For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 6, 2008
Interview of the President by Natasa Briski, POP TV, Slovenia
10:15 A.M. EDT
Q First of all, I would like to thank you very much for this opportunity and for your time, Mr. President. Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: You're welcome.
Q Your first, seven years ago, and what just might be your very last trip to Europe as President, includes both times a stop in Slovenia. Excellent choice, I might add. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I don't blame you for saying it. First of all, my first trip was consequential because that's where I first met Vladimir Putin. This trip is consequential because, of course, we're going to have an EU-U.S. summit. And my impressions of Slovenia -- I've told this to a lot of people -- first of all, it's a beautiful country; probably somewhat undiscovered in America, but my fellow citizens ought to go and explore Slovenia because it's not only -- it's got -- you can ski, you can play golf --
Q There's a lot of opportunities for mountain biking.
THE PRESIDENT: You can fish, mountain biking -- so it's beautiful. And plus, the people are incredibly friendly.
Q You are coming for the U.S.-EU summit.
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q No dramatic announcements expected. But it will be the last summit for you.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q What outcome would you like to see?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, look, the important thing about these summits is that it reaffirms our mutual values of human rights, of human liberty, of our desire to work together on some key issues. And the United States and Europe has had its differences on certain issues, and
-- but we've always had the same common values. And it's important for me to signal to the Europeans, as well as my fellow citizens, that this relationship is an important relationship. And I'm confident the next President will see it as an important relationship, as well. But we'll discuss a lot of important issues there, too.
Q You're also coming to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Marshall Plan and Berlin Airlift, the historic role the U.S. had after World War II in supporting Europe. And, you know, Europe has changed a lot recently: Western Balkans, two new states; Kosovo high on a priority list for Slovenia's presidency. I would like to hear, what do you think are the most memorable events, Europe-wise, that your administration helped to achieve in the past seven years.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, one, of course, is the expansion of NATO. And it's -- I'll never forget going to Romania right after nations -- some nations were admitted into NATO, and talking about Article V: An attack on one is an attack on all. A lot of countries had come from a different style of government, a different type of security arrangements, to one in which free nations were bound together. And so the expansion of NATO, and the offering of -- sending a positive signal to Georgia and Ukraine recently has been an incredibly positive accomplishment.
I think working together in Afghanistan is going to be an historic achievement; helping a young democracy recover from a society in which women, for example, were treated as unbelievably second-class citizens. I mean, it was just a barbaric regime.
Hopefully, in terms of trade, that we'll fight off protectionism and keep trade open. I know there's some trade disputes going on, but that shouldn't prevent us from being active in terms of perpetuating free and fair trade. And so one of the things, of course, we'll be discussing is the Doha Round of the WTO.
Q That's true. And it's probably -- Iran might be also high on the agenda at the summit?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Iran -- kind of the common threats will be on the agenda. For me -- as you know, I'm a big believer in freedom. Interesting that Europe is now whole, free and at peace, and there's a reason why. And we got to, in my judgment, extend that same concept to the Middle East from which a lot of violence comes. And obviously one of the problems that we face is preventing Iran from developing the know-how as to how to make a nuclear weapon.
And so we'll be discussing that, kind of joint efforts, multilateral efforts. But, you know, I also want to emphasize that -- but the United States -- I personally feel very strongly about helping people realize the blessings of life by freeing them from HIV/AIDS, or malaria, or hunger. And I'm very proud of our nation's accomplishments in terms of those agenda items. And I'm looking forward to working with our European colleagues to see if we can't make it even more robust.
Q Next question would be on visa waiver. It's an issue --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. (Laughter.)
Q I know. It's an issue in Europe.
THE PRESIDENT: It is an issue. It is an issue.
Q And you know that currently United States enforces two different systems for travelers from European countries, plus you've just announced new, stricter rules for countries that are part of the visa waiver program. I wanted to hear your opinion on that, and maybe your answer to those in Europe who say that America is not as welcoming a place that it used to be.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. No, look, I'm concerned about that impression because we are a welcoming place. We want our friends to come. We want investment to be open. You know, first of all, I can understand why many of our friends in Europe who aren't treated like other nations within the EU are treated on visas are concerned. They say, wait a minute, we're very supportive of the United States, we like the United States, and yet we're treated differently when it comes to visas. And this is a hangover from the old visa system, which I have been assiduously working to change. And we are making good progress. As a matter of fact, I think there's going to be quite a few nations that were -- will get visa waiver.
As to whether or not we've made it harder for visa waiver countries to come to the United States, actually not; we've made it easier. In other words, you file your paperwork online before you come to the United States, which should actually facilitate travel, we hope. But, look, I am concerned that people say, well, America no longer wants us to come, when it's the exact opposite of my personal point of view and the view of my government.
Q Sure. And I have to ask you this: Public surveys taken globally indicate kind of anti-Americanism, and Europe is no exception in that. Do you believe that the American brand needs a makeover?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I mean, we stand for liberty and human rights and freedom. Look, I've had to make some tough decisions that some people didn't like. But the truth of the matter is, when you really look at -- like, for example, our relations in the Far East, we got great relations with Japan, China and Korea -- South Korea; or India, for example -- we got new relations with India that no administration has ever -- South America and Central America.
My attitude is this, this is what I tell people. First of all, you can't make decisions based upon opinion polls. Secondly, that a lot of people like America. They may not sometimes necessarily like the President, but they like America. They like what America stands for. Otherwise, why would so many people wanting to be -- come here, for example, which we welcome? And so I don't -- I hear stuff like that, I just -- I dismiss it as kind of like what happens when there's kind of gossip and rumors and -- because the truth of the matter is, America, just like many nations in Europe, stands for what's right, which is decency, and freedom of speech, and freedom to worship. And I'm very proud of my country, obviously.
Q Again, on American presidency, actually on elections, international policies are the aspects where the President's work -- where the Commander-in-Chief has an opportunity to change the history's course. And that is why people around the world follow the American elections very, very closely. It's been very interesting so far.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, it has.
Q The Democrats -- Democratic candidates have not been very easy on you.
THE PRESIDENT: Of course not. That's what happens. I mean, they say, "We want change." Of course -- and I tell people every time I ran for politics I said, "We want change," unless, of course, I was the incumbent, in which case I was not for change, I was for myself. But what you'll see is a lot of rhetoric, and I understand that. It's -- and, you know, I'm in an unusual position because for the past 14 years I've been an active candidate myself, and now I'm kind of getting to be a senior -- kind of senior status. And I'll help my party, and, of course, I'm for John McCain. But there will be a lot of debate, and it will be interesting to watch these candidates.
Q Sure. So your message to the 44th President of the United States would be?
THE PRESIDENT: Stand on principle. Stay strong, promote freedom, defend America, and work with our friends and allies to achieve common objectives.
Q Mr. President, thank you very much for this interview. I hope you will have a safe flight to Europe and, as you referred to Slovenia two years ago on our Prime Minister's visit to the White House, as an "interesting slice of heaven," I hope you will have a heavenly stay.
THE PRESIDENT: I'll bet I do.
Q Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Good to see you.
END 10:25 A.M. EDT