Bilateral Meeting between President Hollande and President Obama
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it is my great pleasure to welcome President Hollande to the United States, to the Oval Office, and this evening to Camp David.
We all watched the remarkable election, and I offered him hardy congratulations and assured him that the friendship and alliance between the United States and France is not only of extraordinary importance to me but is deeply valued by the American people.
- photo: elysee.fr - Stéphane Ruet
I was interested, when I was reading the President’s biography, that he actually spent some time in the United States in his youth, studying American fast food — (laughter) — and although he decided to go into politics, we’ll be interested in his opinions of cheeseburgers in Chicago. (Laughter.)
I also warned him that now that he’s President, he can no longer ride a scooter in Paris. (Laughter.) I know because I’ve tried with the Secret Service and they don’t let me do it. (Laughter.)
Obviously we have had a lot to talk about. Much of our discussion centered on the situation in the eurozone. And President Hollande and I agree that this is an issue of extraordinary importance not only to the people of Europe, but also to the world economy. And we’re looking forward to a fruitful discussion later this evening and tomorrow with the other G8 leaders about how we can manage a responsible approach to fiscal consolidation that is coupled with a strong growth agenda.
We also discussed the situation in Afghanistan, in anticipation of our NATO meeting in Chicago on Saturday and Sunday. And we agreed that even as we transition out of a combat phase in Afghanistan that it’s important that we sustain our commitment to helping Afghans build security and continue down the path of development.
We also identified the issues of Iran and Syria, the transition that’s taking place in countries like Egypt and Tunisia as topics of critical importance. And we’ll be devoting extensive time to those issues throughout the G8 meeting. France has shown great leadership on these issues, and as I indicated to President Hollande, when the United States and France, along with our other key allies, make up our minds to stand firm on the side of democracy and freedom and development, that enormous progress can be made.
So I’m grateful to President Hollande for being willing to come here so shortly after his election and the formation of his government. He’s gotten off to a very strong start. And I hope that he will find my administration and the American people strong partners in delivering prosperity not only to the people of France but helping to provide peace and security throughout the world.
PRESIDENT HOLLANDE: I wanted my first trip outside Europe to be to the United States of America, so that I could meet President Obama. The meeting at Camp David and the Chicago summit offered an exceptional opportunity, and I thank Barack Obama for seizing it and for enabling us to have a long conversation this morning.
This was the first time we’d met. It is not the last. There will be many other times, and over as long a period as possible. For me it was very important to reaffirm here today the importance of the relationship between France and the United States. In terms of our history, first of all, in terms of the important events that have brought us together, but also in terms of the differences that have sometimes arisen and that, each time, have been overcome. Because we live in a world where there are causes that we – France and the United States – share: the causes of freedom and democracy. Through our history, our culture and the ordeals we’ve both undergone, we possess ties which ensure that, when France and the United States agree, the world can move forward.
I discussed major issues with President Obama. First, the economy. Growth must be a priority, at the same time as we put our public accounts in order through budgetary agreements. President Obama indicated his agreement on this aspect of growth, although it is up to Europe itself to organize its own proposals on growth. I also stressed the situation of the Euro Area, and our possible renewed concerns about Greece. And we are both convinced that Greece must remain in the Euro Area, and that every effort must be made by the various parties to achieve that aim. The Greeks will again be consulted in June, and I wanted to send a signal to the Greek people to say that their place is within the Euro Area, that efforts must be made, and that there must be solidarity. Our economies are interdependent. What happens in Europe has repercussions on the United States, and what happened in the United States had repercussions on Europe. We are therefore connected. And the more consistent our actions are, the more effective we can be.
On another subject, Afghanistan, I reminded President Obama of the commitment that I made to the French people: the withdrawal of combat troops by the end of 2012. I also made it clear that there would always be support for Afghanistan, of another kind, in an alternative form, but which would be provided in cooperation with our allies and as part of the process currently under way, as part of what’s known as ISAF. Which means that we can uphold our commitment while supporting Afghanistan in a different way. But I believed that the deadline of the end of 2012 for our combat troops was the goal. We will talk about this again at the Chicago summit, but I think that we will be able to find ways of allowing our allies to continue their mission and allowing France to keep the promise I made to the French people.
Regarding Iran, we again agreed it should be possible to start negotiations, but with the necessary firmness so that Iran does not, at any time, have access to nuclear technology for military purposes.
And on other issues – Syria and the Arab Spring countries concerned by the Deauville Partnership – we recalled the strength of the commitments, and I shall pursue them.
But the important thing to affirm today is the responsibility that we have. The United States of America and France are countries that influence the world’s destiny and we must work together as friends, in cohesion as well as in partnership. France is a country that wants to protect its independence but which at the same time is conscious of its alliance, its friendship and its relationship with the United States. It’s by being both independent and, at the same time, linked through this partnership that France and the United States will be most effective in addressing the challenges we face.
I’d like to thank President Obama for knowing so much about my life before I became a politician. I don’t want to say anything that could be taken to mean that there’s something wrong with cheeseburgers. As for the car that I owned until just recently, I hope that I won’t need to use it for a long time.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I just want to remember that cheeseburgers go very well with French fries. (Laughter.)