I am pleased to have this opportunity to host the European Union/United States Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial so early in my tenure as Attorney General.
Joining me on the stage today is my co-host, Secretary Michael Chertoff of the Department of Homeland Security; Vice-President of the European Commission for Justice, Freedom and Security Franco Frattini; and representing the Portuguese presidency of the EU are the Minister of Justice of Portugal, Alberto Costa, and the Minister of Interior of Portugal, Rui Pereira.
We also are fortunate to have with us today Slovenian Interior Minister Dragutin Mate and Slovenian State Secretary Robert Marolt. I look forward to working with them when Slovenia takes on the EU presidency for the first half of 2008.
This meeting shows how important the United States considers our law enforcement relationship with the EU and its member states. The range of topics we discussed over dinner last night and at our meeting today illustrates both the extent and depth of that relationship.
I want to focus in particular on three topics that we discussed: counterterrorism; narcotics and organized crime; and the legal framework of our relationship.
After reviewing the record of our achievements together since September 11, 2001, I fully agree with the statement made by EU High Representative Javier Solana that our joint action to fight international terrorism is "one of the unsung transatlantic success stories."
At our meeting today, we discussed a number of joint responses to terrorism, including our continuing efforts to deal with the problem of radicalization.
There is one area of counterterrorism cooperation to which I would like to call special attention. Prosecutors and police in a number of EU member states have devoted enormous efforts toward investigating and prosecuting networks that smuggle terrorists into Iraq to attack coalition forces.
Our troops, and the Iraqi people, are safer because of these efforts, and I want to express our deep gratitude to our law enforcement colleagues.
We, in turn, are redoubling our efforts to work collaboratively with European prosecutors and police on this problem. I expect this to be just the first in a series of meetings with our counterparts on how we can increase information-sharing on this issue.
The second matter I would like to discuss is that of narcotics and organized crime.
Again, our focus was on increasing practical cooperation to respond to the flow of heroin out of Afghanistan and the increased smuggling of cocaine from the western hemisphere into Europe.
With regard to Afghanistan, we discussed efforts that we've undertaken to strengthen the rule of law in that country — including multilateral assistance to Afghanistan‘s counternarcotics task force — as well as the law enforcement response both in Europe and the United States.
With regard to smuggling of cocaine from central and South America into Europe, we welcomed the opening of the European Union‘s new Maritime Operational and Analysis Center in Lisbon. Our law enforcement agencies have begun working at that center, and their cooperation already has resulted in significant interdictions of smuggled narcotics.
Finally, with regard to the increasing dangers posed by high-level organized crime, I am pleased that Eurojust has brought together EU and U.S. prosecutors to discuss joint strategies for responding to these crime groups.
My third topic is that of the legal framework of our relationship. As a concrete sign of the breadth of the EU/US law enforcement relationship, I am pleased to report that the administration is preparing to transmit the landmark EU/US extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties to the Senate for its advice and consent. We look forward to working with the Senate on these treaties.
We also look forward to deepening our engagement with Europol and Eurojust in the coming year, both through our designated representatives to those organizations and through further meetings such as the one held this year at Eurojust on international organized crime.
I would like to conclude by noting that, as always, our efforts against crime and terrorism must take place within the context of respect for civil liberties, and the dignity of the individual.
Working together, the European Union and the United States are determined to protect our citizens within the rule of law — and we are stronger in doing so together.
Now I would like to turn the podium over to Secretary Chertoff.