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US-EU Seek Deeper Trans-Atlantic Ties

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek hold a joint press conference following a bilateral meeting at the State Department in Washington, DC, 27 April 2010

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with the president of the European Parliament and former Polish prime minister, Jerzy Buzek, on Tuesday at the State Department to discuss the U.S.-EU partnership.

Clinton underscored the importance of the trans-Atlantic partnership between the United States and the European Union as she stood alongside Mr. Buzek at a joint press appearance.

"This partnership is essential to solving a wide range of shared challenges -- from energy security and climate change to terrorism and global governance," Mrs. Clinton said.

But as both officials pointed out, shared challenges do not necessarily translate to shared viewpoints.

Clinton raised the issue of the terror finance tracking program, which is on the agenda of the European Parliament.

Earlier this year, the European Parliament rejected an agreement that allowed the United States to access a database of international financial transfers that includes customer names, account numbers and other identifying information.

"This is a vital program that has saved lives," Mrs. Clinton said. "And it is absolutely essential to cooperation between the U.S. and the EU in our common efforts to combat terrorism."

The EU says the agreement violates an individual's privacy by revealing personal information. Clinton said the two sides are working to find solutions that would ensure privacy and enhance security.

For Mr. Buzek, areas of disagreement include ways to address climate change and promote global stability. He likened the U.S.-EU relationship to a marriage -- a metaphor that met with Clinton's approval.

Buzek: "I feel, really, that we are something like a great fantastic good old couple. It means sometimes we disagree, there is a big tension, but we cannot leave separate."
Clinton: "That's right."

In a statement before his visit, Mr. Buzek said the European Parliament wants to use what he called "the [Barack] Obama moment" to build a vibrant trans-Atlantic partnership.

On Thursday, Mr. Buzek is expected to formally open the European Parliament's U.S. congressional liaison office, which is intended to forge closer ties between European parliamentarians and U.S. lawmakers.

Clinton, who served eight years as a U.S. senator, said she believes that strong legislative voices in American foreign policy are very valuable and that she looks forward to continuing her work with the European Parliament.

One topic Clinton said the the U.S. and EU agree upon is Iran. The secretary of state said the United States and Europe have consistently called on the Iranian government to respect human rights and to address international concerns about Tehran's nuclear enrichment activities.