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Speeches, Interviews

28.01.2006

Opening statement by the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso at the conference "The Sound of Europe" in Salzburg.


Keynote Speech

José Manuel Barroso

President of the European Commission

 

_________________________________________________________________________

 

Chancellor Schüssel, Mr President, Excellencies, dear friends!

It is my pleasure to be here at the invitation of the Austrian presidency on the second day of this resounding conference. The cultural diversity and wealth of our continent has been and is now being the driving force of this conference. I believe it can also be the inspiration to overcome the problems with which Europe is presently confronted.

Yes, Europe does have problems. We have economic problems, social problems, demographic problems. First of all I think there is a confidence problem. 

In the broader sense it is a cultural problem - the way we look at ourselves and the world, while we face the challenges at the beginning of the 21st century.

But when I say we have problems, I say with the same assurance that those problems can be solved. In Europe, we have the critical resources to overcome the problems. To find the right solutions.

It has been said, we will only succeed if we take the concerns and the anxieties of the people, of ordinary citizens seriously. Let us be concrete. The most important concern is about employment, it is about jobs. It is the fear of the people of losing their jobs. Those who do not have a job fear that they will never find one. Parents have anxieties about their children future job. Young people, even if they get a good training ask themselves: Can I get a job, when I leave university or when I leave school? This is a real problem.

Now some of the issues we have to deal with at the European level, like the internal market, the enlargement of the EU, are seen by many in Europe as a source for the problem. But all empirical evidence shows that there is success. That there are drivers for growth and creation of employment in Europe, take the last enlargement. All the empirical evidence we have shows that, and this is also true of globalisation.

So this is the true difficulty of Europe. We have a paradox now, that many people in our continent see what can be solutions for our problems, a global economy, as a cause of our problems. And so we have come to a crucial point which I will address later in our panel about leadership. What is a European leadership? What do responsible political leaders do in the face of this paradox? When the very solution for an enlarged Europe now is to be dynamic, to be able to embrace change, but when this is seen by many of our citizens precisely not as a solution but as a problem and - let's be frank - as the cause of their concerns? Because today people are concerned in Europe about the way the internal market works, the way in which this last enlargement was achieved, and those problems exist.

So we have to think: is globalisation going to go away or will it be there for the next years? I believe it will be here for the future. It is not a political decision, no country - not even the most powerful countries - controls this process. To a large extent it is ruled by technological changes. So we have two possibilities. And before being an economic decision, before being an ideological decision, this is a cultural decision. What is our position faced with globalisation? Are we going to hide? Are we going to pretend it does not exist, are we going to resist it or are we going to try to manage it with our values, the European values, the European way of live, our principles? I believe the answer is the second one. We have to try to shape this globalisation with our values to adapt it. The message that we send to our people should be a message of openness and not a message of retreat. It is a message of overcoming stupid, narrow nationalism that was the source of so many tragedies in our continent for hundred of years. We have to be able to understand that only the paradigm of openness (and here culture is very important) can really overcome the current difficulties.

It is not because of the internal market that we have problems in Europe. It is not because of the last enlargement that we have some problems in Europe. On the contrary.

It is precisely because we were not prepared from an economic point of view to face the challenges of this globalized world that we are witnessing some problems of adaptation.

And then we come to the institutional problems. And let me be very, very clear about it.  I believe the “No” votes in France and the Netherlands do not mean a “No” to Europe. I believe we have to take the concerns expressed in those votes seriously. As democrats we have the duty to do so.

I think we are now in a moment of the European integration process that is different from the past. In the past it was possible that the institutional dynamic was creating the political consensus.

I think nowadays it is the other way round. It is the political consensus that will create the institutional dynamics. So I think that the solution of our problems is not first of all an institutional solution.

Institutions are very important in a Community based on law. But let's not pretend that the problems we have in Europe are because of the lack of the new Constitutional Treaty. Because this is not true.

It is creating now the political dynamics so that we will solve afterwards the institutional problems. That will generate the institutional consensus.

And so my word to the European leaders is a word of prudence, asking them not to open new cleavages now on institutional terms of Europe, to try to get a broader political consensus to generate a momentum to solve the institutional problem. And I and the European Commission are completely committed to the principles and values that are in the Constitutional Treaty. There should be no doubts about it.

But we have to find the right conditions to address the problems and to solve them. And I believe we can do it, step by step. If we build a Europe of results.

That is why we are coming up with concrete proposals - moving up a gear with our Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs. We are now discussing concrete proposals in March under the Austrian presidency, especially increasing the funds for research. Finland is an example for removing some obstacles to small and medium-sized enterprises. Having a common energy policy, or at least a common strategy for energy. So let's address the economic problems. There are some problems of democracy and transparency or accountability. Let's look at it. We have the subsidiary principle, we have the better regulation programme. We can solve the problems. We have some problems about enlargement. Let's discuss them. We should not be afraid, not denying problems that exist.

Let's discuss them whilst keeping our commitment and see what the right pace for this enlargement is in the future. There is a concern in the public opinion.

But at the same time responsible leaders have to think, whether they want to be led by public opinion or whether they have the courage to lead the public opinion in terms of what is the best way for Europe. I believe a consensus is emerging about priorities. Everybody agrees that the status quo is not an option. Everybody expects that we have to reform Europe. We have to reform Europe if we want to keep, preserve and reinforce our values. We have to modernise our policies and progressively we have to build a common agenda to achieve results. And it is a Europe of results. A Europe that shows its citizens that it is delivering on jobs, on growth and on a common purpose. This requires a lot of efforts in terms of responsible leadership that can create the best conditions to solve the institutional problem, because we have in fact an institutional matter to discuss and to solve.

For all of this we need confidence. Now there is a lot of self-criticism in Europe.

In fact I say very often, the one thing that could be exported is our excessive self-criticism. It would be good for us, it would be good for our trade balance and it would be good for others who don't have that same kind of self criticism which we do have. But we should avoid the idea of turning the period of reflection into a period of depression. We should now address what are the ways of getting out of this situation. Once again I believe inspiration can come from culture. Not because culture is at the service of economy. I don't believe that, on the contrary. I think it is the other way round. In my view culture comes before politics. We are now commemorating the 250 years of Mozart. How many politicians do we remember from 250 years ago? And how many current politicians of today will we commemorate 250 years from now?

Of course economy is indispensable. Without the basic economic conditions we cannot live. But what makes life worth living in a public space is culture. And so what I get from the cultural message, what I get when I read the great thinkers of our time like George Steiner or Peter Sloterdijk, what they say about Europe is inspirational because it is the paradigm of hope. Mozart - a son of Salzburg and Vienna, a son of Austria -  was travelling all over Europe from Milan to Paris to London to Brussels. He was not asking for a subsidy from the European Commission. But he was a true European who came back to his country and built on a variety of traditions in Europe from Italy to France and other traditions. This paradigm of hope, that I believe is what Europe needs.

Because European citizens are not asking for less Europe. It depends. In some areas, yes. They want to feel the protection of the member states. They want to feel their community, their identity, and it is within this framework that they seek protection like social security. But they asking us for more involvement foreign affairs, a common front in fighting criminality and terrorism. They are asking us for a common strategy for energy. Two years ago it would have been impossible to discuss that. It would have been considered an overregulation. But now people understand that even the biggest members states alone do not have the leverage to discuss these matters with our main partners in the world. Do we need a common approach? We have to show to our citizens the value of the European dimension. And so I believe globalisation will be a driving force for our Europe.

Let me conclude. I am told that Mozart composed one little piece of music when he visited Brussels. It is an allegro in C major. That could be a good sound for Europe, the sound of Europe should not be slow nor minor. And there we need the commitment of leaders. There we need a common script. Then we need to recognise: yes, we have problems, but in Europe we have the culture, the intelligence and the critical capacities to solve those problems.

 

Date: 02.02.2006