Remarks by Vice President Biden in a Statement to the Press with Spanish President Zapatero
1:42 P.M. (local)
PRESIDENT ZAPATERO: (As interpreted.) I would like to welcome Vice President Biden most warmly to Spain, him and his delegation, and tell him how pleased we are, my government and myself, for this visit of the Vice President of the United States. But, first of all, I would like to very briefly talk about our king. I wish him a prompt recovery. The operation has come out very well. You know he is a very strong man and we are very assured, as we thought.
Vice President Biden, your presence in our country comes to prove that -- how things are right now in our relations between the United States and Spain. Times are very positive, the times of cooperation in very different areas. Today we’ve spent our meeting talking about essentially the economic evolution of the economy and the markets. We’ve talked about the main areas in which Spain and the United States work together for international security, and also about our bilateral relations in other areas.
I’ve conveyed to Vice President Biden the analysis that the leaders of the euro zone made yesterday about their position regarding the situation in the markets. International coordination has been one of the great lessons of the economic crisis that we’ve been undergoing since 2008. The response to the difficulties and the problems must be one of unity, determination, and strength. And that’s what we did yesterday in Europe. And that is something that we are also going to do together with the major economic powers such as the United States and other regions. That’s what the EU is working on. That’s what the Spanish rotating presidency of the EU is working on. And we trust that it may give positive results.
We are extremely pleased that the U.S. economy is proving to be recovering and showing its vitality, because it’s decisive for the world’s economy -- it’s the first economic power in the world. I’ve told Vice President Biden that economic recovery is underway in Europe and in the euro zone, and that it is key at the present time to overcome the crisis in the markets so as to keep up economic recovery and job creation.
But we still have many tasks ahead of us, for example, the work that the coming G20 must do regarding the regulation of the financial system, the commitment of the major financial institutions in order for the crisis not to be paid by our taxpayers in the future, so that they themselves endow the necessary provisions and funds, and contribute those resources when faced with any possible future financial crises. This is a lesson -- and the United States is working in that direction -- and that’s something we must do concertedly.
You also know that economic relations between the United States and Spain are very strong. The United States is a very important investor in Spain. It has trust in Spain. It has trust in Spain’s future, in its companies. And there are more and more Spanish companies in the United States of America, most especially in renewable energies, and also in the areas of construction and specifically in the high-speed rail network. And we are very happy with this growing commercial relationship.
Security, the major world’s security issues, I have reiterated to Vice President Biden the commitment to Spain with regards to international security, in counterterrorism as well, and in the peace processes to do away with conflicts. I’ve also reiterated our commitment in Afghanistan, and I am grateful to Vice President Biden for his gesture to which we attach the greatest value of visiting Spanish soldiers who are going to be soon in Afghanistan in recognition of their mission.
We’ve talked about the Middle East as well, and about the need and advisability for the -- for the talks -- for the preliminary talks to make progress so as to have a future outlook of in-depth talks about peace. And I’ve underscored my support to the Obama administration in the steps it has taken in the Middle East.
The quartet -- the quartet is absolutely essential in order for these objectives to be achieved in the peace process, as is the cooperation between the European Union and the United States. We’ve also talked about Iran, and about the international community’s required firmness so as to prevent an escalation of nuclear weapons. There we are in full agreement, and we hope that there is one as well at the Security Council. But Iran must know that it has nothing to do behind the backs of the international community; that it has to play by the rules of the international community.
In a nutshell, relations with the United States and with the Obama administration are at present relations of full cooperation, mutual support, and confidence and trust. And, thus, this visit is of great value. I must say that Vice President Biden always honors his word. We already knew that. But he honors his promises, because he’s proven it with his visit. He promised me he would come to a country that I know he admires, and a country that I hope makes him feel very much at home today and any other time he may want to come visit us. And he will always be very welcome, Mr. Vice President.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you very much, Mr. President. I have only one regret on this trip -- is I have to go home, that’s my regret. I think Spain is one of the magnificent countries.
And the President and I have had many conversations about my admiration for Spain and my desire to find some time, some way to come and spend a couple of months here. I guess I have to wait to retire to do that. But I would like very much to do that.
With regard to your king -- King Juan Carlos -- I had the opportunity to meet with him on several occasions way back when he addressed the Joint Session of the United States Congress back in the ‘80s, then again in the ‘90s. And I had the great honor and privilege of meeting with him for an hour and a half or so yesterday. And every time I see him, he reinforces what everyone in my country already knows about him, he is a man of absolute integrity. But he is also a man of significant personal courage.
I did not know he was about to go in for this operation. Thank God, it has turned out as well as it appears to have turned out. But having gone under the knife, as they say, myself on a couple of serious occasions, the ability to sit there just several hours before we were going in to discuss matters of state and be greeted with such warmth and hospitality is -- does not surprise me, actually. But we have great affection for the King, and I personally have great affection for him and wish him well in his recovery.
And, Mr. President, I want to thank you for what I think has always been the case with you and me, a very good and very open meeting we had a little bit earlier today. I’m grateful for the warm reception you and, quite frankly, all of your colleagues have given me -- the Vice President, the Foreign Minister, your Secretary of Defense, your Minister of Defense. It has been -- it has been a real pleasure to be here.
The day after the 2008 election in the States, the President was kind enough to give me a call and call President-elect Obama to offer his congratulations. And he invited me to Spain, and I warned him that I would show up, because of, as I said, my deep affection and great admiration for your country and your people.
I cannot think of a time -- I have been a United States senator on the national scene since I’ve been 29 years of age. And I am proud to say that I cannot think of a time when our relationship has been stronger, when there has been more mutual respect, and more serious cooperation and partnership. The partnership seems to grow stronger every single day, and my country values that immeasurably and looks to Spain for its leadership in other areas of the world and its guidance in other parts of the world from Latin America, to Africa, to its continued cooperation in the Middle East, Afghanistan, around the world.
And so close allies -- close allies do things together and they do hard and important things together. That’s what the United States and Spain are doing right now literally around the world. Our soldiers are side by side in Afghanistan. Our aid workers are joined in Haiti. Our diplomats are collaborating closely from the Balkans to the Middle East. And our government and citizens cooperate in more areas than I can or should enumerate right now, from promoting, as the President said, renewable energy -- and we look to you as a leader in the world in that area -- to food security and fighting global climate change and nuclear proliferation.
The President and I discussed many of these issues a little earlier and our collaboration in these areas. And I thank the President for Spain’s decision to increase troops and trainers in Afghanistan.
As valued NATO allies, we’re working to disrupt, dismantle and to defeat al Qaeda, to fight the insurgents who would destabilize Afghanistan -- and Pakistan for that matter -- and to develop institutions and Afghan security forces so that the Afghanis can take responsibility on their own in the near future.
This mission has required real sacrifice, and the citizens of Spain understand that especially of our men and women in uniform and their families -- and I know it’s not popular to continue this effort. On September 11th, and on March 11th, our citizens, at the hands of violent extremists who plot and plan from that region of the world, wrought real damage in each of our countries. And, as leaders, we both agree we have an obligation to stop them and to protect the people we serve.
The President and I discussed the international effort to prevent Iran as well from acquiring nuclear weapons. The European Union and the United States embarked on an unprecedented path of engagement with the Iranian leaders. The President of the United States meant what he said when he took office to some criticism at home, that anyone who would reach out their hand and unclench their fist we were prepared to deal with.
We made it absolutely clear that we were prepared to deal with -- on an equal and equitable basis -- with the Iranian leadership. But as the whole world now sees, they spurned our efforts and they continue to take actions that violate Iran’s obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, continue to threaten regional stability, continue to deny rights to their own citizens, and continue to support terror. Now, Tehran faces a stark choice -- abide by international norms and rules and rejoin the community of responsible nations, or face further consequences and increasing isolation.
The President and I also spent time discussing the economic crisis that is focused on Greece and the efforts being made to address it. We agreed on the importance of a resolute European action to strengthen the European economy and to build confidence in the markets. And I conveyed the support of the United States of America toward those efforts and was pleased to hear the efforts that were underway on the part of the President.
We also discussed economic developments in Spain and the prospects for your recovery. And I congratulate the President for his leadership during the Spanish European Union’s presidency. The United States simply appreciates the Spanish government’s support within the EU for the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program. You have been a great ally, and you have -- you understand, as we do, the vital importance of that program. But we also -- that program has provided critical leads to counterterrorism investigations on both sides of the Atlantic and disrupted plots, and ultimately saved lives.
And I fully appreciate -- we, the President and I, fully appreciate the concerns some Europeans have raised relative to this program, concerns about privacy. Europeans and Americans alike have valued greatly the privacy of our citizens. Were we to make comprises on our civil liberties, that would be an admission the terrorists have already succeeded.
The President and I have in our careers prior to taking office here have been leaders in our country on protecting the civil liberties of Americans, and nothing, nothing, nothing we are doing -- nor the program is doing -- is intended to in any way jeopardize that.
So we are working with our Spanish friends and all of the European Union now to assuage any concerns about the program. We are absolutely confident -- absolutely confident we will address these concerns and preserve the program that is vital to the security of all our citizens.
So, Mr. President, as President Obama and I have said many times, our greatest challenges are global in nature. No country -- no matter how big, no matter how powerful, no matter how much they think they have knowledge of what should be done -- none, not one country, can solve any of these problems acting alone. We need allies. And we need Spain. And I’m not being solicitous because I’m standing here with you, Mr. President, in these beautiful surroundings.
We need you and we appreciate your leadership, and we view -- are truly grateful for your willingness to be such a great partner with the United States and within the European community. And thank you for your leadership, Mr. President. Thank you all.
2:01 P.M. (local)