The President's News Conference With President Jose Maria Aznar of Spain in Madrid, Spain
President Aznar. It's a great pleasure to be able to welcome the President of the United States of America, George Bush, to Palacio de la Moncloa on his first visit to Spain. I'd like to express my satisfaction with regard to the atmosphere of cordiality and the friendship that has ruled in our meetings today, our working luncheon, and our talks. And I also want to thank his advisers and his staff for all the kindness and all of the interest they have shown in issues that matter to Spain.
As all of you know, President Bush and his delegation spent several hours with us in Quintos de Mora en Toledo, where we had the opportunity to talk about a number of issues I will refer to.
As you know, the United States of America and Spain share a common history— before, during, and after its independence—to which Spain has made a major contribution. At present, many U.S. citizens have Spanish as their mother tongue—a number which in the next few years will be more than that of Spaniards—and a language which we hear the President himself speaking better and better every day. [Laughter] Our students and our researchers chose many university centers in the United States as the place of preference to study and work. And I, myself, have been able to find, on my trips to the United States, how quickly Spanish scientists are included in these research centers and institutions.
We share with the United States confidence in the values of freedom, democracy, and respect for human rights, which we believe are basic values, not simply to live within our own countries but also as a model of behavior for the entire international community. We are open societies; we are firm defenders of market economies; and we are convinced of the importance of these shared and common values, such as the family in our countries.
These same values that we share and defend have led both our countries to take part in the same security organizations, and we defend the transatlantic dialog which has been the basis for peace and stability in the last half century.
As you know, President Bush and I will be attending the meeting of heads of state and government of NATO tomorrow. And on Thursday will be the U.S.-EU Summit, which will be followed by a dinner with the 15 heads of state and government, along with President Bush.
As I said earlier, there are many issues that we discussed, and I would very briefly like to refer to these. On the bilateral front, we talked about the implementation of the political joint statement that was signed last January. We are negotiating, as you all know, a review of the agreement for defense cooperation that we hope can be signed as soon as possible. We have discussed several issues with regard to our economic, industrial, cultural, and security cooperation.
On the international front, as was included in the joint statement that President Bush and I just signed and which has been given to you, we dealt with the development of our transatlantic economic relationship, the development of European defense, the Balkan situation, the Middle East conflict, and the need to increase and improve our cooperation with the developing world.
Allow me to indicate that because of our historical and political realities and our cultural realities, we have especially discussed the issue of Ibero-America, a region whose welfare and development is something that Spain and the United States are keenly interested in. I'd like to underscore the extreme sensitivity of President Bush with regard to Ibero-American issues, as was evidenced by the various initiatives he has implemented since becoming President of the United States, and which I, myself, have been able to see during our discussions today.
Before you ask any questions, I would like to say that as is the case on many issues that we have dealt with, we have not always been in agreement. But that, precisely, is always the case at meetings like these. We try to agree; we try to find meeting points on those issues where interpretations perhaps are not always the same. For that reason, we have established regular contexts in our joint political declaration, and we have approved—and I am very grateful to President Bush for his kind invitation to visit the United States before the Spanish Presidency, in other words, before the end of this year.
My conclusion is that these discussions will promote and enhance the U.S.-Spain relationship even more, which will lead to great progress—promising progress, new contacts, new agreements, new opportunities, and new common objectives.
Thank you very much, and I give the floor to the President.
President Bush. Well, thank you, Mr. President. It's such an honor to be here. It is an appropriate place for me to begin my visit to Europe. Spain is a friend of the United States, and President Aznar is a friend of mine. Es un enorme placer estar en España, cuya gran cultura ha marcado profundamente mi pais.
Spain is one of America's most reliable Allies and one of the world's most dynamic societies. Spain has made one of Europe's most remarkable transitions to democracy and prosperity. It is now the world's eighth largest industrial economy. Mr. President, you deserve a lot of credit.
Spain has prospered. It has found a new global role. Hundreds of millions of people now speak the language of Cervantes, and many millions of them live in the United States. We Americans, too, are now proud inheritors of Hispanidad.
President Aznar and I have today reconfirmed the close relationship between the United States and Spain. Our joint statement expresses a renewed commitment to the NATO Alliance and a readiness to respond to any new threats. The statement also underscores our shared support for a new round of global trade negotiations this year.
The United States and Spain have worked closely together to promote freedom, prosperity, and stability, both in the Americas and in Southeast Europe. We appreciate Spain's contributions to peace in the Balkans and Spain's hospitable welcome to the American soldiers, sailors, marines, and aircrews on the bases here.
It is important that we continue this excellent record of military cooperation. It is also important that we continue to cooperate in the Middle East and that we combine our efforts to fight terrorism—terrorism around the world. And our Government is committed to stand side by side with the Spanish Government as it battles terrorism here in Spain.
I shared with President Aznar my administration's desire to work with our European partners to build a Europe that is whole, free, peaceful, and linked in solidarity with the United States. This week I'll be meeting with two great institutions of Europe, NATO and the European Union, to affirm our common purposes and to chart our path ahead of us.
Europe has often had a history of division and conflict, but Europe today is writing a new story, a story of democratic progress, economic reform, and ethnic tolerance. This commitment to a united, prosperous, peaceful Europe is an American commitment, as well. America benefits when Europe is united and peaceful and prosperous.
The hope of progress has never been greater, and America will do all it can to fulfill that promise. We must work together to prevent or resolve regional conflicts, to eliminate barriers to free trade, to extend Europe's zone of peace and stability by enlarging the great institutions of European unity, and to strengthen our ability to meet new challenges to our security.
I look forward to meeting with Russian President Putin to set out a new and constructive and realistic relationship between Russia and the United States. I'm looking forward to talking to President Putin, to assure him of our friendship and to offer him a strong, normal relationship with America.
President Aznar and I have discussed all these issues. And I gained much from his views and experience. I look forward to seeing all my European friends and Allies in the coming days. Europe and the United States are united by a single set of fundamental values, and with that unity, there is much we can accomplish.
Mr. President, thank you, sir.
Q. Mr. President——
President Bush. Speak clearly.
Q. I'll try, sir. It's one of those things I have problems with.
President Bush. Speak for yourself. [Laughter]
Q. I was.
President Bush. That's right. [Laughter]
Global Warming/National Missile Defense
Q. Mr. President, the EU today rejected your global warming initiative, Mr. President, and weeks of consultations have not eased the objections to your missile defense plans in most European capitals. I have two questions on that: Are these issues so important that you're willing to go it alone if the European Allies won't come on board? And what is your response to the EU today calling your climate change plan short on results?
President Bush. Well, first, there's a lot that unite us: trade, common values, great opportunities. I look forward to making my case, as I did today over lunch, about missile defense. It starts with explaining to Russia and our European friends and allies that Russia is not the enemy of the United States, that the attitude of mutually assured destruction is a relic of the cold war, and that we must address the new threats of the 21st century if we're to have a peaceful continent and a peaceful world. Those new threats are terrorism, based upon the capacity of some countries to develop weapons of mass destruction and, therefore, hold the United States and our friends hostage. It is so important we think differently in order to address those threats.
I believe that people are interested in our opinion. I believe Mr. Putin is interested in our opinions. I know the President of Spain was willing to listen as to why it's important to think differently in order to keep the peace. The ABM Treaty prevents our Nation and other freedom-loving nations from exploring opportunities to be able to say to those who would hold freedom-loving peoples hostage that we're not going to let you do so. So I look forward to consulting and continue the consultations that have already begun.
As far as global warming, I made a strong statement yesterday that said our Nation is concerned about CO2 emissions and that we've begun the process to address that problem. I started with an energy plan that, on the one hand, talks about conservation measures. Our country can and will do a better job of conserving energy. But I also talked about new supplies that will not harm the environment: renewables, natural gas, and clean nuclear energy. And I hope the United States Congress responds positively to these measures, which will help in the global warming issue.
I also said our Nation is willing to continue to spend money on science, to make sure that any collective approach is one based upon sound science. I did speak out against the Kyoto treaty itself, because I felt that the Kyoto treaty was unrealistic, it was not based upon science. The stated mandates in the Kyoto treaty would affect our economy in a negative way.
On the other hand, I did say loud and clear that we must continue the process of dialog. I instructed people in our administration to adhere to the United Nations framework to figure out ways for us to come together to address this issue that knows no borders or no boundaries. I'm confident the people of—the leadership of Europe are interested in our opinions, and I'm confident we'll have a good and constructive dialog.
President Aznar. I'd like to express my own opinion on these two issues, because I want to tell you I've followed our conversations very carefully, and I want to thank President Bush for the initiatives he's taken on in explaining this missile defense program and all of the explanations and information he has been kind enough to provide me this afternoon.
I want to say that, according to my opinion, it's absolutely understandable for any President to be concerned about the security of his citizens. And in this particular case, obviously there is a concern that's shared as a result of the collective security that we share.
I sincerely believe that no one should be surprised that when we pose issues based on overcoming the past of the cold war, policies going beyond the cold war, presentations that go beyond the historical conflict of the cold war, and we talk about new threats, new challenges, new problems, new challenges in general, again, in security, we come to new initiatives. So far, these initiatives have all been virtual in the sense that they were based on an offensive deterrent factor. Now, we have an initiative that is based on defensive issues. It has not been demonstrated anywhere, nor has anyone been able to show that that defensive initiative is something that cannot lead to greater and better security.
For that reason, it is very important for President Bush to have decided to share that initiative with his Allies, to discuss it with them, to establish a framework of cooperation with his Allies with regard to this initiative, and as he announced, to also establish a framework of discussions, cooperation, and a new relationship with Russia.
What I'm surprised by is the fact that there are people who, from the start, disqualified this initiative. And that way, they're also disqualifying the deterrence that has existed so far, and probably they would also disqualify any other kind of initiative. But what we're dealing with here is an attempt to provide greater security for everyone. And from that point of view, that initiative, to share and discuss and dialog and reach common ground with the President of the United States, is something that I greatly appreciate.
With regard to the second issue, on the environment, as you know, Spain continues to support the position of the EU, and it has ratified the Kyoto Protocol. I understand that we have positions that may have some differences, but I am also absolutely convinced that our objectives—which are to guarantee a climate that will make life possible for everyone, to reduce emissions that can pollute our planet—is an objective that we share.
We can and we must discuss the instruments to achieve those objectives, and I hope that that dialog over the next few days will be even more intense. President Bush has adopted some initiatives, and those initiatives need to be studied by the EU. And they will also be studied by Spain—I insist—from the position that we have had of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol.
Q. I'd like to tell you both something about Ibero-America, and I'd like to discuss the issue of Ibero-America with you. I want to know if you've adopted any kind of common position. And specifically, with regard to President Bush, two questions on that issue: With regard to Cuba, do you plan to keep the embargo—to continue with the situation that you have with regard to Europe and other countries there; and if, with regard to Plan Colombia, you plan to continue the situation? With regard to the first question, it had to do with Helms-Burton, excuse me.
Thank you very much for respecting the request to only ask one question at a time.
President Bush. Which one, Helms-Burton or Plan Colombia? [Laughter] Los dos. We plan to keep the embargo on Cuba and will do so until Fidel Castro frees prisoners, has free elections, embraces freedom. I believe strongly that's the right policy for the United States.
As to Helms-Burton, I'm fully aware there's an issue that has arisen between a Spanish corporation and the—and one of the titles of the Helms-Burton bill. And we will work to resolve that dispute.
President Aznar. We had very long discussions on the issue of Ibero-America, and I said earlier that I greatly appreciate President Bush's sensitivities with regard to his—sensitivity with regard to Ibero-America. And obviously, his sensitivity is demonstrated in a very intense way. We had the opportunity to exchange ideas, especially with regard to the issues that are now affecting the possible development of any possibilities in Ibero-America.
But we do agree on something very basic. In Ibero-America, Central America, South America, we see the circumstances there which are sufficient to decisively attract to that part of the world elements of prosperity in the 21st century with greater and better opportunities and, of course, to establish and trust democratic systems that are more and more solid, although there are some exceptions, and to strongly attract these countries towards prosperity, so that there will be more wealth, more welfare there for everyone. That will be very important for us, and it will also be important, I'm sure, for the stability and prosperity of the world at large.
And in that, the United States and Spain share and have a common balance. We are capable of working jointly on delicate issues, such as Plan Colombia, and on some issues, such as the law that you refer to. Although we are not in agreement with it, we are also working so that our relationship will not be damaged and so whatever problems are posed can be dealt with positively or that they do not even arise at all.
Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change
Q. Mr. President, your Chief of Staff said over the weekend that your decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol was based more on emotion than on—was based more on emotion than on science and that you thought that some European countries were playing a little bit of a game because, unlike Spain, they did not ratify the treaty. Do you agree that the European view on this is colored more by emotion than by science, and do you think that there was some posturing—[inaudible]?
President Bush. This is an appropriate question after I've had a chance to visit with all the leaders in Europe. I come to the conference believing that every leader is sincere about their desire to clean the world, and so are we. We have a different approach, but we have the same goals.
As I said earlier, I believe the Kyoto treaty is a flawed treaty. I think that it set unscientific goals. It didn't include developing countries. On the other hand, I want to reiterate today, and I will do so throughout the week, that we're committed to reducing greenhouse gases in the United States.
I had a opportunity to explain to the President that our Nation faces an energy crisis, and it's a serious issue. We've got incredible trading opportunities between our nations and between the United States and the EU. In order for us to be active traders, our Nation's economy must recover. We've taken some steps toward that: We've got sound monetary policy by the Federal Reserve. We've got a new fiscal stimulus package that is going to take effect soon. But we also must address energy. And we can do so in a way that not only enhances our economy, a way that makes us less dependent on foreign sources of crude oil, and a way, as well, that helps clean the environment.
One of my jobs in the United States is to build a consensus around more exploration and transportation of natural gas, which is a clean fuel, more use of renewables, as well as following up on the debate that we have stimulated, which is the use of clean nuclear power. Mr. President was anxious to hear about our plans for economic recovery because it affects trade. And trade is one of the most hopeful opportunities for people around the globe.
President Aznar. All matters related to the development of economic freedom is something that we have shared freely, as you will see in our joint statement.
With regards to the second part of your question, I'm absolutely convinced that the discussions the heads of state and government hold in the European Union with President Bush will be held in a constructive and positive atmosphere, trying to share objectives and share instruments, even though perhaps we start from basic differing opinions because I insist the European Union has been favorable to the Kyoto Protocol, unlike the United States. But we need to continue talking among ourselves to make sure that the objectives that we do share in the end, a cleaner world in which we can live better, are objectives that we all make possible.
Q. The same question for both of you, but I will pose it in a different way. I'd like to ask President Bush: How will this commitment that you have taken on to help Spain in the fight against terrorism be translated? What can the United States do? How can the United States provide any assistance, bearing in mind that in Spain we cannot apply—our ethical principles do not allow us to apply the solution that you apply, the death penalty, for terrorists?
And for Mr. Aznar, the same question. I wanted to ask what you have asked of Mr. Bush, and what do you expect of the United States to help them to solve the most serious problem your government has?
President Aznar. Since it's our most serious problem, if you'll allow me, I'll answer first. I want to express my thanks to the solidarity of the U.S. Government in our struggle against terrorism. The U.S. and Spain fully share the principles of the fight against terrorism in the global sense. But I wish to say that today I especially appreciate the fact that President Bush has specifically expressed support for the struggle the Spanish Government is carrying out against terrorism that takes place specifically in Spain. I very much appreciate that.
There are many channels for cooperation. Cooperation among Spanish and U.S. services is ongoing; it works well. In fact, what we discussed today is the enhancement of that cooperation, for it to be strengthened in the future. And certainly, we will in the immediate future see how that cooperation is going to be enhanced and strengthened.
But I would ask you please not to blend those issues with any other circumstance you may have referred to, because that is a particularly vital issue, particularly sensitive for us. And I am convinced, as I have always stated, that democracy, the rule of law will always prevail over terror and against terror. We must defeat terror. We cannot dialog with them; all we must do is defeat them. And we will do that with the help of our friends, in this case the Americans and the President of the United States, as he has said this afternoon.
President Bush. We've spent a fair amount of time today over lunch discussing terrorism, international terrorism, as well as terrorism within Spain. I confirmed our country's willingness and—strong willingness to stand side by side with the Government of Spain, to cooperate where necessary to help fight terrorism.
Freedom-loving people are going to be faced with terrorism. And countries such as ours must not yield, must not waver in the face of terrorist activity. And to the extent that we can help the Government of Spain to fight terrorism within its borders, we will do so. We've signed a communique prior to me becoming President; I can reaffirm that commitment today. And we'll jointly fight terrorism on an international basis, as well.
Part of the missile defense dialog is about fighting terrorism. If someone is able to blackmail freedom-loving countries, it could prevent countries like Spain and the United States from being forward-thinking about fighting terrorism. Terrorist activities will take place different kinds of ways in the 21st century: information terror, biological weaponry. And we committed today to combine our efforts and talents and resources to continue to fight terrorism.
Mr. President, I meant what I told you over lunch. We stand side by side with the Government of Spain and will not yield in the face of terrorism.
Kyoto Protocol/National Missile Defense
Q. You say the scientific evidence isn't strong enough to go forward with Kyoto. So how, then, do you justify your missile defense plan, when there's even less scientific evidence that that will work?
President Bush. Part of the problem with the ABM Treaty is that it prevents a full exploration of possibility. We're bound by a treaty signed in 1972 that prohibits the United States from investigating all possibilities as to how to intercept missiles. For example, the technology of intercept on launch is a technology that we must more fully explore in order to make sure that we have the defensive capabilities necessary to prevent what I call blackmail.
So part of the reasons we're having the dialog in the first place is to enable us to explore all our options, so that I can turn to the President of Spain one day and say, "Our research and development has shown us that not only can we deploy but effectively deploy the capacity to shoot down a weapon from someone that may threaten Spain, may threaten the United States, or threaten our Allies"—precisely why the debate occurs.
The ABM Treaty is a relic of the past. It prevents freedom-loving people from exploring the future. And that's why we've got to lay it aside. And that's why we've got to have the framework—the discussions necessary to explain to our friends and Allies, as well as Russia, that our intent is to make the world more peaceful, not more dangerous. Our intent is to bring stability into the world. And freedom-loving people must recognize the true threats that face democracies in the 21st century.
The days of the cold war have ended, and so must the cold war mentality, as far as I'm concerned. And I believe we're going to make great progress on this issue; I truly do. I realize it's going to require a lot of consultation, but I'm willing to listen. President Aznar had a lot of interesting points of view. He had a lot of very good questions to ask. One of them was your question: How do we know if it will work? And the only way to know—for it to work will be for the United States to spend the dollars and have the capacity to do research and development on this very important issue.
Q. President Bush, this is your first trip to Europe as U.S. President. You know that it's a basic constitutional principle to be a member of the EU to abolish the death penalty. This is a constitutional principle here in Spain, in fact. So my question is, do you feel like the champion of the death penalty, as you are perceived by some of the media? You want to persuade your Allies on issues such as Kyoto and so on. Do you think there might be a chance for them to persuade you that we go back to the period when the death penalty wasn't applied in the States? Because there are two Spanish citizens on death row in Florida, in fact, where your brother is Governor.
President Aznar, did you discuss this? Did you mention the two Spaniards, specifically?
President Bush. Democracies debate issues. Democracies represent the will of the people. The death penalty is the will of the people in the United States. There are some people who don't agree with the death penalty in our country, and it's not an easy subject for any of us. But the majority of the people—and our laws reflect the majority of the people—believe that if the death penalty is certain, just, and fair, it'll deter crime.
I understand others don't agree with this position. The democracies in Europe reflect the will of the people of Europe. That doesn't mean we can't be friends; that doesn't mean we can't work in common areas of importance to our people. And that's the spirit in which I come to Europe. I recognize that not everybody agrees with the United States on positions. But there is so much more that unites us than divides us. We share common values; we trade together; we work on security matters together. And I refuse to let any issue isolate America from Europe, because Europe is too important for America's future.
My trip here is to confirm our Nation's strong commitment to NATO, and our strong commitment to work with the European Union, and our strong commitment to interface with our friends on a bilateral basis.
And so to answer your question, sure, there's going to be differences of opinion on big issues, but that will not prevent our friendship from enduring and growing stronger, as far as I'm concerned.
President Aznar. As you, yourself, said in your question, as you know, Spain has abolished the death penalty under the Constitution and, as you perfectly well know, I, personally, am against the death penalty. But as of that point, I also want to tell you that President Bush is perfectly well familiar with my position; I know his and the various circumstances affecting certain people at this point in time. However, from my political standpoint as President of the Government of Spain, I will do my utmost to bring about a strengthening of the transatlantic link and the relationship between Europe and the United States.
In my opinion, every time Europe and the States have become distanced from the security standpoint, as well as from the standpoint of prosperity and freedoms, the world has suffered seriously. I am in favor of strengthening the transatlantic ties, so I will strengthen the bilateral relationship and strengthen developing the EU by taking on further responsibilities to bring about economic integration and enlargement.
I will work to ensure that all that development by no means weakens the transatlantic link at any time. We can cooperate on upholding freedoms, the free market, human rights, and to uphold a more stable world all over.
Q. President Bush, you've said that the expansion of NATO is a question of when, not whether. Tomorrow will you tell NATO leaders that you want that process to begin next year? And do you believe that the Balkan States should be the first to be considered?
President Bush. Tomorrow I will say it's not a question of whether; it's a question of when. We firmly believe NATO should expand. There is a process for member applicants to go through, and we support that process. I will also say that no nation should have a veto over who is admitted into NATO.
Tomorrow's speech is very important because it will reassure, I hope, our friends in NATO that this Government remains strongly committed to NATO, our troop presence in NATO, our making sure NATO is not weakened in any way. And the process will work, Judy [Judy Keen, USA Today]. The process will evolve, and when we meet a year from this fall, it will be clear who should be in and who should not be in.
President Aznar. We basically agree with that. I want to recall that in Madrid in 1997 at the NATO Summit was, in fact, when the enlargement spread to the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary. We've also discussed this issue, and we fully share the opinion that NATO can be enlarged. And Spain will also work to forge appropriate consensus for NATO enlargement with common agreement among the Allies.
Spain-U.S. Defense Agreement
Q. My question is for the President of the United States. Spain would like to renew the agreement on defense cooperation before the end of the year. Do you think this is possible? And is the subject to a greater presence of U.S. military in the basis of——
President Bush. Es posible; es importante. And I believe that we can finish the discussions by the end of the year, as to the U.S. presence in military bases here in Spain. And I am—we've had a very long discussion about this. There are going to be discussions this summer on the subject, and we will push hard to make sure we complete our agreement. It's an important agreement for the United States.
And I appreciate so very much our close cooperation and security arrangements with Spain. Spain is a loyal friend and a strong ally. And I'm so appreciative that the President has been straightforward and frank on a number of subjects. Our lunch today was one of the most beneficial lunches I've had since I've been the President of the United States, Mr. President. Part of the discussions were about our military agreements. Part of it was on issues that we don't agree on. Most of it is on issues where we do agree. And I leave Spain fully confident that our relationship will be very strong and our personal relationship will be very beneficial to the United States and, hopefully, to Spain, as well.
President Aznar. I'd like to confirm that it is my hope that the agreement will be ready by the end of the year. There are no things such as you mention, just a few things that need to be looked at.
I want to reiterate my thanks to President Bush for his visit to Spain and assure all of you that we have enjoyed extremely fruitful talks from the bilateral and general perspectives—EU, defense, and our cooperation in various areas around the world. I particularly expressed my thanks to the President for his time and for being here.
Thank you very much. Good afternoon.
NOTE: The President's news conference began at 5:50 p.m. at the Moncloa Palace. In his remarks, President Bush referred to President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Fidel Castro of Cuba. A reporter referred to Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida. President Aznar spoke in Spanish, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter. A portion of this news conference could not be verified because the tape was incomplete.
George W. Bush, The President's News Conference With President Jose Maria Aznar of Spain in Madrid, Spain Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/217068