Biden Addresses European Parliament

The vice president talks about climate change, data-sharing, Iran and missile defense.

Vice President Joe Biden spoke before the European Parliament on Tuesday to reaffirm his country’s commitment to the historic bonds that tie Europe and the United States together.

Biden welcomed the growing power of Europe and that of the European Parliament in particular. “We, the United States, need strong allies and alliances,” he said, “to help us tackle the problems of the twenty-first century.” He mentioned climate change as one of the major challenges of the years to come. While praising the Copenhagen agreement, Biden noted that, “now we have to carry out those emissions cuts.”

On Iran, Biden said that Europe and the United States stand “side by side” on preventing the country from acquiring nuclear weapons. “Tehran faces a stark choice,” he said: “abide by international rules and rejoin the community of responsible nations — which we hope for — or face the consequences of increased isolation” if it fails to fulfill its obligations under the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

Referring to the American missile shield to be built in Eastern Europe, Biden noted, to applause, that that United States are “committed to the security of all our allies.”

Addressing the controversy over SWIFT and Passenger Name Recognition where the European Parliament voted against providing American authorities with European personal information, Biden discussed the United States’ commitment to civil liberties at great length. “America’s protection to privacy is also profound,” he promised. Yet, “the terrorist financing tracking program is essential to our security.” Biden understood the parliament’s concerns but said that he was “absolutely confident that we can succeed to both use the tool and guarantee privacy. It’s important that we do so. And it’s important that we do so as quickly as possible.”

Perhaps intend on dispelling some of the concerns over President Barack Obama’s supposed lack of transatlantic interest and some recent diplomatic discord, Biden stressed that America’s appreciation of the European alliance is strong as ever. “The Obama-Biden Administration has no doubt about the need for, and strongly supports, a vibrant European Union,” he said before urging lawmakers to “have no doubt about that.”

Even if the United States and the nations [of Europe] were not united by shared values and common heritage […] our global interest alone would inextricably bind us together.

Biden described Europe as “not so much a place but an idea,” one that he and the president wholeheartedly supported. He praised both the achievements of European unity and those of cooperation between Europe and the United States. “When American and Europeans devote their energies to common purpose,” he said, “there is almost nothing that we are unable to accomplish.”

Near the end of his remarks, the vice president quoted Winston Churchill, noting that “courage is what it takes to stand up and speak” but also what “it takes to sit down and listen.” He expressed his hope that through continued dialogue, Europe and the United States would reach agreement about the terrorist financing tracking program. “We are back in the business of listening — listening to our allies.”