Remarks With European Commission President Manuel Barroso at Meeting with European Commission Fellows

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Berlaymont Building
Brussels, Belgium
April 22, 2013

The video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.

MS. HANSEN: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to this event, where you, the trainees of the European Commission, will have the opportunity to hear some words from President Barroso and from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. And then you will have an informal chat with them, I hope, for a few minutes.

So I give the floor immediately to President Barroso, who will start with a statement.

PRESIDENT BARROSO: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to welcome Secretary of State John Kerry in his first visit here to the European Commission. We just had a very good meeting. And I think it’s great that at the end of this meeting, we have the opportunity to meet with these trainees of the European Commission. I understand not all come from Europe, but also come from other parts.

Of course, we have offered Secretary of State Kerry our deep-felt condolences from the – for the loss of lives in the terrible Boston attacks. A former senator of Massachusetts, I know Secretary Kerry was particularly touched by this. And our thoughts in Europe, I can tell you, are all with the families of the Boston victims and the American people in that very difficult moment.

We are indeed, European Union and United States, closest allies. Our relation is rock solid. And today we have exchanged our views on many issues, starting with the economic situation; also trade, the very promising Transatlantic Trade and Investment Agreement. We have discussed how we can make this move forward. I’ve informed Secretary of State that I believe we can get the mandate from our member states before summer, so that we can keep the momentum and have this historic game-changer agreement ready as soon as possible. I think it is good for Europe, for United States, but certainly also for the world economy, because Europe and U.S. are also key drivers for global stability.

We have shared our information and analysis on other issues, namely on Syria, the situation that is in fact staying in the world’s conscience. I have informed Secretary of State Kerry that the European Union is preparing a very comprehensive package of support, namely to the humanitarian field because of the refugees that we been seeing increasing to unbearable numbers with unbearable suffering. But of course, I think we can say that we all agree that the solution, apart from this humanitarian support, is a political solution, and also to make it clear that the current situation with the regime of Assad is simply not acceptable. And so we have discussed this issue, some other matters as well.

I really welcome the commitment we have seen United States Administration in terms of climate protection, so to tackle climate change. U.S. leadership in this issue is essential to have a global agreement, to have a global, let’s say, effort to fight this very important existential threat to our planet that is climate change.

So I really believe it was a good meeting, and I’m now ready also to listen to some of your concerns or questions. Once again, Secretary Kerry, thanks for a very good meeting. And I hope that your visit to the European Commission was a good one, and that we keep also in close contact over so many important issues for our transatlantic partnership and friendship.

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m stuck. (Laughter.)

Thank you very much. No, no, no, no, no. Thank you. Oh, wonderful. I feel freer. I hate being locked into these things.

Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. President. We had a wonderful lunch, and I appreciate it very, very much. You guys eat over here. (Laughter.) It’s great. But it’s a treat, and I appreciate it.

I had a wonderful morning. I had a chance to get out on a borrowed bicycle, and I went out into the countryside and had a terrific ride by the farms and the future foie gras that was still walking around. (Laughter.) It was really a pleasure, and it was such a beautiful day, so I feel really energized and very happy to be here with a lot of the young folks who are part of this very prestigious fellowship.

I don’t know if you know it, but a fellow by the name of Michael Froman, who is very involved in the trade negotiations, is currently working in the White House, and he’s a graduate of this program. So I know we’re going to see you all in future roles. Maybe I’ll still be around, maybe not, but I wish you all well as you go forward out of here.

And honestly, I love these give-and-takes with the future, which is you, so I look forward to some tough questions maybe, but let’s have a good discussion. Before I do, I want to thank the President for his welcome. I particularly want to thank the EU for its leadership on so many different issues right now.

We did talk about, obviously, the trade issues. I said during my nomination hearings that so much of foreign policy today is economic policy. And the world is being defined by economic competition in many ways, even as it is also being defined by countercultural, counter-history, counter-modernity movements that don’t offer a lot, but which are extreme and in many cases dangerous. And they present a challenge to all of us. It is apparently evident at the early stages that some components of that may have reached at least one of the individuals involved in what happened in Boston. But you didn’t have to wait for Boston to have this discussion. We’re seeing it in many places. And the challenges of the Sahel, the Maghreb, the Arabian Peninsula, the Mideast, Pakistan, Afghanistan, South Central Asia are gigantic, and we need to address them.

I want to congratulate the European Union and the leadership of the President and of Lady Catherine Ashton for their tremendous effort at diplomacy which helped to bring the Serbia-Kosovo agreement, which is really important – important not just for their ability to move into the EU, which is technically critical, but very important in terms of ending a conflict, in terms of moving people to the future. We’re still locked into and frozen in time with a certain number of conflicts like Nagorno-Karabakh, Cyprus, Mideast peace process, North Korea, that are the residuals of conflicts of the last century.

And so the challenge for all of us is to try to resolve those and move fully to the future, where more countries can put more energy into educating people and building healthcare systems and infrastructure and providing for citizens rather than so much energy which gets diverted into a military solution or conflict or some kind of kinetic effort of one kind or another. I assure you the solutions to the Middle East are not going to be found in drones or SEAL teams or other kinds of efforts, and we understand that. We need to do more, all of us together. And we need to have a very real conversation about what those different things are and how we’re going to do them in order to defuse this conflict between modernity and people who kind of want to stand still, or even in some cases go backwards.

So that’s our challenge. Syria is a very disturbing conflict. We just came – I just came from meetings in Istanbul with the Core Group that support the Syrian opposition. I know our friends in Europe have been very, very helpful with respect to humanitarian assistance. But we’re going to have to find a way to get to a table and have a peaceful resolution as the first primary objective of how we resolve this challenge before it cascades downwards into greater numbers of refugees, greater destruction of the country, and ultimately, the potential threat of chemical weapons falling into the hands of people who we already know are intent on doing harm to countries in Europe and to the United States and other parts of the world.

So, as you know because you’re part of this prestigious fellowship – I think you are called, what, stagiaires, or something? Tous les stagiaires. (Laughter.) We need to talk together today a little bit about what’s on your mind and how we challenge some of these things. So, Mr. President, thank you for a wonderful welcome. It’s a privilege to be here with you. Thank you for your leadership. And I look forward to having with you a good discussion.

PRESIDENT BARROSO: Thank you very much.

MS. HANSEN: Thank you very much. As you can hear, we want to keep this very informal. But we have agreed just to take two quick questions with the microphones, and then I know that the President and the Secretary of State are looking forward to walk around and have a chat with you for some minutes afterwards. But could we have Alex?

SECRETARY KERRY: And we may break the rules. We may do one or two more because we kept you waiting. (Laughter.) So we owe you something. I apologize.

MS. HANSEN: Can we have Alex ask the first question? Go ahead.

PRESIDENT BARROSO: Say your name and where you are from, please.

QUESTION: Hello. Yes. My name is Alex. I’m from the U.S.


QUESTION: I’m from Kentucky.


QUESTION: I’m a stagiaires in DG ECFIN doing communications. And first of all, I want to thank you both for agreeing just to speak with us. I think I speak for everyone when I say that we’re very grateful and very lucky to have this opportunity. And my question is in regards to the free trade agreement. I was wondering what you both specifically, in your capacities, are doing to make sure the agreement goes through.

PRESIDENT BARROSO: First of all, let me welcome the fact that our DG for Economic and Financial Affairs has as a stagiaire an American, because Americans are better than we Europeans to communicate. (Laughter.) I think we are not always bright in terms of communicating what we are doing and the great amount of work that we have been putting to respond to this crisis.

One of the responses to the relatively modest growth that we have in, let’s say, the industrialized world today is more trade. And it’s, I think, the most efficient, the most economic way, because it’s – we don’t need to ask taxpayers’ money for that. So I really believe that this trade and investment partnership agreement between the U.S. and the European Union can be a game-changer. Because these are the two biggest economies in the world, that if you address the issue of tariffs, but also the non-tariff matters, some regulatory difficulties that we have on both sides, I mean, you’ll get much more opportunities for business on both sides of the Atlantic.

By the way, the business community wants this very much. We’ve been working with them, Americans and European entrepreneurs that want to go from one place to the other, and their lives will be much easier if we have, as much as possible, the same rules, and namely, facilitating all kinds of exchange in terms of goods but also services, and of course investment in general. So it looks promising.

Now, let’s be honest, there will be resistance on both sides. We know that. Every time there is change, there is resistance. But I think we can do it. That’s why, following the agreement to have a high-level group on both sides – on the European side it was the European Commission – we have agreed to launch this, let’s say, preparatory phase. President Obama and we ourselves, we’ve made a common statement.

Now, we are working on the European side to have the mandate from the member states. They are discussing it. I think it is possible to have it before summer so that we could keep the momentum and make it good for both sides. And I think the meaning of this for the world will be extremely important because, I repeat, these are the two most important economies in the world, so the impact also for global rules, for open economies in the world, that could be great.

SECRETARY KERRY: I agree completely with President Barroso. I think that the TTIP is an enormous opportunity to help to elevate the rules of the road on a global basis. Because if the United States and Europe – Europe is the largest market in the world today alone, number one, when you take Europe as a whole. We’re the largest economy in the world today. So when you add the two of these together, you have well more than 50 percent of GDP and a huge amount of goods that go all over the world. So if we agree on the standards by which we will create, let’s say, interoperability within the internet and within data transmission; if we agree on the rules of the road about data transmission and privacy and all of these kinds of things; if we can bring our regulations regarding safety and other kinds of things together to meet the interests, obviously, of all of our citizens, because that’s what those things are meant to do, then we will have established a huge number of goods and products being produced according to a set of standards. And others who want to get into that are going to have to raise their game.

Now, that’s what we’re trying to do in all of these negotiations. President Obama has announced also the TPP – the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And just recently, I was in Japan a few days ago, I think it was – (laughter) – and we had a great discussion with Prime Minister Abe, who has taken strong steps to bring Japan into compliance with the requirements for it so that they can be part of the TPP, which then grows even yet another market that is living by these higher standards. We, the United States and Japan together, would be 40 percent in the TPP – 40 percent of GDP.

So suddenly you’re really having an impact on the marketplace and creating job opportunity. That’s the purpose of it. I agree completely. I’m delighted to hear from the President that he believes the mandate could be issued by perhaps June or somewhere in the vicinity of early summer. That will really be enormously helpful and we are prepared and ready to sit down and hammer it out. And Mike Froman, your graduate, will be part at that table. (Laughter.)

MS. HANSEN: Carl Eric for the second question?

QUESTION: Yes. My name is Carl. I’m from Belgium. I’m from DG Trade. However, I’m not going to ask you a question on trade. So as the U.S. and the EU are struggling to re-galvanize their respective economies, the recent tragic events in Boston have reminded us how terrorism still constitutes a threat to liberal democracies. How do you see the EU and U.S. further maximize their cooperative efforts in this area?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I believe we have to create a new paradigm, frankly, to deal with this. As I said during my opening comments, we’re not going to solve this challenge of terror and of extremism and of people finding an alternative if we’re not reaching out to people, talking to them, bringing them to the table and trying to work through major, perceived differences.

And I think it’s really vital for us and we need to talk to our friends, because we’re all struggling with budgets. But that doesn’t mean we can’t find a sufficient level of assistance to bring people to the table and create a new model for how we’re actually providing help, which I believe is a public-private partnership. And we’ve started to initiate this just recently in the last few days at a higher level of engagement in the West Bank for the Palestinians as part of our effort to try to see if we can get back to the table and open up peace talks. And that initiative is fundamentally to bring major corporations to the table who are looking for places to invest where they can make a difference, where it may not be that today the bottom line on a spreadsheet tells them this is the best investment in the world, but where they can also be persuaded that they’re investing in the future and in peace, in changing the lives of people, and in opening up doors of opportunity.

So we have created, together with the Quartet, with former Prime Minister Tony Blair, with Muhtar Kent, the chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Company, and other businesspeople, we’re going to try to bring these businesses directly to the table. Prime Minister Netanyahu has agreed to engage in this. In addition, President Abbas has agreed that this would be helpful and wants to help cooperate. We need to obviously lift some of the blockades that have existed previously to the ability of people to be able to do that. But we’re convinced that those private sector entities can help to more rapidly provide a job base that will change the lives of people more rapidly and hopefully encourage people to buy into the possibilities of this economic transformation. So it’s really economic diplomacy, if you will.

Now, we have to do something else. That’s not enough. We have to speak to moderate Islam and find ways to get moderate Islam to fight and stand up for the real basis of their religion, rather than allowing it to be hijacked by people who completely misinterpret and misapply it, but in doing so, intimidate people and diminish the amount of legitimacy and sort of the voices of moderation that are there. The vast majority are moderate and the vast majority of people understand this. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Prince Ghazi of Jordan, and others – King Abdullah of Jordan and others have engaged in this kind of interfaith initiative. And I believe we need to do more of that so that we really provide a greater basis for our ability to push back against the radicalization and present people with ways in which they can be true to their faith, but at the same time be able to participate in increasing the standards of living and providing greater opportunity for their people.

You just look at the demographics – 60 percent of Egypt under the age of 30, 50 percent under the age of 21, 40 percent under the age of 18 – if they grow up without education, without opportunities, it’s pretty predictable what kind of challenges we can all face. So I think this is urgent, President Obama believes this is urgent, and that we need to come together in an effort to try to change it.

So I think – I hope that answers your question, that we need the combination of the economic diplomacy and significant diplomatic outreach and effort to try to build better understanding between people about what motives and what’s true and what isn’t. And the social media today have enormously complicated this, obviously, because there’s so much out there that just has no basis in fact, but which gains a kind of life of its own. So we’ve got to have fact-checkers and unbelievable sort of communication efforts, which all of you can figure out how we’re going to do, so that we can push back against this adequately.

PRESIDENT BARROSO: I agree, and in fact, the United States and Europe have been working very closely together to fight terrorism, to fight terrorism in a resolute manner, because it’s simply unacceptable – these kind of crimes, violence against innocent people. There can be no justification at all, even when you believe a cause has some justification – to kill innocent people, it’s completely against all our moral standards. And yes, Europe and the United States have been together, and I’m sure will remain together in that battle against terrorism.

Now, as Secretary Kerry said, there are different dimensions there. There is an economic, let’s say, context. We have the same approach. In fact, when the Arab Spring started, we immediately came with a strategy for our neighborhood so that we can support the transition in these societies to, I would say, democracy, rule of law. It’s a challenging process, but I believe we should make a bet on democracy. We cannot expect Europe to make the opposite bet.

Yes, the transition has some challenges, but we need to make that bet on democracy. But at the same time, we believe the best way to deal with terrorism is with full respect of the principles of the rule of law and democracy. So we can be tough in, let’s say, very – let’s say police terms, like now in Boston, and the Massachusetts and the federal authorities reacted to this, let’s say, bomb attacks immediately. But we have to do everything in full respect of the principles of our open societies. This is very important in Europe as we understand the fight against terrorism, and not to use the methods that some non-democratic forces use with this.

I know it’s difficult, but this is a challenge, and we are also a part of that, apart from this, making efforts in terms of defense, also in other fora where we are cooperating. So this is a challenge, but I believe we are going to win that challenge against terrorism.

MS. HANSEN: The President, although he has overrun his program already, has just asked me to open up the floor for two more questions. This is an interesting discussion, so here is your chance. Let’s have the lady here in the front for the next question.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. My name is (inaudible). Sorry about that. My question is: What do you see the future of – can you hear me now?


QUESTION: Sorry. What do you see the future of EU and U.S. cooperation to be with the rise of China and the geopolitical power shift from the West to the East?

PRESIDENT BARROSO: Look, our alliance, if I may say so, and our partnership and friendship between Europe and United States is not against other partners. Our vision, at least European vision of the world, is not a zero-sum game. Some people believe that if two are doing something, it’s necessarily against the others. I completely disagree with that. And Secretary Kerry just told us that he’s also committed to a Pacific, let’s say, trade agreement. We are also making trade agreements with other partners.

Now, there is something special about Europe and the United States. Yes, it’s true. We are open societies. We are democracies. There are a lot of common heritage by history, by culture, by this language that we are speaking today with you that is a European language, in fact. So there are many things that put us extremely closely – closer – Europe and the United States. Now, I think the future is for this to be deepened, because the world is a very risky place.

When I was your age, the world was not so open as it is today with internet, with, let’s say, much more open societies. You have today many more democracies than we had when I was your age – in your age or not – even a little bit younger. Some of – my own country and some of the European countries were not democracies. Europe was divided by an iron wall. So from that point of view, we are much, much better than before. But there are risks also coming from globalization. I think globalization should embrace it. There – it’s a great opportunity for human freedom. I mean, the possibility you have compared to the possibilities people of your age at 20 or 50 years ago are – I mean, are immense. But at the same time, there are things that are unpredictable and very risky. For that, I believe that to have such important powers like our American friends and Europe sharing the same values is a reassuring message to the world, working, also outreaching to others. And this is the way I personally see this very important partnership.

SECRETARY KERRY: I couldn’t agree more with the President. I think he has clearly articulated the relationship we would like to see. China is now already a great power. And China is going to grow in its power and it’s going to grow in its economic capacity. China today is the number-two economy, if you take single countries – not European community, but single countries. And it’s going to be the number one -- we know that; everybody knows that – simply because of the numbers of people. You have 1.3 billion people. You have this enormous capacity to grow. They’re already where they are. It’s going to grow.

The key is, what is our relationship going to be? You’ve asked the critical question. Well, we’re not yet allies, but we’re not – certainly not adversaries or enemies. We are partners in a lot of things, and we would like to be partners in more things. That was my message when I went to Beijing just a few days ago. And I believe the new leadership of China is very interested in playing a different kind of role. They are talking about a new model of our relationship. And they’re talking about really a different China in many ways. The President of China is now talking about a “China dream” for his people.

And so in my – I think there’s much more China and the United States and Europe could cooperate on. We could do more – we are cooperating, importantly, on something like Iran. Despite some of the tug of war on certain issues Russia – between Russia and the United States recently, we’d like to see more happening there too. But Russia, China, and the United States are all in agreement with respect to Iran’s nuclear program. That’s critical cooperation.

One of the things we talked about in Beijing is how we could find more economic cooperation, how we could find more places to cooperate the way we’re cooperating with Iran. And I think there are plenty of examples of that – some of these conflicts. China today is the single biggest investor in Africa. And 10 of the 15 fastest economies – growing economies in the world are in Africa. So this is a world, as the President said, that is just changing dramatically every single day faster than anything. And that’s sometimes intimidating, because it kind of – you sort of wonder, how do you keep it civilized, how do you keep a sense of place for the individual, and how do you keep time to think and time to be with family and not just work, and not just live to work, but work to live? All these things are critical.

I was doing a flashback as the President was talking about how connected things are now and how it’s changed. When I first came to Europe as a kid, younger than all of you, I had to sign up in the morning at a post office to make a phone call back to the United States and get a slot, and maybe 12 hours later I got a slot where I could come back and make a phone call at, I don’t know, some exorbitant price per minute – frightening. And now, you just whip open your iPad and you punch “Facetime,” and bang, I’m talking to the people I want to talk to face to face. But changes are just way beyond dramatic. And what that does is it pushes people and things and information together. Every day, people have so much more information than they can fundamentally even process.

So we have to work very carefully together to forge relationships with countries like China and others who are major players in this, in ways that respect their challenges, but try to adhere to the highest global standards of universal values and principles – human rights, other things. China still has about 500 million people they need to bring into urban society, education. I mean, that’s a huge challenge, even as they’ve done what they’ve done over the last 20, 30 years – a huge social challenge in social structure.

So this kind of global cooperation, what the EU is doing, what the United States is working out with our friends and allies who share common values and aspirations, could not be more important, and we both want to reach out to China and other countries and bring them to the table, not push them away, and create alliances, not adversarial relationships.

MS. HANSEN: One last question. Let’s have the lady here, then we’ve had two of each. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you for the opportunity. I’m Clarice; I’m from Belgium too. I’m from DG ECFIN, and I would have a question to you, Mr. Kerry. Sorry. It is concerning your position in the U.S. By becoming a Secretary of State, you have replaced Hillary Clinton, who was the only woman of the Obama Administration. So I’m wondering how --

SECRETARY KERRY: Are you going to get mad at me for that? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Please don’t take it personal. (Laughter.) Just to trigger the debate. But I think this is an important message you convey to the world. So I would be happy to hear your views on that.


QUESTION: On how the Obama Administration stands without any woman representations.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it does – whoa, whoa, whoa, let me stop you there. (Laughter.) I made it very clear when I came into the State Department that I had big heels to fill, okay? (Laughter.) And I know that. But I’m confident, and I’ve said this to Hillary who is a friend and I admire greatly, I’m going to try and do as much, if not more, to make clear that it doesn’t have to be a woman leading the Department in order to remain committed to the issues of women, girls, rights, equality all across the globe. And we’ve started out in a strong way. We’ve just put – the President has just agreed to nominate the first-ever woman to be the Legal Advisor to the State Department, and not only the first-ever woman in what has been a longtime boys’ club, but the first person to be hired from within the Department, sort of coming up the ranks. The last four nominations the President just made to the Department are all women. A woman will be running our Human Rights and Democracy division. A woman will be running our – several – they haven’t been announced yet, so I have to be careful. (Laughter.) Several other departments. I’m glad I caught myself quickly there. (Laughter.)

So I’m very excited about the positions that we’re going to have filled by women. And in Afghanistan I did an event, which moved me beyond comparison, with 10 women, each of whom had started a business – or businesses, plural – and was doing amazing work at proving their ability to be able to be very successful entrepreneurs and carve out a new role in society. When we began in Afghanistan, there were about a million kids in school, and I’d say they were 98 percent, 95 percent boys. Today there are 7 million children in school, almost half of whom are girls. In addition to that, we just did an event with William Hague in Great Britain, as a G8, in which he highlighted at the G8 meeting the issue of rape as an issue – as a weapon of war, and how critical it was for us to raise this as a war crimes issue and how we were going to reach out against all of the violence issues. We’re also focused on women in terms of human trafficking, and the problem of human slavery today in this world, where women are sold not just as sex slaves, but also sold in a way in terms of almost prepubescent marriage, and other kinds of situations that unfold in various parts of the world.

So we are going to remain very, very focused on this question of equality, and I hope at the end of it people will feel confident that the change that we’ve witnessed in our country over the years – when I came to the United States Senate, there was one woman in the United States Senate. Now, I believe, there are 20 or plus, but I know there are 20. So we’re changing. And we’re committed to change. And I’m convinced, personally, that men can be agents of that change.

MS. HANSEN: Thank you very much. This closes the – let’s say, the one part of the – this session. I’m sure that some of you will take the opportunity when the President and Secretary Kerry are moving out to greet them on their way out and exchange a few remarks. But this concludes our event. Thank you very much.

PRN: 2013/ T04-07