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Fact Sheet - The European Union (EU)

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President's Trip to Europe May-June 2000


Office of the Press Secretary
(Lisbon, Portugal)

For Immediate Release May 31, 2000

Fact Sheet

The European Union (EU)

The U.S. relationship with the EU is vital to American and European prosperity, to the defense of our common values, and to the promotion of global security and stability. The U.S. has maintained close ties with the EU and its forerunners since 1953, when U.S. observers were sent to the European Defense Community and the European Coal and Steel Community. Since then, the U.S. and EU have consulted and cooperated closely on a wide range of global challenges.

Under the leadership of President Clinton and his EU counterparts, the U.S.-EU partnership has broadened and deepened considerably, including with the adoption of the New Transatlantic Agenda (NTA) in 1995. Cooperation in the NTA framework has produced numerous agreements and concrete progress on trade, security, health and technology. The NTA calls for regular meetings, including biannual summits and ministerial meetings, hosted by the U.S. and EU on an alternating basis. The EU is represented at summit meetings by the head of government of the country holding the EU Presidency, currently Portugal, and the European Commission President (Romano Prodi). The EU Presidency rotates among EU members every six months. France will assume the Presidency in July 2000.

The EU is the United States' largest trading partner and the largest investment partner. Total U.S.-EU trade was $507 billion in 1999, up from $468 billion in 1998 and $428 billion in 1997. This two-way trade supports a total of more than six million jobs in the U.S. and EU. By the end of 1998, the EU had more than $481 billion invested in the U.S., and the U.S. had more than $433 billion invested in the EU. European companies are the number one investors in 41 of 50 U.S. states, and number two in the remaining nine. The population of EU member states is more than 375 million, and the EU's combined GDP is $8.35 trillion. By comparison, the U.S. population is 270 million and GDP is $8.89 trillion.

The U.S. and the EU share a commitment to democratic values, the promotion of human rights, rule of law and free markets. The EU's political and economic activities in Central and Eastern Europe, including its plans to open EU membership to a number of new countries in Europe, will help promote a democratic and prosperous post-Cold War Europe and will complement NATO expansion. The EU has now begun accession negotiations with 12 candidate countries, the most recent of which were announced at the December 1999 Helsinki Council. These states are: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Romania and Bulgaria. The EU also made Turkey an official candidate for accession.

U.S.-EU diplomatic cooperation contributes to stability in Europe and to regions well beyond. EU political and financial support has been key to the success of a number of U.S. foreign policy efforts. The U.S. and EU have been cooperating to cope with a number of growing threats in the post-Cold War world, such as the fight against organized crime, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and environmental degradation.

The EU's current three-year foreign aid budget exceeds $36 billion and reinforces important U.S. interests. For example, the EU is the largest donor of grant assistance to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to help promote democracy and free market reforms and its assistance is the equivalent, in real terms, of U.S. aid to Europe under the Marshall Plan. The U.S. and EU have been working together on the crisis in the Western Balkans and to make the Stability Pact a reality for Southeast Europe -- EU contributions to the region over the next seven years are expected to total $12 billion. EU aid to the Middle East remains crucial to the success of the Middle East Peace Process. EU assistance and diplomatic support underpins efforts to bring stability and prosperity to other troubled areas including Bosnia, Albania, and Central Africa. Together, the U.S. and EU provide 90 percent of the humanitarian aid in the world.

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