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As prepared for delivery.
Thank you, Chairman Burton, Ranking Member Meeks, and Members of the Committee. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today about the state of human rights and democracy in Eastern Europe. Before I turn to U.S. policy toward this region, Assistant Secretary Michael Posner asked me to send his regards to the Committee, and to emphasize that the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor is keenly interested in working closely with Members of this Committee to address both the challenges and the opportunities in this key region.
President Obama has said that, “Europe is the cornerstone of our engagement with the world and a catalyst for global cooperation.” Certainly, we are all sadly aware that during the last century, Europe was the venue for two world wars and the Cold War. Twenty years after the fall of communism in Europe and the breakup of the Soviet Union, it is appropriate to look at how the region has developed and to note where there has been progress and where there has been disappointment. The Committee is wise to distill lessons learned and to look closely at the challenges that remain.
This is a timely moment to discuss democracy in the region given recent events as well. Lithuania has just concluded a very successful term as chair of the Community of Democracies, and it continues until December as Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE. Moldova has this year seen an orderly change of government and improvements in democratic performance. Turkey and Hungary — both NATO allies and countries in the midst of consolidating democratic transitions – are pursuing major constitutional reforms. And in recent weeks the people of Belarus have found creative ways to protest against harsh repression.
Of course, we hope that we one day achieve a Europe “whole, free, and at peace,” but for now our job is to lay the groundwork for that future. We believe that the consolidation of genuine democracy in Central and Eastern Europe is in fact a pre-requisite for our other goals in the region.
Strong European democracies – with respect for minorities, tolerance of dissent, freedom of assembly and expression, regular and democratic elections, and credible and accessible justice systems that recognize all individuals are equal before the law – are the strongest allies of the United States and bring the best prospects for peace, stability, security, and prosperity in the broader world.
The focus of today’s hearing is “democracy in Eastern Europe” – which I have interpreted to mean Central and Eastern Europe and the European portions of the former Soviet Union, but before I turn to that area, I want to take a moment to make clear that we have an important common agenda even with the most advanced democracies in Europe. Just as the United States strives to build a “more perfect union,” we collaborate with our good friends in Europe to discuss and address continuing concerns in our own countries, like the fair treatment of minorities.
As the Secretary has noted, “[f]ar too often and in too many places, Roma continue to experience racial profiling, violence, segregation, and other forms of discrimination. ” Anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim incidents are too common. Individuals with disabilities struggle to participate fully in governance due to limited accessibility for voting and other aspects of civic life. Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community face discrimination and violence in many parts of Europe – although we were pleased to see the government of Serbia successfully protect participants in a Belgrade pride parade last year, and I spoke in mid-June at a Baltic Pride symposium in Tallinn.
I begin with the issue of minorities not to find fault with any particular country but to emphasize that we should approach the promotion of human rights with some humility. By talking about our own shortcomings –as strong as our democracy is, and it is very strong the United States is not perfect — we disarm those who claim that promoting human rights and democracy is meddling in others’ internal affairs.
In addition to the matter of how we treat our minorities, I want to add a caveat about our common project of transatlantic integration. The promise of EU and NATO membership has been highly effective in promoting reform and democracy-strengthening on the continent. Ten former Communist countries from the former Yugoslavia and the Warsaw Pact have now joined the EU. In every case, the Democracy Index scores from Freedom House’s Nations in Transit report declined the year after admission to the EU. Membership in these organizations has therefore not resolved democratic concerns in several places.
With that I’d like to turn to a brief survey of the region, beginning with some of the countries we consider more integrated within Europe and moving outward to the eastern border and some of the tougher cases.
Several recent events are cause for significant concern about Hungary’s democratic trajectory. Hungary is an important EU and NATO member. At the same time, we have seen the current one-party government use its unprecedented two-thirds parliamentary majority to lock in changes to the constitution that could solidify its power, limit checks and balances, and unduly hamstring future democratic governments in effectively addressing new political, economic and social challenges. The government replaced members of a media oversight board, for example, with candidates aligned with the ruling party. More disconcerting, the board has been given the power to issue decrees and impose heavy fines – up to $950,000 – for news coverage it considers “unbalanced” or offensive to “human dignity.”
Secretary Clinton stated during her June 30 visit, “As friends of Hungary, we … [call] for a real commitment to the independence of the judiciary, a free press, and governmental transparency.” We are urging the government to temper the pace of change, to be more inclusive and to limit the number of issues covered by so-called “cardinal laws,” which require a two-thirds majority to change. In particular, we will ask the government to carefully reconsider the new law on “the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion and on the Status of Churches, Religions and Religious Communities,” which requires re-registration of all but 14 religious groups, negatively impacting the religious freedom atmosphere in Hungary. We will continue to engage Hungary in a broad dialogue in coming months, as the government works to implement its new constitution.
Albania is another NATO partner – and aspiring EU member – facing challenges to its democratization. While the conduct of municipal elections in May was better than in previous elections, the extremely close race for the mayor of Tirana exposed some of the continuing flaws in Albania’s electoral system. The United States, along with our EU and OSCE partners, expressed our strong reservations about the Central Elections Commission decision to count certain “miscast” ballots that created the perception that rules were changed in the middle of the process. We appreciate the fact that the opposition pursued its complaints through appropriate legal channels. And we note that the Electoral College has made its final rulings on the complaints related to the Tirana mayoral race, thereby concluding the election process. While we now expect all sides to accept the final results once confirmed, we also expect them to follow the recommendations of ODIHR and the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission. We urge governing and opposition parties to get back to work on the EU reform agenda and get Albania moving forward again.
There are significant challenges in the rest of the Balkans, and as [Under] Secretary Burns stated earlier this month, “the United States remains deeply committed to helping this region achieve our common goals.” For example, in the Western Balkans, DRL programs are supporting interethnic collaboration, civic education, and access to justice, especially for marginalized populations such as the Roma.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the political leaders have yet to fulfill their most basic responsibility to their citizens by failing to form a state government nearly 10 months since their last elections. We urge Bosnian leaders to move rapidly to form a coalition that is broad-based and inclusive and capable of advancing reforms required for eventual EU and NATO integration. This includes implementing the European Court of Human Rights ruling in the Sejdic Finci case to allow non-Bosniaks, Serbs, or Croats to serve as a member of the Presidency or in the upper chamber of parliament. We remain deeply concerned by the Republika Srpska’s statements and actions attacking the legitimacy of state law enforcement and judicial institutions and the authorities of the High Representative, and suggesting the possibility of Republika Srspka secession. We continue to strongly support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Dayton Peace Accords, and the mandate of High Representative Valentin Inzko.
In Kosovo, the country has achieved much progress in establishing a multiethnic, democratic state in its first three years of independence. The election of President Jahjaga demonstrated political maturity in Kosovo, with governing and opposition parties coming together for the good of the country. The United States, with its international partners, remains committed to strengthening Kosovo’s institutional capacity, expanding its economic development, and supporting a police force and judicial system throughout the country that serves and protects all communities. We remain deeply concerned by the actions of Serb “parallel structures” in the north that obstruct positive change and foster an environment of intimidation. The EU-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia has yielded some initial technical agreements to improve freedom of movement, make whole the Kosovo civil registry, and ensure mutual acceptance of diplomas, but there is still much that can and must be accomplished.
I visited Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan last month, meeting with senior government officials, civil society activists, opposition party leaders, and independent journalists. In Georgia, there have been notable developments since the 2003 Rose Revolution. While we have observed improvements in some areas, a great deal of work remains to be done in order to address ongoing concerns about Georgia’s democratic development. It is particularly important that we see substantial progress in advance of 2012 parliamentary and 2013 presidential elections that we hope will mark that country’s first peaceful, fully democratic transfer of power since its independence from the Soviet Union. We are pleased that Georgia has adopted new laws that when implemented will enhance media transparency and facilitate the registration of minority religions as religious organizations.
Georgia should now focus on promoting political pluralism, advancing media freedom, adopting and implementing important electoral code reforms in consultation with the Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR, strengthening judicial independence, and ensuring that the freedom of assembly is allowed in accordance with international standards. The United States also continues to press Georgia to bring its labor code up to ILO standards, and address allegations of politically motivated cases against labor activists.
In neighboring Azerbaijan, we are concerned about fundamental freedoms. Elections in Azerbaijan continue to fall below international standards. According to the OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), November 7, 2010 parliamentary elections included a deficient candidate registration process, limits on freedom of assembly and expression, a restrictive political environment, unbalanced media coverage of candidates, and problems in vote counting and tabulation. Continued restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, and association impair political party activities and significantly limit citizens’ right to change their government through peaceful elections.
The imprisonment of independent activists such as Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, opposition party activists such as Jabbar Savalanli, and human rights defender Vidadi Iskenderov, is a continuing problem widely perceived to be politically motivated. We continue to urge Azerbaijan to resolve these and related cases in a manner consistent with the government’s commitments to freedom of assembly and expression. The government should allow the National Democratic Institute and “Human Rights House Azerbaijan” to resume their activities, and permit Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to use national FM frequencies. We urge greater respect for religious freedom, including permitting the registration of minority religions and allowing individuals to manifest their beliefs through religious attire. I raised many of these issues with senior government officials during my visit.
For Armenia, I want to highlight the need for greater media diversity, including both a transparent and fair digitalization process, and for greater respect for independent media outlets such as GALATV. We also support greater respect for religious freedom, including alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors, as the European Court of Human Rights called for in its July 7 ruling. We welcome the government’s recent efforts to create a dialogue with the Armenian National Congress, and urge them to extend this effort to all opposition parties. The government’s release of detainees from the March 2008 post- presidential election violence is also a welcome development; however, we encourage the government to fulfill its promise of a fuller investigation of post-election violence that left 10 people dead, and hold accountable those responsible. Upcoming 2012 elections in Armenia, as in the other South Caucasus countries, are an important opportunity for the government to demonstrate progress in fulfilling its commitments to democratization.
In all three South Caucasus countries, U.S. government programs promote a number of universal values, including democratic electoral processes, and capacity building for defense lawyers, human rights organizations, and independent media.
Across the border from Armenia, we have great interest in the developments of NATO ally, Turkey. As the Secretary noted in her visit to Istanbul last week,
“Our partnership is rooted in a long history and a very long list of mutual interests, but most importantly it is rooted in our common democratic values. …Turkey’s upcoming constitutional reform process presents an opportunity to address concerns about recent restrictions … [on] freedom of expression and religion, to bolster protections for minority rights, and advance the prospects for EU membership, which we wholly and enthusiastically support. We also hope that a process will include civil society and parties…. I hope that sometime soon we can see the reopening of the Halki Seminary that highlights Turkey’s strength of democracy and its leadership in a changing region. I think across the region, people … are seeking to draw lessons from Turkey’s experience.”
Mr. Chairman, these remarks by the Secretary in Istanbul reflect of the importance of our relationship with Turkey, the interests the two of us share regionally and globally, and our strong support for the continued development of democratic institutions and practices in Turkey. Following the June 12 elections, resulting in the re-election of Prime Minister Erdogan and his Justice and Development party, we are particularly interested in how the Turkish people will strengthen their democracy as they rewrite their constitution.
As the Secretary’s remarks illustrate, the United States is a strong defender of freedoms of expression and the press in Turkey. We are closely monitoring the recent arrests of journalists. We have urged that any investigations and prosecutions proceed in a transparent manner and that all defendants be assured due process in accordance with international standards. We note that the OSCE, EU, the Council of Europe, numerous non-governmental organizations, and many Turks have issued statements expressing concern about these actions and other constraints on freedom of expression in Turkey. We hope that Turkey will continue to undertake necessary legal reforms to protect freedom of expression, not only to further its EU accession process but to strengthen Turkish democracy.
We will also be interested to see how Turkey’s constitutional reforms address the situation of minorities, including members of the Kurdish and minority religious communities. A parliament that represents all of Turkey will be a stronger parliament. We also encourage the government to take steps to protect members of the LGBT community, which has experienced recurring violence and harassment.
We have noted the Turkish government’s positive movement in some areas of expanding religious freedom for all, including its decision to grant Turkish citizenship to 12 Orthodox metropolitans in October 2010 and return several important properties to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. We continue to urge the government to reopen Halki Seminary and to recognize the places of worship of the country’s unrecognized religious populations, like Alevis and Protestant Christians, and grant legal personality to the leading Greek, Armenian, and Jewish religious institutions.
Mr. Chairman, Ukraine, like Turkey, is an important partner, but unlike Turkey, Ukraine’s democratic trajectory of late has been distinctly less positive. I visited Ukraine during the second week of July – for the third time in nine months – and met with government officials, the opposition, and civil society.
Establishing the rule of law, protecting minorities and reforming the criminal justice system are central to Ukraine’s future prosperity, democracy, and aspirations toward European integration. As you know, former government officials, including former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, are facing prosecution. During my visit, I emphasized our concern about politically-motivated prosecutions of opposition figures and the potential impact on political competition. When the senior leadership of the preceding government – now in opposition – is the focus of prosecutions, out of proportion with other political figures, this creates the appearance of a political motive. A conviction for Tymoshenko, who was narrowly defeated in the runoff for the presidency last year, would prevent her from standing for election in the 2012 parliamentary ballot.
We urge the government to continue its efforts to develop a new election law that will win the confidence of the public. Key aspects of the law, such as the nature of the voting system itself, have not been subject to debate by the working group. At the same time, we urge the government to deepen its engagement on electoral reform with Ukrainian civil society, NGOs, and a broad spectrum of political parties, and discuss the changes with the international community.
The Obama Administration has continued a long-standing, bipartisan policy of principled engagement with Belarus that centers on our consistent advocacy for democracy and human rights. Long before the recent crackdown, we were pressing Belarus to strengthen its adherence to democratic principles and to its human rights commitments and obligations as a prerequisite to improved bilateral relations. However, the brutal crackdown against civil society, independent media and the political opposition after the December 19, 2010 presidential elections demonstrated the government’s focus was on its own survival rather human rights and democracy.
I went to Minsk in January to demonstrate the U.S. government’s solidarity with the families of the political prisoners, and to consults with journalist, human rights lawyers and others. I also told government officials that it was entirely in the hands of the Lukashenko government whether the country would be further isolated from Europe and United States. In his testimony before you three months ago, Deputy Assistant Secretary Russell laid out our policy response to the crackdown. In coordination with the EU, the United States has imposed travel sanctions on individuals responsible for the crackdown and sanctions on certain state owned enterprises. President Obama publicly condemned the May convictions of opposition presidential candidates, and announced new sanctions against select Belarusian state-owned enterprises. Secretary Clinton called again for the release of all political prisoners in Vilnius in early July. Even as we impose additional measures targeting those in the government of Belarus responsible for the crackdown, we are simultaneously increasing our support for democratic actors. The United States has increased its democracy assistance to Belarus this year by 30%. U.S. assistance efforts are addressing immediate needs, providing legal and humanitarian assistance to those facing repression, preserving access to information to help the Belarusian public stay full informed, and increasing support to both the independent media and civil society.
We have also worked in multilateral fora – including the OSCE and the UN Human Rights Council – to highlight the country’s dire human rights situation.
Despite the continuing crackdown, we have witnessed remarkable developments over the last several weeks. Since June 1, “silent” protests – in which participants gather silently and clap their hands – have taken place across the country. The government responded with mass arrests.
Online protests have been even larger. Over 216,000 people joined a group on Vkontakte (the Russian-language equivalent of Facebook), calling for “Revolution via the social networks” in Belarus. Access to the page was blocked July 3, but a replacement page garnered 20,000 comments in two days. Bloggers and Internet journalists have continued to post videos of police harassment of peaceful demonstrators on YouTube. Security services have ordered the closure of a number of websites, and reports of denial of service and spear-phishing attacks have increased. Failing to completely suppress free expression via the Internet, Belarusian authorities created their own Twitter accounts, using them to send threatening messages.
Perhaps these protests are primarily motivated by the government’s management of the economy, which has resulted in a sharp devaluation of the Belarusian currency, shortages of foreign currency and surging inflation. As my fellow panelist David Kramer wrote in the Washington Post a few weeks ago, “[t]he people of Belarus are signaling they have had enough.” We have no illusions that persuading Belarus’s leaders to change course, support democracy and respect human rights and the rule of law will happen easily or quickly. But let me assure you that the United States will continue to punish those responsible for the crackdown and will increase support for those seeking to build a democratic Belarus.
Mr. Chairman, perhaps the most complex challenge to democratic reform in Europe is in Russia. I had the opportunity to visit Russia for six days in March. In my travels to Moscow, Perm and Yekaterinburg, I acquired a better sense of the diversity of opinion of the Russian people, their mounting unhappiness with the state of affairs and some of the challenges they face in advancing democracy.
Two weeks ago, Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov met in Washington. In addition to working together to address Iran’s nuclear threat, coordinating our diplomatic approach in Libya, consulting closely on the changes unfolding across the Middle East, and discussing such priorities as Afghanistan, missile defense cooperation, and Russia’s WTO accession, they also announced the conclusion of several partnership initiatives reflecting the importance of our relationship. The Secretary and Foreign Minister announced agreements to strengthen procedural safeguards in adoptions and to make travel between the two countries easier for Russians and Americans. At the same time, the Secretary underscored the importance of continuing democratic reform. It is within this context – a partnership of great breadth and strategic importance – that we continue to support a democratic, modern and successful Russia governed by the rule of law.
President Obama told attendees at Moscow State University on July 7, 2009, “… in our own history, democracies have been America’s most enduring allies …” In this vein, our partnership with Russia – its citizens and its government – will grow ever stronger and more durable to the extent that this partnership is based on shared democratic values, norms, and practices. Unfortunately, continued restrictions on fundamental freedoms – rights guaranteed in international and Russian domestic law – hinder the potential of Russian social, economic, and political development, and necessarily limit the possibilities for partnership.
We have concerns that the upcoming parliamentary elections in December may fall short of international standards. Pressure on the democratic opposition and independent media is pronounced. Last month, Secretary Clinton issued a statement expressing disappointment over the Russian decision to deny the registration of the opposition group PARNAS, effectively barring its participation in the December Duma election. Russia has invited ODHIR experts to conduct a needs assessment for an elections observer mission in lead-up to December’s parliamentary elections, and it is important that election officials will extend a formal, unrestricted invitation for this observation mission once the assessment is completed.
We continue to raise concerns about the assaults on freedoms of the press, assembly, and rule of law, particularly the numerous unsolved cases of murdered journalists like Paul Klebnikov and human rights activists like Natalia Estemirova; rampant corruption and impunity as exemplified by the case of Sergei Magnitsky; and restrictions on freedom of assembly for members of groups like Strategy 31, the Khimki Forest Defenders, and for members of various LGBT groups.
We continue to follow the treatment of minorities in Russia, including the application of the so-called “law on extremism” to peaceful religious groups. We hope the Russian government will consider amending the current law, and we strongly encourage Moscow authorities to implement the European Court of Human Rights’ decision of June 10, 2010 and register the Jehovah’s Witnesses Moscow community.
We are also concerned about inter-ethnic tensions and incidents of violence between ethnic Russians and minority groups, as well as by reports of serious human rights violations in the North Caucasus, particularly in Chechnya. These reports include disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, and retribution against those who report abuses.
Our engagement with non-governmental organizations helps us gain an appreciation for the state of Russian society and encourages these groups to continue their important work. We are encouraged by the expansion of new media and internet penetration across Russia – creating new mechanisms for citizens to communicate, organize, and hold their government accountable – while we continue at the same time to monitor the mounting threats to Internet freedom such as criminal prosecutions of bloggers for libel or ‘extremism,’ to the blocking of specific sites by local service providers, denial of service (DDOS) attacks on sites site of opposition groups or independent media, and attempts by security services and regional authorities to regulate content.
Observing developments in Russia, we recognize there is a thirst for fundamental freedoms. As Vice President Biden stated during his visit to Moscow in February, “Polls show that most Russians want to choose their national and local leaders in competitive elections; to assemble freely; and to have a free press.” That’s also a message I heard when President Medvedev said that “freedom cannot be postponed.”
DRL programs in Russia focus on developing independent media and new media platforms, bolstering local human rights defenders’ capacity to advocate on issues of freedom of expression, assembly, and association; and energizing human rights advocacy working to combat police corruption. These activities are undertaken as part of a wider set of U.S. government programs – modest in the context of such a vast country – to advance democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Russia. Russia’s progress in these areas is essential to the health and productivity of our broader partnership.
Before I conclude, however, I want to share with you a few examples of the broader programs we are pursuing to help support democracy across the region and the globe. In a number of countries in Europe, civil society is facing significant pressure. Secretary Clinton noted this trend more than a year ago, and we have followed up in several ways.
In September 2010, we successfully refocused the UN Human Rights Council on defending civil society through the passage of an historic resolution creating the first special rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association. As Secretary Clinton noted, we hope the new rapporteur’s work “will become an impetus for countries around the world to strengthen protections for this fundamental freedom.”
In addition, the State Department and USAID have invested $50 million in supporting Internet freedom around the world, including Europe, and will have committed an additional $20 million by the end of 2011. These programs can enable activists to get around technical threats and firewalls enacted by repressive regimes, empowering them not merely to access censored content, but also to use new technologies to organize and to tell their stories to the world.
Last month in Vilnius, the Secretary launched the Lifeline: Embattled NGOs Assistance Fund, to help civil society groups with legal representation, cover medical bills arising from abuse, facilitate visits to activists in jail, and help replace equipment that is damaged or confiscated as a result of harassment.
These global initiatives, together with multilateral efforts, bilateral diplomacy and many bilateral and regional programs, comprise our efforts to promote democracy in Europe. We are grateful for the support of Congress — through funding, policy guidance, and oversight – in helping advance freedom.
Mr. Chairman, thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you today. I look forward to your questions.
Chairman Shaheen, Ranking Member Barrasso, Members of the Committee:
Watching the wave of democracy protests in the Arab world reminds us inevitably of the last time dictatorships across an entire region suddenly shook and collapsed under the weight of the people’s desire for freedom. In 1989, Europe changed suddenly and immeasurably. Because of those events and because of the wise bipartisan policies in the years that followed, Europe, and our relationship with Europe, has changed vastly in the last twenty years. In those days, the major preoccupation in the transatlantic relationship was the defense of Europe against the Soviet threat. Today, Europe is almost fully democratic, largely unified, and is America’s essential global partner. When the Libya crisis erupted, for example, we worked closely with our European allies pass UNSCRs 1970 and 1973, and we looked to NATO to lead the effort to enforce the no-fly zone and arms embargo and to protect civilians.
Beyond Libya, the U.S. and Europe work together on an extraordinarily wide range of issues, from Afghanistan to Iran to the tumultuous events in North Africa and the Middle East. On both sides of the Atlantic we are working hard to recover from the worst financial crisis since The Great Depression. Because our economies are intertwined, and we are working together so closely on problems around the globe, policy decisions taken in Europe to address the Eurozone crisis will have an impact here in the United States. There is a common thread that runs through all our engagement with Europe: U.S.-European cooperation is and remains essential to achieving our strategic objectives.
Our engagement with Europe begins with the idea that the United States faces a daunting international agenda and that our ability to deal with it is immeasurably increased by working with strong allies and partners. In meeting these challenges, we have no better partner than Europe, where we work with democratic, prosperous, militarily-capable allies who share our values and share our interests. In the words of President Obama, Europe is “the cornerstone of our engagement with the world.”
To help you understand the breadth and depth of that engagement, I’ll describe the strategic objectives that drive our approach toward Europe. Then, I’d like to offer you an assessment of our record over the past two years on these objectives.
When I think about this administration’s priorities in Europe, there are three basic objectives that stand out in our engagement with the continent:
1. First, we work with Europe as a partner in meeting global challenges. On every issue of global importance, Europe’s contributions are crucial to solving major international challenges. No matter what the issue is – from the war in Afghanistan, to the Iranian nuclear challenge, to the new operation in Libya – Europe is indispensable. We are vastly stronger – in terms of legitimacy, resources, and ideas – when we join forces with Europe on the global agenda.
2. Second, we are still working with Europe on Europe, that is to say working to complete the historic project of helping to extend stability, security, prosperity and democracy to the entire continent. The extraordinary success that the United States and Europe have had together in promoting European integration, in consolidating and supporting the new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe and integrating them into Euro-Atlantic institutions demonstrates the promise of this enterprise. But our work is not done. And so the effort continues in the Balkans, in Europe’s east, and in the Caucasus.
3. Finally, we have sought to set relations with Russia on a more constructive course. President Obama recognized that he had inherited a relationship that was in a difficult place and that this situation did not serve the interests of the United States. Therefore, our goal has been to cooperate with Russia where we have common interests, but not at the expense of our principles or our friends. As such, where we have concerns, such as on Russia’s human rights record, or on Georgia, we will continue to raise concerns with government and foster connections with civil society.
Looking back on the past two years, we can point to significant progress in each area:
First, we have worked together as never before with our European partners on global issues, including Afghanistan, Iran, missile defense, and the momentous developments in North Africa and the Middle East. Specifically:
In Afghanistan, following the President’s West Point speech in November 2009, Europe contributed about 7,000 additional troops, over 100 training teams for the Afghan army and police, and nearly $300 million for the Afghan National Army trust fund. European nations now have almost 40,000 troops in Afghanistan and the total European contribution to Afghanistan since 2001 comes to over $14 billion.
On Iran, we maintained unity in our efforts to engage, and we have at the same time seen the strongest-ever set of sanctions adopted by the UN Security Council and an even more robust set of follow-on sanctions adopted by the European Union. These additional measures taken by the EU cover a variety of areas critical to the regime including trade, finance, banking and insurance, transport, and the gas and oil sectors, in addition to new visa bans and asset freezes. These steps have raised the price of Iran’s failure to meet its obligations and we hope will serve to bring them back to the negotiating table.
On Missile Defense, NATO allies recognized at the Lisbon Summit in November 2010 that the defense of Europe can no longer be achieved just by tanks or bombers. Now, we need defenses against a new and grave set of threats, in particular ballistic missiles in the hands of dangerous regimes. Our aim as an alliance is to develop a missile defense capability that will provide full coverage and protection from ballistic missile threats for all NATO European territory, populations, and forces. This capability will be a tangible expression of NATO’s core mission of collective defense. At the summit, allies also welcomed the U.S. missile defense system in Europe, known as the European Phased Adaptive Approach, as a valuable national contribution to the overall effort, and we hope to see additional voluntary contributions from other allies. We are now exploring further ways to cooperate with Russia on missile defense, without in any way prejudicing NATO’s ability to independently defend its territory from missile threats.
In Libya, we consulted and cooperated closely with our European allies to pass UNSCRs 1970 and 1973, which levied sanctions against the Qadhafi regime, established a no-fly zone over Libya, and gave us the authority to protect Libyan civilians from the regime’s attacks. NATO took over enforcement of UNSCR 1973 on March 31 and now has over 7,000 personnel in Operation Unified Protector, over 200 aircraft and 20 ships. OUP has maintained a consistently high operational tempo across a vast country. NATO has flown over 6,000 sorties – almost half of them strike sorties – and hit hundreds of critical targets. And this is primarily a European operation. Over 60 percent of the aircraft come from our allies and our partners, including from the region. All 20 naval ships are contributed by Canada and European allies.
In the second area, extending the European zone of peace, prosperity, and democracy, we have had some important successes, but equally important challenges remain. As I said at the outset, the work of “completing” Europe is not finished. What I think is most notable about our current efforts under the Obama Administration is how closely – as part of a deliberate strategy – we are working together with Europe to achieve this goal.
Take, for instance, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. These are the countries of the EU’s Eastern Partnership, an initiative that the United States strongly supports and works with to advance democracy, stability, and security in this part of the world. We share with our European counterparts a similar approach to these countries because of our common goals. As the situation has deteriorated in Belarus, including with the conviction of former Presidential candidate Sannikov, we have coordinated very closely with the EU including on possible additional sanctions.
The same can be said of the Balkans: the U.S. and European view is that Europe will not be complete until all of the countries of the Western Balkans are full EU members. On the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, on the future of Bosnia, on Croatia’s path to the EU, we have consulted closely with Europe. We also welcomed Albania and Croatia into NATO, extended Membership Action Plans to Bosnia and Montenegro, and Macedonia will join once the dispute over its name is resolved. This degree of accord on the Balkans is the foundation of our success—we work together every step of the way. The intensive joint diplomacy of recent months has shown how closely our visions are aligned, something which is essential for progress in the region.
U.S. and European unity is particularly critical in Bosnia, where nationalist politicians are irresponsibly challenging the very core of the Dayton Accords and threatening the functioning and integrity of the Bosnian state. Bosnian leaders are often privileging their own interests above their populations. Bosnia cannot take its rightful place in Europe unless it has a state functional enough to meet NATO and EU accession requirements. We are, together with our European allies, committed to helping Bosnia meet those requirements.
Another example of the decisive impact that U.S.-European cooperation can have in the region is our joint response to events in Belarus. The Government of Belarus’s crackdown on civil society and the opposition following the flawed election in December has been sharply condemned on both sides of the Atlantic. We have made very clear that our relationship with Belarus cannot improve in the context of continued repression of civil society, the opposition, and independent media. The U.S. and the EU have called for the immediate and unconditional release of all detainees and an end to the continue human rights violations against critics of the government. We consider the five presidential candidates and other democratic activists who are being tried after being arrested in conjunction with the December 19 presidential election to be political prisoners; the latest convictions and ongoing trials are clearly politically motivated. Both we and Europe have targeted measures against those officials responsible for the crackdown even as we and Europe support the aspirations of the people of Belarus for a modern open society. To that end, the United States is providing an additional $4 million in democracy-related assistance to help Belarusians create space for the free expression of political views, the development of a civil society, freedom of the media, and empowerment of independent entrepreneurs. Both we and Europe want a better, more productive relationship with Belarus; unfortunately, the country’s leadership is following a policy that will only further isolate Belarus and its people.
Turning to the Caucasus, our joint efforts with the European Union and other international partners in the region have resulted in progress, but disputes over territory and a need for further meaningful political and economic reforms remain serious obstacles to greater stability. In Georgia, our steadfast engagement and generous assistance have aided in transforming Georgia into an aspiring democracy and important partner to NATO in Afghanistan. Together with our European partners, we will maintain our support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty within its internationally recognized borders and will continue to support international efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the dispute over Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Elsewhere in the region, we will continue to press for democratic reforms and an opening of the political space such that human rights and fundamental freedoms are fully respected, to encourage normalization between Turkey and Armenia, and to increase our engagement through the Minsk Group with Russia and France to help Armenia and Azerbaijan find a peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In that regard, we strongly believe that the time has come to finalize and endorse the Basic Principles and move to the drafting of a peace agreement. We believe that the United States and Europe must work together to avoid further conflict in Europe and help the countries in the region move towards democracy, peace, and greater prosperity.
Our foreign assistance investments remain an important instrument in advancing the European zone of peace, prosperity and democracy. There have been reductions to the region’s assistance budget in the Administration’s FY 2012 Request. They are the result of the achievement of some assistance goals in the region and of the particularly difficult budget climate in which we find ourselves. In future decisions on resource allocations, we will continue to take account of vital long-term U.S. interests in this region.
Finally, what has arguably been the most challenging part of our European agenda – our reset with Russia – has paid significant dividends. Challenges remain. However, we can now say that our engagement with Russia can help with America’s security and our global priorities. The results speak for themselves:
Most significantly, we have concluded a New START Treaty and following the recent approval by both Congress and the Russian State Duma, it has entered into force. The agreement is the most comprehensive arms control agreement in nearly two decades and significantly reduces the number of nuclear weapons and launchers deployed by the United States and Russia while also putting in place a strong verification regime.
We signed an agreement for the transit of troops and materiel across Russia in support of efforts in Afghanistan. Under our bilateral agreements, more than 1100 flights carrying over 170,000 U.S. military personnel have transited Russia en route to Afghanistan. Under a NATO-Russia agreement, nearly 27,000 containers have transited Russia for use in Afghanistan. At this time, 50% of U.S. sustainment cargo for Afghanistan goes through the Northern Distribution Network and 60% of supplies transiting that network go through Russia. This is a significant benefit for the United States.
We have secured cooperation with Russia on Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs, both in terms of UN Security Council Resolutions 1929 and 1874 respectively, and Russia’s decision to cancel a contract for the delivery of the S-300 air defense system to Iran.
We have done all of this without compromising our principles – in particular our steadfast commitment to respect for universal values, the sovereignty, and territorial integrity of all of the nations of Europe. We firmly believe that the security and prosperity of Europe also rests in adhering to commitments to advance human rights and democracy. Where human rights problems exist, we will continue to speak out and strongly support the rights of Russian citizens and others throughout the region to peacefully exercise freedom of expression and assembly as guaranteed under the constitution and enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Helsinki accords.
And thanks to the work of the Bilateral Presidential Commission and its 18 working groups, our engagement with Russian society is paying important dividends as well. Polling now indicates 60 percent of Russians have a positive view of the U.S., a figure not seen in nearly a decade.
This brief overview of the U.S. agenda with Europe demonstrates that we work together closely with Europe on nearly every major issue, both internationally and within Europe. Whether the issue is promoting democracy in Europe’s east or south, advancing energy security for the whole continent, or contributing to the NATO effort to secure Afghanistan, the energy, ideas, and commitment of Europe is something we look to and rely upon in pursuing our common goals.
As you can see, our transatlantic partners have been very busy. But appropriately so – we have an extremely full U.S.-Europe agenda because we have so many pressing challenges in the world today, and close transatlantic cooperation is the indispensable starting point in addressing all of them.
There is much work to be done to translate this agenda into concrete steps toward the security and prosperity of both Europe and the United States. This is not easy, particularly at a time of budgetary austerity all across the industrialized world. We will have to adapt creatively to this new reality by finding ways to make our collective defense spending smarter and more efficient. We will need to reform NATO and streamline its operations, as we and our NATO allies pledged in the recent NATO Strategic Concept. We will have to find ways to advance NATO-EU cooperation so that the full resources of both institutions can be harnessed most effectively. We must continue to build on the momentum of the OSCE Astana Summit last December to reinvigorate efforts to ensure comprehensive security in Europe. We have to create a more seamless and market-based flow of energy into Europe and within Europe. If we can do these things, I am confident that the partnership between the United States and Europe – which has achieved so much in the last sixty years – will achieve even greater things in the decades to come.
With that, I look forward to your questions.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
MODERATOR: The Secretary of State of the United States of America Hillary Clinton, welcome. You were here in the earlier capacity as a United States Senator, but this is actually the first time, according to what I know about the 47 seven years of this conference, that we’ve had the pleasure of welcoming the Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton. (Applause.)
And to conclude the round of premiers is the fact that also this year for the first time do we have the pleasure of welcoming the President of the European Council, a position which was created with the Treaty of Lisbon. It is a great event today to have you, Herman von Rompuy, be with us and speak to us after the Secretary. (Applause.)
I would like to, before we get started, to remind you all that we will have at – around 6:00 this afternoon a special hour on the events in the Arab world in Egypt, et cetera, and will be tacked onto the program, and you will have terrific versions of the program heading out over the next hour or more. So without further ado, it’s my great pleasure to offer the floor to you, Mrs. Secretary. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good morning, and it’s very good to back in Munich. Thank you, Wolfgang, for your continuing leadership, and it was wonderful to see Chancellor Merkel earlier today, and I’m here with so many of my colleagues, and, of course, Foreign Minister Westerwelle and all who are working on behalf of our common objectives.
I’m also delighted to be sharing this session with the President. I’m looking forward to our discussion and will be meeting later with Lady Ashton who has become an indispensible partner on so many issues during the last 14 months.
I want to make remarks on two important subjects briefly. First, America’s enduring commitment to Europe and European security and then how we view the recent upheaval in the Arab world. The events unfolding on Europe’s doorstep remind us that in today’s interconnected world, rapid change is the new norm. The past several years have been difficult on both sides of the Atlantic. The United States face down the most serious financial crisis since the 1930s. We have broken the back of the recession, but we are still challenged by high unemployment in debt.
In Europe, the financial crisis has caused deep pain and anxiety about the health of the Euro-zone. And I know that from time to time, on your side of the Atlantic, critics worry that America is preoccupied with its domestic problems or distracted by Afghanistan and other global issues.
On our side, critics fear Europe’s fiscal difficulties and political constraints will prevent it from remaining a robust partner in promoting global security. But the contents of my inbox tell a very different story. They show a strategic partnership between Europe and the United States that has never been stronger.
On the economic front, the ties between us run deep. The transatlantic economy accounts for more than half of world trade, and when it comes to investment, the numbers are higher still. Now, these figures will change over time. And emerging markets are, indeed, promising. But our partnership is proven, and it must endure if we are to promote sound market-driven economic policies in countries around the world, level playing fields, and fight protectionist forces in an increasingly globalized economy.
This is crucial work because strong economies are the ultimate foundation for our security and leadership. We are also working together to fight poverty, disease, and hunger. The United States and Europe together are responsible for nearly 80 percent of all international development aid. And this, too, is an essential component of common security. We have seen over and over again that healthy prosperous societies are more likely to be good partners, and of course, we work together to secure peace.
In Afghanistan, nearly 40,000 Europeans serve alongside U.S. troops and those of 47 other nations in the International Security and Assistance Force. Together we are striving to build a durable peace by training Afghanistan’s police and army, and it is a strategy that is beginning to bear fruit. And we are stretching beyond traditional military solutions. In so many aspects of our partnership in Afghanistan, we see a difference.
On Iran, Europe and the United States joined together to give Tehran a clear choice: Meet your international commitments to demonstrate that your nuclear program is peaceful, or face increasing pressure and isolation. And last year, Russia joined us in voting for tough Security Council sanctions, an important precedent that we intend to build on.
In many other regions, we are also cooperating – preventing violence during the referendum on Southern Sudan, curbing piracy off the Horn of Africa, taking a unified stance on Belarus to support free and fair elections, defending civil society where it is under pressure, imposing sanctions on those responsible for human rights violations, promoting economic growth and democratic governance in the Western Balkans, and working to integrate the region more deeply with the EU and NATO remains a shared goal. In all of these ways and many more, our relationship with Europe is, as President Obama put it, the cornerstone of our engagement with the world and a catalyst for global cooperation.
But we are not standing pat. Our relationship continues to evolve. We’ve been working together to modernize and enhance the European security architecture, an effort that culminated with the approval of NATO’s new strategic concept in Lisbon last year. As Secretary Gates has noted, now that the strategic concept has been approved, we are reviewing its implications for the U.S. force structure in Europe. Ultimately, our decision will be guided by a fundamental principle: We will maintain the necessary balance of forces and capabilities to meet our enduring commitment to Article Five. And we will maintain our ability to protect ourselves and our allies, not just against traditional threats, but also new ones such as cyber attacks, terrorism, and weapons of mass destruction.
Perhaps none of these threats is more pressing today than the proliferation of ballistic missiles. President Obama has outlined a new approach to European missile defense which was endorsed by allied leaders in Lisbon. The European phased-adaptive approach will protect us against the current generation of missiles. And it will evolve over time as the threat evolves. This year we will be taking missile defense off the drawing board and putting it into action starting with the deployment of radar systems on land and Aegis ships in the Mediterranean.
We have made it absolutely clear we will not accept any constraints on our missile defenses. The U.S. Government will do what is necessary to protect America, our forces, our allies and friends from attacks, from countries outside of Europe. In Lisbon, allied leaders also reaffirmed our desire to cooperate with Russia on missile defense and President Medvedev embraced that idea. We seek a genuinely cooperative approach to this common challenge; one that strengthens cooperation with Russia and increases our common security while maintaining strategic stability. We have already started that conversation with Moscow about how this can be accomplished in practice, and we are eager to begin a joint analysis, joint exercises, and sharing of early warning data that could form the basis for a cooperative missile defense system. We will work together to ensure that our missile defense systems are mutually reinforcing.
The New START Treaty between the United States and Russia is another example of the kind of clear-eyed cooperation that is in everyone’s interests. I am delighted that Minister Lavrov and I will be exchanging instruments of ratification of the New START Treaty later today. We will also discuss further arms control issues including nonstrategic and non-deployed nuclear weapons and our ongoing work to revive, strengthen, and modernize the regime on conventional forces.
The work we are doing together today is part of a journey we have been taking for more than 60 years. Since the end of World War II, we have worked shoulder to shoulder to advance security and freedom throughout Europe to create a Europe that is whole, secure, and free. We have seen many nations make democratic transitions and begin contributing to growing stability and security across the continent and across the Atlantic. This project is not yet complete, and it has not always been easy, but we see its benefits again and again as more free nations share in the progress of the Euro-Atlantic community.
In the Middle East, we have not yet seen security and democratic development converge in the same way. Let me offer a few observations about where we’ve come from and where we need to go. We have built strong security partnerships with countries across the region to promote peace between Israel and her neighbors, to curb Iran’s dangerous nuclear ambitions, to support economic development, to stop the spread of terrorism, and we will continue to advance these goals, these goals we believe are essential to American and European security as well as the security of the people in the region.
For decades, though, most of these same governments have not pursued the kind of political and economic reforms that would make them more democratic, responsible, and accountable. In Doha last month, I urged the leaders of the region to address the needs and aspirations of their people and offer a positive vision for the future for their sake and for ours because the region is being battered by a perfect storm of powerful trends. A growing majority of its people are under the age of 30. Many of these young people, even the most educated among them, cannot find work.
At the same time, however, they are more connected with each other and with events occurring around them because of technology. And this generation is rightly demanding that their governments become more effective, more responsive, and more open. All of this is taking place against a backdrop of depleting resources. Water tables are dropping, and oil reserves are running out.
Leaders in the region may be able to hold back the tide for a little while, but not for long. That has been the story of the last weeks. It is what has driven demonstrators into the streets of Tunis, Cairo, and cities throughout the area. The status quo is simply not sustainable. So for all our friends, for all the friends in the region including governments and people, the challenge is to help our partners take systematic steps to usher in a better future where people’s voices are heard, their rights respected, and their aspirations met.
This is not simply a matter of idealism. It is a strategic necessity. Without genuine progress toward open and accountable political systems, the gap between people and their governments will only grow, and instability will only deepen. Across the region, there must be clear and real progress toward open, transparent, fair, and accountable systems. Now, in some countries, this transition is happening quickly; in others it will take more time. Different countries face different circumstances.
And of course, there are risks. There are risks with the transition to democracy. It can be chaotic. It can cause short-term instability. Even worse – and we have seen it before – the transition can backslide into just another authoritarian regime. Revolutions have overthrown dictators in the name of democracy only to see the political process hijacked by new autocrats who use violence, deception, and rigged elections to stay in power or to advance an agenda of extremism.
So the transition to democracy will only work if it is deliberate, inclusive, and transparent. Those who want to participate in the political system must commit to basic principles such as renouncing violence as a tool of political coercion, respecting the rights of minorities – ethnic and religious minorities, participating in a spirit of tolerance and compromise. Those who refuse to make those commitments do not deserve a seat at the table. We will continue to champion free and fair elections as an essential part of building and maintaining a democracy.
But we know elections alone are not sufficient. They’re not even sufficient to secure lasting change. So we also must work together to support the institutions of good governance, the rule of law and an independent judiciary, transparency and a free press, strong political parties, protection for the rights of minorities and more, because those, indeed, are the building blocks of a true democracy.
The transition to democracy is more likely to be peaceful and permanent when it involves both the government in power and a broad cross-section of the citizenry. So in addition to supporting institutions and free and fair elections, we are committed to supporting strong civil societies, the activists, organizations, congregations, intellectuals, reporters who work through peaceful means to fight corruption and keep governments honest. Their work enriches the soil in which democracy grows.
So the United States urges the leaders of the region to work with civil society, to see it as a partner rather than a threat, and making the political, economic, and social reforms that are being called for. And just as America engages leaders in the region, we will continue to engage the people through civil society, through dialogue like the town halls that I have enjoyed doing on my travels.
Now, some leaders may honestly believe that their country is an exception, that their people will not demand greater political or economic opportunities, or that they can be placated with half measures. Again, in the short-term that may be true, but in the long-term it is untenable. And in today’s world where people are communicating every second of every day, it is unbelievable. Other leaders raise fears that allowing too much freedom will jeopardize security, that giving a voice to the people, especially certain elements within their countries, will lead to chaos and calamity. But if the events of the last weeks prove anything, it is that governments who consistently deny their people freedom and opportunity are the ones who will, in the end, open the door to instability.
So when we make this case to our friends in the region, we do so in the fundamental belief that their countries will emerge stronger and more prosperous if their societies are more open and responsive. Democracies with vibrant and truly representative institutions resolve differences not in the streets, but in city halls and parliament buildings. That is what leads to real stability and security. That is what leads to prosperity. That is what makes countries even stronger allies.
And we have our own experience to look to. This alliance of the Euro-Atlantic community has stood the test of time. And America has always, even when Europe was not wholly free, stood for the principle that free people govern themselves best. I look out at this audience. I see presidents and prime ministers and foreign ministers from countries that were neither free nor truly secure not so long ago and who today are, and whose examples are inspirations to so many seeking that same kind of future. We believe that that is the best foundation to build on for a more peaceful and prosperous world. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State
Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council
AMBASSADOR WOLFGANG ISCHINGER: I have to apologize to many who wanted to be on the speaker’s list. I have to close the list, because we are really running out of time. So I will call on the following three: Volker Pertis, Philip Stevens, and Joe Rialta, and that has to be it. Volker, you are next.
QUESTION: My question is to President Van Rompuy. I was encouraged by what you said about the EU wanting to support the change in Egypt and Tunisia. And I guess, given the strong American involvement in Egypt, we in Europe have a particular responsibility for Tunisia. Also because we see that Tunisia’s neighbors will not really be helpful. So they can only look north. They can look to Europe.
And I would like to ask you, and probably ask you to elaborate a little bit, whether we can do more than employ our political instruments here. It is certainly important that we give help for the election process, or help the Tunisians to build free parties. But there are also two other instruments which Europe has, and the one is opening our borders for trade, including agricultural products from Tunisia fully, and making it easier for Tunisians to get visa to Europe. And I wonder whether you can convince your colleagues, the leaders, particularly of the southern European states, to open a little bit in this respect, in order to stabilize a new Tunisia. Thank you very much.
AMBASSADOR ISCHINGER: Thank you. Philip?
QUESTION: Thank you. Philip Stevens, from the Financial Times. It’s sometimes seen over the last 10 days that the West has offered support for those in Egypt seeking a more pluralist society, only to the extent that we don’t destabilize other autocratic regimes in the country. There has been a hesitation.
Now, Secretary Clinton has said this morning that this is a view of the world that must apply across the Middle East. But I wonder whether she could say that it’s a policy that is now going to be applied consistently to allies, good allies, as well as potential adversaries, and something that is going to sort of going to outlive the moment, as it were.
Secondly, a lot of people have begun to say — and we’ve heard it from Israel — that the instability in Egypt is perhaps a reason for Israel not to make peace with the Palestinians. It’s too risky. My own view is that the opposite is true, but I would be very interested in the Secretary’s view.
AMBASSADOR ISCHINGER: Okay. And last question from Joe.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, I’d hate to be in your shoes today and the shoes of any other Western leader, as we face the revolutions in the Maghreb. I would spend sleepless nights thinking about the Khomeini and the Hamas analogy. Jimmy Carter, in 1978, kind of more or less told the Shah to go. And, as a result, we had a regime that was as — I think it was Truman who said, “He’s our son of a bitch.” But as a result, we got another son of a bitch who was a lot worse, and was not ours. And in the Hamas case, it was one man, one vote, one time, and what we have is a highly destabilized regime on the southern — between Egypt and Israel.
So, Mrs. Merkel, earlier this morning, said it’s very hard to go in and tell the revolutionaries or the opposition what to do. And my question to you is, what — how do you fine-tune a revolution so we get to the point that everybody has been invoking here, which is a peaceful transition, good governance, institutions, judiciary, et cetera, et cetera. How do we do this?
And then you get them (inaudible).
AMBASSADOR ISCHINGER: Thank you very much. I think we will go in reverse order, President Van Rompuy first, and Secretary. Is that okay?
PRESIDENT VAN ROMPUY: So I have no — I have less specific questions than the Secretary. On Egypt and Tunisia, it is not a coincidence that the minister of foreign affairs of Tunisia will visit Brussels this week at his first visit after the events. The — and this is not a coincidence, because they are looking at Europe, and we have to engage a lot in the new Tunisia.
You can’t compare the situation in Tunisia with that in Egypt. They are totally different situations. As in other, many other countries in the Maghreb and in the Arab world. So, we will look after what we can do more than we did, strengthening the new institutions, because there is a transition period, and seeing what we can do also on the economy and on free travel. We can’t decide it overnight, of course, but we are very happy that Tunisia is looking at what Europe can do, and we are very pleased that we can bring some added value to the situation in Tunisia.
For what the other countries in the region is concerned, of course, as Secretary said — and I told her that’s also — Angela Merkel said it this morning — you can’t have the same patterns of solutions, and we can’t have the same attitude towards all the countries in the region. So what we are saying — literally, yesterday, with the 27 heads of state and our government — is this. European Council saluted the peaceful and dignified expression by the Tunisian and Egyptian people for their legitimate, democratic, economic, and social aspirations, which are in accord with the value the European Union promotes for itself and throughout the world. The Council emphasized that the citizens’ democratic aspirations should be addressed through dialogue and political reforms with full respect to human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to free and fair election. It called on all parties to engage. This is for the region, as a whole.
But I think that we have to speak with each of our partners and each of our allies on political and social reforms. Of course we can’t take decisions in their place. We can give testimony of our will, and we can defend our values. But history is not in our hands. And what happened in Tunisia and in Cairo — the same happened in Tehran a few — a year ago. But this is an event, but this may not happen in the same circumstances in other countries. So we have to talk with all the friends and the partners, that they have to be ready to gradual reform and to gradual transform of country. Otherwise, what seems like stability will, at a certain moment, be unsustainable.
And so, it is a process. It is not a copy-paste that we can have in each country. But we have to speak with each country, as we are doing now, already, on how we can implement political and social reforms (inaudible) country going in the right direction. Speed is not the most important thing. Direction is the most important thing.
AMBASSADOR ISCHINGER: Thank you. Madam Secretary, before you conclude our session, let me inform our participants that we just received a report that there has been an attempt on the life of the vice president of Egypt, with apparently several people killed, which underlines the severity of the situation, as it evolves. We will keep you posted as — the news coming in, I’m sure, over the next several minutes or so.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that news report certainly brings into sharp relief the challenges that we are facing as we navigate through this period.
And I will quickly respond to the Japanese state secretary. We appreciate very much Japan’s commitment to disarmament. As you know, President Obama, in a very historic speech in the Czech Republic in Prague, set forth what should be a goal of zero nuclear weapons. But we understand completely that that is an aspirational goal that has to be worked toward over time.
But we appreciate your kind words for the START Treaty — you were uttering them exactly at the moment that Minister Lavrov walked into the room with his impeccable timing — because it is something that the United States and Russia, together, are working on to set an example. We still have more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. We understand the responsibility that that imposes on us. And we will continue to discuss ways that, through our own negotiations, and through reaching out to other nations around the world, including, as we recently did at the nuclear nonproliferation treaty meeting at the UN, as the Secretary General knows, continue to make progress. And so we appreciate the Japanese interest and commitment.
I think the third and fourth question kind of encapsulated the different points of view. How do we offer support to Egypt for its transition to a pluralistic democracy? How do we make sure that there is not greater instability? How do we persuade, as I heard the question, Israel to move forward on the peace track, despite the concerns it understandably has about what is going on on the border with Egypt? And then, the fourth question, hate to be in my shoes — thank you for the sympathy — we are very well aware of the difficulty of the decisions that we confront. And you recited some history about what happens when these kinds of events that are transformational events occur, and how do we try to do as much as we can to bring about a peaceful transition that actually results in a better life for the people of countries like Egypt and Tunisia.
Well, I would imagine every decision-maker in this conference today is struggling with these questions. As you heard from Herman, What is the contribution that the EU will make? What is the contribution that individual countries will make? I have had excellent meetings already today with Prime Minister Cameron and Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Davutoglu about what each of our countries are doing, and how we can cooperate more effectively to support this peaceful transition.
But there are forces at work in any society, and particularly one that is facing these kinds of challenges, that will try to derail or overtake the process to pursue their own specific agenda, which is why I think it’s important to support the transition process announced by the Egyptian Government, actually headed by now Vice President Omar Suleiman, who was the target of the attack that Wolfgang apparently just learned of, and that it be a transparent, inclusive process to set forth concrete steps that people who are engaged in it and looking at it can believe is moving forward the outcomes that will permit an orderly establishment of the elections that are scheduled for September. And that takes some time.
I mean there are certain things that have to be done in order to prepare. In fact, Chancellor Merkel reminded me in my conversation with her what it was like in 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, and when there was all kinds of changes that had to be addressed. And it takes time to think those through, to decide how one is going to proceed. Who will emerge as leaders? The principles are very clear. The operational details are very challenging.
And at this point, where President Mubarak has announced he will not stand for reelection, nor will his son, where he has given a clear message to his government to lead and support this process of transition, where there is a beginning discussion — negotiation, if you will — about constitutional reform, about setting up and legitimizing these peaceful political parties that do not intend to exercise coercion or use violence to achieve their end, that is what the government has said it is trying to do. That is what we are supporting, and hope to see it move as orderly but as expeditiously as possible, under the circumstances.
I think that this is such a difficult set of decisions for any government to carry out and do so in a way that results in the outcome we are all seeking, but it will become immeasurably harder if there is not restraint by government and security forces — and we thankfully saw that yesterday with the very large but peaceful demonstration — and if there is not a rejection of violence by other sources in the country.
There is a great economic pressure building up inside Egypt. In addition to the news that Wolfgang shared, there is also reports of one of the major pipelines being sabotaged. There are a lot of actions that are out of anyone’s control in any position of responsibility in leadership inside Egypt and outside Egypt. And part of what we have to do is to send a consistent message supporting the orderly transition that has begun, urging that it be not only transparent and sincere, but very concrete, so that the Egyptian people and those of us on the outside can measure the progress that is being made. But ultimately, as Herman said, as all of us have been saying, this is going to be up to the Egyptian people, themselves.
Those of us who are trying to make helpful offers of assistance and suggestions for how to proceed are still, at the end, on the outside looking in. And it is our hope that this proceeds peacefully, that it proceeds with specific goals being achieved, so that people can see that their voices have been heard, and that there be an election with international observers and with sufficient preparation and performance that it will be viewed as free, fair, and credible when it is finally held.
It is also important to support the institutions of the state, something that Foreign Minister Davutoglu and I were discussing. There are respected institutions that are functioning and effective within Egypt that need to be maintained. The army is a respected institution. The business sector, particularly the banking sector. There are many different parts of the society that will be essential for the kind of peaceful, orderly transition that we are all hoping for. So, I hope that we will see positive movement in that direction without violence, non-violent civil disobedience, restraint, and support for that from the military and security forces, and a willingness by the leaders and representatives of constituencies in Egypt to come together and set forth this road map, and then follow it to the transition that we are all supporting.
AMBASSADOR ISCHINGER: Let’s offer a round of applause to our distinguished panel. (Applause.) Thank you very much, both of you. Thanks a million.
And, as Secretary and President leave the podium, may I invite you, Minister Lavrov and Senator McCain, to join me here. We will continue without interruption, so stay in your seats. Thanks.