Bill Clinton photo

The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy in Rome

June 02, 1994

Prime Minister Berlusconi. I wish to begin by first and foremost thanking the American President for having chosen to begin his stay in Europe or his tour of Europe with our country, to commemorate the liberation that the Allies brought to us, the liberation from Nazi totalitarianism and fascism.

We had a very interesting meeting during which I was able to explain directly to the President the current scenario in Italy, the reason having determined the change in government, as of the majority voting law or electoral law, to the political situation that had come into being and the program of the new government and the willingness on behalf of the government to continue the alliance policy, following a tradition that Italy has always wanted to pursue in a climate of good neighborhood relations visa-vis international organizations and especially the United States of America.

After that point, we went on to analyze international policy issues. We would be very honored to have President Clinton as our guest in Naples for the G-7 summit coming up. The main issues during that time that are going to be debated in that forum are going to be of an economic nature, especially the employment issue. It's a very difficult problem I think to be conjugated with economic development, and it's a problem that's afflicting our Western countries, I should say.

We then went on to discuss the international scenario and the need for international organizations to intervene more promptly and more effectively to manage the various regional crises that bring about so much suffering and pain to civil populations. On our behalf, we also confirmed to President Clinton and to his staff our gratitude for what the United States of America, together with the Allies, did 50 years back, 50 years which to us have meant freedom. And I don't think that—I did underscore this explicitly—we wouldn't have had this Italy that President Clinton has met with today. This free Italy wouldn't have been here without the help of the Allies. The reconstructed Italy wouldn't have existed without the sacrifice of many young lives in America.

This is something that we always remember, we bear it in mind, and it has been this spirit of friendship and gratitude that we welcome President Clinton and his staff.

Please, Bill.

The President. Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister.

Ladies and gentlemen, I was delighted with the meeting that I had with the Prime Minister and other high officials of his government. I welcome this opportunity to get to know him better and to make the ties between our two nations even stronger.

I also think I should say, since this is my first public opportunity to do so, I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet with His Holiness Pope John Paul II earlier today and to see him looking so well and being so vigorous. We had a very, very fine conversation, and I was able to give him the best wishes of all the American people for a full recovery.

I am here overwhelmingly for the purpose of commemorating the 50th anniversary of the restoration of freedom to Western Europe. We will do that here in Italy and then in France and in England.

Italy has been a staunch ally of the United States throughout the cold war and throughout, now, this post-cold-war era. I was able to tell the Prime Minister personally how much I appreciated the support that Italy has given for NATO's efforts to resolve the conflict in Bosnia and for the support Italy has given particularly to the United States Armed Forces in all the efforts we undertake in this part of the world.

We discussed a lot of our common economic and social challenges. We talked about the G- 7 meeting coming up, and I think we have laid the foundation of a very, very good and strong relationship. I was deeply impressed by the strong commitment that the Prime Minister made to the democratic process which produced his election and to the progress, that he believes that he will make and that I was very impressed by his commitment to make, on the whole range of domestic issues as well as our international partnership.

Thank you very much.


Q. What is, Mr. President, your assessment of this new era in Italy after meeting with our Prime Minister—we have a new Prime Minister—and will you bet on Italy's future, sir?

The President. Would I bet on it? Is that what you said? Well, the answer to the second question is, yes, I would bet on it. I'm not much of a betting man, but I would bet on that.

I told the Prime Minister that this whole election process has been very interesting for the American people. Because Italian-Americans are so important to the fabric of life in our country and because Italy has been such a good ally of ours and because in our relatively stable system, we have marveled at the continued economic progress and strength of Italy throughout a series of, I think, some 53 governments since the end of the Second World War. So this whole process of political reform and elections has been very interesting to me personally and, I think, to all the American people.

I think I understand the question you asked me, and I would make only two points. First of all, the first thing the Prime Minister said to me was his government from top to bottom is unequivocally committed to democracy. Secondly, in the world in which we live, not just in Italy but in Poland, in Argentina, in any number of other countries, there are many political parties which have their roots in a less democratic past. And I have found it not only useful, but the only reasonable approach, to judge all people in governments today by what they do— what do they say and what do they do when they are in power.

In that regard, I think the United States would support the judgment of the people of Italy and their democratic elections and looks forward to a very good relationship with this Prime Minister.

Q. My question to the Prime Minister is: Why is it then, with what you have told the President, that so many people think your government is trending toward fascism? Also, in your statement you said there should be greater intervention in world crises. Would you send troops into Bosnia to fight?

Prime Minister Berlusconi. What I can tell you is what the actual situation of Italy is. I can tell you how my government stands, truly. In Italy there is no such thing as nostalgia for a period that we consider to be completely buried in the past and having been condemned by history.

All surveys, all investigations that have been carried out to assist this have led to the recognition that less than one percent of all Italians—the latest survey actually gives us the result of 0.4 percent of all Italians—feel some sentiment or have a memory, a nostalgic memory—might I define it as such, which is a rather excessive way of putting it—for fascism. So you see, this is a fake problem. It is completely far removed from all reality.

I'd like to add the fact that in the government that I preside right now, with the ministers that I've chosen for the Cabinet, there is not and there could never be any minister or any official that were not democratic in nature, that truly and deeply believed in freedom and democracy, and that believed completely that totalitarianism needs to be fought always and at all costs.

As regards to the second part of your question, we discussed about the possibility that international organizations might undertake more effective initiatives in the future. As far as certain crises in the world are concerned— the former Yugoslavia is one, but we also have the situation in Rwanda and other crises having broken out in Africa, take Somalia as an example—much has been done. But in looking at many scenes of suffering and pain on television, all of our people are starting to wonder whether or not sufficient amount of things have been done, whether everything that could be done has been done.

Now, I know right away that it's not so easy to find a solution. And I don't think that one could think that simply by sending troops in it might be possible to solve certain situations. Nonetheless, I do believe that international organizations have to be very attentive to what's going on throughout the world in order to be able to prevent, with very specific diplomatic action, the possible crises that might break out and lead to disaster and much suffering and pain throughout the world. And especially, I believe that everything has been done in order to avoid that a wound may become an ulcer, a permanent and incurable ulcer, which could be the constant source of pain and suffering.

U.N. Security Council

Q. To President Clinton: Do you support Italy as permanent member in the United Nations Security Council?

The President. As you know, the United States has previously stated that we would support membership for Japan and for Germany on the Security Council. We have not foreclosed further expansion of the Security Council. That is a matter, I think, that the Security Council itself and that the United Nations would have to discuss. But I would not foreclose that possibility, and the suggestion that I made was not with a view toward having another frozen membership for another 45 years.

Meeting With Pope John Paul II

Q. [Inaudible]—spoke with the Pope on the population control conference and specifically on the question of abortion?

The President. Yes. First of all, let me try to reiterate here what I said when I was at the Vatican meeting with the American seminarians, and some of you covered that. His Holiness raised a number of questions that we discussed at great length, including a long discussion of his concern about what is happening in the Islamic states and how we can work with them in a more cooperative way, and then a long discussion about what is going on in Asia, China, Japan, and North Korea. I would say those two subjects probably took up more time than any other part of our discussion.

We talked about Bosnia. We talked about Eastern Europe. We talked about Russia. We talked about Haiti a bit, and he expressed general support for what we are trying to achieve in Haiti, for which I was quite grateful.

His Holiness mentioned with regard to the Cairo conference his concern that the world community in general, and the United States in particular, not be insensitive to the value of life or appear to be advocating policies that would undermine the strength of the family.

What I said about that was pretty straightforward, but let me try to recapture it here if I might. First, I said it seemed to me that there were two issues here, one of which I thought we could resolve in ways that would bring us closer together. The first issue is that there are some genuine disagreements between us on the question of the role of contraception and population policy and in attempting to slow the rate of population growth in the developing world.

But secondly, there is no disagreement, in my judgment, on the larger issue, which is that we agree with the Vatican that the essential thing is to have a policy of sustainable development, which normally leads to improved roles for women and stabilization of population, if properly done; and that we should recognize at Cairo and everywhere else that the central role of the family as the basic institution of every society should not be undermined; and finally, that the United States does not and will not support abortion as a means of birth control or population control; that we do support active and aggressive family planning efforts, we do have differences over contraception, and we did move away from the Mexico City policy to a more neutral one in terms of the policies other countries have with regard to population planning, to contraception, and to abortion; but that I thought we had a great deal in common in terms of our overall objectives, and that we should focus on those things.


Q. Mr. President Clinton, you said that you will judge the Italian Government by its record. I would like to know which criteria you will use, only economical? And secondly, do you think neofascism in Europe is a danger or is over, like Mr. Berlusconi said?

The President. First of all, the answer to your question is we would evaluate people not by wholly economical criteria but by whether they were faithful to democracy and human rights, the recognition of the rights of others to speak their piece, and the respect for the democratic process of elections and public judgment.

Secondly, you have asked a different question in terms of what the role of neofascism will be. I think that depends upon, again, what happens not simply in Italy but in other countries as well. You see all across the world—and no country, I mean no country, is immune to people who run making extremist statements trying to divide people, trying to, in effect, play on both the economic frustration and the social and moral frustration that people feel in all countries where there is both economic stagnation and social disintegration.

People everywhere yearn for a certain sense of order and discipline and hopefulness about the daily conditions of life. And when those things are under stress, every political system will be vulnerable to people who try to play on fears and to divide people, and neofascism is but one label. You see that in the politics of elections in Islamic countries; you can see it in our country; you can see it in many other countries. And it is almost a constant in electoral life that then rises and falls depending on the objective conditions of any nation and the mood of the people.

I would say the thing that would be most likely to defang or diminish the influence of destructive neofascism or other extremist views is a successful government here, a government that (a) is successful economically, (b) is successful in uniting the people, and (c) is successful in making people have a higher level of confidence that government can actually function in a limited but appropriate way. And if you ask me this question in the United States, I would give you the same answer.

North Korea

Q. Mr. President, North Korea has now threatened to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. What is your response to that? Secondly, do you feel now that the United States can only move toward incremental sanctions because China has expressed its opposition to a broader U.N. embargo? And now that you've mentioned it, could you share with us what the Pope, what His Holiness said to you about the Korea issue?

The President. Let me see if I can remember all of that. First of all, North Korea has said many things—that sanctions would be viewed as an act of aggression, that something bad might happen, that maybe they'll withdraw from the NPT—in an attempt somehow to shift the focus from their actions to the rest of the world. This is not about the rest of the world; this is about North Korea.

North Korea is a mature country governed by mature people who freely undertook the obligations of participation in the NPT. They did that. No one made them do it. They did it. Now they cannot have it both ways. They can't say, "Well, we'll stay in the NPT but only if we're not required to assume the obligations of membership and only if we can violate the obligations we freely undertook without anybody reacting to it."

Well, we're not, any of us, permitted to conduct ourselves that way. So this is about North Korea's conduct, not about the United States or Britain or France or Russia or China. It is about their conduct.

The second question is, I think that if the IAEA certifies that it is no longer possible to determine whether any of the fuel from the defueling in 1989 was diverted, and that in their judgment that means they cannot in good conscience go forward with just looking prospectively at what might happen, what that would say is that—the United States and the world community has worked with North Korea on this issue for 5 years now—and I believe, therefore, the question of sanctions has to be at least taken up in the United Nations Security Council and discussed.

And I must say, I was quite encouraged by what President Yeltsin said today with President Kim in Moscow. That is, he says he thinks we ought to—as you know, he's been calling for some time for a meeting, which also should be discussed in the context of the U.N. But he said—this is the first time I believe Russia has said publicly—that if negotiations are clearly going to be unsuccessful, that Russia would support sanctions. The Chinese have continued to say, as the closest ally of North Korea, that they are trying to get North Korea to comply, that North Korea ought to comply, but that they hope there will be a diplomatic solution.

They have not yet said that they would veto a sanctions resolution. So what I think the United States should be doing—and I believe Britain and France agree with this, although I will have a chance to discuss this with them in the next few days—I think we should just— if the IAEA certifies that the chain of proof is broken, that they cannot establish what has happened, then the question of sanctions will have to be moved to the U.N. Security Council, and we will have to discuss all these issues.

But this is because of North Korea's conduct, not because of Mr. Blix and the IAEA, not because of the U.S. or Russia or China or Britain or France. This is about North Korea's conduct. And I think we have to go forward. They have triggered these events, not the United States or anyone else. We have to go forward.

Q. What about His Holiness? Does he share the view——

The President. Oh, His Holiness basically was more concerned about—he wanted to know what I thought about them. And he was concerned about the whole issue of religious freedom throughout Asia, in North Korea. He said, you know, North Korea's clearly the most closed society. But he was interested in religious freedom in China, in Vietnam and all other parts of Asia, and in whether Europe and the United States would be able to have the kind of partnerships in Asia, specifically with Japan and with China, that would enable us to go into the 21st century continuing to support the move of democracy there. That was his general concern. And he asked me what I thought was going to happen to the Asian economies—of whether they would continue their explosive growth for the next three decades. That's basically what he asked.


Q. I'd like to ask Mr. Berlusconi, considering the fact that judgment on government has to be based on concrete facts, we'd like to know what are the first provisions and most urgent to be presented to Parliament, to be submitted to Parliament? And how do you intend to act within the Senate, in which the majority has a very narrow margin? Plus, a question to President Clinton: What is your opinion about the participation of Italian troops in the U.N. mission in former Yugoslavia? Do you agree with that, or not?

Prime Minister Berlusconi. Fine. I don't think that we have to bore our guests in discussing topics that are strictly pertinent to domestic issues and domestic policy. And I do think that they've been illustrated repeatedly in presenting the government program within the Senate and even the Chamber of Deputies. We're all quite aware of the fact that what lies ahead of us is a revamping of the economy and, hopefully, new momentum which will be given to the economy and the solution of an important problem, which is a generation of new jobs, new employment possibilities. And we're going to proceed just in that direction.

And please let me underscore that as far as this problem is concerned I have a very clear recollection of what President Clinton said in Detroit a few months ago when he stated that it was not state intervention that we could base our hopes on in order to solve the employment problem, but rather the state or government should urge private entrepreneurs to undertake a business, because that's the real engine that's capable of creating new employment, new jobs.

And in those circumstances, he also made reference to the therapies, if you will, that he deemed to be most appropriate, in other words, a different relationship between individuals and their job, to be open in a different way to one's job in order to provide greater flexibility on the job market, and a great commitment on behalf of everybody in order to provide better vocational training.

I think that we're exactly pursuing this avenue. We very much share this attitude. And we're already reaping the fruit of all this because here in Palazzo Chigi we have this new government. And that justifies, I think, or bears witness to this.

We've been able to provide new elan to the economic situation and the various entrepreneurs and businesses, that I feel that they trust the government more. They would have lost all hope had there been a different government, I think. But now we've promised an intervention, we've promised especially to lower taxes, and we've promised especially to change the attitude of redtape here, vis-a-vis those who decide to undertake new job opportunities and new business opportunities. And so they're more optimistic, and they're looking with better eyes to the future of their businesses and enterprises. I think this is what we need to be concerned with; this is what we have to do; we're already doing it.

Now, about the second part of your question. Frankly, I am not concerned or worried about the fact that in certain commissions there are chairmen that have been appointed that don't belong to the majority. I think that we have a long path lying ahead of us, and I continue to be optimistic, because I always—and I continue to think that the minority will simply take stock of what's been going on, and they will realize that Italians want to be governed. They demand that there be some type of government so the minority will not, I think, want to be destructive. They will not want to make it impossible for the government to govern; rather, I think that they're going to be ready to look at the various provisions for the welfare of this country.

I think the minority is going to want to be more dialectically oriented and will decide to work not against but for our country in a constructive light.

Press Secretary Myers. This will have to be the last question.


The President. You asked a question. I'd like to dodge the question, but he asked it, so I should—you ask about Italian troops in Bosnia.

Let me say, first of all, the objectives of the European Community, the United Nations, NATO, the United States in Bosnia include not only doing whatever we can to bring the slaughter of innocent people to an end and to restoring some harmony to life there under conditions that everyone can live with but also limiting the conflict and not permitting it to spread.

With that in mind, there was a general consensus that in this period of the U.N. presence, that the countries which actually border the former Yugoslavia would not be asked to provide troops but instead to provide other kinds of support, just as the United States has also provided other kinds of support, air power to enforce the various NATO requirements and to supply the longest airlift in history now.

If there is a settlement which then requires a multinational force under the authority of NATO, for example, to support, that would be a different question altogether, a question that your government would have to revisit, a question we all would.

But I think in fairness, the Italian Government has been very forceful in supporting the NATO mission in Bosnia and trying to do whatever could be done to bring the conflict to an end. And I think the decision to not ask any of the countries bordering the former Yugoslavia to provide troops as a way of limiting the conflict and reinforcing the objective of limiting the conflict was a good decision.

North Korea

Q. A followup on Korea. Do you really believe that there is worldwide resolve to say to the North Koreans, you cannot go forward with this? And also, do you feel that your own leadership skills are on the line here in dealing with this crisis with North Korea?

The President. Well, on the second question, I think they're on the line every day, and they're always under challenge. This is a difficult time.

Let me say a little something about the first question. There are two issues here. One is that a Communist country and an isolated one freely undertook to join the NPT in what I believe at the time was a decision they had made to move toward integrating themselves more closely with the world community and trying to reconcile their historic differences with South Korea.

That is the direction that, frankly, has been very welcome, not just by me personally but by my predecessors and by the United States generally. And we have made it very clear that there is a future of genuine partnership with North Korea not simply with South Korea but with the United States and with the rest of the world in the context of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. That was the path. But when that path was taken, there were certain obligations assumed. And it seems to me that the world community cannot just simply look away from those obligations.

The second issue is, what are the consequences of the North Korea policy, because they will say, "Well, what about India? What about Pakistan? What about other nonmembers of the NPT?" The difference is, of course, if this country is changing path and going back to an isolationist and to a hostile path, what could they do, maybe not today or tomorrow but a few years from now with the material that they might produce along with their wellknown capacity to produce missiles? Who else might wind up with it? So it's a very serious question.

And all I can tell you is that I have been impressed by the gravity with which the other members of the United Nations Security Council, including Russia and China, have approached it. I recognize it is a more difficult question for China and for Russia than for the United States and for Britain and for France. It also matters a lot to Japan and to South Korea. I think we all have a common desire to see North Korea return to the former path. And I believe that in the end when we move to the Security Council discussions, we will come out with a policy that will show resolve and that will do that. I just don't think we can walk away from this. And so, I am hopeful, but I realize it is a difficult and a challenging issue.

Prime Minister Berlusconi. We apologize, but time is running out, and we have a certain schedule we have to go by. And so, all we can do is thank you and say good-bye.

The only think I do wish to add on my personal behalf is that in looking to the international scenario, I am very glad to be able to say that the opinion of our government is that we feel very close to the positions expressed by the United States of America.

We spoke about Partnership For Peace. We spoke about the need to open the European Union to other countries of Central and Eastern Europe. And we have also wished for participation of Russia within the Partnership For Peace agreement. And we look to this country and its development with great interest, in full awareness of the important role that Russia will play in the future, for the maintenance of international relations. Of course, both of our countries are determined, insofar as possible, to provide support and help to undertake the economic and political reform of this great state and country.

I think in that in this forum I can confirm to President Clinton and the rest of his staff the feeling that we are very close, we appreciate you, and we very deeply thank you for being here with us.

The best of luck to you, Mr. President.

The President. Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President's 59th news conference began at 4:46 p.m. at the Palazzo Chigi. In his remarks, the President referred to President Boris Yeltsin of Russia; President Kim Yong-sam of South Korea; and Hans Blix, Director-General, International Atomic Energy Agency. Prime Minister Berlusconi spoke in Italian, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

William J. Clinton, The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy in Rome Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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