We welcome the historic steps toward economic and political union agreed to by the leaders of the European Community in The Netherlands. Four and a half decades after the destruction of World War II, Western Europe stands prosperous and free: a model of what cooperation, democracy, and the free market can yield, and a beacon to those in the East struggling to secure their liberty and well-being.
The results of the EC summit in Maastricht represent a milestone which we celebrate along with our European partners. The United States has long supported European unity because of our strong conviction that it was good for Europe, good for the Atlantic partnership, and good for the world. I have made clear from the outset of this administration my view that a strong, united Europe is very much in America's interest. A more united Europe offers the United States a more effective partner, prepared for larger responsibilities.
Europe's steps toward unity will strengthen our renewed Atlantic Alliance. NATO's endorsement at the Rome summit of a ``European pillar'' underscores the additional responsibility which the European allies are assuming in the protection of shared vital interests and values. At Maastricht, the EC requested the Western European Union, whose members are in both NATO and the EC, to serve as the vehicle for increased European responsibility on defense matters. We are pleased that our allies in the Western European Union in turn decided to strengthen that institution as both NATO's European pillar and the defense component of the European Union. NATO will remain the essential forum for consultation among its members and the venue for agreement on policies bearing on the security and defense commitments of the Allies under the Washington Treaty.
A strengthened EC has a vital role to play in assuring a stable and prosperous Europe and a humane world order. Already today, the European Community and its member states are taking a major role, working with us, to help the citizens of Central and Eastern Europe transform their societies. Our Atlantic partnership is equally essential in supporting the movement toward freedom and democracy in what we have known as the Soviet Union. But our cooperation with the new Europe goes farther. The European Community stands with us as a partner in the search for peace in the Middle East, and against difficult odds, it continues to labor with our support for a peaceful solution to the war in Yugoslavia.
The evolving monetary unity and single market of the EC promises new economic vitality for Europe. With this comes new investment possibilities and markets for American business as well as new competition. We welcome these developments, but we also expect that the new Europe will assume new responsibilities for maintaining and strengthening the world economic system. This means working with us to bridge our bilateral differences, to expand an open global trading system by successfully concluding the Uruguay round, and to avoid the dangers of protectionism.
America can take pride in its contributions to Europe's success. The U.S. engagement on that continent has yielded many benefits for the Europeans and for us. Those benefits remind us that our interests do not stop at our shores. We are intimately connected to what happens in Europe and beyond. Now, we are getting an even stronger European partner. I therefore speak for all of America when I send best wishes to the members of the European Community for their new steps toward integration.