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Member of the European Commission responsible for
XXI Euro Med Seminar – information and Training Seminar for Euro-Med
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank the Academy, and in particular its Director, Stephen Calleya, for the invitation to be here.
Today I have chosen to talk about Europe’s place in a globalised world. I shall bring this closer to home by also looking at what this means in a Euro-Mediterranean context. Finally, I shall also look at a new maritime policy for the European Union which I believe exemplifies in many ways the efforts being taken as part of Europe’s response to globalisation.
So what exactly is globalisation?
Globalisation means many things to many people. Some would argue it is an overly used, or mis-used, word. I will offer the definition of globalisation as an umbrella term for a series of economic, social, technological, cultural and political changes that are being brought about as a result of increasing interdependence and interaction between people in disparate locations. Globalisation may be considered a positive force as an engine which brings increased prosperity to developing countries and their people. Alternatively, it may be interpreted in a negative sense as an engine of "corporate imperialism" - exploiting developing countries' resources and destroying their local customs - all the while claiming to bring prosperity.
Whichever the definition one subscribes to, there is no doubt that globalisation is very much a part of our world today. It is a phenomenon that poses many challenges not least to the European Union.
In order to understand these challenges it would be appropriate to look at where we have come from.
Cast your minds back to Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War. Europe lay in ruins. Suffering and atrocities had been witnessed across the board and the need to reconstruct the continent without allowing it to fall into death and destruction once again was the major challenge – one that would be based on the then unthinkable – partnership between France and Germany.
It seems hardly believable that what seemed wishful thinking then, could turn into the reality of today with Europe enjoying untold prosperity and stability, despite the interim divisions of the Cold War. It is also hard for us, now in 2006, to understand the true benefit of the peace we enjoy – anyone under sixty years of age has no living memory of a Europe torn apart, devoid of any hope or future. It is almost as though many today take peace in Europe for granted.
Yet I believe this is due less to the complacency of today’s generation than to the fact that the challenges we face now are different. They are no longer purely European but rather global. It is not as if we have never seen global forces at play before, but today's forces are different.
In the last decade or so, enormous technological progress has led to improved communications, so-called ‘shorter distances’ as links between far-flung parts of the globe have come about, and new expectations from customers have arisen. A group of emerging economies, particularly China, India and Brazil have also taken centre-stage as suppliers of manufactured goods. European companies are outsourcing increasingly complex production, creating lengthy supply chains that often involve numerous countries for the sourcing, production, assembly, packaging and marketing of the final product.
This process would confirm the positive definition of globalisation, where new opportunities are created for employment, markets and development, lifting hundreds of thousands out of poverty. It is a trend that has also saved Europeans hundreds of billions of euros in cheaper inputs for industry, increased choice for consumers, provided cheaper finished goods and saved money for investment elsewhere. Despite the most pessimistic predictions, this has also led to a net gain in jobs in Europe.
Yet it would be foolish to deny that there have not been negative consequences too.
Increased competition for raw materials has led to depleted sources of natural resources, such as rainforests. This combined with increased transport, energy and communications requirements has left a dramatic impact on the environment, also affecting our climate. It has also put a strain on Europe’s traditional industries putting those whose livelihoods depend on such industries at a severe disadvantage.
There are predictions of doom and gloom that underline almost every major debate, be it about immigration, trade or social reform. And it is easy to succumb to such prophecies, to the temptation to close ourselves away from these forces of globalisation. We face an increasingly divisive debate between isolationism and openness: giving in to pressure to protect our domestic markets over opening up to free trade, or to protect our workers while excluding immigrants.
I believe that the only viable way forward is to look for balance in the choices that we make – balance between growth and sustainability, openness and securing a level playing field. We need to look at globalisation as a positive force – one that brings about change for the better.
In the Commission, we believe that more Europe is the answer, not less.
We believe that the EU provides the means by which we can shape globalisation to be inclusive rather than exclusive; to project our values; and to ensure that our model of a free, open and tolerant society becomes the benchmark by which others measure themselves.
We must continue to do what we do well, better.
That is why our reform agenda must continue. We must continue to transform European legislation by making it both simpler and better. We must continue to apply Community law consistently – being fair and firm as we have been in, for example, mergers and anti-trust cases. The fact that cross border mergers are up 75% since 2000 would seem to bear out the theory that we are impartial players in the process. It also puts paid to theories that protectionism is on the rise both at home and with our international partners.
We must continue to defend and widen the internal market in order to maximise the benefits that the single market offers to both consumers and entrepreneurs.
We must continue efforts to boost innovation in Europe. Crucial to this will be our efforts to link ever closer together education, research and business – a task which the new European Institute of Technology will be assigned.
We must also continue to achieve closer co-operation in justice and home affairs. Particularly important in this respect are terrorism and illegal migration. Malta, together with Spain and Italy are significantly affected by the rise of illegal immigrants from Africa given that they are on the very forefront of southern Europe and have limited resources to deal with this. This issue goes beyond national borders and is of concern to Europe and the Euro-Mediterranean space as two sides of the same coin.
Enlargement remains an effective way of encouraging reform and thus bringing prosperity to parts of Europe that within a short time will also form part of the Union. We have seen this in the latest accession of ten new member states, which have brought refreshing dynamism to the Union, and we shall no doubt see it again with the imminent membership of Romania and Bulgaria.
Finally, but by no means least, we must also continue to do more in external relations. The EU’s commitment to assist the Lebanese government in the wake of this summer’s unfortunate turn of events is a signal that Europe is assuming a role it is now capable of.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The EU does not live in a vacuum. Its health and prosperity is also dependent on its neighbours in the regions that surround it. This was the conviction that inspired the creation of the Euro-Med Process back in 1995 and it remains the conviction that guides us in our European Neighbourhood Policy.
The Tampere Euro-Mediterranean Foreign Affairs Conference is due to be held exactly one month from now. This will be an important opportunity for us to look back over the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership which has been the central framework of relations between Europe and its southern Mediterranean partners. This has been a framework that has given shape and form to the region’s own response to the challenges of globalisation through the advancement of political dialogue and reform, support for socio-economic development, co-operation in the field of education and culture and co-ordination of efforts to tackle the region’s security and stability.
In the difficult circumstances prevailing in the Middle East, not least the violence and suffering witnessed in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Northern Israel last summer, the Partnership assumes even greater significance as a structure of regional co-operation. The EU remains convinced that there are no military or unilateral solutions to the challenges in the Middle East. Any lasting peace will have to be built on a comprehensive settlement with a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Moving on this front, and doing so with the minimum amount of delay, will allow the region to fully participate in today’s world order and reap the benefits that are to be had.
The EuroMed Partnership is moving into a new phase – one that leads it well towards achieving the strategic objectives it has set itself. There have been extremely encouraging signs in the various meetings held over the past year on the liberalisation of trade, finance and economic transition. The June conference in Rabat on the role of women was also the start of much work to come under the Finnish Presidency on gender equality, the role of women in society and civil society in general. We have also seen a lot done on the environment and energy fronts, and we expect the Rhodes meeting on competitiveness, market access, innovation and investment to deliver much of what is being discussed in Europe to a wider audience.
There remain two particularly important topics which I am glad to see are also being tackled apace. These concern the fight against terrorism and initiatives aimed at stemming the flow of illegal migration. Following the adoption of the code of conduct on countering terrorism, the Commission proposes to hold a seminar in 2007 on the role of the media in preventing incitement through effective and professional communication and another on respect for human rights in the fight against terrorism. It is widely agreed that the fight against terrorism needs to focus on the root causes and much of what has already been done in the economic context and in connection with the enhancement of the role of civil society, will play its part as well. So also with illegal immigration, there is widespread consensus that it is the root causes for migration, and particularly illegal migration, that need to be tackled.
The challenges faced by the Euro-Mediterranean space are not unique. Much is common to Europe or form the basis of many of Europe's concerns. The opening of markets, efforts at reform and environmental and energy concerns are themes which are of foremost concern to Europe. Others such as migration and terrorism are also of equal concern however the actions required are more of a preventive nature than purely management ones. These are shared concerns that need more of the intense activity that this past year has witnessed.
I think it is fair to say that despite a somewhat slow start, the Euro-Med process has brought results in many respects. It remains possibly the most important framework for deepening the political dialogue between partners in our region and it certainly has already done much to shape a culture of dialogue and co-operation to achieve stability and prosperity in this area. The five-year plan launched only last year, albeit still in its early stages, already looks set to further our dialogue and enhance ever more our co-operation. I augur that the Tampere meeting will confirm this.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Mediterranean Sea has been, from time immemorial, both a means of communication and of separation. Yet, its vital importance to its littoral states in every sense cannot be underestimated.
It is thus a pleasure for me to recall a flagship project that the European Union has embarked on - one that is central to the Euro-Mediterranean space and that falls within my portfolio as Commissioner. This concerns the creation of a new maritime policy for Europe – a project that the Commission is currently discussing with its partners for a period of one year. This extensive consultation is an attempt to take an innovative approach to the way in which we make policy. By listening to key stakeholders in the sector, we are hoping to come to the core of what exactly is needed in a maritime policy for Europe.
We believe that such a policy can serve as a worthwhile response to the challenges posed to this sector by globalisation. It is a process that seeks to gather Europe’s strengths in the maritime economy and deal with them in an all-encompassing manner in order to maximise their output. The challenge here is twofold – that of achieving the Lisbon goals of stimulating growth, competitiveness and employment while preserving the fragile resource base, that is to say the oceans and seas, upon which such growth is built.
Combined with the effects of globalisation, there are other challenges that Europe needs to face up to in the short to medium term. These include an ageing population, finding alternative energy sources and increasing its rates of research and development to match those of its closest competitors, the US and Japan. In a maritime context, an additional challenge is to tackle the falling numbers of Europeans willing to go to sea and pursue maritime careers.
We also need to bear in mind, the fact that multiple actors are involved. Various sectoral policies, such as oil exploration, fisheries, marine environmental protection, tourism or shipping, are implemented at all levels of government from the EU to the national, regional, and local levels. These need to be further integrated so as to guarantee a proper balance between them.
In coastal waters, there is increasing competition for sea space, as technology allows more innovative uses of the marine environment. We need appropriate mechanisms to address potential conflicts of interests. We believe that part of the solution lies in the spatial planning of these activities so as to ensure an optimum level of use is achieved without one activity negatively impinging on others.
Europe has been a strong player, on the world stage, in the maritime sector. This is a leading role which we must seek to develop further. Our economic activities need to expand into new areas that combine our technology and research strengths with a sustainable approach to economic development.
Our policy however will not stop at the European level – it is a project that will extend further, particularly in a case like that of the Mediterranean, where a number of parties share the sea and various interests lay claim to it. It is my hope that within a Euro-Mediterranean context the vision for a maritime policy will take root and become a solid platform on which to further our co-operation.
Having a common maritime European space which interacts further afield provides a response to the challenges of globalisation – through the building of synergies, the enhancement of competitiveness, and finally by developing and interlinking economic, environmental and social aspects.
This is one way whereby Europe is responding to, and embracing, globalisation.
It is not, and cannot be inward-looking. It is an inclusive policy in every sense.
Joining forces to deal with common interests and concerns is a winning formula in which I very much believe.