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The President. Ladies and gentlemen, we're going to get this part out of the way early. [Laughter]
Mr. Prime Minister and Mrs. Andreotti and distinguished guests, friends of Italy, all: Barbara and I are very pleased to welcome you to the White House tonight to honor the President of the Council of Ministers in the Republic of Italy, our friend Mr. Andreotti. And later on this evening, we will be celebrating Italy's national pastime with a performance by one of the world's greatest opera singers. We'll leave it as a little bit of a surprise. [Laughter]
But I am reminded of a story concerning America's national pastime. It seems that great Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso, was asked by a group of American reporters what he thought of Babe Ruth. Caruso, ever polite, replied that he didn't know, because unfortunately he had never heard her sing. [Laughter]
One American writer called Italy ``The Land of the Immortal Gods'' -- not just the land of mythology but the home of eternal ideas symbolized by the immortal genius of Da Vinci and Michelangelo, Raphael; the timeless architecture -- the Piazza San Marco in Venice; the classic strains heard in La Scala, in Milan. And Italy is the spiritual home of millions -- St. Peter's in Rome -- and the ancestral home of 12 million Americans. And many are here tonight, including our OAS Ambassador Luigi Einaudi, who is also the grandson of Italy's first President.
And Mr. Prime Minister, you are one of America's closest friends, and you know our country well. And we are proud and honored to be with you. We certainly agree on the key role that Italy plays in the new, emerging Europe. And in my discussions with Prime Minister Andreotti today and over the past months, we have shared the excitement on the remarkable changes that we are seeing. I can think of no time in modern history when our strong transatlantic partnership was more crucial.
They say that all the roads lead to Rome, and so Italy was appropriately my first stop on my first visit to Europe as President of the United States. And together we set the tone for critical arms reduction proposals, now even closer to fulfillment. We totally agree that a strong NATO is vital to our collective security in the new Europe. German unification with a unified Germany remaining a full member of NATO, support for the rising democracies in Eastern Europe, and the continued role of the United States as a force for stability in Europe are all part of our agenda today. And as we've done so often in the past, we found much agreement. But we also have much to look forward to.
This summer, we will meet again at the Houston economic summit. And then, beginning in July, Italy becomes Chairman of the European Community, and our two governments will work to develop stronger economic and political ties between the United States and the EC. But most important of all, there is perhaps the toughest issue between our two nations, a meeting which will take place this summer in Italy. And our side has already made bold advances against other nations involved, but we must be allowed to compete on a level playing field. And that's right, I'm talking about the 1990 World Cup in soccer. [Laughter]
And so, Mr. Prime Minister, and our friend, our discussions today reinforced my deep admiration for you and your nation. To our noble and strong union, and to you and the citizens of the Republic of Italy, I ask our guests to join me in a toast. A salute to you and to your great country, sir.
The Prime Minister. Mr. President, the number of our Cabinets, which is a feature of Italy's political life but does not affect the stability of our democracy, has provided me with other opportunities to come to the White House in the last years, although in different ministerial capacities.
Being back in the United States today after more than a decade as President of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic is indeed a source of great satisfaction to me. Many decisive events have taken place in the meantime which our continents have often lived through, side by side, in a relationship of alliance and cooperation which has been strong and vital. The world has become increasingly complex and interdependent and certainly not easier to manage today.
I am especially happy to be visiting Washington at this moment when the world, and Europe in particular, are living through such an exciting and crucial time. On the European continent, a decades-long ideological and military confrontation is giving way with astounding speed to new balances and to the promising establishment of democracy in the Eastern European nations. A new Europe is coming into being, in which we trust that a reduction in tensions will make the presence of armaments less disquieting.
We Italians have always believed that Atlantic solidarity would one day bear fruit. My seniority as a politician would enable me to reel off every single stage in this long process, both of resistance and of political cohesion. And we Italians have always held the view that the political and military commitment of the United States and Europe was an indispensable condition for the ultimate success of our common endeavor. Well, Mr. President, Italy is still convinced today -- more than ever before, if it were possible -- that this solidarity must continue to inspire our action. The continuing military and political presence of the United States in Europe is basic to ensuring stability and balance for the whole world.
As ideological and military confrontations wane, Europe needs a broader framework for cooperation, a form which by strengthening the Helsinki formula develops into a system for comprehensive dialog with the participation of the United States and Canada. And together with NATO, this is the institutional framework in which we can together tackle issues related to the growth of the budding democracies in the East, the reunification of the two Germanys, and the development of the new relationship with the Soviet Union -- in short, and to borrow your own words, Mr. President, the construction of that whole and free Europe which is already taking shape and to which we all look forward with hope.
Italy feels it is part of this Europe -- and indeed, an essential one. But I would like to recall that Italy, by its nature in history, is also part of the Mediterranean world. We shall continue to follow the problems of that area very closely, including longstanding ones such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Lebanese crisis, and the problems related to the future development of each people in this important area.
Naturally, Mr. President, what we need today is a new solidarity. By this, I mean a solidarity between the United States and Europe that is newer and subtler than the one tested so successfully at a time when we were threatened from the exterior. This kind of solidarity is today both indispensable and urgent to enable both Europe and the United States to jointly take up other challenges, whether regional or global in scope. I'm referring to the backwardness and indebtedness of developing countries, to environmental protection, and to the fight against drugs, which you, Mr. President, very clearly stated to be an absolute priority issue, showing your solidarity to the Latin American countries which are most suffering at the hands of drug traffickers.
Mr. President, all kinds of dictatorships have failed, even those which believe that by sacrificing freedom they would succeed in solving the economic and social problems of their peoples. To a nation such as the United States that has provided and is providing a generous and sustained contribution to freedom in all continents, we renew the expression of our convinced friendship, genuinely rooted in our hearts and minds and inspired by constructive spirit.
Mr. President, I ask you and all your guests here to make a toast to your health and that of Mrs. Bush. And also, I would like to invite you, if the American soccer team is going to win, to come to Rome and assist to the last game. [Laughter] Thank you, Mr. President.
The President. Well done, sir. Thank you. Very nice. Thank you so much.
Note: The President spoke at 8:12 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. The Prime Minister spoke in Italian, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter. Following the dinner, soprano Roberta Peters performed in the East Room.