Navigation path

Left navigation

Additional tools

Other available languages: none


José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

"European Union and Global Order"

EPC Annual Conference
Brussels, 26 May 2008

Dear Hans Martens,

Dear Jacki Davis,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am extremely honoured to participate in the EPC Annual Conference and I would like to congratulate EPC, in the person of its Chief Executive, Hans Martens, for its excellent research on European issues and its contribution to debates and discussions on the European Union.

Today, I wish to say a few words on how the European Union can contribute to global governance. My argument is built around four words: competition, opportunities, challenges and governance.

The competition that Europe faces in the 21st Century world.

The opportunities created by globalization.

The challenges that Europe must tackle.

And, finally, the European Union as an example of international and transnational governance for the world.

"Nos pays sont devenus trop petits pour le monde actuel à l'échelle des moyens technologiques modernes, à la mesure de l'Amérique et de la Russie aujourd'hui, de la Chine et de l'Inde demain"

These were the words of Jean Monnet in 1954. Monnet clearly anticipated the historical transformation of the world during the second half of the twentieth century. European overseas empires collapsed and former colonies have acquired political independence. Japan, China, India, Brazil, along with Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa have become world and regional powers. These changes increase competition. However, we should not protect ourselves from competition but be open and profit from it. I have no doubts: in order to succeed, Europe must be competitive in this new world.

But Europe has changed too, and has the conditions to be competitive. After the enlargement of 2004-2007, the European Union has acquired a continental dimension. It stretches from the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean to the Baltic Sea. In 2008, we are 27 Member States and almost five hundred million people united in a common political project. The European economy is one of the strongest in the world. The Union has the largest gross domestic product and is the biggest global trader. In today's international system, where other great powers have large territorial and demographic dimensions, size matters.

The enlarged European Union has the power and the capability to shape global order. During the last fifty years, we built a peaceful Europe based on freedom and solidarity. In the future, to guarantee and to reinforce such achievements, we need to influence and to shape the world around us.

The prosperity of European citizens will diminish if Europe is not competitive globally

Our social stability will be affected if we do not address the political, economic and humanitarian problems in our neighbourhood.

We will not live in peace if we do not face the external threats to our security and the instability in the regions close to Europe.

If we isolate ourselves from the world, the problems will not go away. On the contrary, they will only get worse.

An enlarged and united Europe is also a source of power and influence for all its Member States. In all my meetings around the world, I see that other countries look at Europe with different eyes since the last enlargement. I can tell you that comparing to when I was Foreign Minister in the early 1990s, the differences are huge. It is a mistake to believe that European states can resolve the main global challenges on their own. In the current world, we need to act together.

United, Europe will be strong.

Divided, European countries will be weak.

As it happens often, our citizens are clear on this. Public opinion studies in Europe show, on a regular basis, that around 70% of Europeans wants Europe to be more active and influential in world politics.

This is why we need the right institutions. We cannot face successfully the 21st Century globalization with the institutions of the 20th Century. The enlarged Europe cannot act effectively with the institutions that were created in a divided Europe.

The Treaty of Lisbon will strengthen the enlarged European Union. The permanent President of the European Council will have an important role in the Union's external relations. A change in the President of the European Council every six months is not the most efficient way to act at the international level. In tandem with the President of the European Commission, the President of the European Council will reinforce the coherence and the cohesion of the Union.

The High Representative and, simultaneously, Vice-President of the Commission will also be very beneficial to the Union. The ability to pool intergovernmental and communitarian tools will make the Union more effective on the external stage. With the High Representative/Vice-President, the External European Action Service will also be a key part of the framework to improve the effectiveness of the Union's foreign policy.

We need to get the institutional reform right. It is a big mistake to see this process in terms of "winners" and "losers". It has to be a win-win situation and I can assure you that I am determined to make it work. Our most important political task in the near future, once hopefully ratification is completed, is to make sure that the Treaty of Lisbon will have the right implementation for the enlarged and global Europe.

As I often say, the right Treaties and the right institutions are important and necessary, but are not enough. We also need political will and determination to benefit from the opportunities and to tackle the challenges of the 21st Century. Globalization must be seen in terms of a dialectical relationship between opportunities and challenges. New challenges create new opportunities and to seize the opportunities is the best way to tackle the challenges.

To maintain European competitiveness, it is crucial to continue the path of European reform. Increased global competition is an opportunity to improve European economies. In our effort to steer reforms, we should open ourselves up, both within Europe and to the world. Protectionism is not the right answer to global challenges. We must defend and promote European interests. But the best way to do this is by convincing others to open their societies; not to close our own societies.

We also need to recognize that globalization raises legitimate concerns among many Europeans. In this regard, economic reforms have to go hand in hand with social justice. One of the historical "acquis" in Europe is that we have the highest levels of social justice in the world. One of the greatest achievements of our societies is to offer opportunities to our citizens and at the same time to show solidarity to those who are left behind. If we forget this, we will not succeed in our attempts to reform and to be more competitive.

Globalization has to become an opportunity for the great majority of European citizens. This is why the Commission stresses the importance of innovation, education and better skills. The best way to prepare citizens for globalization is to prepare them better to take advantage of it.

Another central challenge is to develop a low-carbon economy and to guarantee the security of energy supply. A large majority of Europeans identify climate change and energy security as major threats. There is also a strong consensus that this challenge has to be addressed, first of all, at the European level. Alone, European countries cannot do much. Indeed, this is also true for Europe. We account for just 14% of emissions. So at the international level, Europe has to lead the process to arrive at a new global regime of sustainable development and climate change.

Without European leadership, the international community will not succeed. There have been very important developments lately. Australia has signed the Kyoto agreement. China has recognised that climate change is a serious problem and wants to join international efforts to address it. Japan is committed to work with us. And, finally, there is a clear change in the United States. All the candidates in the American elections have identified the fight against climate change as a priority for the future. When our main partners start to understand our efforts, we need to have the determination to keep the commitments made for our climate change and energy package. It is crucial for Europe's international standing and authority. To use Robert Schumann's words, "il n'est plus question de vaines paroles, mais d'un acte hardi, d'un acte constructif".

Europe is itself a laboratory of globalization, a successful case of setting transnational rules and standards. This experience makes me believe that we are better prepared than any other great power to propose, not to impose, the organizing principles and values of the global order. To propose our values goes hand in hand with defending our interests. They reinforce each other. The right expression is the "promotion of the European interest". It is in our interest to spread our norms and to extend our influence. Let me tell you in a very frank way: if we do not persuade other great powers that our norms are beneficial for world order, it will be very difficult to keep our social, environmental standards, and at the same time our economic growth.

The pressures of global interdependence deeply affect European internal economic and social policies. The growth and the increased competitiveness of the new great powers have a strong impact on our economic, social and environmental policies. To deal with these challenges, we need to act at two levels.

First, we need to promote the power of our example. As other societies improve and become more prosperous and open, their citizens will be more demanding. At the beginning, they want to eat better meals, to drive faster cars, to live in more comfortable houses; but later they will ask for better environmental standards, for more social and political rights, for more welfare and for a better life quality. These citizens will find out that European societies are a good example in terms of a balance between economic growth and social justice, between competition and welfare. And their governments will also realise that the adoption of European rules and norms are in many cases the right answer to the demands of their citizens and to the stability and prosperity of their societies. For instance, China already applies European regulations and standards for its food safety and in its motor industry.

At a second level, Europe must continue to shape the multilateral global agenda. We can help to create a more just globalization if we spread our norms and rules to regulate global interactions. Europe is already one of the leading international norm-setters, in human rights and good governance, in fair trade, in development and aid, in labour and social standards, in environmental protection, and in many other areas. It is not difficult to understand why European Union is the best prepared to promote a multilateral way of international and transnational governance. Europe has the unique historical experience of successful integration and cooperation among sovereign states. An experience that has promoted peace and democracy, freedom and solidarity in a whole continent.

In this respect, the European Union is a true school for global governance. Our main task for the next decades is to make the world understand this. I am fully confident that we will succeed as we did with other difficult and demanding tasks during the last fifty years.

Thank you for your attention

Side Bar