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Meetings Calendar 2006
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Speeches, Interviews

27.01.2006

Speech by Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, at the conference "The Sound of Europe" Conference


 

I am delighted to give this afternoon's keynote speech. I am especially pleased with my topic: "What next? A new sound?".I understand this session is supposed to be positive and forward-looking. That fits me well. Let me also commend the Austrian Presidency for taking this initiative. This gathering of politicians, academics, artists is a bit like an 18th century salon of Mozart's days.

It is good that we sometimes take a break from our arid discussions on draft directives and Council conclusions. If Europe is to thrive - as I believe it will and must - it needs the creative energy that I hope this conference can provide. From time to time, we should debate where we come from; what binds us; what have we achieved and where we are going. My central argument is that much of today's pessimism is overdone.

I believe we should continue our European journey. But equally change is needed. We must re-state our case. And demonstrate through clear action how Europe is serving all our citizens - not just select groups like big business, farmers or cosmopolitan elites. We all know that there are different sources of legitimacy. I am attracted to the notion of legitimacy through action. There is no need to dwell on the reasons for the sense of crisis or drift in Europe. These have been dealt with this morning. But I can say that this was a strange time to give in to self-doubt. For we have rarely been more successful.

If you concentrate only on the daily headlines, you would think that the European Union is all about divisions and missed deadlines. About fudged compromises and political setbacks.

But if you take a step back and look at the underlying trends, you will see a much more positive picture. This project has survived numerous crises – currency crises, the wars in former Yugoslavia and Iraq. Each time, we came back and emerged stronger. Over the years, we have delivered a remarkable run of successes: the single market, the euro, European defence policy.

To these we should add other, less 'visible' successes: cheap airlines, reduced phone bills, passport free travel in the Schengen-zone. At the same time, the group has more than quadrupled in size: from 6, to 9, 12, 15 and now 25. If we are experiencing pains then these are the growing pains of a promising and still youthful Union.

I also have the sense that politically we have turned the corner. Last year was difficult. But the agreement on the budget in December was a tipping point. It showed that also at 25 we can take difficult decisions. Yes, negotiations were tough. They always are over money. But No, the EU of 25 is not condemned to gridlock. There is a new mood in Europe: more forwardlooking, more pragmatic. Economic growth is picking up too, which is good per se and for our self-confidence. But this new momentum needs to be sustained. It is up to political leaders and pro-Europeans gathered here, to seize the initiative - and do something positive with it. I believe we must do two things in particular: First, re-state the case for Europe.Not in Brussels-speak but in clear, simple terms that make sense to citizens.

Second, develop and implement a concrete agenda which is both ambitious and result-oriented. Clearly, the case for Europe is more contested. The memories of the Second World War no longer suffice to give legitimacy and impetus. But I will not shy away from stressing that the EU started as a peace project. And in essence it still is today. An outsider perspective may be helpful. It is striking that what we used to call the Great War, and then the First World War, was in China long referred to as 'the European civil war'. The Second World War which followed was genuinely a global war. But it started in Europe. And the greatest numbers of victims were Europeans. With this conference we mark the 250th birthday of that great European Wolfgang Mozart. But we also commemorate that 61 years ago today, on 27 January 1945, Auschwitz was liberated. This is a call for solemn reflection - and a call to duty. After 1945, an exhausted continent was ready to try a radical new idea. Not just ad-hoc international co-operation. That had been tried before and found wanting. But institutionalised integration. The success came from a combination of the big idea and the practical application. What worked was not a single blue print with a defined end-state. But perseverance, flexibility and strong institutions.

So the European project started as a way to build banish war and build a new order of peace and law. Let's people forget: the wars in ex-Yugoslavia ended only 10 years ago. This is not ancient history. No one should take peace on the European continent for granted. More positively, peace and freedom are the pre-conditions for prosperity. And it is worth saying that never before have so many Europeans been so secure, so prosperous and so free. That, in part, is a consequence of the European Union. This brings me to my second rationale. The success of the integration project enabled us to enlarge the zone of peace and security. First to southern Europe. Then to Sweden, Finland and your own country Austria. And in 2004 with 8 central European countries plus Cyprus and Malta. It is a cliché to say that enlargement is our greatest success story. But throughout history, in the entire field of international relations, I do not think there is another strategy more values-driven, more original in its methodology and more successful in terms of results. I will keep on saying that because it is my conviction. Even if the political mood is now less favourable.

Of course, while I support enlargement, I also see that many people have reservations. We need to balance these two considerations. One way may be by stressing that enlargement cannot be our only project. And certainly we cannot keep on enlarging without political and institutional reform. People want more than a market plus regional stabilisation project. I am convinced that more integration is needed in some areas - and perhaps less in others. The topics for more EU-level action are: research, energy, migration and asylum. I left out one more area. This is where our case is perhaps strongest of all: for Europe to become a global player.

I see Europe as a new form of power. A force for good around the world. A promoter of effective multilateralism, international law and justice.The reasons are not so hard to explain. Our world is changing fast. It is becoming more uncertain and harder to manage. New technologies are changing industrial sectors overnight.

In political and security terms, complex new threats are emerging, along with new centres of power. We are moving to a system of continents. And we all know that in a borderless world, events in faraway places affect our own security. It therefore is in our interest to be engaged in conflict prevention and crisis management. In this new security environment, we must be alert and creative. Above all, we need to be united. On our own we are political midgets. Policy takers. Condemned to drown in the maelstrom of events.

But together we can help to shape the global agenda. Not resist globalisation but perhaps negotiate its terms. Not impose our views but get a hearing for them: in Washington today and Beijing tomorrow. I am convinced that our citizens want this. The polls show it consistently. And it is logical too. Europeans want their values - human rights, solidarity, justice and peace - promoted around the world.

There is also another side. It is not self-indulgent to say that from the Middle East to Africa, from the Balkans to South East Asia and elsewhere, the call goes out: can Europe help? In short, when I travel around Europe, I hear a demand for Europe to play a greater international role. The same is true when I travel around the world. It may be fitting to paraphrase Nike's slogan: let's just do it. The good news is that even in the sensitive area of foreign and security policy, we have come a long way in a short period of time. Like a baby, in foreign policy too, we began talking before we started writing. And we started writing before we started acting. But now we do all three. I will not do a tour d’horizon and set out what EU is doing in every region or issue. I will not pretend either that we have an equally developed policy on every issue under the sun.

But we have acquired a critical mass. After fits and starts, we now have a united, comprehensive strategy for the Western Balkans. The same is true for the wider Middle East, for Africa and for eastern Europe. In each of these regions, there is a substantive set of policies, agreed at 25 and backed up by a broad range of instruments. For decades we had been confronted by various forms of crises on our doorstep - but without the means to address them. Now we have a set of capabilities, plus decision-making procedures and a sense of doctrine on how to address these challenges.

We have no fewer than 14 operations on-going. This is no small thing if you consider that only four years ago we had none. Our comprehensive approach – part civilian, part military - corresponds to the needs of today’s complex security crises. Moreover, our presence on the ground in crisis zones has increased our political leverage. For years we had been giving large sums of money without getting much political influence. That was our Achilles heel. This is now changing - for the better. In 2006, we have a lot of work to do: Iran, Kosovo, Israel-Palestine, Belarus, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nagorno Karabach to name a few. Each case will require a different response. But standing by and doing nothing is not an option.

Thematically we will have to focus on energy security, terrorism, human rights, failed states, and non-proliferation - and many other issues besides. The point is not to dwell on the breadth of the international agenda. Rather it is to stress that results in all these areas are achievable. But on one condition. That we tackle them together, as Europeans. That we don’t just say that we must pool our resource and put out united message – but actually do it.

That we overcome institutional jealousies and genuinely work for a single purpose. That we become perhaps a little less risk-averse. If we do, we can get great results. That, more than anything else, will impress our citizens – and the rest of world. Of course, we need many other elements for a new sound in Europe. Ideas on how to fix the economy; on how to handle demographic challenges and on what to do with the Constitution. On the Constitution, I will not go into details. I will only mention the risk of a "Catch 22" situation. Some people say that Europe needs to focus on delivering tangible results before turning to institutional issues. I agree with the sentiment behind that statement. But surely it would be much easier to get a Europe that delivers with the Constitution than without. To put it positively: if you want a Europe that delivers you should want the Constitution. And if you want the Constitution, you should work on a Europe that delivers. I remain convinced that Europe badly needs the ideas contained in the Constitution for a more streamlined and effective EU. Let me conclude.

If we want a new élan and momentum in Europe, we need to keep it simple. We must make the case for Europe in plain language. Then, we should ensure that what the EU does fits well with both logic and people’s expectations. If it does not, pro-Europeans should not be afraid of saying so. And accept the consequences: politically, institutionally and financially.

My summary arguments are the following: Where did we start? As a peace project among adversaries. What is our greatest accomplishment? The spread of stability and democracy across the continent. And what is our task for the future? To make Europe a global power; a force for good in the world. There is more to it, for sure. But from my perspective, this is the essence. This year, 2006, we should put Europe to work again. Some may say I am absurdly optimistic. To them I reply with Einstein's words: If at first, an idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.

Dear friends, there is a new mood in the air. It is our shared responsibility and our common interest to make the most of it.

 

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Date: 02.02.2006