The last few days have been productive...and exhausting. We left the hotel in Shannon yesterday at 7:30 AM for a flight to Dublin, where the Secretary had back-to-back meetings. She met with Irish Transport Minister Noel Dempsey to talk about implementation of our aviation preclearance agreement. I think it was clear in the meeting that both sides want this agreement in place. It will improve security for international flights coming to the U.S., and it will do so while making connecting in the U.S. easier. Just imagine: you land in the U.S. after a long flight from Europe, and instead of making stops at baggage claim, customs, baggage checking, and security, you can simply walk from one gate to the next. Before leaving Ireland, the Secretary also met with the Minister of Justice, Equality, and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern, to talk about a possible agreement to share information on transnational law enforcement, similar to the one she signed today with Portugal.
Then it was off to London. We landed at Stansted Airport just before 2 PM and headed to the office of the new Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, and then the office of the Transport Minister, Lord Adonis. These meetings covered a range of topics, including cybersecurity, air travel security, and combating violent extremism. These are all issues that are salient to both countries, and our close relationship is invaluable as we address these global threats. As we walked around the block from one minister's office to the next, I thought about the fact that each of these ministers has only been in office for a few weeks. Secretary Napolitano wanted to meet with her counterparts early in their tenure, to continue the US/UK discussion on these issues with the new team. Then there was the reception at the ambassador's residence, a home in a style befitting the emissary to "Her Majesty's Government."
Today, the Secretary had a series of media interviews in the morning before leaving London and flying to Portugal. There, the Secretary met with the Ministers of Justice, Foreign Affairs, and the Interior. They all made a point of mentioning that Secretary Napolitano was the first member of President Obama's cabinet to visit Lisbon. The Portuguese and U.S. negotiators, lawyers, and translators were putting the finishing touches on the agreement only an hour before it was signed.
I noticed the folks back home already posted on the information sharing agreement. I'll give it one more plug. We look forward to cooperating with as many nations as possible in combating transnational criminals and terrorists. The Secretary has repeatedly said that these threats don’t respect borders, and that we have to work with our international partners to ensure safety for all our citizens. Check out the earlier post for more on this.
After the signing, it was another media availability and then straight to the airport for a 6PM flight to Spain.
It's settling on 12 AM here in beautiful Madrid. We have another full day tomorrow. The good news is that the agreement that the Secretary is to sign, on cooperating with securing aviation, is already agreed to - 12 hours before she signs it.
I'll try to send in a post on the day's activities tomorrow. Thanks for tuning in.
Mark Koumans is the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of International Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security