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European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood
European Policy Centre Breakfast Briefing
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First let me thank The European Policy Centre and Antonio Missiroli for those kind remarks and this invitation to talk to you today. I am happy to have this opportunity to discuss with you the EU’s place in the world and how to strengthen it. It is particularly important, during this period of reflection, that we take the time to remind ourselves of the big picture.
In the words of Robert Schuman, “Europe will not be made all at once or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.”
The period of reflection has not meant a pause for reflection. On the contrary, we have been busier than ever. And the way 2006 started – with energy crises to our east, renewed fears of a flu pandemic drawing ever closer to our borders, and the Middle East reeling from changes of leadership in Israel and Palestine and renewed uncertainty about Iran’s intentions – indicates plenty of work for the future.
In short, the period of reflection has not caused us to lose sight of our international commitments. We have not engaged in prolonged navel-gazing as so many commentators predicted we would.
To be frank – we could not afford it to. We face major challenges like managing globalisation to our advantage, defending our position in the world in the face of increasing international competition, and securing the current rule-based, multilateral international order for the future.
All of which requires a strong EU, able to promote and protect its interests on the international stage.
Of course none of this is new. Globalisation, the increasing economic power of India and China, and our vulnerability to energy crises are not new phenomenon. And it has been clear for many years that the EU needed a stronger foreign policy.
Steps have already been taken to strengthen our foreign policy tools and adjust our institutions to meet the new demands. The constitutional treaty would have given us new momentum and I regret that I am not standing here today talking about its forthcoming implementation.
But for me, last year also gave us an impetus. It reminded us forcefully that, to prove its worth, the EU has to deliver on areas its citizens deem important – and that includes foreign policy. Opinion polls have shown both EU citizens and our partner countries want the EU to play a greater role on the international stage. There is strong public support for EU action to meet global challenges like terrorism, poverty, AIDS and other pandemics, energy security and the environment.
So we must continue making our foreign policy more effective. Many of the necessary improvements can be made without the Constitution. It is a question of finding the political will. For most EU citizens (though perhaps not the citizens in this room!) the institutional architecture is irrelevant. And let’s face it, they are right. It is results which count, not methodology.
That is exactly what we have to do – muster the political will and deliver results.
That’s why the Commission is currently preparing a Concept Paper examining how the Union can strengthen its position in the world, which we will present to the European Council in June.
For me, there are three main areas where we must focus our future efforts: coherence, effectiveness and visibility.
It is true that our principal source of power – our power of attraction - is “soft” rather than “hard”. But it is no less potent. If we look at the likely shape of the world in 50 years, the ability to deploy considerable soft power will be vital. Today the EU and US have unrivalled influence in terms of relative wealth and power. But power relationships may look rather different in the future. Not just because India is currently producing a quarter of a million engineering graduates a year or China’s GDP is predicted to be half that of the total G7 minus Canada by 2050. But because of demographic changes, climatic changes, increasing demand for dwindling supplies of oil, and the proliferation of non-state actors willing to resort to unconventional forms of attack.
If we are to preserve an international order based on the rule of law and respect for those values we hold dear – human rights, democracy, good governance – we need to be using all means at our disposal to persuade emerging powers to sign up to it now.
We already have an impressive range of policy instruments, including development aid, diplomacy, trade policy, civilian and military crisis management, and humanitarian assistance. We also need to do more to recognize and utilise the external dimension of the EU’s internal policies. Thanks to globalization, most internal policies now have an international element. Think of the way our competition law and internal market affect foreign companies or the impact our economic and monetary policy has on international money markets or European investment abroad. Not to mention international educational exchanges, environmental issues, migration, health, energy and transport.
Diplomacy requires carrots as well as sticks, whether we are talking about weapons of mass destruction or promoting stability and prosperity in our neighbourhood. As General Sir Rupert Smith recently wrote “military force can decide a specific issue but not the whole. [That is] changed and decided by those levers that influence ordinary people: health, money, education. ...Military force makes it possible for these to be used and can back them up, but it cannot replace them or go it alone”.
Access to the world’s biggest internal market and our sizeable assistance programmes are considerable carrots.
We already have some experience through the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). This is our newest foreign policy instrument, and a major priority for this Commission.
I am often asked whether ENP is more than just a repackaging of old EU policies in new clothes. My response is two-fold. First, the impetus for meaningful reform must always come from within. If that desire is not there, no amount of external assistance or pressure will build sustainable reform. That is why the EU believes in encouraging not imposing reform. Second, the EU's offer through ENP is not a second-best option to enlargement, but rather a highly-desirable step-change in our relations offering substantive benefits to all involved.
The ENP works on the basis of Action Plans, jointly agreed with partners. They make precise commitments to strengthen the rule of law, democracy and respect for human rights; to promote market-oriented economic reforms; and to cooperate on key foreign policy objectives such as counter-terrorism and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The EU offers a share in the EU’s single market; closer cooperation on energy and transport links; and a chance to participate in the EU's numerous internal programmes to offer our partners meaningful incentives.
The specific commitments in the Action Plans are designed to fit each country’s individual circumstances. We have already seen progress in implementing these plans in many of the initial seven countries. For example, in Moldova and Ukraine we launched a Border Assistance Mission to help prevent customs fraud, smuggling of goods, and trafficking of people, drugs and weapons. The long-term goal is to facilitate the end of the Transnistria conflict. And we have used the ENP Action Plans signed with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to facilitate practical cooperation on issues such as trade, energy and transport.
But let me be frank with you – ENP is still a work in progress and the coming year will be crucial to ensure its success. The political will exists in Brussels to live up to our commitments, but we will need to keep up the momentum, as will our partners.
We need to learn from this experience and use our mix of carrots and sticks coherently, mobilising them in support of our political objectives. Only this way will we benefit fully from the significant leverage we possess.
Improving our coherence and using our instruments more strategically will go far towards increasing our effectiveness on the ground.
But there are other issues we need to address. It is these which struck me most during my first months in Brussels, and I have resolved we will make major progress before the Commission’s term ends in 2009.
First, the institutional procedures are often very burdensome. The Commission’s drive to cut red tape must also extend to the procedures we have to go through in the external relations area, which often prove a major obstacle to getting things done quickly.
Second, we need to bolster our delegations to make better use of our presence on the ground. Our network of over 120 delegations worldwide is an excellent resource of political intelligence and local knowledge, and I am continually impressed by the professionalism of their staff. Nevertheless, we could make better use of them if we gave them more resources and utilized them more strategically.
Third, we must find flexible ways of responding to crises. The EU is the world’s biggest donor, but we often lack the flexibility to move quickly. We will make crisis management a particular focus in the coming years, building on our strategy for disaster alert and preparedness. Our aim is to develop flexible and responsive solutions to crisis situations and so be a better partner for the military component of crisis response.
The new “Stability Instrument”, part of our package of new instruments for the next budgetary period, is designed to give us much greater flexibility in crisis situations and help ensure continuity between short and long term interventions.
Work is already under way, and we have some early successes for greater effectiveness, including the EU’s support for peace and reconstruction in Aceh. There we were able to act quickly, and so had a major impact on the ground. The Commission financed President Ahtisaari’s peace negotiations using the Rapid Reaction Mechanism. The CFSP launched the Aceh Monitoring Mission to monitor compliance with the Peace Agreement. And at the same time the Commission and Member States, working with the international community, put in place a package of long term measures to support the peace process like reintegration of Free Aceh Movement combatants and prisoners; reforms of the local administration and promoting the rule of law and democracy.
But this kind of speedy, streamlined intervention needs to become the rule not the exception. That is my aim for the coming years.
I know The EPC published a report last year on public diplomacy, so I hardly need explain to you its importance. As the number of democracies rises steadily, and information sources multiply and extend across the globe, communicating with the public in our partner countries takes on ever more importance.
Yesterday the Commission adopted a White Paper on Communication, and very shortly we will adopt a paper specifically on communicating our external policies, “The EU in the world”.
How many people inside or outside the EU realise that we are the world’s biggest donor, providing 55% of overseas development assistance? How many know we will double our assistance by 2010? And how many know that we are the largest single market in the world?
Outside the EU, although we generally have a positive image, knowledge of our concrete policies and activities is often limited. We need to better inform a broader audience about the Union’s policies and its underpinning values and objectives as a global actor.
Within the EU we need to maintain a more sustained, open dialogue with the public on our external policy. The general public is already largely favourable to the EU’s role in external policy and to development and humanitarian aid in particular. But again, there is often little knowledge of our concrete policies and activities.
So our communications strategy takes a two-fold approach, telling our story both within the EU – talking more about substance and less about institutions, and externally – communicating with publics across the world about what the EU stands for and the values we promote. We aim to tackle the sentiment expressed by Madeleine Albright that “To understand Europe you have to be a genius.”!
To reduce public confusion we will focus on a few concise, understandable messages. We try to answer fundamental questions like why the EU has an external policy (in addition to member states), what defines the EU as an actor on the world stage, and how does it deploy its instruments. So our strategy outlines key messages which will be the core of our public diplomacy approach.
EU member states can do more acting together than they can alone to advance the interests of our citizens in the world. Our external policy also enhances our competitiveness and contributes to growth and new jobs at home.
Our soft power promotes stability, prosperity, democracy and human rights, delivering concrete results in the fight to eradicate poverty and in achieving sustainable development. The European Commission alone provides aid to more than 150 countries, territories and organisations around the world. We are a reliable partner over the long term, and as the world’s biggest donor we help bring stability and prosperity to many parts of the world. And we are a champion of multilateralism, standing at the forefront of a rule-based international order.
Our paper also looks at ways of improving our communication tools, centred around our representations and delegations. Reforms of our delegations will improve their capacity for greater outreach activity. They will also be more involved in defining the EU’s communication messages.
We will expand our communication through new media and the internet. And we will promote “Europe” day, contacts with the media and print publications where necessary. We also want better cooperation with other European institutions – following on from the excellent Commission-Council cooperation over the web site in New York and on information matters related to CFSP and ESDP.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This then is the broad outline of our strategy for strengthening and consolidating the EU’s role in the world and for giving our citizens and partners the strong global partner they want from the EU: coherence, effectiveness and visibility.
But there will also be much work to do on specific issues, like the situation in the Middle East, which I discussed with my colleagues from the Quartet on Monday, continuing UN Reform, or building our relations with the United States. Also assisting Afghanistan and Iraq in their reconstruction and transition, developing a strategic approach to the countries of Central Asia and deepening our strategic relationships with emerging powers like China, India and Brazil.
For now let me just reiterate that our goal will remain delivery of concrete achievements – the building blocks of Europe that Schuman spoke of - and promoting what we stand for around the world – global solidarity, multilateralism, democracy and human rights.
Thank you for your attention. I would be happy to go into these or other subjects in our discussion.