EU-US relations are in the spotlight this week with the American leadership in Europe for a series of meetings at the highest level. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the driving force behind a conference in the Netherlands to boost support for the new White House strategy on Afghanistan. It came on the eve of the crucial G20 summit to start fixing the global financial crisis, and before celebrations to mark NATO’s 60th anniversary. Clinton spoke to euronews in the Hague.Nial O’Reilly, euronews: Madam Secretary, welcome to euronews, and welcome back to Europe. With the G20 summit and the Afghanistan conference this is going to be a big week in US-EU relations. You’re here to promote a new strategy in Afghanistan that will require you to ask European leaders for more troops in Afghanistan, will it not? US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: We’re going to ask European leaders, and the European people in every nation to think about a contribution that can be made. For some it might be troops, for some it might be trainers or police. For some it might be agricultural specialists or a financial contribution. There are a range of ways that people can participate to assist in this new strategy which we think has a very solid foundation and can lead to security and stability in Afghanistan which will result in the goal that we’re seeking which is the disruption and dismantling and defeat of al-Qaeda and their terrorist allies. Nial O’Reilly: But it seems inevitable that you will have to ask for European troops and so far those requests have not been received very well in Europe. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: I don’t know that we need very many… or more European troops. Some countries have already said that they intend to send some troops but, as I say there are so many different ways to participate. The training of the Afghan national army is just as important as troops from a European country because the faster we can stand up a well-equipped, well-trained Afghan national army, the sooner our troops can come home and the sooner the Afghans can tend to their own security. Nial O’Reilly: Much of the focus of the Afghanistan conference has been on Iran’s participation. Now Iran has been deemed by the previous administration as such a threat that it warranted the starting of plans for a missile defensive shield in parts of Europe. What is the Obama administration’s view on Iran now? Is it friend or foe? Would you still use the term “axis of evil.” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Well, that was their term, not our term. We think that there are areas where we could co- operate positively with Iran. We also believe that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons poses a grave threat to Europe, to the Middle East, to the Gulf region… not so much directly to us, but to many of our friends and our allies through NATO and other relationships. So we do think that it’s important to engage with Iran, to look for those areas of cooperation, but also to try to dissuade them from interfering with other countries’ internal affairs, from supporting terrorism. They obviously supply and support Hezbollah and Hamas, and some of their acts of violence and terroristic (sic) activities. But it is a mixed picture when one looks at Iran. Nial O’Reilly: At the G20 summit the US will be looking for more expenditure from Europe on fiscal stimulus packages. That doesn’t seem likely to come, the European view is very much ‘that’s the kind of approach that got us into this financial crisis in the first place.’ US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: I think it’s somewhat of a misperception, as to what we are looking for. It’s not a question of either more fiscal stimulus OR regulatory reform… it’s BOTH and. Many countries have already made investments that a stimulative. Investing additional finds in the International Monetary Fund will help to stimulate other countries. The EU, looking for ways to assist some of the eastern European countries… all of that is on the stimulus side. But the regulatory side is equally important. Nial O’Reilly: But you will have agreement, to some degree, on the regulatory side, but getting EU states to spend more than 2 per cent of GDP on stimulus measures isn’t going to happen. Is that going to increase pressure on European/US relations. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Well, remember, the G20 is not just about Europe and the United States. China has engaged in a very big stimulus, so has South Korea. Japan continues to try to contribute, not only directly into infrastructure in their own country through international financial institutions as well, for other countries. So I think if you look at the full range of countries that will be at the G20, it’s not just about Europe and the United States. We happen to believe our assessment of this financial situation is that a stimulus now makes sense, because we need to kickstart the economy. We respect those who disagree with us, but we are very pleased that China for example has engaged in a very significant stimulus, Australia has. Other countries have. We want to get the global economy going again. Once the global economy is going again, we need a regulatory framework in place to make sure this never happens (again). So, we have to do both, and it has to be done simultaneously. Some countries will contribute more on one side than the other, but it must be a collective effort. Nial O’Reilly: If you come away from this trip with nothing from Europe, won’t that seriously undermine US- EU relations? US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Not at all. In fact I don’t think it’s fair to characterise it that way. I think, number one European participation here at the conference on Afghanistan was exemplary. We had not only individual nations represented, but the EU and the European Commission. It was an extraordinary level of participation and contributions for the elections and training, mentoring, governance in all kinds of programmes. We DO have a good agreement about helping countries that need more help through investing more funding into the IMF. Europe has taken a lead on that. We support that. I think it’s somewhat of a misperception to be talking about how it’s “either, or”. We just don’t buy that. Of course then we go on to NATO, where with our NATO allies, France will be reintegrated. We’re going to talk about our relationship with Russia, starting the NATO-Russia council again. I think there’s an enormous amount that’s going on between Europe and the United States. Nial O’Reilly: But isn’t there a risk though, that if you get nothing… if you get little to satisfy the discordant voices in Congress, who are referring perhaps to protectionist measures…. And that’s the big worry here in Europe… US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: …I just disregard the premise of your question. I don’t see that level of disagreement. We are such strong allies. We respect countries that have a different point of view. We obviously think we’re right, or we wouldn’t be pursuing the path we’re on. But what’s important is that we have a critical mass. If you take the United States, China and other countries, that’s a very big commitment. The UK has made a big stimulus commitment. There’s a lot going on. Some countries are not pursuing a stimulus package, but they’re contributing to the IMF, and they are re-vamping regulations, and they are participating in other ways. So I just don’t accept the premise of the question. I think, too, that we all have to fight against protectionism. We’re all prey to it because the economies in our own countries are in crisis. But we’re trying to hold the line as much as possible on that.
Clinton calls for stimulus and regulatory framework