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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2003 > April

Remarks At Reception Hosted by the Ambassador of Greece to Celebrate the Signing of the European Union Accession Treaty by Ten New Member States

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Ritz Carlton
Washington, DC
April 16, 2003

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador, for your remarks and for your warm welcome. It's a great pleasure to be here with you this evening and see so many old friends, his Excellency and Members of Congress, especially Mr. Sarbanes and Committee supervisors that I ---- (Laughter.)

It's a great pleasure to be with you all this evening and to share in this historic day. Even though we are some distance from the Acropolis nevertheless, the spirit of the Acropolis is with us this evening.

The United States may not be a participating state of the European Union, but as a member of our larger transatlantic family we are honored and pleased to join in this celebration of the historic signings in Athens today of the Accession Treaty.

I applaud the Greek Presidency on its energetic leadership of the European Union during this important time of expansion. It is fitting, indeed, that Athens, the birthplace of democracy, is host to this path-breaking event, a path-breaking event for Europe and for the rest of the world, as well.

When the decision was taken in Copenhagen to admit the new members, President Bush called it a bold and historic step and indeed it is.

The embrace of ten new members attests to the European Union's institutional strength and to its confidence in itself. It also testifies to the essential role the Union plays as a force for democracy, prosperity and a force for stability throughout Europe and well beyond Europe.

Thanks to the vision, dedication and hard work that built and nurtured two magnificent institutions, NATO and the European Union, today's generation of Europeans are not divided from one another by force and fear.

Today, no slabs of concrete or secret police obstruct the realization of their highest hopes. Today, free peoples from across Europe willingly commit themselves to shaping a shared future.

At the same time, meeting the challenges of the 21st century rests to a large degree on a broad, strong and lasting partnership between Europe and the United States. We must work together, whether the issue is combating terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, fostering global growth and good governance, or stemming infectious diseases.

Already, from Macedonia to Afghanistan to the Middle East, we are working together to bring lasting peace to troubled regions. And I hold no doubt, I have no doubt whatsoever that Americans and Europeans will work together to help the liberated people of Iraq build a better future for themselves and the region.

Even as Europe unites, and works with us for peace and reconciliation across the globe, all of us are aware that one of the European Union's new members remains divided. The United States remains firmly committed to working with you and others to find a just and durable settlement for Cyprus and on Cyprus.

And the United States will continue to be a strong proponent of the European Union's further expansion. Expansion is good for the individual countries involved, good for Europe as a whole, and good for our transatlantic relationship.

We welcome, therefore, the European Union's goal of membership for Romania and Bulgaria in 2007.

We also welcome your decision to begin accession negotiations with Turkey, if in December 2004 the European Council decides that Turkey has fulfilled the Copenhagen criteria. As we have said, "This is a visionary decision, a visionary decision by European leaders to build a truly inclusive European Union." And we urge our Turkish friends to meet the Copenhagen criteria.

Just as we continue to enjoy strong bilateral relations with the current 15 members, after accession we look forward to deepening our already dynamic relations with the ten new members.

And to all European Union members, old, new and aspiring, let me say that the United States sees it as crucial that Americans and Europeans maintain an open, vigorous dialogue. And I think we have demonstrated in recent months -- (laughter) -- that we can do that. We see debates between the United States and European countries, and among European nations themselves, as a healthy sign that our democracies and our relationships are robust and resilient. We remember what Europe used to look like when it had no debates within certain blocks of member countries with certain blocks. We are never going back to that. And democracies mean that you speak up freely, just as the ancient Athenians did and Athens is so fitting, therefore, as a site for today's accession and signature, signatures being offered.

And so it is my great pleasure to be here this evening to represent the President of the United States, but more importantly as a representative of the people of the United States. And in that capacity we warmly congratulate each of the ten new members, the current 15 members, the European Presidency, the European Commission and the European Parliament on this momentous occasion.

The United States remains your strong advocate and steadfast partner in democracy, prosperity and peace. Thank you very much.

(Applause.)


Released on April 17, 2003

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