June 20: Remarks by the President to the American Community in Bonn


Office of the Press Secretary
(Cologne, Germany)

For Immediate Release June 20, 1999


Stimson Chapel
Bonn, Germany

6:35 P.M. (L)

THE PRESIDENT: Lord Mayor Dieckmann, thank you very much for your words and for your wonderful gift of Beethoven's music; Mr. Ambassador, ladies and gentlemen.

Let me begin by saying a word of thanks to our embassy staff, and to those of you here in Bonn who have been our hosts for so many years. We are very proud of our long presence here, but we know, as the Lord Mayor said, that our departure is made possible by something we have dreamed of for a very long time -- the Germany envisioned when the American High Commission came to Bonn in 1951. Also, thanks in large measure to Germany's leadership and example, we see the Europe envisioned in the days of Truman and Adenauer, a Europe free, undivided and at peace at last within our grasp.

The man for whom this chapel was named, Henry Stimson, shared those dreams of Germany and Europe. I understand one of his relatives, Arthur Stimson, is here today and we are honored by that. I also want to wish the chapel's pastor, Dr. Hubbard, well as he returns to America tomorrow after his service here -- we thank you, sir, and we wish your successor, Reverend Satre and Father McNally, thank you for being here. (Applause.)

Hillary and I, and Secretary Eizenstat, who's about to become the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury -- he's moving, too -- all of our Americans here are profoundly grateful to those of you who have served in Bonn, and have done a remarkable job of forging the truly incredible relationship we have with Germany. It is a security alliance, an economic partnership and a cultural bond. The gift of this chapel is meant to symbolize that whole relationship, and to make it stronger. I thank all of you who have made it possible.

As I think about where we are today, compared to where we were 50 years ago, and the work we did today for the Europe our children and grandchildren will live in 50 years from now, I think it is altogether fitting that we are here in Bonn, the home of Beethoven -- for his life makes possible for us to see one of the most important admonitions of the Scriptures. The Bible says, where there is no vision, the people perish.

Beethoven, I believe, was the greatest composer in the history of the world. He was also stone deaf. He wrote his music because of his vision -- because of the melding together of his mind, his heart, his memory, his imagination. Human beings are at their best -- not only individually, but working together -- when they are guided by their visions, and they are good.

The summit we have just completed was the last leaders' meeting of the 20th century. It followed our victory in Kosovo for values and for the vision we have of the 21st century.

I want to talk very briefly -- and I thank the rain for letting up -- (laughter) -- God approved my interpretation of the Scriptures, you see? (Laughter and applause.) Thank you. I want to say just a few words about the vision we have -- for Southeastern Europe, for our relations with Russia, for the challenges of the new global economy.

Consider first the lessons we would be leaving this century for the next if we had come to Cologne without having taken a stand in Kosovo. Then we would be saying that innocent men, women and children could be singled out for destruction because of their ethnic heritage or religious faith, even in the heart of Europe; that innocent people could be driven from their homes, loaded on train cars, raped and killed, their religious faith and their culture erased, and the world would not hear, see, speak, or act to stop it; that the world's most powerful alliance is simply powerless to stop crimes against humanity, even those on its own doorstep.

Years from now, people would say that we lived through a time of amazing progress in human freedom and economic prosperity. But the children of the 21st century would have to look back and say that we failed a decisive moral test, that our inaction imperiled our own security, that we had not learned the lessons of the bloody 20th century.

Now, think about how the century is actually ending -- with a powerful statement by our 19 democracies that we will stand up for the innocents in the face of evil, with our Alliance strong, united, working with partners all across the continent to meet common objectives; with ethnic cleansing not only defeated, but as the Kosovars go home, reversed; with the remarkable sight of German troops, marching with their democratic allies, through the towns and villages of a Balkan country, cheered as liberators by people grateful to be going home in peace and safety.

We may never have a world that is without hatred or tyranny or conflict, but at least instead of ending this century with helpless indignation in the face of it, we instead begin a new century and a new millennium with a hopeful affirmation of human rights and human dignity. The people of Kosovo have a future again. And there is no future in Europe for Mr. Milosevic and his policy of manipulating normal human differences for inhuman ends. (Applause.)

Now, we find ourselves at that pivotal moment between winning a conflict and winning the peace. Today, the last Serb forces are leaving Kosovo, in accordance with the deadline that has been set. (Applause.) Over 60,000 Kosovars have already gone home. I believe, shortly, we will formalize our agreement with the KLA to demilitarize their forces. Of course, there are still dangers ahead. But we also have a remarkable opportunity, and what we do now will determine the character of this continent, the shape of our alliance and the nature of our partnership with Russia for years and years to come.

Our biggest challenge perhaps will be to put in place a plan for lasting peace and stability in the Balkans. We cannot do this -- a province, a nation, a crisis at a time. All our G-8 partners have agreed it is time to help transform the entirety of Southeastern Europe the way Western Europe was transformed after World War II and Central Europe was after the Cold War. We want to give the region's democracies a path to a prosperous and shared future, a unifying magnet that is more powerful than the pull of old hatreds and destructions which has threatened to tear them apart.

Some say this is a dream. Some still believe the people of the Balkans are somehow predestined to a never-ending struggle over land, faith and power. But, after all, that is what, in times past, people used to say about England and France, or France and Germany, or Germany and Poland, or Poland and Russia. If we had listened to all the people throughout human history who said that we couldn't get along, none of us would be here today.

Look around this crowd at the different faces, the different races, the different religious faiths. None of us would be here today if we had believed that any of those past conflicts was more powerful and more predestined than the innate goodness and potential, and dignity, of all human beings, without regard to their origin.

Henry Stimson once said, the most deadly sin I know is cynicism. Today, we ought not to have much of that, for we have a lot to hope for. Most of Central and Eastern Europe is transforming itself through democracy and cooperation with neighbors. If the countries of Southeastern Europe keep taking the same path, we have pledged to do our part -- to work with the World Bank, the IMF and others to support the economic development and the private investment necessary to grow the economy and the futures of the people of Southeastern Europe. We ought to integrate them into the global economy and into our regional arrangements.

All of this, of course, will cost money -- but how well spent that money will be. The costliest peace is cheaper than the cheapest war.

This summit was also the first meeting between the leaders of Russia and the West since our disagreement over the conflict in Kosovo. Of course, Russia opposed our use of force there, but it did work with us to achieve the peace to fulfill our objectives. Now we have committed to implementing this peace together in a way that will strengthen our relationship, reassure the security of innocent civilians, both ethnic Serb and Albanian, in Kosovo and preserve the unity of NATO.

The summit gave us a chance to work on what we have in common. President Yeltsin and I, for example, agreed to hold discussions later this year on START III -- further reductions of our nuclear arsenals and preserving the ABM Treaty, even as we work to get START II ratified. (Applause.)

Our G-8 partners agreed to increase support for our enhanced threat reduction initiative. That is what safeguards nuclear materials, technology and expertise in Russia so that horrible weapons of mass destruction don't fall into the wrong hands. We also recognize that Russia's future depends upon the health of its economy. President Yeltsin affirmed today that Russia can thrive in the global marketplace only with a strong reform program. And the rest of us made it clear that we will move quickly once Russia's IMF program in is place to support the rescheduling of its debt.

Our final challenge in Cologne was to join forces, to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of the global economy to ordinary people the world over, whether in wealthy or poor countries. The rise of an open economy in the world represents one of the most hopeful developments in history. But to build public support for it we must make sure that the benefits are widely shared; that when people are disrupted, as they inevitably will be, they are helped to get back to a good life, and that no one is left behind.

At this summit we took critical steps to make the economy of the world more resilient, to moderate the cycles of boom and bust that have gripped Southeast Asia and the rest of Asia in the last couple of years, and to do more to protect the most vulnerable among us. We resolved to work with the International Labor Organization to eradicate abusive child labor and enforce good labor standards around the globe.

We pledged to launch a new global trade round at the WTO meeting in Seattle later this year, to spread the benefits of trade more broadly. And we launched an historic effort to move the world's poorest nations on to a path of growth and independence, something I have been working on for most of my tenure as President. Our plan will more than triple the amount of money available for debt reduction, reducing up to 70 percent of the outstanding debt of the poorest nations of the world. (Applause.)

We also committed to increase the number of countries eligible for this aid, and to deliver the relief faster, in ways that will free up the resources of the poor countries so they can spend that money on health care and education, on the fight against AIDS, on the alleviation of poverty, on future prosperity. It will help to ensure that no country committed to that kind of progress is too indebted to achieve it, and to meet the basic needs of its people. It will help to reduce poverty and expand opportunity. It will help to turn debtor countries into good citizens of the world, and good partners for Germany and the United States.

So I say to you, we left this summit grateful for our long partnership with our European allies, and especially with Germany. We look forward to the movement of our embassy to Berlin, because it is the fulfillment of the visions of those who came before us. We will always be grateful for what the people of Bonn have given us in partnership and support.

But as you think about the future -- whenever you attempted to believe that we cannot eradicate ethnic hatred from the Balkans; whenever you attempted to believe that some people are destined to be chained in poverty and oppression; whenever you attempted to believe that the world's problems, like the spread of AIDS, cannot be turned back -- think about your native son. If anyone at any point in human history had ever said the greatest composer who ever lived would be stone deaf, they would have laughed and laughed and laughed. There is nothing we cannot do without the right vision.

Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)

END 6:52 P.M. (L)

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