2:30 P.M. EST
NATIONAL PRESS BUILDING, 529 14th STREET, NW, SUITE 800
MODERATOR: Good afternoon and welcome and thank you for attending this afternoon’s briefing led by Ambassadors Kennard and Vale de Almeida. My name is Belinda Jackson Farrier, and I will serve as your moderator for today’s event.
We also would like to welcome our colleagues at our New York Foreign Press Center who are joining us via video conference. Today’s briefing will begin with short remarks by both ambassadors, followed by questions and answers from you. We will take remarks during questions from both our audience here in Washington and New York. And when you are asking a question, I would just ask if you would clearly state your name and your affiliation. Again, thank you for participation today, and we’ll now begin.
AMBASSADOR KENNARD: Good afternoon, everyone. My name is William Kennard. I’m the United States Ambassador to the European Union, and I welcome you all to this press briefing. Thank you all for coming.
We just came from a very productive meeting between President Obama and his counterparts in the EU, Presidents Barroso and Van Rompuy. Also present at the meeting were High Representative Cathy Ashton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Also Secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner, was there. And I’ll defer to you, João, to talk about the participants from the EU side, the other folks who were there.
It was a good meeting. It was very clear that the number one issue on the agenda was the economy, of course, the current debt crisis, but also beyond that, the work that we can do together to ensure that our economies are working well together to create jobs and economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic. These leaders have seen each other recently. They had – the last summit was in Lisbon last year, but since that time, they have seen each other at a number of events, including most recently at the meeting in Cannes. So this was really an opportunity for them to update one another to take stock of where we are on a number of important issues. As President Obama said right after the meeting, he said that summits between the United States and the EU are not dramatic events, because we tend to agree on everything. It’s really more like a strategy session where we’re comparing notes and trying to figure out the best way forward.
This summit is the first of a number of very important engagements between the United States and the EU. Tomorrow, we will have a meeting of the Transatlantic Economic Council. There is also a meeting going on now, a meeting of what we call our High-Level Regulatory Forum. There was also a meeting of the Energy Council that preceded the summit, which was chaired by Secretary Clinton and High Rep Ashton. So it’s been quite an intensive couple of days in EU relations. There was quite a bit of discussion about the debt crisis, as I mentioned, but beyond that we talked about sort of looking beyond the crisis, the things that we can do to ensure long-term stability and growth in our economy.
There was the announcement of a high-level working group on jobs and growth. This is a group that will build on the recent successes of the Transatlantic Economic Council to look more deeply at things that we can do together to enhance economic growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. It will be chaired by our U.S. trade rep, Ron Kirk, on our side, and on the EU side, by EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. I believe you have a fact sheet on that.
Beyond the economic issues, the leaders talked about a number of pressing foreign policy issues. It was really a tour of the world, if you will. They talked about Iran in the Middle East, North Africa, the dramatic developments there which, of course, took place since the last summit. We also talked about developments in the Balkans, Ukraine, Belarus, a number of important issues. So with that, I will turn the podium over to my good friend João Vale de Almeida.
AMBASSADOR VALE DE ALMEIDA: Thank you.
Thank you very much, Bill. My name is João Vale de Almeida. I am doing in the U.S. what Bill does in the EU, in my particular case, representing the European Union in Washington, and it’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you. Thank you for coming.
The summit was the highlight of two very intense days of EU-U.S. consultations, and I would not repeat what Bill said about the energy, about TEC, about regulation. We are covering a lot of ground in these two days, and I think this is a major illustration of the depth, intensity, and value of the transatlantic relationship.
The summit being the highlight – we put a lot of investment in it – our two presidents came over, President Van Rompuy of the European Council, President Barroso of the European Commission, but also High Representative / Vice President Catherine Ashton, and our Commissioner for Trade, Karel De Gucht. As Bill said, and I won’t repeat, we covered a lot of ground. Let me just make a few comments on the – what I think is the most important element of the summit, which is the quality of the discussions.
We are, U.S. and EU, the best allies, the best partners, the best friends, the best customers. We have the strongest in the world economic bilateral relationship. We share values like no other bilateral relationship, so a summit like this is – or its usefulness is determined by the quality of the discussions. And I must say that I’ve been following EU-U.S. summits for the last seven years or eight years. I’ve covered a few, and I think we are on the – very much on the right path to every time improve and deepen quality of our discussions. And this was the first summit in the White House after the Lisbon Treaty was implemented. We have now a consistent and permanent representation on the European side. I think this improves the intensity of the discussions and the quality of the discussions, and this will be my first point.
The second point will be to say that when our leaders meet, they discuss both bilateral and global issues, for the simple reason that the U.S. and the EU are world actors, and they are permanent members of any international organization, permanent members of the G-8 and the G-20, so it’s only normal that they cover a wide spectrum. Bill referred to the main points that were discussed. Let me, like him, stress the importance of the establishment of this high-level working group on growth and jobs. Growth and jobs is the top priority for the agenda of our three leaders. On this side, on the other side of the Atlantic, all politicians, all governments, all presidents are focused on growth and jobs. So the issue here is, for the next few months, to try to find the ways and means for this already vibrant economic relationship to produce even more jobs, to promote even more growth. And I think this is a very factual objective – concrete, as you journalists like to have – deliverable at this summit. Thank you.
MODERATOR: All right, thank you very much, Ambassadors. We’ll begin with our question and answer period now. Again, please state your name and media organization and please wait for the microphone. I will begin here.
QUESTION: Yes. Thank you. My name is Matt Schewel. I’m a reporter with Inside U.S. Trade, and I have a particular interest in the high-level working group that you mentioned. Two quick questions: One, is the goal of that a comprehensive free trade agreement between the EU and the U.S. or a more narrow sectoral type of agreements? And secondly, it seems like every attempt at deepening the U.S.-EU economic relationship in the past 20 years has run into trouble. What factors now do you think would make such an initiative like the free trade agreement more likely to succeed now?
AMBASSADOR KENNARD: Well, thank you for the question. As you probably saw from the fact sheet, there are no real constraints on this dialogue that will take place. All issues are on the table, from all manner of trade agreements or renewed trade relationships to enhanced regulatory support. I think the notion here is that we think that we should charge our governments at the highest level to think creatively about ways that we can deepen and expand the relationship. You mentioned past efforts in this area – I think what has changed is that obviously there is a renewed urgency to deepen our economic relationship to promote jobs and growth on both sides of the Atlantic.
Our economies are in many ways similar, in that they are mature, developed economies. We are both struggling to recover from a very serious financial situation, and we both want to see more growth. And one obvious place to look is the trans-Atlantic relationship. It is the largest economic relationship on the planet by far. It dwarfs any other economic relationship, constituting approximately $4 trillion in investment and trade. And so there is a lot to work with there, and we feel – our presidents feel that we should do more in a more systematic way to explore various opportunities. So nothing is off the table in that regard.
MODERATOR: We’ll go, actually, right here, the back.
QUESTION: Thank you.
My name is Ivo Puljic, I am from Al Jazeera Balkans. I would like to know a little bit more the western Balkans’ dialogue from today; what is the message for people in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Serbia, especially, if you can. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR VALE DE ALMEIDA: Well, again, this is part of our regular dialogue. The summit was not an exception to the rule; we talk about these issues all the time. I think I our leaders wanted to express their commitment to progress in the region, the continuation of reforms. On our side, our leaders stress the importance of the European perspective for the Balkan countries, which is a major driver for reform. It implies, of course, commitment from those countries. It implies continued action to implement whatever is needed for their perspective of joining the union to materialize in the not-too-distant future.
So our leaders exchanged views and information and assessment on the situation, covering different countries in the region, including Bosnia, including Serbia, including Kosovo. And I think the sense that came out of that meeting – at least my understanding of it, which is, I guess translated into the communiqué – is that we need to continue to work together, that it makes sense for the EU and the U.S. to join efforts. We have different tools and different approaches to different realities in the region, but one common goal, which is to contribute to reform and progress in the region.
On the other side, Cathy Ashton in particular was very keen to explain and to provide the latest information about recent contacts that have taken place, so we look positively in an encouraging way to developments in the region, and we remain fully committed to help those countries progress in the direction of reform, which is also the direction that would lead us, eventually – lead them, eventually, to joining the European Union.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) initiatives, especially about Bosnia.
AMBASSADOR VALE DE ALMEIDA: Well, the fact that we have now a permanent representative there, also a special representative from the European Union doing a good job on the ground. We have permanent consultation with the Americans on these issues. So no major news, but a reaffirmed commitment. And this is one of the areas in which we have the closest cooperation, and we look forward to developments in the region.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
We’ll take the question right here in the middle.
QUESTION: Ambassadors, Lara Marlowe from the Irish Times. I understand that President Obama said that he would – wanted to help Europe with the debt crisis. Can you tell us specifically in what ways did he say that the U.S. would help Europe, and is there any question whatsoever of the U.S. increasing its payments to the IMF to help with bailouts in Europe?
AMBASSADOR KENNARD: Oh, the President’s been very clear over a number of months now that we want to be – we want to offer advice and guidance to Europe. As you know, we’ve had fairly recent experience with our own severe financial crisis, and so President Obama has been engaged not only with the leaders he met today, but with many other European leaders. He’s spoken frequently with Chancellor Merkel, President Sarkozy, about this issue. But I want to be very clear: There was no discussion about the United States increasing its commitment to the IMF or making any other financial obligations to the EU in the course of them seeking solutions to this crisis. That was not part of this discussion.
We’ll go for Brian, right here.
QUESTION: Brian Beary, Europolitics. There’s a line about a data privacy agreement in the joint communiqué. Is there any kind of – it just says that you’re determined to finalize negotiations on the EU-U.S. data privacy agreement. Is there any concrete timeline on when you’d like that agreement to be finalized?
AMBASSADOR VALE DE ALMEIDA: No, I don’t think I have anything to add to what is in the communiqué. There is a joint understanding and interest and commitment to finalize that agreement. Negotiations are ongoing. We should not set a dead line for these kind of negotiations. We are fully committed on our side to create a mechanism, an instrument that would provide additional security for whatever we do in this area. We will be covered by this umbrella agreement. I think negotiations are proceeding; we should let the negotiations proceed along their merit.
But what’s important for us in this point of the discussion is the shared commitment to reach that goal. That’s what counts, and that’s what should motivate the negotiators to move forward. This is part of a larger picture where we have, as you know, recently completed the negotiations on the PNR. We are now waiting for the ratification by the respective instances on two sides of the Atlantic. So this is part of an overall approach to security that has to do with the actual protection of citizens, but also respect for privacy and data collection. So I think we share the principles. We now need to fine-tune the details of it, and that’s what the negotiators are doing right now.
AMBASSADOR KENNARD: If I might just add something to that, President Obama did make clear today that the United States is committed to the umbrella data privacy agreement. He wants to dispel the myth that the United States is only interested in concluding the PNR agreement and the TFTP agreement. He made that quite clear, and in fact, in the PNR agreement, which was recently made public, there is an undertaking in the preamble commitment by both parties to move ahead on the umbrella agreement.
This agreement was discussed most recently at the highest levels of both governments. On November 21st, there was a ministerial meeting with our Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security with the – with Commissioner Malmström and Commissioner Reding on the EU side. They’ve had several negotiations on this, so we’re intent on dispelling any suggestion that we are not interested in proceeding on the umbrella agreement.
MODERATOR: Great. It appears at this time we have a question in New York, so we’ll go to New York at this time for that question.
QUESTION: Gina DiMeo for ANSA, the Italian wire. I just want to make a question about Italy. Everybody knows they have been under the spotlight recently. And friends in Germany say they were impressed by our plan to reduce this deficit, but this morning (inaudible) Oxfam said that next year, there’s a recession coming. What do you think? Can you comment about the role of Italy? And what can you see in a good and a bad scenario next year?
MODERATOR: Can you repeat the last part of your question for us? Yes, can you come a little closer to the mike and please repeat your question one more time?
QUESTION: The whole question? Okay. I was just asking if this – someone can comment about the role of Italy in Europe. And also, in France and Germany, they said they were impressed about the new measures to reduce the deficit. But Oxfam said the next year is expected to be a recession. Can you comment about that? And what can you say in a good or in a bad scenario?
AMBASSADOR VALE DE ALMEIDA: Sorry, it was very difficult to understand, but I understood it’s about Italy, about the prospects for Italy, and what we think about that, right? Okay.
So we are – I’m speaking on behalf of the European Union, of course, not the United States – and this issue was not discussed in the summit as such. It was touched upon, a part of our discussion on the situation, the global economic situation, the situation in Europe, but was not the object of any precise and detailed discussion in the summit.
So what I’m telling you is our position on this. We welcome the formation of Mr. Monti’s government. We are fully behind him in implementing the reforms that he is committed to implement. We look forward to the successful implementation and the results coming out of that. We believe this is the right track for Italy to follow. We are pursuing in close cooperation with the Italian Government, and Vice President Rehn has been particularly in contact, apart from our two presidents. We’ll continue to follow the situation. We are fully confident – full confidence in the commitment of the Italian Government. We note that the parliamentary majority is there to support the government. We are sure that this will be the case in the future. And as our presidents have repeatedly said, this is the way forward for Italy, and we support it entirely.
MODERATOR: Great. We’ll take a question right here from this gentleman here in the middle.
QUESTION: My name is Ansgar Graw from the German newspaper Die Welt. I have a question concerning the Afghanistan policy and the upcoming conference in Germany next week. It’s the 10th anniversary of the first Petersburg conference, and I would like to know from both ambassadors whether you will see – because the last 10 years in Afghanistan haven’t been too successful – whether you will see – you see this upcoming conference as a follow-up of the first conference, 2001, or is it a total new approach and a new start and reset of the Afghanistan policy?
AMBASSADOR VALE DE ALMEIDA: I just would like to say that this issue was not discussed in that in the summit. This was the object of discussion in a bilateral meeting between Catherine Ashton and Secretary Clinton, which – at least I was not present. I don’t know if you were, Bill. So I cannot develop any point that is related to the summit today, so – but I can relate you to my colleagues that have been in the meeting with Secretary Clinton so we can provide you with a further update later on.
AMBASSADOR KENNARD: If I might add, I was in the bilateral discussion between Secretary Clinton and Mrs. Ashton, and that bilateral was devoted primarily to North Africa and the Middle East. They did touch on Afghanistan off – almost in passing, but they have had in the past a number of discussions about it. It’s our view that this Bonn conference is a critical one, because we’re all looking at a drawdown in the coming years, and – by 2014, and we’re certainly hopeful that the EU will make progress in its negotiation of a longer-term agreement with Afghanistan and that progress will be made at Bonn in that regard.
MODERATOR: Okay. It looks like we have another question from New York, so we’ll go back to New York at this time for that question.
QUESTION: My name is Paulo De Figueiredo, journalist with news agency of Portugal in New York. I have a question for the U.S. ambassador. You mentioned the Obama Administration being interested in giving counseling advice to the euro zone at this point. I would like you to be more clear. What is this advice that you’re giving to European leaders?
And to Ambassador Vale de Almedia, it seems that the question now is how – what do you do to save the euro, increasingly so? What can the U.S. do to help the euro zone leaders to keep the euro in its current form? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR KENNARD: Well, this – as I mentioned before, this is not the first engagement on the sovereign debt crisis between our President, our Secretary of the Treasury, and leaders in Europe. They’ve both been very engaged over the past two years, approximately. And our position is that we don’t disclose publicly the details of the advice that we give to European leaders. We do that for, I think, a very good reason. There is – there are a lot of ideas floating around on – as to how to solve this crisis, and it’s – we don’t think that it would be particularly helpful to us to sort of add our public voice to the various proposals. And in fact, that might complicate things and make things more difficult.
But in a very general sense, the President has been – made – has made clear repeatedly, and he did so today, that he would like to see bolder, quicker, more decisive action by European leaders. And we have gone into detail in private conversations about that – what that might entail, but this would not be the appropriate forum to detail those.
AMBASSADOR VALE DE ALMEIDA: Well, let me complement what Ambassador Kennard said about the first question and then try to address the second one.
Let’s be clear about one point. What we’re having in Europe is, to a large extent, the aftershocks of financial crisis of 2008. And if there is one lesson that one can draw from the financial crisis of 2008, it’s that we are in this together. Events in one country can affect a country in another continent. In a globalized economy, no one is immune. Everybody’s concerned. And I think this is what led us to launch the G-20 leaders’ process. That is what led the G-20 to commit itself to a number of measures to create the framework for sustainable growth in which each country, each member of the G-20, has a number of things to do.
Europe has homework to do. Emerging economies have homework to do. And the U.S. has homework to do. And in implementing the homework, we should keep coordinating, we should keep talking, we should keep monitoring the situation. And this is what we do inside the G-20, this is what we do when we meet bilaterally, as we did today. As the communiqué illustrates, we – the U.S. made a number of points about the situation in Europe. We are also interested by the situation in the United States, as much as we are interested in following what’s happened – what happens in the emerging economies. Because, again, we are interlinked, we are interdependent, and it’s very difficult to extract one region, one country, and isolate it from the other.
This is the spirit of the discussion we have had today here in Washington, as we had a few weeks ago in Cannes, where the president, President Obama, was very much involved, as it is publicly known, in conversations with Europeans and others about the situation in Europe. So this is the global picture I wanted to underline. And the spirit in which it was done was one – extremely cooperative, where my leaders were providing President Obama with the latest information on their discussions in Europe, the initiatives they are taking, their forthcoming meetings on the 9th of December, which will be important ones, and President Obama was, of course, providing his own assessment of the situation. As much as they discussed the state of the global economy, the role of emerging economies, the situation in other industrialized countries, this is the spirit of it.
As far as Europe is concerned, there’s a lot going on, there are a lot of meetings, a lot of statement, a lot of activity. The situation is a difficult one, and we are not complacent about that. We are very determined to move forward. As you heard my two presidents say in their final statements, Europe is committed, Europe is determined, and we were here in Washington to reassure President Obama about the determination of European leaders to move forward.
Now, the details of what we will implement, I mean, you will have to wait for the next days and weeks. The meetings on the 9th of December are an important milestone. What happens in individual country is important. We mentioned Italy, we mentioned a number of other countries. There’s a lot going on. There’s a lot of discussion. The situation is difficult, but the determination to move forward is there.
MODERATOR: We’ll go on the left side here in the middle, right here.
QUESTION: Hi, Laure Mandeville from the French daily Figaro. Mr. Ambassador, you’re saying that Europe is determined and committed, but Europe is also divided. And we’ve seen a fierce debate in Europe between Germany and the rest of Europe about how to move forward, the Germans defending the austerity model as of – up – sorry – as a priority for going forward, and this big debate about the potential euro bonds guaranteed by all the countries and all these ideas.
So I was wondering if we are moving forward in that debate in Europe. And I was also wondering what the American friends are thinking about this divide, and where do they stand in this debate on – between Germany and the rest of Europe? I was also wondering whether you are worried by the events in the last few days concerning German bonds. I’ve seen a few articles, pretty preoccupied in the American press, about the fact that these German bonds were not setting so well in – on the 10 years. So I was wondering what you can say about that. (Inaudible) Germany is going to shake – to be shaken as well? Thanks.
AMBASSADOR VALE DE ALMEIDA: I’m not denying, although I actually think I said it before you, that there is a discussion in Europe going on. There is a debate about what should be done or not be done. We have done a lot already, but there’s still a lot we need to do, and the discussion is focusing now on what to do next.
I think one of the advantages of these meetings among best friends, which is how I would characterize a EU-U.S. summit – meeting among best friends, you use it also to update people and to explain where we are. And I think my two leaders certainly went on a detailed way, telling the President how they see the situation over there, explaining the position of different actors, member states, institutions, explaining also different options that we have on the table, the initiatives that they are planning to implement in the coming days and weeks. And this is what these meetings are about. It’s about two friends trying to understand better the situation on the other side.
And when you say there is a debate in Europe, yes, there is. We are democracies. We are 27 – 17 democracies. And the debate is natural in democracy. If you look at the situation in the United States, there is also a debate about economic policy. There is also a debate about debt and deficit. There is also a debate about how to create jobs and promote growth. I’m not sure that there is a total consensus in this country, as much as we don’t have a total consensus in Europe about the way forward. But that’s democracies playing the democratic game, and we should accept that.
Of course, in Europe, we are not a single country. We are not a nation-state. We are not a federal state. We are a group of 27 or 17 countries that are independent, autonomous, sovereign countries that decided to share part of that sovereignty, including in the economic and monetary area, but that still need to agree, all of them, on what needs to be done next. And that’s even more difficult in situations of economic crisis, not like the one we’re having today where all decisions are difficult, sometime painful, and certainly politically charged.
So I will take your description as being one that reflects the importance of the decisions taken, the difficulty of reaching agreement when you are a complex entity like the European Union, but are certainly followed or matched by equal difficulties in even singular countries to find a consensus on the measures forward.
AMBASSADOR KENNARD: Your question was whether we are worried. Of course we are. That’s why the President has spent so much time in multilateral forums, in bilateral discussions like today, and frequent phone calls to his counterparts around the world, to try to offer advice and to be as helpful as he can. But he also recognizes – as he said today quite clearly, he recognizes the political reality and the challenges that Europe faces in coming to a solution. That is why we don’t believe that it is helpful for us to publicly outline what we think the solution is, because ultimately, we believe that this is a problem that Europe has to solve and has the capacity and resources to solve it, and Europe will solve it in its own way by finding its own political solution.
MODERATOR: We’ll take a question from this person right here in the white turtleneck.
QUESTION: Hello. Lorraine Millot, French daily Liberation. Can you explain, on climate, where do you agree? And did the presidents in the White House discuss the fact that the House of Representatives is requiring from U.S. companies not to implement European law on carbon emissions? And if they haven’t discussed that, why not?
And another topic, on a visa free or visa waiver free trouble, any progress been made on that?
AMBASADOR VALE DE ALMEIDA: Sure. Okay. I’ll take the ETS; Bill takes [Visa] Waiver.
On the ETS, which is part of our climate – overall climate strategy – well, first of all, the leaders briefly referred to Durban. You have the terms of the discussion or the results of the discussion in the communiqué; I won’t go back to it. We are fully committed, both of us, to implement Copenhagen and Cancun. And I think we are also committed to making sure that all countries contribute to whatever action is needed to fight climate change. You know the terms of the debate; I won’t go into the details now.
On the Emissions Trading System applied to aviation, well, aviation is the most important economic sector which is outside, for the moment, of our system of emissions trading. And we have already decided in the European Union. It is not that we are planning or preparing or thinking about. It’s already legislation approved democratically in the European Union to extend to the aviation the ETS. This will come into force January of next year, and it applies to airlines landing in the European Union. And there has been a discussion with the United States about the situation. Our position is very clear: This is legislation approved, needs to be implemented, but the legislation itself has in built elements of flexibility, which would allow companies from foreign countries to establish and develop and implement equivalent measures. We need to discuss that.
The actual legislation allows for some time for that to be done in the sense that the financial compensations by companies will only intervene in 2013, so we believe that we should continue to discuss with our different foreign partners ways and means to implement this legislation in a way that benefits from the flexibility which is in the legislation, and that’s the spirit in which we replied today to comments by President Obama on this point, and that we will certainly, in the future, continue to discuss with our American friends.
AMBASSADOR KENNARD: Just one additional word on the Emissions Trading System for aviation. President Obama made clear in the meeting this morning that we’re quite concerned about this regulatory regime, this new legislation. And it’s our view that the best approach to implement something like this would be through multilateral forum. But of course, the European Union has chosen not to proceed in that way. They already have passed legislation and is now in the implementation phase. So we are quite concerned about this. We would like to have some resolution. But again, our fundamental view is that a multilateral forum is the best place to deal with these issues.
On your question about Visa Waiver, that issue – I don’t recall that coming up at all in this discussion. Correct me if I’m wrong, João. But as you know, it’s – there is a very intense dialogue about Visa Waiver between the U.S. and the EU, but it’s – it just wasn’t addressed at today’s meeting.
MODERATOR: All right. This is going to be our final question. We’ll go right here to the gentleman on the end. Yeah.
QUESTION: Thomas Gorguissian, Al Tahrir, Egyptian daily. My question is regarding the commitment and the assistance that you mentioned in the communiqué. What is the size of this commitment and assistance? What the nature? And what is going to be the mechanism you are foreseeing it, regarding that in the past, it was going through – most of it through governments which were corrupt?
AMBASSADOR KENNARD: Sorry, I didn’t understand the last part of your question.
QUESTION: The mechanism through which this assistance are going to be transferred to the countries, especially most of these countries were – now don’t have specific government or transferring government. And in the past, you have a bad experience or at least, if that was the case of the people thinking in that part of the world, it was corrupt and most of this aid or assistance was abused or misused.
AMBASSADOR KENNARD: Oh, I see. Well, as with all of our aid mechanisms, we try to build in, and usually do, some components for accountability and transparency so that we can deal with the very issue that you mentioned.
There was a lot of discussion today about North Africa and the Middle East, extensive discussion about Egypt, both in the bilateral discussion between Hillary Clinton and Cathy Ashton, and also at the U.S.-EU summit with the heads of state. Obviously, this is a dramatic day in Egypt, and we’re all watching very intently to see how these events play out. But most of the discussion really had to do with comparing notes and making sure that we’re well coordinated in our activities with respect to Egypt and the other countries of North Africa.
AMBASADOR VALE DE ALMEIDA: Just to complement on this point maybe a little, going back to the ETS – I’ll begin with ETS – we are not opposed to a multilateral solution on ETS aviation, but we have been waiting for too long for that. We have been waiting for 15 years for the International Civil Aviation Organization to come to any sort of a deal on that, and we decided to take action. And this was, as I said, again, unanimously agreed inside the European Union at all levels, and legislation is now on the table. So we are not opposed to multilateral solutions. If there was a good one, we will buy it. But there hasn’t been one on the table for the – for many years now.
On the Middle East, I can – on the Arab region and Northern Africa, Arab Spring, I can only confirm what Ambassador Kennard has just said. There was a wide-ranging exchange of views on all this. My point will be just to say I believe that this is, and my leaders do believe that this is, an excellent opportunity, but also a challenge for our bilateral cooperation to deliver a positive result in a region which is strategic for both us and the Americans. For us, it’s our – it’s very close to us. It’s our neighborhood. We have extremely close human, economic, political, security links and interests in this region. For the U.S. is, of course, is of strategic important region as well.
So we have been cooperating very well in a number of these countries. We have been sharing the burden, each of us using the tools that are most adequate, making use of our capacities and capabilities in a different way. I think we have shown a few number of success already, but we need to remain committed.
I do – it was also said by our leaders that some of this process is – will take some time. We know by experience that transition to democracy is not a linear process, and sometimes it takes longer than one would have liked. So I think what I saw here today was the firm commitment of the three leaders plus Secretary Clinton and High Representative Ashton to continue to work hand in hand. And again, I’ve been in all the meetings between Ashton and Clinton in Washington, but not today, but I’m sure that they confirmed the quality of the relationship between the two. And we are very committed ourselves to continue to work with the U.S. in this region, we believe, in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya but also on countries which are not yet on transition, like Syria and others, continue to work together. Then the spirit of our meeting – and I go back to my initial remark – for me, the most important is the quality of the discussions. When you are among best friends, you have to every time improve the quality of our discussions. And today was extremely good from that point of view. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. I’d like to thank Ambassador Kennard and Ambassador Vale de Almeida again, and thank you to our participants. That concludes our briefing. Have a good day.
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