Commission urges governments to embrace potential of Big Data

European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 2 July 2014

Commission urges governments to embrace potential of Big Data

Data collection and exploitation is a growing phenomenon; in response to industry and grassroots demands the European Commission is today calling on national governments to wake-up to this “big data” revolution.

Vice President @NeelieKroesEU said “It’s about time we focus on the positive aspects of big data. Big data sounds negative and scary, and for the most part it isn’t. Leaders need to embrace big data.”

The main problems identified in public consultations on big data are:

  1. Lack of cross-border coordination

  2. Insufficient infrastructure and funding opportunities

  3. A shortage of data experts and related skills

  4. Fragmented and overly complex legal environment

Main concrete actions proposed today to solve these problems:

  1. A Big Data public-private partnership that funds “game-changing” big data ideas, in areas such as personalised medicine and food logistics.

  2. Create an open data incubator (within the Horizon 2020 framework), to help SMEs set up supply chains based on data and use cloud computing more.

  3. Propose new rules on “data ownership” and liability of data provision for data gathered via Internet of Things (Machine to Machine communication)

  4. Mapping of data standards, identifying potential gaps

  5. Establish a series of Supercomputing Centres of Excellence to increase number of skilled data workers in Europe

  6. Create network of data processing facilities in different Member States

Actions the Commission will scale-up or continue

  1. – Expanding investment in 5G technology (already €700m committed to a public-private partnership) through international agreements such as June agreement between European Commission and South Korea

  2. Grand Coalition for Digital jobs, and Opening Up Education initiative to plug skills gap

  3. Best practice guidelines for public authorities and open data

Background

Every single minute, the world generates 1.7 million billion bytes of data, equal to 360,000 DVDs: over 6 megabytes of data for each person every day. As a result, the data sector is growing by 40% per year, 7 times quicker than the overall information and communications market, and big data is already helping us speed up diagnosis of brain injuries, find the perfect spot for wind farms , avoid traffic congestion, or forecast crop yields in developing countries. Global big data technology and services will grow to USD 16.9 billion in 2015 and data will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in Europe. Businesses that build their decision-making processes on knowledge generated from data see a 5‑6% increase of productivity.

In order to help EU citizens and businesses more quickly to reap the full potential of data, the Commission will be working with Parliament and Council on the successful completion of the reform of the EU’s data protection rules and final adoption of the Directive on network and information security to ensure the high level of trust fundamental for a thriving data-driven economy.

Useful Links

Communication “Towards a thriving data-driven economy”

What big data can do for you – here are some examples

Digital Agenda

Neelie Kroes

@NeelieKroesEU

@EUDataEcosystem

MEMO/14/455

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Ghanaian general appointed head of India and Pakistan mission

1 Jul 2014

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Delali Johnson Sakyi. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

A Ghanaian general has been appointed by the UN Secretary-General as the Chief Military Observer and Head of Mission for the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP).

Major General Delali Johnson Sakyi succeeds Major General Young-Bum Choi of the Republic of Korea, who completed his two-year assignment on 16 June.

With more than 35 years of military command and staff experience at national and international levels, Major General Sakyi served most recently as Force Commander for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

Born in Ghana in 1954, he has three children.

Sophie Outhwaite, United Nations

Duration:  41″

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Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: June 30, 2014

1:38 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Happy Monday. So I just have one item at the top. Secretary Kerry – as the White House announced, Secretary Kerry will be visiting Panama July 1st, which is tomorrow, to attend the inauguration of Panama’s president-elect, Juan Carlos Varela. We congratulate President Varela on his victory and Panama’s history of peaceful democratic transfer of power. We have a growing trade relationship, excellent security cooperation, and share many of the same concerns on regional and multilateral issues. Panama is also an important partner of the United States, and we look forward to continuing our close relationship.

During the inauguration, Secretary Kerry will also meet with other Central American leaders to discuss the issue of unaccompanied children who have illegally crossed the border to the United States. A sustainable solution to this urgent situation requires a comprehensive approach to address issues of security, prosperity, and governance, all of which play a role in migration, especially the migration of unaccompanied minors. We hope to continue working with the Central American and Mexican Governments to address the complex root causes of migration and identify ways the United States and countries in the region can more effectively contribute to the effort.

Secretary – I’m sorry, Vice President Biden was in Guatemala just a few weeks ago where he announced a U.S. assistance to increase the capacity of these countries, and I know the President will have an announcement later this afternoon. But the Secretary’s meetings will be part of our effort to engage with these governments and discuss the root causes of these issues.

QUESTION: Sorry. The President will have an announcement on what?

MS. PSAKI: I think you saw on the news or in the newspapers earlier today the President would have more to say on assistance they’re announcing.

QUESTION: Oh, on immigration.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Right. So before – this is —

MS. PSAKI: Did you get a haircut, Matt?

QUESTION: I did.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. (Laughter.) Noted. Noted for the transcript. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I notice you haven’t said anything of it. Anyway – (laughter) – when you talk about Panama’s peaceful – tradition of peaceful transfers of democratic power, I assume you’re talking about recent tradition, yes?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, I was not making —

QUESTION: Not U.S.-assisted —

MS. PSAKI: — a large, sweeping, historic claim there.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: But go ahead.

QUESTION: Before we get back to that and other things, the breaking news just from the last 20 minutes or so about the Israelis finding the bodies of the three kidnapped teenagers, I’m wondering, one, are you aware of it? And if you are, what do you have to say about it? And two, have you been in contact with the Israelis, or the Palestinians for that matter?

MS. PSAKI: I have seen – we have seen the reports. I don’t have anything to confirm from here. I would point you to the Government of Israel. Certainly as we’ve said many times throughout the course of the last several weeks, the kidnapping, and of course any harm that has been done to these teenagers is a tragedy. We’ve been in close touch with the Israelis and the Palestinians over the course of the last several weeks. I don’t have any new calls to update you on as of this morning.

QUESTION: Okay. If there are any, can you expedite —

MS. PSAKI: Can we send them up? Yes, absolutely.

QUESTION: — letting us know?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: In – since this began, you and the Administration in general have been urging restraint, calling on both sides to show restraint. Does that remain your message even with this new development?

MS. PSAKI: It certainly does. We have, as you noted, been in touch with both sides and have been urging continued security cooperation, that the Israelis and the Palestinians continue to work with one another on that, and we certainly would continue to urge that despite – in spite of, obviously, the tragedy and the enormous pain on the ground as a result.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Wait, I just have one more.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just go one at a time. Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: The Israelis have all along said that Hamas was behind this. You have said that signs indicate that Hamas was involved, but you have stopped short of saying that you’re 100 percent certain of it. Presuming that the Israelis do provide you or you come up with your own 100 percent confirmation that it was involved, would that change – and I realize this is a hypothetical, but would Hamas’s involvement in something like this be cause for the Administration to rethink its support for the Palestinian – the new Palestinian Government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, let me first say there’s nothing new as it relates to our view in this specific case, and as we’ve noted in the past – but it’s worth noting again – there are some similar circumstances that we have seen. I’m not going to make a prediction, of course. We do look at all kinds of information as it relates to our relationship with the Palestinians, our relationship with any entity that we work with. So I’m not going to make a prediction. I don’t know what the outcome will be of the final findings.

QUESTION: There were also, I think, fourteen – more than a dozen rockets that were fired into southern Israel from Gaza today. Is that something that would make you rethink your position as it relates to the Palestinian Government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, renouncing violence is one of the requirements, according to the Quartet, and one of the United States requirements. And as we said in the beginning when the first announcement of the technocratic government was made, we’re going to continue to review and take a look at the circumstances on the ground on a daily basis if needed.

QUESTION: All right. But I mean, quite apart from whether they played any role in the killing of the three teenagers, there were these rocket attacks today. Is that – does that comport with a renunciation of violence?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, we would condemn any type of violence along those lines against the Israelis. And we expect, and President Abbas has on many occasions also renounced this type of action. And there’s a certain responsibility in conveying that to any entities that the Palestinians are tied with.

QUESTION: Yeah, but if I shoot you at the same time as saying I renounce violence, that doesn’t really make much sense. So —

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the point —

QUESTION: — what you’re saying, though, is that apart from the teenagers – because we don’t – you don’t know – you’re not sure of the circumstances – just the rocket attacks themselves are not cause to have you rethink your relationship with the government.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, as we have stated from the beginning, and the point I was trying to make, is that we would be constantly reviewing as it relates to action on the ground, whether they are abiding by the components that they have – the pledges that they made at the beginning. So I don’t have anything new to predict for you or outline, but we look at all of the circumstances that happen on the ground as we evaluate our relationship.

QUESTION: I’ll stop after this.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: You think right now that they are abiding by the requirements?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas and the technocratic government that doesn’t involve members of Hamas, yes, they are making every effort to. Obviously, when there are incidents of violence, when there are rocket attacks, those are certainly cause for concern and we take every incident into consideration.

QUESTION: Jen?

QUESTION: So —

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, I would’ve stopped after that, but I – you are sure, you’re convinced that the Palestinian Government is making – what you just said, “making every effort” to abide by its commitments? That’s the U.S. position?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, what I’m —

QUESTION: I —

MS. PSAKI: Matt, what I’m conveying is President Abbas has, as you know, renounced violence. He has condemned attacks. He has been a cooperative partner in an effort even with as it relates to the three teenagers over the last several weeks. Does that change the fact that we are concerned and could certainly condemn these rocket attacks and other incidents that occur? Certainly it doesn’t change that, but again, this is not a black-and-white issue.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Follow-up on that, Jen, if I may. The technocratic government that you spoke of, as far as you’re concerned, they have not – they are doing everything possible to refrain from the use of violence, rhetoric or otherwise. Right?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So you are convinced that they are doing all they can to sort of keep the lid on as far as violence is concerned?

MS. PSAKI: President Abbas and —

QUESTION: And his technocratic government that is a national unity government.

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve stated it a few times, Said, but go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me just go back to the breaking news. As far as – you have not heard anything yourself about the – to confirm the murder of the three teenagers?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen the reports. I don’t have anything to confirm from here.

QUESTION: Okay. Now as far as you know, the Israelis have not informed you that these bodies were found and therefore we’re going to do one, two, three, four; have they?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything else to update you on.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the total closure of Hebron and its environ?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to update you on.

New topic?

QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu —

MS. PSAKI: Or go ahead, Roz.

QUESTION: Yeah. Prime Minister Netanyahu said on Sunday that the government had been able to identify two members of Hamas as being responsible. I know that you can’t confirm the discovery of the bodies. Do you know whether they shared this information with their U.S. counterparts either in Tel Aviv or here in Washington over the weekend about these two suspects?

MS. PSAKI: We have regular consultations and discussions. I don’t have anything further to outline for you in this regard.

QUESTION: Something else related to Israel also.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu on Sunday called for an independent Kurdish state. Do you – what’s your position, what’s your reaction to his comment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the view of the United States is that a united Iraq is a stronger Iraq, and especially at this challenging and grave security – at a time of a grave security situation on the ground, we think it’s even more important that all parties – the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurds – remain united against the threat they face, and all countries should support that effort.

QUESTION: Does that mean your position is at odds with Israel’s position on Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: I’ll let you make your own conclusions, but that’s the position of the United States.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry, but I just want to go back to the kidnapping.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One of the three teenagers is a U.S. citizen, or dual citizen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: To the best of your knowledge, have any demands been made like ransom demands or anything to the U.S. Government?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything new to update you on on this particular incident.

Well, could we – or go ahead —

QUESTION: Just —

MS. PSAKI: — and we’ll go to Jo. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just one more thing.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I mean, it’s clearly that the U.S. position now is at odds with not only Israel, but also Turkey, which has recently said that it will welcome an independent Kurdistan in Iraq. On the other hand, many other people actually see America as being more on the side – like, in alliance with Iran over Iraq, as both countries have stepped up their military and political support for the al-Maliki government to combat the insurgency, the Sunni insurgency. Is that true?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure – can you – what is your specific question? Sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: Like, the specific question is that are the United States and Iran unlikely allies in Iraq to combat the Islamic – Sunni Islamic militants?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I wouldn’t put it in those terms. We’ve stated before from this podium and the Secretary has stated that certainly ISIL is a threat to the region, including Iran. There is a – it is a threat, ISIL is a threat to all of the people of Iraq, whether they’re Sunni, whether they’re Shia, whether they’re Kurds. And that’s why we’ve been so – been such strong advocates of moving the political process forward urgently to form a government, and of all parties to be united.

We’re all certainly familiar with the aspirations of the Kurdish people, and that hasn’t changed and has been the case for many years now. But the threat they’re facing requires unity and that’s why we’ve been emphasizing it so strongly.

QUESTION: What do you mean you are – you understand the aspiration of the Kurdish people?

MS. PSAKI: I think we all have seen the comments that have been made over the course of not just last week, but long before that.

Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: Can I just stay with ISIL —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — which have renamed themselves today the Islamic State, just IS, I believe. Does this mark a change in their offensive? Does it make the ground conditions more difficult for the Iraqi people and the Syrian people? What is your reaction to the news that they’re trying to establish this caliphate over Iraq and Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen these types of words or comparable claims from ISIL before. This declaration has no meaning to the people in Iraq and Syria. It only further exposes the true nature of this organization and its desire to control people by fear and edicts. It emphasizes even more so that this is a critical moment for the international community, for countries in the region, for all of the Iraqi people to unite against the threat that they face.

QUESTION: Does it show that in some ways, the group believes – is assuming more confidence that they believe that they are on a winning track here?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s, again, their strategy of using a repressive ideology and of conducting acts of ruthless terrorism against their people, against people across the region, has been consistent for some time now. So in our view, this claim, these words, this declaration is consistent with that and not a new – not providing new information.

QUESTION: And – sorry.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Tomorrow the Iraqi parliament is due to meet.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Following the visit by Secretary Kerry to Iraq and Erbil, do you believe in this building that there will be an outcome which will start paving the way towards a new Iraqi Government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you noted, that was a big focus of the Secretary’s meetings last week, not just in Iraq but in – with leaders in the region, and in fact even with his European counterparts. And tomorrow in – we are continuing to urge, I should say, Iraqis, Iraqi leaders to come to an agreement on the three critical posts that are key to forming Iraq’s next government – the speaker, the president and prime minister – so that government formation can move forward as quickly as possible. We don’t want to predict how quickly the outcome will occur. We will leave that to them, but they have – during meetings with Secretary Kerry have committed to moving forward quickly, have committed to abiding by the process. So we will see what happens in the course of the coming days.

QUESTION: Given this announcement, how urgently is the U.S. viewing this development, especially in light of the fact that it just put in what many would argue is a small number of military advisors to help the Iraqi military figure out what it can or can’t do to stop these fighters from continuing their march onto Baghdad?

MS. PSAKI: And Roz, I’m sorry, which – are you – which announcement?

QUESTION: About the ISIL, IS, whatever they call themselves.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: What are they – what are officials doing about it? How does this change what the U.S. is trying to do, for example, to help Baghdad defend itself against these fighters?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as I stated, but I’m happy to reiterate, these words – we’ve seen these types of words come from ISIL before. It’s consistent with their claims in the past. It doesn’t mean anything to the people of Iraq and the people of Syria. We remain both committed to a diplomatic process, and obviously, as you noted, military advisors have started arriving on the ground. We’ve continued to expedite our assistance and equipment as well, and we’re taking every step in that regard.

So I wouldn’t overemphasize the impact of the claim. We’re continuing to take steps, including the discussions the Secretary had all of last week, on the political front to encourage the government to move forward with formation, but also to consider how we can best help address the threat on the ground.

QUESTION: Do you have any sense of what consultations are being held at the Secretary’s level, at the under secretary level with their counterparts, not just in the Middle East but in Europe as well?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary – I think it was read out on Friday that he spoke with President Barzani. He also spoke with Foreign Minister Davutoglu over the weekend. I think it’s safe for all of you to assume that he’ll be in – closely engaged in diplomatic conversations with both counterparts in the Middle East as well as Europe over the course of the coming days.

QUESTION: Jen, did you have any comment or did you comment on the Iraqis receiving four or five Sukhoi fighters, Russian fighters —

MS. PSAKI: I think Marie may have spoken to this —

QUESTION: — a couple days ago?

MS. PSAKI: — on Friday, but I’m happy to speak to it as well.

QUESTION: Could you?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. We understand and have certainly seen reports about the purchase of equipment. I would remind you that Iraq has purchased military equipment from a range of countries in the past, including Russia, including the Czech Republic, South Korea, and others to fulfill their legitimate defense needs. We have a robust FMS program that will continue and we’ve expedited in recent days. And certainly, we are not surprised that Iraq would take steps to work with other countries in the region as they have for some time to gain the equipment that they need.

QUESTION: And you don’t have any problem with them receiving these Russian fighters?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t —

QUESTION: I mean, because you’re holding your deliveries for fear of falling in the wrong hands —

MS. PSAKI: We’re not holding our —

QUESTION: — and this could —

MS. PSAKI: I think that’s incorrect information.

QUESTION: Sorry. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: But in terms of the first question, we don’t oppose legal Iraqi efforts to meet their urgent military requirements. In fact, as you know, we’re expediting our own assistance, and they have purchased military equipment from a variety of countries in the past, and so it’s not a surprise that that has continued.

QUESTION: Can I ask you if you – on the caliphate and Kurdistan questions.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you oppose a caliphate idea in general? And if you do not – because you actually recognized one and had an ambassador to the last one, the last Ottoman – the Ottoman empire – why you would, if you are opposed – or sorry, if you’re not opposed to a caliphate in – is it just – let me rephrase this completely.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Is it just this group forming a caliphate that you’re opposed to, or an al-Qaida-like group, a repressive group? Or is it the whole idea in general that you don’t like, of Muslims coming together under one person?

MS. PSAKI: I think the concern I’m expressing is about this specific group —

QUESTION: This specific – okay.

MS. PSAKI: — this extremist terrorist group, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. So then on the Kurdistan question, and about what Prime Minister Netanyahu said, there are a lot of people who think that this – that an independent Kurdistan is basically inevitable, especially – and it – and its being – its potential statehood is being accelerated by what’s going on on the ground now. Why is the United States so wedded to the post-World War I borders?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, obviously, it’s up to the Iraqi people to determine what their future will be, not the United States.

QUESTION: So it’s —

MS. PSAKI: I think our specific concern right now is that the largest threat they face is the threat of ISIL and that they should be united and focused on that and working together and continuing to work together. As you know, the Peshmerga and the Iraqi security forces have been working closely together over the last several weeks.

QUESTION: So in the end, in the long run, though, if all of Iraq was to agree to split, you would not be opposed if they were to do that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to speculate on what the future will hold. What we’re looking at right now is the immediate threat that is posing a threat to the very security and stability of Iraq.

QUESTION: But you do agree that Kurdistan is basically conducting itself as a sovereign nation? I mean, it imports, exports goods, including the export of oil to Israel and so on.

MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re familiar, Said —

QUESTION: I know, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: — because we’ve talked about it quite a bit, what our position is on the export and import of oil as well, and we believe that should go through the central Iraqi Government.

QUESTION: I’ve got another Iraq-related question —

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: — which has to do with the —

QUESTION: You’re saying because ISIL is the bigger threat and they all need to confront this threat together. But the Kurdish forces have said it publicly that they’re not going to fight ISIL unless they fight – attack them. So they are going to just look and see the conflict and —

MS. PSAKI: Well —

QUESTION: — they don’t want to be dragged into a sectarian war. That’s what they phrase – how they phrase it.

MS. PSAKI: Well, but the Peshmerga, the Kurdish forces, have been working closely with the ISF over the past several weeks to confront this threat. And one of the points the Secretary made when he was there meeting with leaders was the fact that they do need to be united, they need to continue to band together against this threat. And it’s not just a threat to Baghdad; it’s a threat to all of Iraq and it’s a threat to all of the region.

QUESTION: So you’ve seen the story – you will have seen the story in The New York Times today about Blackwater —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — and the State Department calling off an investigation into its activities after your lead investigator was allegedly threatened. I’m wondering what you have to say about that.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a great deal to say about it, and I’m happy to take any questions that you have. I certainly understand the interest. I will note that the story referenced this as an investigation. This was not an investigation. These were ongoing contract reviews that we do on a regular basis. That’s what the individuals were on the ground doing.

Obviously, as you all know, this is an ongoing legal case, so there’s very little we can say. But again, I know there are specific questions here, so I’m happy to take them if I can.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, an ongoing legal case has to do only with Nisour Square.

MS. PSAKI: You’re correct.

QUESTION: This apparently happened before that —

MS. PSAKI: You’re right.

QUESTION: — so it would not be part of the ongoing legal case, correct?

MS. PSAKI: You’re right. It is —

QUESTION: Unless, of course, you have – there is another case that we don’t know about which involves the State Department against Blackwater.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not referencing a different legal case.

QUESTION: All right. So —

MS. PSAKI: I’m just referencing the context here, which I think is relevant.

QUESTION: All right. So was the internal review – or, sorry, the – what did you say – it was the something – contract review. Was the contract review halted because of a threat?

MS. PSAKI: As I understand, there were steps taken at the time given threats that were – people faced. But I don’t have any additional information on it.

QUESTION: So you’re saying – so that part of the story you’re confirming? You’re saying that the – that someone employed by Blackwater in Iraq threatened a State Department auditor – however you want to call it – who was conducting a contract review, and that resulted in the review being called off?

MS. PSAKI: No. I apologize.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Let me – I understand that there were reports of threats. Obviously, we take any of that seriously. I don’t have any additional information beyond what I just shared.

QUESTION: Do you know what the result of the contract review was in question here? Was there a result or was it – or did it end? Did the review not come to an end?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any additional information. Again, I understand the interest.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: This was seven years ago, so we’re looking to track down more.

QUESTION: I understand this predates your time and even this Administration, but this building stays the same pretty much as it goes through —

MS. PSAKI: I understand. I’m not – I’m certainly validating your questions. I just don’t have more information than what I’ve provided.

QUESTION: Do you know whether —

QUESTION: Are you aware that —

QUESTION: Do you know whether because of this incident that any steps were taken to essentially keep the contractors in their place? The story suggested that the contractors felt that they were above the authority of the U.S. Government and had undue sway over certain Embassy personnel. Are there policies in place that basically say to contractors, “You are here under the good graces of the U.S. Government and you need to know what your place is”?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure how to address your question, Roz. I’m not sure exactly what your question is. Maybe you can repeat it.

QUESTION: Well, essentially, if someone comes in, whether from the IG’s office, Inspector General’s office, or from some other auditing firm that’s supposed to have the ability to talk to people, to look at records, to figure out if everything is being done according to rules and regulations – if that person’s ability to do his or her job is proscribed because someone feels that he and his colleagues are above review, what’s done to keep that from happening?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the reason – let me just say, broadly speaking, the reason why contract reviews or any reviews are done are to take a look at circumstances on the ground and make sure they are happening to – with all – taking all of the precautions and taking the appropriate process and pursuing the appropriate process. When there are findings that they are not, certainly those are reviewed and taken into account. I don’t have anything more specific in this case, but that’s why reviews, broadly speaking, are done – to look at the information and ensure that contractors or any individuals are operating at the top capacity.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Let me try one more.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Certainly in places that are warzones, and Iraq in 2007 was clearly still a warzone as far as the U.S. Government was concerned, it is understandable that in the middle of a crisis that people’s relationships will stray beyond normally accepted bounds of behavior. Are there rules in place today for people who are serving for the State Department in high-risk zones and the contractors with whom they work? Are there rules clearly spelling out what the extent of their professional relationship can be?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, broadly speaking; let me take it and see what information we can provide.

QUESTION: Can you also take the question as to whether there – this contract review was undertaken either because of any concern that this company was operating somehow outside of the bounds that it should have been, or if that kind of concern arose during the review?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, sure.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: New topic?

QUESTION: I have just a – very quickly. This happened, of course, in 2007, but there are allegations at the time that in fact higher-ups in the State Department took the side of Blackwater against the State Department auditor. Could you find out if that is the case?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more information. I’m happy to take the —

QUESTION: Because right after that —

MS. PSAKI: Said, let me finish. I’m happy to take the questions that have been addressed. I don’t think I have anything more, so let’s move on to a new subject.

QUESTION: Because this just —

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Lesley. We’re moving on. Go ahead, Lesley.

QUESTION: North Korea says they’re going to try the two detained Americans. Have you had any notice on this, and any comment from you?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we are aware of reports that U.S. citizens Matthew Miller and Jeffrey Fowle will face trial in North Korea. There’s no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad. Out of humanitarian concern for Mr. Fowle and Mr. Miller and their families, we request North Korea release them so they may return home. We also request North Korea pardon Kenneth Bae and grant him special amnesty and immediate release so he may reunite with his family and seek medical care.

Beyond the reports, Lesley, I don’t have any other official independent information, I guess I should say. I can also convey that the embassy of Sweden in North Korea visited Mr. Fowle on June 20th and Mr. Miller on May 9th and June 21st. And the embassy, of course, regularly requests consular access to all U.S. citizens in North Korean custody.

QUESTION: Do you —

QUESTION: Do you know, are they being held in the same place?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more information on that. I’m happy to check and see if there’s more we can provide.

QUESTION: Presumably, because you are now able to give their names, they’ve signed these privacy waiver things?

MS. PSAKI: They have.

QUESTION: So can you tell us under what circumstances they were both arrested and what charges they might be facing?

MS. PSAKI: There isn’t information – additional information we’re going to share. They – yes, they did sign a Privacy Act waiver, but it doesn’t obligate the Department to share all information about each case and each circumstances, especially when it comes to ensuring or taking every step we need to to help return them home.

QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait, wait.

QUESTION: So you cannot give us any indication of the charges they could be facing?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more information to provide.

QUESTION: Quite apart – this is a new one on me, and I’ve been – quite apart from this case, are you saying that if someone signs a Privacy Act waiver, if we ask a question, you don’t have – you still don’t have to answer it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think Privacy Act waiver gives us the ability to provide more information, and we do that as often as we possibly can. And there are some cases where it’s not in the benefit of the case or the individuals to provide more information.

QUESTION: But you make that decision, not the person?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are cases – there are processes that we undergo to ensure we can provide as much information as possible, and there are times when it’s not appropriate to. This is one of those times.

QUESTION: Well, let’s not talk – forget about this case. Just in general, I don’t get it. So if I sign a Privacy Act waiver saying I want you to tell the world about my case someplace, and one of my colleagues here asks you a question about it, you can say, “Well, he signed the waiver but we just don’t feel like telling you what the information is, so we’re not going to?”

MS. PSAKI: That’s not exactly how it works, Matt. But —

QUESTION: Well, I don’t understand. If I —

MS. PSAKI: — we provide as much information as we can.

QUESTION: If I – as you can? But if I’ve authorized you to go out and speak and tell – and say what happened to me and what my condition is and everything, you can still decide to say no, we’re not going to —

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think if —

QUESTION: You can say nothing?

MS. PSAKI: — if you were detained, you would want us to take steps that are in the best interests of your safety and security, wouldn’t you?

QUESTION: Well, yeah – if I’ve signed the waiver saying I want my story to be told, I would expect you to tell my story if I’m – if you were asked about it, not to say – to tell people —

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure you’ve seen a Privacy Act waiver and what they look like.

QUESTION: I have.

MS. PSAKI: It’s not exactly stating that. So we make decisions about what information is appropriate to provide in the best interests of citizens who are detained overseas. And we will —

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: For that matter, you could say that you’re not going to release any information ever, no matter what – no matter whether the thing – whether it’s signed or not.

MS. PSAKI: I think we try – make every effort to release as much information as we can.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So in this case, you can’t confirm that they’re facing trial? Even if you’re not going to tell us what the charges are, you cannot confirm independently that they’re facing trial?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t. And that’s not related to the Privacy Act waiver; that’s related to the fact that these are reports. We don’t have additional information to provide.

QUESTION: So the Swedish Embassy hasn’t been able to convey that information to you, or they haven’t been given that information?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more information to provide.

QUESTION: And can you give us an idea of what the Embassy might have told you about their state of health when they saw them on June 20th and 21st?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. I’m happy to check with them and see if there’s more to provide. Obviously, we’re requesting their release for humanitarian purposes. I will see if there’s more on their health that we are able to provide to all of you.

QUESTION: I imagine that you’ve been in touch with the families of both these men?

MS. PSAKI: We have been over the course of time. I don’t have any new timing on that, but I can also check on that question as well.

QUESTION: Did the families make any request of this building to not release certain information about their loved ones, in particular why they chose to go to North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to be able to provide any more information.

QUESTION: Can you just say in general, because we have these cases coming up every so often involving U.S. citizens – the U.S. doesn’t have diplomatic relations with North Korea. I assume that if I just decided I wanted to go, it would be very difficult for me to go without facing some sort of repercussion. What can be done to dissuade people from trying to go?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t track the travel of United States citizens. But obviously, we put Travel Warnings out, Roz —

QUESTION: Yeah, but if I —

MS. PSAKI: — to make sure people understand the circumstances they’re walking into.

QUESTION: But certainly if I’m coming back through Dulles and I’m going through border control, I’m going to get the once-over – maybe the once-over when they see that I have a visa from D.P.R.K. in my passport. What can be done to dissuade people from going and almost certainly getting themselves into trouble every time an American steps foot on North Korean soil?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s one of the reasons that we provide regular updates that are available on the State Department website, that we talk about frequently. All of you report about these cases as well. So I would encourage you to continue to do that.

QUESTION: I think one of the – the older man, if I’m not mistaken, apparently was arrested after people found a Bible in his hotel room. And we all know how the D.P.R.K. feels about Christianity. Is it an unnecessarily provocative act for those who think that they’re trying to spread the gospel to try to go to North Korea, knowing that they’re running the risk of being arrested, being treated however the North Koreans are able to cover up whatever they do to them, and then expecting the U.S. Government to come to their rescue even though, if you have a blue passport, you expect your government to come save you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, I think we are focused on the health and safety and well-being of United States citizens wherever they are in the world, and we take every step to ensure they either are returned home or they are safe. We have consular access. You know how we feel about freedom of religion and freedom of – and being able to express that. But certainly, the reason we provide information about a range of countries is to ensure people know what circumstances they’re walking into. And I don’t have the North Korea Travel Warning in front of me, but I can assure you that it suggests strongly not to travel at all to North Korea.

Go ahead, Ali.

QUESTION: Well, I had just two quick questions on that. Do you have any more on at what level the communication between the State Department officials and the families of the men who have been detained have been taking place?

MS. PSAKI: I do not. I can take that in the list of questions as well.

QUESTION: Sure. And then in the Travel Warning, there’s plenty of caveats about the fact that these travel companies can’t provide for safety of individual Americans. But I’m wondering, does this Department take a position on these companies actually doing these tours and seemingly, at times, willfully pulling – putting American citizens in danger? Do you take a position on the – just the merits in general of these tours being conducted?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to get that specific. But clearly, any tour company or any individual can access the information that we make available about travel and the warnings of travel to North Korea as well as other countries. And so I think that states pretty clearly where we stand about any type of travel.

QUESTION: North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: North Korea? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. North Korea, as you know, has launched the SCUD missile last September – no, no, last Saturday. Sorry. And then Marie – your colleague Marie told us that we are always concerned whenever they launch anything. So what about this time? Do you have some readout, or —

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are aware of reports that North Korea launched two projectiles from its east coast on June 29th, so just yesterday. We’re continuing to closely monitor North Korean activities and the situation on the peninsula. We urge North Korea to refrain from taking provocative actions and instead fulfill its international obligations and commitments, but I don’t have any further information on the type or specific details of the projectiles launched in this case.

QUESTION: As you know, President Park and Xi Jinping of China is going to meet this week. Does the United States ask something of both China or South Korea to send a message to North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as two of our vital partners in the Six-Party Talks that we engage with closely on the threat from North Korea, I’m certain – and I would refer you to them, but I would bet that this will be a part of their discussion and we’ll continue to engage closely with both China and Japan as it – or, sorry, China and South Korea as it relates to their discussions. And certainly, as you know, we also encourage dialogue and restraint as it relates to relationships in the region as well.

QUESTION: One more thing. Japan will also continue to talk to North Korea about abduction issues after this. Are you consulting with Japan with regard to this timing and with the sanction?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we support Japanese efforts to resolve the abductions issues, and we encourage them to do so in a transparent manner, and we’d refer you to them for more information about their talks.

QUESTION: Can I just stay on North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: North Korea this morning proposed that the two Koreas should halt hostile military activities later on this week. This appears to be ahead of the visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping. What is your reaction to this? Is this something that’s welcome or is it just a cynical ploy by Pyongyang to try and have some kind of image of being peace-loving ahead of the visit?

MS. PSAKI: Well, broadly speaking, we certainly support improved inter-Korean relations. But with these specific exercises, these are defense-oriented and they’re designed to enhance the ability to respond to any potential contingency that could arise. They’re designed to increase readiness to defend South Korea and protect the region, and they occur around the same time every year and are a regular part of what happens in the region. So we’ve seen these calls before, and we certainly see the value in these exercises and the value in them continuing.

QUESTION: So you’re not going to halt the exercises ahead of the visit by Xi Jinping to North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: I would refer you to the Department of Defense, but I’m not aware of any plans to do that.

QUESTION: One more (inaudible). Under Six-Party Talks, does the U.S. have any optimistic plan to resumption of Six-Party Talks future or near – within this year?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, the – it remains in the ball – the ball remains in North Korea’s court to take steps to abide by their international obligations in the 2005 Joint Statement. They haven’t shown an indication of their plans to do that, so I don’t have any prediction of a resumption.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we go to Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: In an hour or so, or less than an hour – 40 minutes from now – the cease-fire is supposed to expire. I noticed that there was another four-way phone call today between President Putin, Chancellor Merkel, President Hollande, President Poroshenko. And I’m wondering – and out of that, it looks like everyone kind of agreed that it should be extended with the exception of maybe Poroshenko, because I’m not sure that it has been extended yet.

Do you support an extension of the cease-fire and do you think that the Russians have met the – or taken steps to meet the criteria that was laid out by the EU on Friday to do by today?

MS. PSAKI: Well, whether to extend the cease-fire is a decision that Ukraine and only Ukraine will make, and we’d certainly support the decision, whatever decision that they make. But it takes two to implement a cease-fire, and to answer your second question, there are still ongoing reports of fighters from Russia and Russia-backed separatists continuing to attack Ukrainian Government positions. There are still troops on the border. There are still armed militants in Ukraine with – who are posing a threat to the Ukrainian people. So there are steps that we’ve long been calling for that are a part of what President Poroshenko has been calling for that Russia has not done.

Now they have taken some steps that have been positive steps moving forward, but there’s a great deal more that they need to do in order to de-escalate the situation.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that the – well, first of all, how – this cease-fire doesn’t seem to have been much of a cease-fire at all from the very beginning. But I’m wondering what you – because there have been a lot of reports of violations on both sides. But I’m wondering if you – if the U.S. Government’s understanding or the U.S. Government’s position is that the Ukrainian Government’s violations of the cease-fire have come in response – only in response to them being attacked themselves in self-defense. Is that your understanding?

MS. PSAKI: That is my understanding of what’s happening on the ground, and the Ukrainians were the ones who called for the cease-fire and exhibited admirable restraint in trying to implement the cease-fire, but there were steps that were taken from Russian-backed separatists that certainly didn’t abide by it.

QUESTION: So the Administration’s position is that the Ukrainian Government has and still is taking – is still showing admirable restraint in trying to keep the cease-fire alive and that violations are the fault of the Russian – of the separatists. Is that – that’s correct?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, and certainly we’d be concerned about any violations, but I’m not – don’t know if there were specific ones you’re speaking to or reports or anything.

QUESTION: No, just in general. Just what – not anything specific. And then on the sanctions issue, you are not – the Administration is not yet prepared to pull the trigger on new sanctions? Is that —

MS. PSAKI: Well, we remain prepared to impose additional sanctions, including sectoral sanctions should circumstances warrant, in coordination with our allies and partners. But I don’t have anything to announce for all of you today.

QUESTION: And my last one on Ukraine has to do with the refugee numbers. I asked Marie about this last week.

MS. PSAKI: I know you had a —

QUESTION: Yes, we had a bit of an exchange.

MS. PSAKI: An active debate.

QUESTION: Well, I wouldn’t say debate.

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, discussion.

QUESTION: An active exchange. Is it still your position that the numbers offered by the UN last week of 110,000 are inaccurate or not credible, as she said?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think they certainly – the context here is incredibly important because the UN Refugee Agency claims less than 10 percent of the 110,000 that they have given as a number. 9,600 people have applied for asylum. That is a significantly lower number. So by noting that 110,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Russia, which we don’t have a validation of that either, it doesn’t give context of in what capacity or how. And it certainly doesn’t give validity to Russian claims that hundreds of thousands of people are pouring over the border seeking asylum in Russia.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, it seems to be a bit – I don’t know – disingenuous to say that because only a small number of these people have actually applied for refugee – for asylum and refugee status in Russia that – it seems to be disingenuous to say that 110,000 people haven’t fled. You —

MS. PSAKI: We’re still looking into – I know Marie said this on Friday —

QUESTION: But your argument – your position is not based on – it’s – tell me this: Is your position based on the fact that only – that less than 10 percent of 110,000 people have actually applied for – formally applied for refugee status?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s part of the context here. We’re still talking to the UN agency about how they arrived at these numbers, but I think that’s an important component of the context.

QUESTION: Okay, but that doesn’t – that doesn’t mean that 100,000 people didn’t flee. Just because they haven’t formally applied doesn’t mean that 100,000 haven’t fled, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it doesn’t mean that they have either, so I think we’re —

QUESTION: Well, I – yeah, but – I know, but the UN is starting from the position or telling you or telling the world that 110,000 people have fled, and it just seems a bit odd if you’re – if your argument is, well, only 10,000 of them actually applied for refugee status, that means that the whole figure if is wrong —

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think part of it is it’s unclear if they’re relying on Russian claims. And so we’re just in discussions with them about how they arrived at these numbers, and I think there’s some context that we felt was important to provide.

QUESTION: Okay, well, do you – and I had this – Marie and I had this exchange as well. I mean, is this the only case where you are not sure of the UN High Commissioner for Refugee’s numbers? I mean, why do you take their word – the numbers in Syria or outside of Syria, the numbers who have fled Syria if you’re not willing to take them on their – not willing to accept them in this case?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m certain if we had a question about the validity of the numbers there, we would have raised it as well. But I – again, we’re in conversations with them, and if there’s more to say, we’ll say it.

QUESTION: To the best of your knowledge, they have not responded with – what are you actually asking them? How did you get your numbers? And then —

MS. PSAKI: Where did you arrive at – how did you arrive at the numbers, exactly.

QUESTION: And are you going to tell them that they have to prove it once they tell you? I mean what do you – I just – I’m not sure what you’re looking for. It seems to me that in almost every other situation, you guys accept the information that’s given by the UNHCR, and this case is somehow different, and I don’t understand – I’m not exactly sure why. That’s – why is this case different than Syria where you also don’t have people on the – eyes on the ground?

MS. PSAKI: We’re just looking for more context and information on the numbers, and we’ll be in touch with them about how they arrived at them.

QUESTION: Question about the cease-fire in Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: About – I’m sorry, which piece?

QUESTION: Because it was unilateral, the cease-fire that was announced, I guess, unilaterally by Poroshenko, correct – by the president of Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Correct, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So in this conversation today where they asked him to extend the cease-fire, it would be up to him to declare that since it is only one-sided?

MS. PSAKI: Up to President Poroshenko?

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Are you sort of leaning on him or are you asking him to extend the cease-fire?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve – it’s a decision for Ukraine and Ukraine —

QUESTION: I understand, but the —

MS. PSAKI: — only to make. Obviously, we’re in close consultations.

QUESTION: Are you encouraging him to extend the cease-fire?

MS. PSAKI: Again, it’s for – it’s a decision for Ukraine to make.

Let’s just do a few more. Go ahead, in the back.

QUESTION: On Nigeria. Is the United States still working with Nigeria on the abducted schoolgirls? There’s been really nothing in recent weeks. And are you guys still working with officials on this?

MS. PSAKI: We certainly are. The search for the kidnapped girls is ongoing. The Nigerians remain in the lead. We have a team that’s been on the ground for several weeks now. We’ll continue to evaluate additional resources, what additional resources we can provide. I wish I did have an update on it, but unfortunately there’s not one at this point to provide.

QUESTION: There’s been reporting over the weekend that some residents in northeastern Nigeria have basically formed their own militias because the Nigerian military can’t or won’t come into their areas to protect them from Boko Haram attacks. What has the U.S. been saying to Goodluck Jonathan and to his government about the need to mobilize their military and to be more proactive rather than having small groups of people who don’t have firearms going up against people with semiautomatic rifles?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, our discussions with Nigeria about addressing the threat of Boko Haram have been ongoing for months now. There’s no doubt there are challenges – challenges the Nigerian Government faces and those who are taking on this threat on the ground. And we’re certainly working with them to boost their capacity and advise them on how best to address it. But I’m not going to outline it further than that.

QUESTION: But doesn’t it worry people in this building that the security situation inside what is arguably the largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa – that people don’t feel they can trust their own security apparatus and that they have to take up weapons themselves to try to protect themselves from a vital security threat?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, I’d remind you that we, the United States, has boosted our resources that we’re providing to the Nigerian Government in order to help them take on the threat of Boko Haram because of our rising concern about that threat. So we too feel that there needs to be increased capacity, and our resources and our efforts have also backed that up.

Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: There are reports that there were a series of attacks yesterday in Borno State in four villages outside of the area where the girls were kidnapped. Explosives were thrown into churches and around 50 people were hurt – or killed. Do you have any reaction to that? Any information you can share?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have new information. I know there are similarities. It fits the – Boko Haram’s recent pattern in terms of target attacks and methods of attack. They haven’t seen – unless it’s happened in the last hour, I don’t think they have come out and claimed responsibility, but regardless of that, we condemn the reported attacks on four villages near Chibok. Our sympathies go out to the victims and their families. We remain committed to helping the Government of Nigeria address the threat posed by the criminal terrorist group. Our Embassy continues to support Nigerian efforts to bring about the safe recovery of the abductees and to advise the Government of Nigeria on its response.

And as I noted in response to Roz’s question, certainly, we all are concerned about the rising threat of Boko Haram, and we are – have been increasing our assistance as a result of that.

QUESTION: But to Roz’s point, we’ve got some leaders from the Chibok area who said that the military didn’t even bother to go and try and – attempt to try and go to the scene of this latest attack, which would – again, would suggest that they’re in completely – in complete disarray despite any efforts that the Americans might be offering them on the ground.

I mean, are you finding that they’re responsive to what you’re trying to aid them with, or are they just not listening at all?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I haven’t – I don’t have any validation of all of those reports, and what I know is that because of our concern about the threat that’s risen over the course of the last several months – obviously, the kidnapping, other attacks that have happened since then have prompted us to increase our assistance, to do more training, to do more to boost the capacity of the Nigerian military and of the Nigerian Government. So I don’t have anything to speak to as it relates to reports of whether or not they went to the villages because I don’t have any addi

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Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Josh Earnest en route Joint Base Andrews, 6/27/2014

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

June 27, 2014

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Joint Base Andrews

12:02 P.M. CDT
 
MR. EARNEST:  Good afternoon, everybody.  It’s nice to see you all.  I hope you enjoyed the day or two we spent in the Twin Cities.  I know for some of you that was a homecoming.  The President certainly enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time outside of Washington, D.C. 
 
I might just add at the top that I think the last 24 hours have served as a rather apt illustration of the different approaches that are pursued by our elected leaders in Washington, D.C.  On the one hand, you have a President who is bound and determined to do anything he can, either working with Democrats and Republicans in Congress or working around Republicans, to make progress on policies that would expand economic opportunity for the middle class. 
 
On the other hand, you have Republicans in Congress who seem just as bound and determined to use every means at their disposal to try to stop the President from moving the country forward.  And in effect, that seems to preserve some of the built-in advantages that benefit the wealthy and the well-connected.  And I think you can anticipate that the President will be spending more time in the weeks ahead sort of demonstrating his determination to benefit middle-class families, and highlighting the starkly different approaches.
 
Q    Josh, was this speech his kickoff for his role heading to the midterms?
 
MR. EARNEST:  No.  I would characterize this as yet another opportunity for the President to highlight the stark difference in approaches that I was talking about at the beginning. 
 
Q    Josh, I wanted to ask you about the situation in Ukraine.  Russia is already threatening trade sanctions against Ukraine for signing a political and economic pact with the EU.  If Russia follows through with that, would that constitute the kind of destabilizing actions that would prompt U.S. sectoral sanctions?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, let me start with some comments that I do have on this.  As you know, there were some conversations that took place between President Poroshenko and members of the U.N. — I’m sorry, the European Council earlier today.  The European Council and the United States will continue to seek immediate and positive stabilizing action from the Russian government.  Comments from President Putin, like the ones that you cited, are meant to intimidate the Ukrainian government, and are simply unhelpful.
 
As the Council said, we expect that by Monday, June 30th, this coming Monday, that the following steps will be taken:  First, that there’s an agreement on a verification mechanism monitored by the OSCE for the ceasefire and for the effective control of the border between Ukraine and Russia.  Second, that there be a return to Ukrainian authorities of all three border checkpoints.  Third, that the remaining OSCE observers who have been held hostage will be released along with all of the other hostages that have been taken.  And fourth, that there would be the launch of substantial negotiations on the implementation of the peace plan that President Poroshenko put forward. 
 
Let me also use this opportunity to reiterate our call for President Putin to move Russian combat forces away from the border, to cease support for separatists, and to urge separatists to abide by the ceasefire and disarm.  Together, these actions would send a clear signal that Russia is interested in a diplomatic settlement resulting in stability in eastern Ukraine.
 
We’ve talked frequently about the potential that Russia has and that President Putin personally has to play a constructive role in de-escalating the conflict there.  And these are some examples of the kinds of steps that we’d like to see by Monday to demonstrate his commitment to playing that constructive role.  Threats of trade sanctions would be a pretty good example of the kinds of things that we would consider unhelpful.
 
The fact of the matter is, the kinds of agreements that Ukraine and Georgia and Moldova signed today are the kinds of agreements that should be decisions made solely by those sovereign governments.  And the undue influence by outside actors is completely inappropriate.
 
Q    You mentioned June 30th.  What’s the significance of that deadline?  Do sanctions follow the day after?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, we have demonstrated — well, I guess I would say that we have signaled a clear willingness to act in concert with our partners and allies to further isolate Russia.  There have already been some steps that have been taken that have isolated Russia from the international community as a result of the unhelpful actions of the Russians, and additional unhelpful actions would lead to additional economic costs that would have to be borne by Russia.  That is an option that remains on the table. 
 
Q    June 30th is a pretty important day then. 
 
MR. EARNEST:  It is an important day in the context of seeing Russian action on the steps that I just outlined.  I’m not prepared to draw a clear line between these steps and sanctions at this point, but suffice it to say that the threat of sanctions only looms larger, and economic costs would increase, if Russia fails to take these actions.
 
Q    So all four of these actions are prerequisites in your mind?
 
MR. EARNEST:  All four of these are very specific steps that we would like to see the Russians take in advance of Monday.  And failing to take them only increases the likelihood that additional economic costs could be imposed.
 
Q    Can you tell us about the meeting this afternoon on the VA?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I can tell you that the President is planning to meet with the acting head of the Veterans Administration, Sloan Gibson, and Rob Nabors, who’s the Deputy Chief of Staff that the President sent over to the VA to look into so many of the problems that have been uncovered in recent weeks at the VA. 
 
I don’t have a readout in advance of that meeting, but I know that we are working to try to provide you some information at the conclusion of that meeting about what they discussed.
 
Q    What about the timing for naming a new Secretary of the VA?  Is that going to be a topic of discussion?  Is that imminent today, next week?
 
MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have any update for you in terms of the timing.  That remains a very high priority of this administration to install new leadership at the VA, to start putting in place some of the reforms that, frankly, were initiated by the previous VA Secretary, and have also been recommended by some of the other individuals who are looking at the problems at the VA.  I know that the inspector general is working hard at this.  You know that Mr. Nabors is also working hard to put together a report assessing some of the problems at the VA and maybe offering up some reforms.
 
So there’s some very important work that needs to get done at the VA, and that work will be enhanced when there is new permanent leadership at the VA.  I don’t have an update for you in terms of timing, but that search remains a high priority. 
 
Q    After that guy at the Cleveland Clinic withdrew, did that kind of put you guys back to starting all over again in your search?
 
MR. EARNEST:  No, it didn’t.  It didn’t.  We’ve had an ongoing process for some time, and we’ve made some progress in that process.
 
Q    You’ve narrowed the choices?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve made a lot of progress, and it remains a high priority.  But I’m not in a position to offer up any guidance in terms of timing at this point.
 
Q    Josh, the President several times on this trip seemed be very critical of the news media.  Why was he sort of stressing that message on this trip in particular?  He seemed to also sort of be tying in the news media with the Republicans of just focusing on false scandals and the wrong storylines. 
 
MR. EARNEST:  That’s not how I interpreted his remarks.  My interpretation is that so much of what — that what Washington is focused on seems to be materially different than what people all across the country are focused on.  I don’t see that as an indictment of the news media.  I see that —
 
Q    He said you won’t hear these things covered, you won’t see this on the nightly news; we had a conference the other day on working families, that wasn’t on the nightly news a lot.  I mean, these are the things he was saying several times.  At the fundraiser he said it as well.  You don’t see it?  I mean, the White House has said he doesn’t watch TV news, but yet he was very critical of the TV news.  How does he know what they’re covering or what they’re not?
 
MR. EARNEST:  To say that he’s not a regular viewer doesn’t mean he’s not aware of what’s on it.  But look, I think what the President is trying to highlight is his commitment to focusing on those issues that are the subject of so many discussions around kitchen tables in middle-class homes all across the country.  And those issues may not be as sexy or as intellectually captivating as some of the other things that are on the news more regularly, but it doesn’t mean that they’re less important to millions of families all across the country.
 
In fact, at least to this President, those kinds of discussions about balancing work and family obligations, and expanding economic opportunity, and better access to job training and a college education — these are the kinds of bread-and-butter issues that, again, aren’t necessarily sexy issues, but they have been the primary motivation for this President’s agenda since he decided to enter the presidential race in early 2007.
 
And that’s not an indictment of any specific news organization, but it is an indictment I think of Republicans who are focused on different priorities.  After all, they were ostensibly elected by their constituents to focus on the kinds of issues that will have the most direct impact on the lives of their constituents.  All I can say is that’s what the President is focused on.  And I think that what we have seen is a pretty apt comparison between a President who’s bound and determined to do everything he can to benefit middle-class families, and Republicans in Congress who are bound and determined to stop the President from making progress on behalf of middle-class families.
 
Q    There have been general polls that say that, in the midterms, that Republicans are likely to pick up seats in the House and potentially win the Senate.  If that’s true, then why does the President believe that maybe the public does actually believe in what this Republican message that he’s so critical about is actually translating better than his own message?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, the fact is that these sort of electoral polls are going to go up and they’re going to go down.  I think what the President is interested in is having a broader national conversation about what we can do to make sure that Washington, D.C., remains responsive and in touch with the concerns that are expressed and experienced in the everyday lives of so many middle-class families. 
 
That’s one of the benefits of holding up the story of Rebekah Erler, from Minnesota — that so many of the controversies and political conflict that’s highlighted on the evening news isn’t just relevant in her life as much more basic elements of what are we going to do to make quality childcare less expensive; what are we going to do to make it a little easier for somebody to take off work if a child or a parent gets sick; what are we going to do to make sure that middle-class families have an opportunity to send their kids to college and save for retirement, and also have enough money set aside to take a modest vacation with their kids.
 
These are basic fundamental issues.  And again, I understand why these issues are in the evening news every night.  I understand why they’re not on the front page of an influential newspaper like The Washington Post.
 
Q    Why not?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, because, again, they’re not as sexy.  Maybe they don’t make —
 
Q    If you’re going to say something about the Post, the Post won a Pulitzer for explanatory journalism about poverty this year — Eli Saslow.  So I just want to point that out.  Some of our best-read content.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Again, I did not mean that as a criticism of the Post.
 
Q    I know.
 
MR. EARNEST:  I genuinely didn’t.  It’s not an intentional jab to suggest that The Washington Post is an influential newspaper.  It actually is.
 
Q    I know, I appreciate that.  You said it wasn’t on the front page.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, it’s not on the front page every day I think is the point that I’m making.  It has been on the front page.  And I remember Eli did some good work where he traveled to Kentucky and sat with people were signing up people who were benefitting from Obamacare.
 
Q    And he wrote a book about the President’s letters that you got, if I recall.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Yes.  So there’s good work that’s done.  But again, that’s not the — again, those aren’t the blaring headlines on the front page of the Post.  And I don’t mean that as a criticism of the people who are making those decisions.  I just want to suggest that there is a difference — that while the stories that are being covered and getting front-page attention are leading the network news are interesting, and in many cases very important to the future of this country.  The conflict in Iraq in has been in the news and on the front page of The Washington Post a lot.  That’s an important issue.  But there are also important issues related to the day-to-day challenges experienced by middle-class families.
 
And I think what the President is saying is that even if they’re not on the front page of The Washington Post every day, they are at the top of his mind every day when he wakes up and goes to work in the Oval Office.
 
Q    Josh, let’s talk about landmines and the announcement this morning that the U.S. will stop acquiring them.  What is the current size of the U.S. stockpile of landmines?  And are they currently being used anywhere in the world?
 
MR. EARNEST:  I’m not in a position to detail the inventory of landmines that are in the U.S. stockpile.  I can tell you that there was a commitment that was announced today that the United States will not produce or otherwise acquire any anti-personnel landmines in the future, including to replace existing stockpiles.  And what that means is we were signaling our clear aspiration to eventually accede to the Ottawa Convention.
 
Now, that does raise the question in the minds of some defense experts about the defenses that are in place along the border between North Korea and South Korea.  And let me just be clear that the announcement today in no way signals a reduction in our commitment or our ability to assist in the defense of our allies in South Korea.  This is an issue that’s going to require some additional study.  And eventually, we would like to find a way that we can, like I said, continue the robust defense that’s in place of our allies in South Korea while eventually acceding to the Ottawa Convention. 
 
Q    So is it those concerns about the situation on the Korean Peninsula that is keeping the U.S., despite this announcement, from immediately just starting to destroy our stockpile or at least committing not to use them?
 
MR. EARNEST:  I don’t think I’m in a position to sort of give you a thorough analysis of all the reasons that we may not be ready to accede to that convention today.  But I do think it is a notable adjustment of U.S. policy that we are now articulating our desire to be able to accede to the Ottawa Convention. 
 
But again, we do that knowing that our commitment to protecting our allies in South Korea has in no way been diminished.
 
Q    And on Syria, on the announcement of the President’s request for half a billion dollars to help train the rebels, does that signal that the situation in Iraq and in Syria has basically become one regional conflict?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, there are certainly regional elements to the violence and destabilizing activity that we’ve seen in that region.  There’s no doubt about that.   
 
I think what the announcement that you’ve seen represents a couple of things.  The first is, there has been a — there’s already been a wide range of efforts in place to support moderate elements of the Syrian opposition.  We’ve talked about in the past that this includes a significant amount of humanitarian assistance that’s been provided to the opposition but also to countries in the region who are dealing with the consequences of the violence and instability that has racked that country.  We’ve also seen the provision of a wide range of both military and non-military assistance to the Syrian opposition — to moderate elements of the Syrian opposition, I should say.
 
So the second thing is that this is an announcement that additional vetting has been done that makes the U.S. government and the Obama administration in particular more comfortable with providing additional assistance to moderate elements of the Syrian opposition.  And that’s an important next step. 
 
Ultimately, though, one element of our policy hasn’t changed, which is that finally resolving the situation in Syria is going to require a diplomatic solution.  And it’s no doubt that it’s a little disheartening that a diplomatic solution seems quite a ways off, but that continues to be, in our judgment, the only resolution to that ongoing conflict.
 
Q    Is there an expectation for timing on how Congress will take up that request?  And is it too little, too late already? 
 
MR. EARNEST:  No, I don’t think so, primarily because I think that they are — this may be, at the risk of sounding naïve and overly optimistic, an area where there could be some bipartisan common ground. 
 
So, frankly, due at least in part to our travels to Minnesota, I haven’t seen all of the reaction from leaders from both parties on Capitol Hill to this request for additional funding for overseas contingency operations, but we’ll see.  Hopefully, Congress will act pretty quickly.
 
I know that, at least rhetorically, there have been some influential Republican members of Congress who have indicated that this would be a good thing to do, but I would understand if they’d want to take a look at our proposal and consider it more carefully before eventually taking action.  But hopefully, that can be done quickly, and action in the legislature can be done quickly as well.
 
Q    Our reports have armed drones flying over Iraq, and then also Iranian drones doing surveillance.  So any reaction or updates on the President’s thinking with what’s going on in Iraq?  And then secondly, there’s reports that Khattalah is going to be back in the U.S. as soon as this weekend, so any updates on or briefings that he’s had on that? 
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, first let me say that I think that we have acknowledged — well, I know that we have acknowledged that we have increased the amount of intelligence-gathering and surveillance equipment in Iraq, including surveillance drones.  This is part of our effort to try to get a better sense about what’s actually happening on the ground in Iraq as it relates to the strength of ISIL.  So that’s something that we’ve previously talked about, and that is an effort that is ongoing.  And we have acknowledged publicly that the increase in resources now allows us to have around-the-clock eyes on the situation in Iraq.
 
In terms of armed drones, I’d say two things about that.  For operational details, I’d refer you to my colleagues at the Department of Defense.  But the second thing is that the President has reiterated his commitment many times to making sure that we have the resources in place and the equipment in place to provide for the protection of U.S. personnel in Iraq.  There have been other moves that have been announced by the Department of Defense to ensure that those resources and that equipment and those capabilities are at the ready.  That included the movement of an aircraft carrier in the region and other Navy vessels to provide for the protection of U.S. personnel in Iraq.  But in terms of individual operational changes in our posture, I’d refer you to the Department of Defense. 
 
In terms of Abu Khattalah, I don’t have any updates in terms of the timing of his arrival in the United States to stand trial. 
Q    Week ahead?
 
MR. EARNEST:  I do have a week ahead. 
 
Q    I have one before the week ahead.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Sure.
 
Q    We haven’t seen Rebekah’s letter, although the President quoted from it extensively in his speech.  Are we going to get to see that?  If not, why?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Only because the letter included some personal details about her family’s situation that I think she — rather, pretty understandably didn’t want to share.
 
Q    Could you just redact those?  (Laughter.)  You could.
 
MR. EARNEST:  We probably could, but I think at this point we’ve shared as much of the letter that we’re going to share at this point.
 
Q    And just one quick one.  Martin Indyk’s resignation as the Mideast peace envoy — I know his deputy has stepped up as an interim.  Will the President replace — announce a full-time permanent replacement for that position?
 
MR. EARNEST:  That’s a good question.  I’ll have to take that question.  I actually would suggest that you check with my colleagues at the Department of State.  They may have a better sense of that. 
 
The President is certainly appreciative of all that Mr. Indyk has done in pursuit of trying to find a lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  He’s done really important work.  He’s an expert in this area.  He’s returning to the Brookings Institution, but we anticipate that he will continue to be involved in this administration’s efforts to try to resolve that situation.
 
We have complete confidence in his deputy who is going to take over.  And this is a process in which the United States continues to be engaged.
 
The week ahead:
 
On Monday, the President will welcome back to the White House Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.  The visit will highlight our close relationship with Chile and our strong partnership with the Bachelet administration on advancing peace and global security, social inclusion and free trade.  The President looks forward to consulting with President Bachelet on U.N. Security Council matters, other multilateral and regional issues, and ongoing negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as on expanding educational exchanges and deepening our collaboration in the areas of energy, science and technology.  The Vice President will also participate.  It sounds like a long meeting.
 
In the afternoon, the President will host a reception at the White House in recognition of LGBT Pride Month.  The First Lady will also attend that reception.

On Tuesday, the President will hold a Cabinet meeting and attend a couple of other meetings at the White House. 

On Wednesday, the President will host top economists for lunch to discuss ways to accelerate economic growth, expand opportunity, and improve the competitiveness of the American economy. 
 
On Wednesday [Thursday], the President will attend meetings at the White House.
 
On Friday, the President and First Lady will celebrate the Fourth of July by hosting military heroes and their families for an Independence Day celebration with a barbeque, a concert, and a view of fireworks on the South Lawn.  Some White House staff and their families from across the administration will also attend this event for the concert and fireworks viewing.  The event will be streamed live at whitehouse.gov/live.
 
Q    Can I ask about the economists?  This is the second recent lunch he’s having with economists.  Is it the same group?  And what did he learn from the first one, and what does he hope to learn from this one?
 
MR. EARNEST:  It’s a different group of economists.  And as you know, the President is always on the look for some outside-the-box ideas for ways that we can strengthen America’s economic competitiveness and expand economic opportunity for the middle class.
 
So again, I think the President is looking forward to what he would describe as a pretty open-ended discussion.  He’s looking for people who are legitimate experts in this field to bring their ideas.  And the President has put forward a lot of good ideas already.  He’s going to continue to push those ideas, but he’s also not going to stop looking for new ideas, some outside-the-box ideas — maybe even some ideas that might cause Republicans to drop their strident opposition to policies the President supports that could, again, move the country forward.
 
So the President is looking forward to the discussion.  I wouldn’t expect any major announcements out of the lunch, but I can tell you that it’s an opportunity for the President to have the kind of conversation and to draw out the kinds of ideas that he thinks would be good for the country.
 
Q    But there’s these two recent meetings.  And I mean, I’ve been doing this for about a year or so, and I don’t recall him having lunch with economists before.  Is there something about right now or the time that we’re in right now that would cause him to look for these fresh ideas, these out-of-the-box ideas?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, two things about that.  Like most Americans, the President has lunch every day — and we don’t tell you about who has lunch with him.  So that’s part of it.  But the President has periodically over the course of his administration looked for opportunities to sit down with experts in a wide range of fields to talk to them about their ideas for the kinds of policies that would strengthen the country.  And this is just the latest example.  There is no one thing that has precipitated this series of meetings.  But the President really enjoyed the discussion that he had with economists a couple of weeks ago, and he’s really looking forward to next week’s discussion as well.
 
Thanks, guys.

END
12:30 P.M. CDT

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Press Releases: Joint Statement on U.S.-Germany Cyber Bilateral Meeting

The text of the following statement was issued jointly by the Governments of the United States of America and the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany on the occasion of the US-Germany Cyber Bilateral Meeting June 26, 2014.

Begin Text:

The Governments of the United States and Germany held a Cyber Bilateral Meeting in Berlin, Germany on June 26, 2014.

This third annual U.S.-Germany Cyber Bilateral Meeting reinforced our long-standing alliance by highlighting our pre-existing collaboration on many key cyber issues over the course of the last decade and identifying additional areas for awareness and alignment. The U.S.-Germany Cyber Bilateral Meeting continued and further expanded its “whole-of-government” approach, furthering cooperation on a wide range of cyber issues and our collaborative engagement on both strategic and operational objectives.

Strategic objectives include affirming common approaches in Internet governance, Internet freedom, and international cyber security; partnering with the private sector to protect critical infrastructure; and pursuing coordination efforts on cyber capacity building in third countries. The discussions of Internet governance issues focused on continued efforts to bolster support for the multi-stakeholder model for Internet governance, particularly after the successful conclusion of the NETmundial Conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The United States and Germany will continue their close cooperation on these issues as the preparations for Internet Governance Forum 9 in Istanbul, Turkey are underway, and as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is convening the multistakeholder community to develop a proposal to transition the stewardship of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) function from the U.S. Government.

Discussions of the Information Society issues also included the preparations for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan, Korea in October and the United Nations General Assembly’s 10 year review of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) focusing on development and continued efforts to realize a global, open, inclusive Internet for all. Additional strategic objectives included expanding the Freedom Online Coalition, and the application of norms and responsible state behavior in cyberspace, particularly as the UN Group of Governmental Experts is poised to start its next effort and building on the successful 2013 consensus report affirming the applicability of international law to state behavior in cyberspace.

Operational objectives comprise bilateral cybersecurity cooperation measures such as exchanging information on cyber issues of mutual concern such as critical information infrastructure protection and identifying greater cooperation measures on detecting and mitigating cyber incidents, raising awareness, combating cybercrime, and implementing the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE’s) confidence-building measures to reduce risk,

The bilateral meeting took place the day before the U.S.-Germany Cyber Dialogue, a multistakeholder event organized jointly by the German Foreign Office and the U.S. Department of State and focused on big data, privacy, security, economic innovation, and international cyber cooperation. The Cyber Dialogue will be hosted by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier; John Podesta, Counselor to President Obama will also provide keynote remarks. A high level panel of both German and U.S. experts will discuss big data, privacy, security, economic innovation, and international cyber cooperation. Participants from government, industry, civil society and academia will have the chance to discuss these issues and provide input for potential solutions.

The U.S.-Germany Cyber Bilateral Meeting was hosted by Ambassador Dirk Brengelmann, Commissioner for International Cyber Policy and the German delegation included representatives from the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Ministry of Defense, the Federal Chancellery, the Federal Ministry for Economics and Technology, and the Federal Office for Information Security. The U.S. delegation was led by Secretary of State’s Coordinator for Cyber Issues, Christopher Painter, and included representatives from the Department of State, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, the National Security Council and the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President.

Coordinator Painter and Ambassador Brengelmann agreed to hold the next annual Cyber Bilateral Meeting in Washington, DC in mid-2015 again in conjunction with a multistakeholder cyber dialogue.

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Ministers Continue Collaboration to Protect Fisheries and Support Canadian Fishing and Aquaculture Industries

Fisheries Ministers conclude the annual meeting of the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers

June 26, 2014 – Calgary, Alberta

On June 26, Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers met at the  Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers (CCFAM) annual meeting, where they reinforced their commitment to job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity, while discussing sustainability and a broad range of fisheries and aquaculture issues.

The annual meeting was co-chaired by the Honourable Gail Shea, Federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Honourable Cal Dallas, Alberta Minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations, and attended by fisheries ministers from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, and Nunavut. Quebec was represented by the Minister’s Parliamentary Assistant.

Ministers discussed the recently announced Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union.  Ministers emphasized the continued importance of opening other international markets through trade agreements to ensure long term growth and prosperity and to create job opportunities for Canadians. Ministers noted that to capitalize on these new markets, access to a stable workforce for the aquaculture, harvesting and processing sectors is required.

The new Aquaculture Activities Regulations for the aquaculture sector announced by Minister Shea earlier today demonstrate how the federal government will pursue a targeted, pragmatic regulatory agenda and will address key barriers to industry growth while safeguarding the environment and respecting the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories.

Ministers also discussed the proposed aquatic invasive species regulations.  Over the past several years, federal, provincial and territorial governments have worked cooperatively to protect Canadian waters against the threat of aquatic invasive species. Ministers agreed on the importance of these newly developed regulations as a key tool in managing the threat of aquatic invasive species in our waters, that will protect our shared economic interests and domestic species.

Ministers also reviewed a presentation on the continued implementation of the Fisheries Protection Program, and received an update on the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program (RFCPP), which has been given a total investment of $25 million through the Economic Action Plan. Recreational fishing is a significant industry in Canada and contributes greatly to the Canadian economy, especially in rural areas. In 2010, anglers generated $8.3 billion for local economies.

Following the CCFAM meeting, the Atlantic Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers met to discuss the important challenges still facing the Atlantic lobster industry. They also discussed the World Trade Organization’s recent ruling on the European Union ban on seals.

Ministers recognized the importance of the consultations and efforts made over the last number of months to address lobster industry issues. They also acknowledged challenges facing the fisheries, such as acute local labour shortages in the processing sector.

Ontario will host the next meeting of the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers meeting in 2015.

Quick Facts

  • Canada and the European Union (EU) reached an agreement in principle in October 2013 on a comprehensive trade agreement that will significantly boost trade and investment ties between the two partners, and create jobs and opportunities for Canadians. When the Canada-EU Trade Agreement comes into force, almost 96 per cent of all EU tariffs on Canadian fish and seafood products will be eliminated, with the remaining 4 per cent to be eliminated by the 7th year of the Agreement.
  • Commercial fisheries play a vital role in Canada’s economy, particularly for coastal regions. In 2013, Canada exported $4.4 billion of fish and seafood products, an increase of $268 million from 2012.
  • The aquaculture industry in Canada now creates over 14,000 full-time equivalent, year-round, stable jobs in rural, coastal, and Aboriginal communities.
  • Aquaculture accounts for nearly 50 per cent of seafood consumed worldwide. By 2030, it is estimated that demand will exceed supply by 40 million tonnes. 
  • The next steps in the aquaculture regulatory reform agenda will include a number of regulatory initiatives such as amendments to the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations. These will establish a licence fee schedule and provide for annual payment installments for multi-year aquaculture licences.
  • Aquatic invasive species (AIS) pose a significant and growing threat to Canada’s freshwater and marine ecosystems with consequences to multiple economic sectors in Canada.  At present Canada does not have national regulations, making it difficult to safe guard our valuable waterways from new and established AIS.

Quotes

“Healthy oceans and waters as well as aquaculture, recreational and commercial fisheries are an important part of Canada’s economy. Our Government is committed to work with our provincial and territorial partners to maximize job creation and economic growth in these sectors, while maintaining strong environmental and conservation standards.”

The Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada

“As the host of the annual meeting of the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers, Alberta is pleased to play a leading role in helping to maintain and promote the productive status of fisheries all across our country. Albertans are committed to sustainable management of our natural resources, and we believe the outcomes of this meeting help us to achieve that end.” 

The Honourable Cal Dallas, Alberta Minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations

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Media contacts

Frank Stanek
Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
613-990-7537

Sophie Doucet
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
613-992-3474

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Harper Government Takes Further Steps to Enable the Aquaculture Industry to Thrive

Regulatory Changes to Reduce Duplication While Maintaining Strong Environmental Standards

June 26, 2014 – Ottawa, Ontario

The Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, announced today that the Government of Canada will take extra steps to increase sustainable aquaculture production in Canada while protecting the environment.

Despite Canada benefitting from the longest coastline in the world, it continues to lag behind other countries. Red tape and regulatory burden are among the main causes for this situation. This sector is currently being regulated by ten different federal acts.

A modernized regulatory environment will allow Canada to take advantage of the global demand for fish and seafood products that continues to rise. It will improve coherence, simplicity and accountability while maintaining strong environmental standards.

Earlier this year the Government has announced a $54 million investment for the renewal of the Sustainable Aquaculture Program, which includes an aquaculture regulatory reform agenda. Today’s announcement clarifies the role of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on the deposit of substances in water for the purposes of aquaculture.

As the next step of this process, new proposed Aquaculture Activities Regulations will be pre-published in early July, 2014 in the Canada Gazette, Part I, for a 60-day public comment period.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been working with its regulatory partners to develop the proposed Regulations to ensure they build on existing provincial and federal regulatory regimes. When finalized, the proposed Regulations would resolve uncertainties in the application of various federal Acts, eliminate overlap and duplication issues and reflect the unique circumstances of aquaculture.

Quick Facts

  • The aquaculture industry in Canada now creates over 14,000 full-time equivalent, year-round, stable jobs in rural, coastal, and Aboriginal communities.
  • With its tremendous set of natural advantages for aquaculture production, Canada has to better position itself to tap into global demand, especially in the context of the expected signature of trade agreements with the European Union and South Korea.
  • Aquaculture accounts for nearly 50 per cent of seafood consumed worldwide. By 2030, it is estimated that demand will exceed supply by 40 million tonnes.  
  • The next steps in the aquaculture regulatory reform agenda will include a number of regulatory initiatives such as amendments to the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations. These will establish a licence fee schedule and provide for annual payment installments for multi-year aquaculture licences.

Quote

“Our Government is committed to job creation, economic growth and long term prosperity. Canada benefits from the longest coastline in the world and a growing aquaculture sector can provide jobs to rural, coastal and Aboriginal communities. Today we are taking further steps to enable the aquaculture industry to thrive and create much needed jobs, while being sustainable and environmentally sound.”

The Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

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Media contacts

Frank Stanek
Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
613-990-7537

Sophie Doucet
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
613-992-3474

Follow us on Twitter!

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