President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Tony Blair -- May 29, 1997
BLAIR: ... hours we have had together. And we intend to continue those discussions later today.
We've discussed Bosnia and our continuing efforts to work together in addressing one of the most pressing crises on the international agenda.
We've discussed, obviously, Northern Ireland and our determination to do all that we can to bring about the cease-fire that will allow all-party talks to proceed in the best possible climate, and if the cease-fire is genuine and credible, with all the parties there.
We agreed that NATO is and will remain the cornerstone of Europe's defense. And I was grateful, too, for the president's expression of continuing support on Hong Kong.
We agreed, too, that Britain does not need to choose between being strong in Europe or being close to the United States of America, but that by being strong in Europe, we will further strengthen our relations with the U.S.
President Clinton will have more to say on these and other issues in a moment. But we agreed, too, and have for some time, that this is a new era which calls for a new generation politics and a new generation leadership.
This is the generation that prefers reason to doctrine, that is strong in ideals but indifferent to ideology.
Whose instinct is to judge government not on grand designs, but by practical results. This is the generation trying to take politics to a new plateau, seeking to rise above some of the old divisions of right and left.
It is what, on my last visit to the United States to meet the president, I described as "the radical center of politics." The soil is the same. The values of progress, justice, of a one-nation country in which ambition for oneself and compassion for others can live easily together.
But the horizons in you, the focus and the agenda are also new. We discussed how this is the generation that claims education, skills and technology as the instruments of economic prosperity and personal fulfillment, not old battles between state and market.
This is the generation that believes in international engagement, in our nations being stronger by being open to the world than isolationism.
This is the generation that knows that it will fall to us to modernize the New Deal and the welfare state, to replace dependency by independence.
This is the generation, too, searching for a new set of rules to define citizenship for the 21st century. Intolerant of crime, but deeply respectful and tolerant towards those of different races, colors and class and creed, prepared to stand up against discrimination in all its guises.
This is the generation, too, that celebrates the successful entrepreneur, but knows that we cannot prosper as a country unless we prosper together, with no underclass of the excluded shut out from society's future.
It's a generation that puts merit before privilege, which cares more about the environment than about some outdated notion of class war. New times, new challenges, the new political generation must meet them.
So yes, we discussed the pressing issues of diplomacy and statesmanship and peace in troubled parts of our world. But perhaps just as important what our discussion of this new agenda for the new world in which we find ourselves.
We agree that our priority, as political leaders, must indeed be education, education, education, flexible labor markets, welfare reform, partnership with business.
In Europe, in particular, we need to reduce long-term and youth unemployment, both of which are unacceptably high. The U.S. has been more successful in creating jobs. But it, too, faces new challenges in seeking to assure opportunity for all its citizens.
The United States has the presidency of the G-8 in 1997.
In 1998, Britain has the presidency both of the European Union and the G-8. We've agreed today to a common agenda and a shared determination to identify what action needs to be taken to tackle the problems we all face to identify what reforms have worked where, what reforms have failed. And how we can learn the lessons both of success and of failure.
As part of this process, Britain will host a G-8 conference of finance and social affairs ministers in the early months of our G-8 presidency next year. And the chancellor of the exchequer will be announcing further details today.
We have a shared language. We have a shared outlook on many of the issues that face us. We are determined, too, to share our ideas, our expertise and our commitment to a new era of cooperation and of understanding.
CLINTON: Thank you very much, Prime Minister.
First let me say, it's an honor and a pleasure to be here today. I've looked forward to this for a long time.
I have read countless articles about how Prime Minister Blair and I have everything in common. And I'm still looking for my 179 seat majority. I have been all ears in trying to get the advice about how such a thing might be achieved.
On a more serious note, let me say that one of the most important and meaningful responsibilities of any American president is to carry forward the unique partnership between the United States and the United Kingdom. Over the last 50 years, our unbreakable alliance has helped to bring our people unparalleled peace and prosperity and security. It's an alliance based on shared values and common aspirations.
In the last four years, I was privileged to lead the United States in pursuing that partnership. I had a good and productive relationship with Prime Minister Major. And I am very much looking forward to working with Tony Blair.
I have asked him -- in pursuance of this -- to come to Washington as early as is convenient for both of us. And I expect that there will be an official visit pretty soon. And I know that the people of the United States are looking forward tohaving him there. I have been impressed by the determination of the prime minister and his cabinet to prepare this nation for the next century, to focus on economic growth, to make education the number one priority because without it you can't guarantee every person in any country the chance to compete and succeed in the world towards which we're moving.
I have been impressed by his understanding that in order for the United Kingdom to fulfill its historic leadership role in Europe and the rest of the world, the needs and concerns of the people here at home have to be adequately addressed.
As you know, this corresponds with my own views. Our first task must always be to expand opportunity for our own citizens, to expect them to behave in a responsible manner and to recognize that we have to maintain a community in which people's differences are respected but in which their shared values are more important.
We talked about how we could work together to shape a peace for the coming generation. We reviewed our efforts to complete the work that began 50 years ago with the Marshall Plan, building an undivided, peaceful Europe for the first time in history through NATO's enlargement, through its new partnership with Russia, its new agreement with Ukraine, a strengthened Partnership for Peace, an expanding European Union that reaches out to Europe's newly free nations.
We agreed on the importance, as he has already said, of helping the parties in Bosnia fulfill their commitments under the Dayton Accord, and continuing our support for all elements of it.
We discussed Northern Ireland. As all of you know, when I visited Northern Ireland 18 months ago, I was profoundly moved by the powerful desire of people in both communities for peace. I applaud the prime minister's initial efforts in this regard. There is a sense of hope and reassurance that has been conveyed here, and I know that he is committed in partnership with the Irish government to bring about a lasting resolution to the conflict.
The goal of this peace process is inclusive talks, because they are the ones most likely to succeed, but I have said before and I'd like to say again, that can only succeed if there is an unequivocal cease-fire in deed and in word.
Again, I urge the IRA to lay down their guns for good, and for all parties to turn their efforts to building the peace together.
The concerns we share extend far beyond our borders. Today's global challenges require global responses. Indeed, one of the reasons that we are working so hard to organize NATO in the proper way, to unify Europe in the proper way, is so that our nations will all be prepared to meet the challenges to our security in the new century which cross national lines, terrorism, international crime, weapons proliferation, and obviously, global environmental degradation.
More and more, we are focusing our attention on these challenges. Again, we are going to deepen our cooperation between our two nations and in the forums in which we are members. I am very pleased with the potential as the prime minister has made, to pursue an economic agenda within the Group of 8, and I intend to support that.
Let me say finally that we discussed Hong Kong, and I commended the United Kingdom to work to implement the word and the spirit of the 1984 agreement. All of us who care about the future of Hong Kong have a stake in making sure the agreement is fully met. We will keep faith with the people of Hong Kong by monitoring the transition to make sure that civil liberties are retained, that democratic values and free market principles are maintained. Those are the things for which the United Kingdom and the United States stand, and those are the things that the agreement guarantees.
This is a hopeful time for the people of the United Kingdom and for the people of the United States. It is a hopeful time for the world. More people live free and have the chance to live out their dreams than ever before in human history.
But we face daunting new challenges, and we have to face them together. I say repeatedly to the American people, we may be at the point of our greatest relative influence in the world after the Cold War, but we can exercise that influence only if weacknowledge our inter-dependence on like-minded people with similar dreams.
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