Speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at a town hall meeting at American University (School of International Service), Washington DC
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am standing here today in front of you in the wake of Brussels, of Lahore, of Istanbul and all those places where in the recent weeks innocent citizens became victims of terror.
It is our duty to jointly tight extremism and keep working on a safer, more prosperous world for all. It is in this spirit and in memory of all victims of terror that I want o discuss with you the state of relations between the US and Europe.
A few weeks ago I read a headline in The Washington Post that made me think: that’s something we really need to talk about.
This is a good opportunity to do that.
The headline was: ‘Europe falls apart’.
The good news is, this isn’t the reality.
But, unfortunately, it is the perception.
There’s a lot of turmoil in the world right now: the war in Syria and the migration crisis it’s generated, our continuing battle against violent extremism and terrorism, and the precarious situation in Ukraine.
These are crises with a global impact, but at present they’re playing out closer to Europe than the US.
These problems aren’t going away any time soon.
And I understand why the US is watching closely to see how Europe responds.
This isn’t the first time that Europe has been described using less-than-positive imagery.
About ten years ago, Donald Rumsfeld¬ – then Secretary of Defence – spoke of a stagnant, irrelevant ‘Old Europe’ – which included the Netherlands – and a dynamic, ambitious ‘New Europe’, by which he meant Southern and Eastern Europe.
This is a picture of Europe few would recognise today.
The fact is: Europe is taking action.
And I’m witnessing that at first hand right now.
The Netherlands currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
So I’ve been closely involved in the migration deal with Turkey – one of the EU’s biggest neighbours and a key NATO ally.
This process might look messy from here, but Europe has always resolved problems like these step by step.
Over the past few decades, Europe has evolved into a deal-making giant.
Step by step, we have built a strong economic union, in which the Netherlands – as a founding member of the EU – has always played an active role.
This has brought Europe unprecedented prosperity.
For years, European countries have consistently topped the world rankings for wealth and well-being, business climate and health care. Europe is now a market of 500 million consumers with purchasing power.
The Union proved its value during the stormy years of financial crisis, which we weathered by making solid agreements about our banks and the euro.
And by making clear agreements with Greece.
But there is still progress to be made in Europe.
We can do that by returning to the EU’s core task: deepening the single market.
And we can bolster our market by linking it to North America and its vast market of nearly 500 million American, Canadian and Mexican consumers.
This is a crucial opportunity for a country like mine: the United States is the biggest investor in the Netherlands.
And my small country – almost twice the size of New Jersey with a population smaller than Florida’s – is the third-biggest investor in the United States.
The EU and Canada recently concluded the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, and the TTIP negotiations with the US are progressing.
President Obama has submitted the Trans Pacific Partnership to Congress.
This is an extra incentive for us to reach agreement quickly.
In addition to its economic benefits, TTIP will bolster our position vis-à-vis China and other emerging markets in Asia, because we will be setting the standards for world trade ourselves.
It will reinforce our collective position in a world where the economic, social and geopolitical landscape is changing at warp speed.
I’m focusing here on economic cooperation for a reason: history teaches us that trade reinforces peace and prosperity.
But of course trade alone isn’t enough.
Our relationship needs the support of a solid foundation.
So that as like-minded partners we can continue forging a common path.
And we have that foundation: Europe and the US are both built on the bedrock principles of democracy, freedom, the rule of law and the free market.
These values have united our continents for centuries and have influenced the course of history.
And though we share these values, they are not exclusive to our societies.
Their practical effects – freedom of speech and thought, independent courts and a level playing field for entrepreneurs – are important to every individual in the world.
From the Netherlands to Nepal and from the United States to Uganda.
So, this foundation should always inspire us to make the right choices for our shared future.
That’s why today’s meeting is so important: you will be the next generation to put these values into practice.
Making the right choices for our future includes fostering intensive transatlantic trade.
But it also means pursuing peace and security within the strong NATO alliance that the Netherlands and the United States helped to establish. It’s understandable that the US wants us to increase our defence budgets.
It’s still paying more than its fair share of the bill.
But leaving that discussion aside, let me just say that NATO is underpinned by our common goal of peace and security.
A goal we must strive for every day.
Making the right choices means stepping up our cooperation on security.
Europe and the US should act in concert when boundaries of principle are violated.
A good example is our joint action on Russia.
By imposing sanctions, we are drawing a line in the sand.
But it is also essential to keep communicating with Russia.
Without dialogue there can be no progress.
So sanctions need to be accompanied by an outstretched hand, so that we can work together to end the violence in Syria and alleviate tensions in Ukraine.
The current ceasefire in both countries should lead to an end to the violence and to progress in the political sphere.
|So that the people of Syria and Ukraine can attain their long-held desire of living in freedom, without violence and oppression.
This is at the core of our common values.
Making the right choices also means reaching concrete agreements at tomorrow’s Nuclear Security Summit, in order to improve nuclear security worldwide and strengthen our ties further.
Such agreements will make an even stronger case for our principles.
Of course, there are real contrasts between Europe and the United States.
Amsterdam is not Washington.
We are not the United States of Europe.
The US and the EU view things differently and don’t always move at the same speed.
This sometimes leads to impatience or frustration.
But our relationship is built on a long-standing foundation of values: freedom, democracy, the rule of law and free market principles.
These values unite Europe and America.
And I consider my country to be an integral part of this deep and lasting partnership.
I know it’s tempting to look at our continents and see two very different ways of life.
But in reality they are complementary and spring from the same root – which makes for a much deeper relationship and produces far better results in the end.