For a stronger EU

US Vice-President Joe Biden at the European Parliament

“The Obama administration is convinced of the need for a strong and vital European Union”, declared Joe Biden, Vice-President of the USA, guest of the European Parliament in Brussels on 6 May. He underlined the “strategic alliance” between the two shores of the Atlantic and the need to tackle “together” (a term he repeated several times) the “present challenges and those that await us”. Biden’s speech was focused on issues of security and the economy, but he also touched on delicate points such as human rights and the defence of the environment.“A key personage”. It was the President of the European Parliament, the Pole Jerzy Buzek, who introduced Biden’s speech, calling him “a key personage of American policy”, traced his curriculum and underlined his close collaboration with Barack Obama. Buzek made the point that the American Vice-President’s visit to the European Parliament was taking place 25 years after US President Ronald Reagan had addressed the chamber on 8 May 1985, “on the occasion of the celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the end of the second world war”. Biden, in his speech to the EP, first dwelt on the values that the EU and the USA share, including peace, liberty, security and development. He then devoted a part of his address, perhaps unexpectedly, to describing the positive aspects of the process of European integration, including the most recent developments: “With the Lisbon Treaty – he said – this Parliament has acquired new powers and can give voice more effectively to 500 million citizens. This Assembly is a bastion of European democracy”. He then spoke of US support for the European project, and added: “We need strong allies”.Support for the aid plan for Greece. Biden then focused on economic issues: “We have sought” and “initiated a common response to the international financial crisis”, he explained, and “in this way a general collapse of the world economy was prevented”. “We, President Obama and I, are closely following the Greek situation and support the rescue programme” decided by the Eurozone. The second-ranking figure in the American administration said that the USA “is participating through the International Monetary Fund” in what is happening and the attempts being made to “meet the needs of Greece”. Applause erupted in the chamber when Biden explained the US position on the Iranian nuclear programme (“which threatens the whole Middle Eastern region”) and when he recalled that “the Obama administration has closed down Guantanamo”. On the other hand, his speech steered clear of some delicate points in relations between Washington and Brussels, including the commitment to the reduction of greenhouse gases (a brief mention of post-Copenhagen does not seem to have convinced the chamber), and the agreements on the transfer of air passenger data and data on banking transactions, the so-called Swift accord.Between history and actuality. Much emphasis, on the other hand, was given by Biden, in the central part of his speech, to his remarks on the first steps in post-war reconstruction and the integration of Western Europe, citing some “fathers” of the European Community such as Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet. “Since then Europe has made enormous strides and, after the start of cooperation in the production of coal and steel”, has widened its range of action “to commercial accords, to the defence of the environment, to the protection of rights, and has assumed a single voice in the world”. “A Europe free, united and at peace has thus been reinforced”. “And we, together – continued Biden -, after having reconstructed Europe in the aftermath of world war two through the Marshall Plan, have worked for security through NATO”; “again together we have take action to bring aid and hope to so many parts of the world, as for example in the Balkans, in Congo, and are still continuing to do so in Haiti”. Copenhagen and 9/11. The US Vice-President then focused on some aspects of international policy. “At Copenhagen – he told the chamber, doubtful and silent on this point – a great step forward was taken” in combating climate change, “but now the time has come to proceed in real terms to the cut of emissions”. An important section of Biden’s speech was also devoted to the Middle East situation: “In Afghanistan we are operating to curb Taleban violence and to help these countries in their progress towards democracy”. As far as Iran is concerned, “we underline our concern, because the nuclear programme now being implemented violates the non-proliferation accords”. Joe Biden also made a reference to 11 September, the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers and the trauma they have represented for America. Lastly, he made a “renewed” commitment to safeguarding citizens’ privacy. The speech ended with the phrase: “God bless you”.

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