Remarks With Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni Before Their Meeting

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Grand Hotel La Minerve
Rome, Italy
June 26, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, buongiorno. Good morning to everybody. I’m delighted to be here with Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, and we have a lot to talk about today besides Brexit, though I will address Brexit in a moment. But we need to talk about Libya, where we are working extremely closely together; Syria; and our preparations for the NATO Warsaw summit. So there’s a great deal on the table, including our counterterrorism efforts and the meeting that will take place in Washington on the 21st of July, which will be a major gathering of all of the coalition with respect to ISIL.

And the reason I start off by mentioning all of that is really to emphasize that the vote about Brexit and the changes that now are being thought through have to be thought through in the context of the interests and the values that bind us together with the EU. Twenty-two of the nations in the EU are members of NATO, and so there is a continuing criticality to this relationship. And one of the things that I want to emphasize in coming here today to Europe is how important the relationship of Europe – the EU – is to the United States and to the world.

One country has made a decision. Obviously, it is a decision that the United States had hoped would go the other way. But it didn’t. And so we begin with a fundamental respect for voters. In a democracy, when the voters speak, it is the job of leaders to listen and then to make sure that they are moving in a way that is responsible to address the concerns. I am absolutely convinced – and I say this to the marketplace, I say this to citizens who are wondering what is going on – I am absolutely convinced, President Obama is absolutely convinced that we will be able to work through this in a sensible, thoughtful way that takes the best strengths of the EU, the best strengths of the marketplace, the best interests of our national security and international security, and works to keep them moving in the right direction for our countries. I have no doubt about our ability to be able to do that. And so we will continue, the United States, to have a very close and special relationship with Great Britain. We value that relationship. That does not change because of this vote.

On the other hand, obviously there are steps that Europe needs to take to respond to the expression of voters and to the concerns of people in other countries. But there is no doubt in my mind the marketplace of the EU without Great Britain is 450 million people. This is a very powerful economic entity. It is also an entity that shares values and interests with the United States and the rest of the world, and we have always believed in the United States that an EU united and strong is our preference for a partner to be able to work on the important issues that face us today.

So I am looking forward to my meetings tomorrow, when I will meet in both Brussels and London – Brussels with the EU and, of course, in London in order to determine what they’re thinking about the transition and the process ahead. The most important thing is that all of us as leaders work together to provide as much continuity, as much stability, as much certainty as possible in order for the marketplace to understand that there are ways to minimize disruption, there are ways to smartly move ahead in order to protect the values and interests that we share in common.

FOREIGN MINISTER GENTILONI: Well, thank you very much, John, for your message. I think the message of confidence on the future of European Union by John Kerry and United States – it’s very, very important in this moment.

(In Italian.) This is a moment in which we are working to relaunch the European Union while, obviously, acknowledging the decision of the voters in the UK. There is no question, as John Kerry stated, that we are friends and allies of Great Britain, historic friends, with very important economic and personal relations, and very close NATO allies.

We must nonetheless acknowledge the decision of the British people and begin in an orderly fashion the procedures that are called for by Article 50 of the EU Treaties. At the same time, we must understand the need to relaunch the European Union and this relaunch also means change, and change for the Italian government means to have, at last, common policies for growth and common policies for the migration crisis and for security. Italy believes foremost that we will measure our ability to transform this crisis into an opportunity if we are able to relaunch these common policies and to change the direction of the EU’s economic policy, well before addressing the institutional structures of the European Union. Ex malo bonum – out of bad comes good – they used to say.

And this is the challenge we have before us. From this difficult situation we must draw an opportunity to relaunch Europe. We can succeed and the contribution of the United States and the personal contribution of John Kerry, I think, can reinforce our alliance and it can be strategic from this point of view. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Grazie. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.