THE WHITE HOUSE
the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
UPON BEING PRESENTED
INTERNATIONAL CHARLEMAGNE PRIZE 2000
THE PRESIDENT: Ladies and gentlemen, Chancellor Schroeder, Lord
Mayor Linden, President Rau, President Havel, His Majesty Juan Carlos,
President Halonen, previous laureates, members of the Charlemagne Foundation,
leaders of the clergy and cathedral, and members of the German and American
governments. Let me begin by thanking the Lord Mayor for his welcome and his
wise words, and my good friend, Chancellor Schroeder for his kind comments and
his visionary statement.
The rare distinction you have bestowed upon me
I am well aware is in large measure a tribute to the role the American people
have played in promoting peace, freedom and security in Europe for the last 50
years. I feel the honor is greater still because of the remarkable
contributions made by previous recipients of this prize toward our common dream
of European union.
Of course, as has already been said, that dream has
its roots here in Aachen, an ancient shrine that remains at the center of what
it means to be European -- the seat of an empire, a place of healing waters,
peace treaties, furious fighting. With its liberation at the end of World War
II, Aachen became perhaps the first German city to join the postwar democratic
Today, as I have seen, Aachen is both a sanctuary for sacred
relics, dating back to the dawn of Christianity, and a crucible of Europe's new
information economy. Here, Charlemagne's name summons something glimpsed for
the first time during his life -- a sense that the disparate people of this
Earth's smallest continent could actually live together as participants in a
In its quest for unity, even at the point of a
sword, and in its devotion to the new idea that there was actually something
called Europe, the Carolingian idea surpassed what had come before, and to an
extent, it guides us still.
Twelve centuries ago, out of the long, dark
night of endless tribal wars, there emerged a light that somehow has survived
all the ravages of time, always burning brighter, always illuminating Europe's
way to the future. Today, that shining light of European Union is a matter of
the utmost importance, not just to Europeans, but to everyone on this planet.
For Europe has shown the world humanity at its best and at its worse.
Europe's most violent history was caused by men claiming the mantle of
Charlemagne, men who sought to impose European union for their own ends without
the consent of the people. History teaches, therefore, that European union, not
to mention transatlantic unity, must come from the considered judgment of free
people and must be for worthy purposes that when threatened must be defended.
The creators of this prize and its first winners clearly understood
that. We often say that theirs was the generation that rebuilt Europe after
World War II. But actually, they did far more. They built the foundation of
something entirely new -- a Europe united in common commitment to democracy,
free markets and the rule of law. That achievement endured for half a century,
but only for half a continent.
Then, 11 years ago, the Berlin Wall
fell, the Iron Curtain parted, and at last the prospect of a Europe whole and
free opened before you. All of us will remember 1989 for the Wall crumbling to
the powerful strains of Schiller's "Ode to Joy." It was a moment of great
liberation, like 1789 or 1848 -- a particular triumph for the German people,
whose own unification defied great adversity and set the stage for the larger
unification of Europe.
Too often we forget that 1989 was also a time of
grave uncertainty about the future. There were doubts about NATO's future,
reinforced later by its slowness to confront evil in Bosnia and Croatia. There
were fears that the EU's efforts to come closer together would either fail or,
succeeding, would fatally divide Europe and the United States. The countries of
Central and Eastern Europe feared becoming a gray zone of poverty and
insecurity. Many wondered if Russia was headed for a communist backlash or a
In January of 1994, I came to Europe for the first
time as President, both to celebrate Europe's new birth of freedom and to build
upon it. Then, I spoke of a new conception of European security, based not on
divided defense blocs, but instead on political, military and cultural
integration. This new security idea required, as has already been said, the
transatlantic alliance to do for Europe's East what we did for Europe's West
after World War II.
Together, we set about doing that. We lowered trade
barriers, supported young democracies, adapted NATO to new challenges and
expanded our alliance across Europe's old divide. We made clear, and I repeat
today, that NATO's door remains open to new members. The EU took in three new
members that opened negotiations with a dozen others, created a single market
with one currency.
We've stood by Russia, struggling to build their own
democracy and opened the way to a partnership between Russia and NATO and
between Ukraine and NATO. We defended the values at the heart of our vision of
an undivided Europe, acting to stop the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and forging
what I believe will be an enduring peace there.
We acted in Kosovo in
one of our alliance's finest moments. A year go in Germany, we launched a
Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe. We stand still with crusaders for
tolerance and freedom from Croatia to Slovakia to Serbia, and we do encourage
reconciliation between Turkey and Greece.
Over the last 11 years, of
course, there have been some setbacks. But unquestionably, Europe today is more
united, more democratic, more peaceful than ever, and both Europeans and
Americans should be proud of that.
Think how much has changed. Borders
built to stop tanks now manage invasions of tourists and trucks. Europe's
fastest-growing economies are now on the other side of the old Iron Curtain. At
NATO Headquarters the flags of 19 allies and 27 partners fly. In Central Europe
and Eastern Europe, the realistic dream of membership in the EU and NATO has
sparked the resolution of almost every old ethnic and border dispute. And,
finally -- finally -- our friend, Vaclav Havel, has spent more years being
President than he spent in prison. (Applause.)
In Southeastern Europe,
the Bosnians are still fighting, but now at the ballot box. Croatia is a
democracy. Soldiers from almost every European country, including bitter former
adversaries, are keeping the peace together in Kosovo.
Last year, as
German troops marched through the Balkan countryside, they were hailed as
liberators. What a way to end the 20th century. (Applause.)
meantime, Russia has stayed on the path of democracy, though its people have
suffered bitter economic hardships, political and criminal violence, and the
tragedy of the war in Chechnya, which yet may prove to be self-defeating
because of the civilian casualties. Still, it has withdrawn its troops from the
Baltic states, accepted the independence of its neighbors, and completed the
first democratic transition in its thousand-year history.
unity really is producing something new under the sun -- common institutions
that are bigger than the nation-state, and at the same time, a devolution of
democratic authority downward. Scotland and Wales have their own parliaments.
This week, Northern Ireland, where my family has its roots, restored its new
government. Europe is alive with the sound of ancient place names being spoken
again -- Catalonia, Piedmont, Lombardy, Silesia, Transylvania, Uthenia -- not
in the name of separatism, but in the spirit of healthy pride and heritage.
National sovereignty is being enriched by lively local voices making
Europe safer for diversity, reaffirming our common humanity, reducing the
chance that European disunity will embroil Europe and America in another large
One thing, thankfully, has not changed. Europe's security
remains tied to America's security. When it is threatened, as it was in Bosnia
and Kosovo, we, too, will respond. When it is being built, we, too, will always
Europe's peace sets a powerful example to other parts of the
world that remain divided along ethnic, religious and national lines. Even
today Europe has internal disputes over fundamental questions of sovereignty,
political power, and economic policy -- disputes no less consequential than
those over which people still fight and die in other parts of the world.
However, instead of fighting and dying over them now, Europeans argue about
them in Brussels, in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect.
whole world should take notice of this. If Western Europe could come together
after the carnage of World War II, if Central Europe could do it following 50
years of communism, it can be done everywhere on this Earth. (Applause.)
Of course, for all of the positive developments and our good feelings
today, the job of building a united Europe is certainly not finished, and it is
important not to take all this self-congratulation too far. Instead, we should
focus today on two big pieces of unfinished business and one enduring
challenge. The first piece of unfinished business is to make Southeast Europe
fully, finally and forever a part of the rest of Europe. That is the only way
to make peace last in that bitterly divided region.
It cannot be done
by forcing people to live together; there is no bringing back the old
Yugoslavia. It cannot be done by giving every community its own country, army,
and flag; shifting so many borders in the Balkans will only shake the peace
Our goal must be to de-Balkanize the Balkans. (Applause.) We
must help them to create a magnet that will bring people together, a magnet
more powerful than the polarizing pull of their old hatreds. That's what the
Stability Pact that Germany helped to establish is designed to do, challenging
the nations of Southeast Europe to reform their economies and strengthen their
democracies, and pledging more than $6 billion from the rest of us to support
their efforts. Now we must turn quickly those pledges into positive changes in
the lives of ordinary people, and steadily bring those nations into Western
We must also remain unrelenting in our support for a
democratic transition in Serbia. For if there is to be a future for democracy
and tolerance in this region, there must be no future for Mr. Milosevic and his
policy of ethnic hatred and ethnic cleansing. (Applause.)
Southeastern Europe is to be fully integrated into the continent, Turkey also
must be included. I applaud the EU's decision to treat Turkey as a real
candidate for membership. I hope both Turkey and the EU will take the next
steps. It will be good for Turkey, good for Southeast Europe; good for more
rapid reconciliation between Greece and Turkey and the resolution of Cyprus,
and good for the entire world, which is still too divided over religious
Our second piece of unfinished business
concerns Russia. We must work to build a partnership with Russia that
encourages stability, democracy and cooperative engagement with the West -- and
full integration with global institutions.
Only time will tell what
Russia's ultimate role in Europe will be. We do not yet know if Russia's
hard-won democratic freedoms will endure. We don't know yet whether it will
define its greatness in yesterday's terms, or tomorrow's. The Russian people
will make those decisions.
Though Russia's transformation is
incomplete, there clearly is reason for hope in Russia's remarkable journey
over these last few years -- from dictatorship to democracy; from communism to
the market; from empire to nation state; from adversary to partner in reducing
the threat of mass destruction. Because the stakes are so high, we must do
everything we can to encourage a Russia that is fully democratic and united in
its diversity; a Russia that defines its greatness not by dominance of its
neighbors, but by the dominant achievements of its people and its partnership;
a Russia that should be, indeed, must be, fully part of Europe.
means no doors can be sealed shut to Russia -- not NATO's, not the EU's. The
alternative would be a future of harmful competition between Russia and the
rest, and the end of our vision of an undivided continent.
Churchill said when he received the Charlemagne Prize in the far darker days of
1956, "in a true unity of Europe, Russia must have her part." Of course, Russia
may very well decide it has no interest in formally joining European or
transatlantic institutions. If that happens, we must make sure that, as the EU
and NATO expand, their eastern borders become gateways to Russia, not barriers
to trade, travel and security cooperation. We must build real institutional
links with Russia, as NATO has begun to do. Of course, it won't be easy, and
there is still mistrust to be overcome on both sides, but it is possible and
absolutely necessary. (Applause.)
The steps necessary to bring
Southeast Europe and Russia into the embrace of European unity illustrate the
continued importance of the transatlantic alliance to both Europe and America.
The enduring challenge we face, therefore, is to preserve and strengthen our
alliance as Europe continues its coming together.
We have agreed on the
principles; we have laid the foundations. But the future we're building will
look very different from anything we have ever known. In a generation, I expect
the EU will have as many as 30 members, from the Baltics to the Balkans to
Turkey; a community of unprecedented cultural, political and economic diversity
and vitality. It will be a bigger Europe than Charlemagne ever dared dream, a
reflection of our recognition that ultimately, Europe is a unifying idea as
much as a particular place. An expansive continent of different peoples who
embrace a common destiny, play by the same rules, and affirm the same truths --
that ethnic and religious hatred are unacceptable; that human rights are
inalienable and universal; that our differences are a source of strength, not
weakness; that conflicts must be resolved by arguments, not by arms.
believe America must continue to support Europe's most ambitious unification
efforts. And I believe Europe should want to strengthen our alliance even as
you grow stronger. The alliance has been the bedrock of our security for half a
century. It can be the foundation on which our common future is built.
Oh, it's easy to point to our differences; many do. On my bad days, I
do. But let's keep a healthy perspective. Consider these news headlines about
U.S.-European dispute: "Allies Complain Of Washington's Heavy Hand," "France To
NATO: Non, Merci," "U.S. Declares Economic Warfare On Allies," "Protestors
Rally Against American Arms Plan." The first of those headlines is from the
Suez crisis in 1956. The second is from 1966, when France left NATO's military
command. The third is from 1981, the Siberian Pipeline crisis. The fourth, from
1986 during the debate about deploying intermediate nuclear missiles in Europe.
Yes, we've always had our differences and being human and imperfect, we
always will. But the simple fact is, since Europe is an idea as much as a
place, America also is a part of Europe, bound by ties of family, history and
More than ever, we are also actually connected.
Underwater cables allow us to send staggering amounts of e-mail and e-commerce
to each other instantaneously. One billion dollars in trade and investment goes
back and forth every day, employing more than 14 million people on both sides
of the Atlantic.
And there is the enduring connection -- the 104,000
Americans who lie in military cemeteries across Europe. Today's Europe would
not be possible without them. And whatever work I have done to merit your prize
was built on their sacrifice. (Applause.)
So, my friends, we must
nourish the ties that bind us as we work to resolve honest disagreements, and
to overcome potentially harmful misperceptions, on both sides of the Atlantic.
Let me mention just two.
There is a perception right now in America
that Europe doesn't always carry its fair share of our mutual responsibilities.
Yet Europeans are providing more than 80 percent of both the troops keeping the
peace in Kosovo and the funds for economic reconstruction there. And few
Americans know that in our own backyard, Europeans paid for more than 60
percent of all aid to Central America when it was ravaged by Hurricane Mitch,
and one-third of all support for peace in Guatemala.
At the same time,
there is a perception in Europe that America's power -- military, economic,
cultural -- is at times too overbearing. Perhaps our role in NATO's air
campaign in Kosovo accentuated such fears. But in Kosovo, our power was
exercised in alliance with Europe, in pursuit of our shared interest in
European peace and stability, in defense of shared values central to the goal
of European integration.
If, after Kosovo, European countries
strengthen their own ability to act with greater authority and responsibility
in times of crisis, while maintaining our transatlantic link, I think that is a
very good thing. There is no contradiction between a strong Europe and a strong
transatlantic partnership. (Applause.)
I would also like to mention
that our partnership, as the Lord Mayor pointed out, and as Chancellor
Schroeder said, remains profoundly important, not only to ourselves, but to the
rest of the world as well. Together, we account for more than half the world's
economy and 90 percent of its humanitarian aid. If we're going to win the fight
against terrorism, organized crime, the spread of weapons of mass destruction;
if we want to promote ethnic, religious, and racial tolerance; if we want to
combat global warming and environmental degradation, fight infectious disease,
ease poverty, and close the digital divide -- clearly, we must do these things
Europe and America should draw strength from our
transatlantic alliance. Europe should not be threatened by it, and America must
not listen to those who say we should go it alone. America must remain Europe's
good partner and good ally.
Lord Palmerston's rule that countries have
no permanent alliances, only permanent interests, simply does not apply to our
relationship. For America has a permanent interest in a permanent alliance with
Europe. (Applause.) Our shared future is deeply rooted in our shared history.
The American Revolution, after all, stemmed in part from the Seven Years War --
which in turn stemmed from a treaty signed here in Aachen in 1748.
a few days ago, I stood at the mouth of the Tagus River in Lisbon. From that
spot over five centuries ago, brave Europeans began to explore the far reaches
of our planet. They traveled unimaginable distances and conquered indescribable
adversity on their way to find Asia, Africa and the Americas. In their wake,
the sons and daughters of this continent came across the Atlantic to populate
places they called New Spain, New England, New France, New Netherlands, Nova
Scotia, New Sweden -- in short, a new Europe. Without the longing for a new
Europe, there never would have been an America in the first place.
as the longing for a new Europe takes root on the soil of the old continent, we
should never let a sense of history's inevitability cloud our wonder at how
astonishingly Europeans changed the rest of the world through enterprise,
imagination and their ability to grow -- qualities that always will define
Europe's identity far more accurately than any mapmaker ever will.
the years ahead, as pilgrims of peace come here to Aachen, I hope they will
reflect on the similarity of the two monuments enshrined here. First, the
magnificent cathedral holding Charlemagne's mortal remains -- begun in his
lifetime, added to throughout the Middle Ages, repaired in the 20th century,
when our failure to keep the peace required it. And second, the peace and unity
that three generations have been building for five decades now in Europe -- a
work far from complete, perhaps never to be completed, but completely worthy of
our best labors and dreams.
Let us keep building this cathedral -- the
cathedral of European unity -- on the foundation of our alliance for freedom.
Because I have tried to lay a stone or two in my time, I am honored and humbled
to accept this prize.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)