withdraw from Iraq, he wants Prime Minister Allawi to lose his will. He wants him to quit and surrender.
I spoke to the Prime Minister the other day. I believe he is a man of courage and backbone and a man who does believe in the aspirations of the Iraqi people. I believe he is one of the key ingredients to making sure that we move toward a free society.
In terms of exit strategies, listen, Steve, we will work to stand up an Iraqi security force and police force that is able to function, to work up a chain of command where the Iraqi police and security folks know that they're working for Iraqis, not for Americans. And we will stay as long as necessary, and then we will leave. We will complete the mission. And the faster the Iraqis take over their own security needs, the faster the mission will end.
Prime Minister Ahern. Charlie.
Iraq/Treatment of Prisoners
Q. Taoiseach, the President has said that the bitter differences over the war are over. This morning President McAleese paid a courtesy call on President Bush. She expressed a certain disquiet on behalf of the people of Ireland over some of the differences of what's happened in Iraq. Did you echo those sentiments? And if I could also put the same question to the President, how did he respond to what President McAleese had to say?
Prime Minister Ahern. And the answer is, I did, Charlie, and not on the first occasion. When I had the opportunity of meeting the President on Saint Patrick's Day, as he kindly does every year for us, we raised these issues. We discussed these issues at the G-8 meeting. How prisoners have been dealt with in some of the—in one of the prisons, what has happened in some of the—from Afghanistan in Guantanamo, that's been an issue. The President has answered those. The President is concerned about his own troops and some of the issues that happened as much as I am or anybody else in this country, and we've discussed that issue.
And I think it is a great thing that— where we have such good relationships with the United States, where we have so much cooperation, where today we can clear eight declarations, but still we are all interested in progress, we're all interested in human rights and the dignity of the person—that we can raise these issues. That is a good thing, as far as I'm concerned. The President has given us comprehensive answers, which I think both the Tanaiste and Minister Cowen and myself were very glad to hear his perspective on this and want to admire it, because these things, unfortunately, happen. And of course, we wish they didn't, but they do. And what's important then is how they're dealt with, how things are improved for the future. And the questions were answered to—as far as we were concerned, to our satisfaction, and the progress for the future of what the President is doing is also impressive.
President Bush. Of course, the Prime Minister brought the issues of Iraq up, as did the President. And I told them both I was sick with what happened inside that prison, and so were the American citizens. The action of those troops did not reflect what we think, and it did harm. It did harm, because there are people in Ireland and elsewhere that said, "This isn't the America we know. This isn't the America that we believe exists." And both leaders, of course, brought the issue up, and they should. And I assured them that we'll deal with this in a transparent way—which stands in stark contrast to how a tyrant would deal with it. Had these abuses—well, these abuses did take place in Iraq prior to our arrival. There were rape rooms, mass graves. I don't remember any international investigation of what took place in Iraq. You'll—we are investigating, and you'll be able to see exactly what takes place, and you'll be able to see the legal process that unfolds.
And in terms of the decision to go to war, I can understand why people were disquieted about that. Nobody likes war. But remember—let me take a step back and remind you about what happened: There was that resolution out of the United Nations called 1441. It was voted on unanimously, where the world said, "Disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences." That's what the world said. And Saddam Hussein deceived. He didn't allow the inspectors to do their job. And so we had an issue—either you say something and mean it, or you don't. I happen to believe when you say something, you better mean it. And so with other nations, we acted.
And now the task is to see to it that Iraq becomes a free country where people are able to realize their dreams. Free countries are peaceful countries. And the best way to defeat terror as a tool to promote a sick ideology is to promote freedom around the world. And that's one of the key initiatives that we discussed today, which is the initiative to promote democracy and stand with the reformers of the broader Middle East.
Hutch [Ron Hutcheson, Knight Ridder].
Irish Public Opinion
Q. Thank you. Mr. President, you don't appear to be a very popular fellow here in Europe. Do you have any explanation for your poor poll standings? And is that something that should concern Americans?
President Bush. Well, Hutch, I must confess that the first polls I worry about are those that are going to take place in early November of this year. I—listen, I care about the image of our country. We've got a country that—we've just got 2 1/2 trillion dollars worth of trade or $2.2 trillion worth of trade with the EU. Obviously, something positive is happening.
I don't like it when the values of our country are misunderstood because of the actions of some people overseas. As far as my own personal standing goes, Hutch, my job is to do my job. I'm going to do it the way I think is necessary. I'm going to set a vision. I will lead, and we'll just let the chips fall where they may.
Prime Minister Ahern. Romano.
President Prodi. Somebody in the back— nobody in the back.
President Bush. You look like a nice fellow. I don't know why they don't call on you. [Laughter]
Successor to President Prodi
Q. Taoiseach, could I ask you to confirm that the Portugese Prime Minister Barrosa has emerged as the likely successor to Mr. Prodi, and if you'll be proposing his name next Tuesday night as you're meeting with the foreign ministers?
Prime Minister Ahern. When I go back to Dublin this evening, I have to talk to still about half of my colleagues, which I hope to do that between about 5 o'clock and 9 o'clock tonight. I also have to talk to Jose Manuel Barrosa, the present Prime Minister of Portugal. But we do hope, sincerely hope, that I would be in a position to both have the meeting and to make a recommendation and get a positive decision on Tuesday evening.
President Bush. Thanks, Taoiseach. We've got to go to Turkey.
NOTE: The President's news conference began at 2:14 p.m. at Dromoland Castle. The President met with Prime Minister Bertie Ahern of Ireland, in his capacity as President of the European Council, and President Romano Prodi of the European Commission. In his remarks, President Bush referred to Prime Minister Ayad Allawi of the Iraqi interim government; U.S. Special Envoy for Northern Ireland Mitchell B. Reiss; Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom; senior Al Qaida associate Abu Musab Al Zarqawi; former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; and President Mary McAleese of Ireland. Prime Minister Ahern referred to Deputy Prime Minister Mary Harney and Minister of Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen of Ireland.
* White House correction.
George W. Bush, The President's News Conference With European Union Leaders in Shannon, Ireland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/213390