Good morning and thank you all for that warm welcome. I want to begin by thanking Minister [Ard] van der Steur for his generous hospitality, for his outstanding leadership and for his vital partnership in our ongoing efforts to promote the shared law enforcement goals of the Netherlands and the United States. And I want to thank all of you – the students and faculty of this great university – for being here today.
I am very pleased to visit this venerable institution, which has done so much in its history to advance the ideals of liberty, justice and equality that define our nations. You are not just a place of learning and intellectual rigor, but of intellectual freedom and exploration. In a world that often demands instant answers, you provide a place where ideas can be debated and tested and where questions are valued. You have educated Nobel laureates and world leaders, from the brilliant scientist Enrico Fermi to U.S. President John Quincy Adams – not to mention Minister van der Steur himself. You have been home to mathematicians like [René] Descartes, artists like Rembrandt [Harmenszoon van Rijn] and philosophers like [Baruch] Spinoza. And those who have studied and taught within these walls – within this “bastion of freedom,” as it is known – have developed ideas and principles that have spread throughout the world. In fact, in the headquarters of our own Department of Justice in Washington D.C., a mural of one of your most distinguished alumni, Hugo Grotius, adorns the staircase of our great hall – a reminder of the foundational principles of international law that have formed the basis of cooperation between the Netherlands and the United States.
That cooperation has a long and fruitful history, dating all the way back to 1782, when the Republic of the Netherlands became one of the first nations in the world to recognize the young United States during our fight for independence. Shortly after the Dutch Republic offered its official recognition, our ambassador to The Hague, John Adams – who would go on to become our second president – wrote, “We shall have in this nation, if I am not infinitely mistaken, a faithful and affectionate…ally.” President Adams was far from mistaken. For more than two centuries, the Netherlands and the United States have stood firmly together – not just out of a calculation of national interests, but out of a common concern for the rights of humankind, bound together by our common dedication to individual freedom, representative government and open markets. The bonds of allies – nurtured through mutual prosperity to generate strength to sustain us against common enemies. The bonds of allies that allow countries even to disagree and to come if not to mutual accord then to mutual respect and understanding. The challenges of the era call upon us all to lean upon those bonds as never before.
Indeed, the strength of our bond – and our ongoing commitment to international justice and law – is more vital than at any time in recent memory. Particularly over the last few decades, technological innovation has offered opportunities to bring people and nations together – but it has also created significant new challenges to law enforcement. Violent ideologies can proliferate and spread; threats are no longer contained by borders and oceans; and adversaries are as likely to be found in cyberspace as on the battlefield. Today, evolving and increasingly transnational threats from terrorism and human trafficking to cybercrime and corruption require closer international cooperation, especially among nations – like ours – with historic relationships and shared principles. In a world that is more interconnected and interdependent than ever before, it is critical that we work together to uphold the norms and statutes that keep our citizens safe, our countries secure and our economies fair.
I am proud to say that the U.S. Department of Justice – and the entire Obama Administration – is determined to stand alongside our allies as we seek to create a stronger and safer world. We are working with organizations like INTERPOL and EUROPOL to counter terrorism and violent extremism – an effort that ranges from sharing information and offering technical support, to providing overseas investigative law enforcement assistance. Almost a decade ago, we joined our fellow members of the G8 to create the 24/7 cyber network, a rapid reaction system that has since grown to include more than 70 countries, providing the international community with an effective and innovative tool for addressing a wide range of cross-border crimes. And we have worked with partner nations under the auspices of the European Cybercrime Center to dismantle illicit online marketplaces trafficking in narcotics, firearms, stolen personal information and other illegal goods. As the host country of EUROPOL, a member nation of Interpol and a party to the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, the Netherlands is at the heart of these and so many other collaborative efforts to meet the unique law enforcement challenges of the 21st century.
That is particularly true of the struggle against international corruption. Thanks to the aid of your Public Prosecution Service – and with the assistance of a number of other law enforcement agencies throughout Europe – the Justice Department entered into a criminal resolution in February of this year with VimpelCom, the world’s sixth-largest telecommunications company, which admitted to conspiring to offer more than $114 million in bribes to a government official in Uzbekistan. Under the terms of our resolution, VimpelCom agreed to pay the U.S. government a penalty of more than $230 million; under a separate agreement with the Public Prosecution Service, VimpelCom agreed to pay a sum of the same amount to the government of the Netherlands. Together, our coordinated cases against VimpelCom sent a clear message that bribery is not a victimless crime and that our governments intend to ensure fair competition and equal opportunity for people around the world.
Tomorrow, we will be signing two agreements that demonstrate again what we can do together. The first is a memorandum of understanding between the U.S. Department of Justice, the Ministry of Security and Justice of the Netherlands and the Justice Ministries of Aruba, Curacao and Saint Maarten, to deepen our law enforcement cooperation in the Caribbean. I would like to thank Minister van Steur for his vital role in making this important agreement possible. And second, during the Dutch Presidency of the European Union, we will be signing the Umbrella Data Protection Agreement – which shows our joint commitment to protect both the safety and the privacy of our citizens on both sides of the Atlantic.
As these agreements show again, the work between the United States and the Netherlands has resulted in groundbreaking programs and vital accomplishments. It has been guided by the democratic ideals that have defined our people for centuries and that will continue to light our way forward in the years to come. And it is strengthened by the alliance that has drawn our nations together since America was born. The motto of the Netherlands is translated into English as “I will uphold.” But I want you to know that, as we go forward, our message together is not just “I will uphold,” but “we will uphold.” Together, we will uphold the rights of our citizens to live lives of opportunity and meaning – and we will do our part to secure those rights for the citizens of all nations. We will uphold the rule of law in our countries – and we will do our part to promote the rule of international law around the world. We will uphold the centuries-long relationship between our nations – and we will do our part to foster cooperation among all nations, today and far into the future.
Thank you for being a part of that shared work. Thank you for your efforts to expand our knowledge and our liberty. And thank you, once again, for welcoming me to your university and your country.