José Manuel Dur ã o Barroso
P resident of the European Commission
Int roductory remarks of President Barroso at the Opening Session of the European Development Days
Opening Session of European Development Days
Stockholm , 22 October 2009
Your royal highness, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.
On behalf of the European Commission, I am delighted to welcome you to European Development Days 2009 that we are organising with the Swedish Presidency. I am particularly pleased to see so many people here. This event was launched by the European Commission in 2006, with 3000 people participating and 80 exhibitors. In three short years, we have doubled both figures. In addition, I understand that the exhibitors and event organisers have contributed more than 120,000 euros to carbon offset schemes. So I think we can say this is "green growth" !
Fredrik, as you say, this is the largest single summit event during the Swedish Presidency. Given the uniquely strong record of Sweden in promoting development issues in the European Union and worldwide, you have genuine reasons to feel proud. Once again I congratulate Sweden.
The timing of this year's event is especially relevant. I hope and believe that we are on the cusp of ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, a Treaty which more than anything else will encourage Europe to look outwards to the rest of the world once again. And as we do so, development policy is one of the key vectors, one of the key instruments. I believe in an Europe that is open and committed to the values of development, freedom and solidarity.
There are three values I want to highlight in my remarks this morning as being at the heart of European development policy.
First, solidarity with our partners in developing countries. Second, governance, and in particular how we can re-shape globalisation based on values that should be considered universal. And third, respect for the environment: it is no surprise that a major theme of this year's edition is going to be climate change, and is indeed the most important subject that we have to face in the immediate future.
First we need to consider solidarity in the context of the economic downturn.
It is just four weeks since the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh declared that our efforts to secure economic recovery had begun to work, but clearly we have a way to go yet.
In the meantime, the poorest countries in the world are hardest hit by the crisis, and we shall not leave them behind. Let me tell you my starting point: global poverty is not acceptable. Nor do I accept, in the 21 st century, that people are dying simply because they do not have enough food and clean water. Countries need that solidarity. Hence our idea of a global safety net for the most vulnerable countries – what we call "Vulnerability FLEX": up to 500 million euros to the countries most hit by the crisis, plugging fiscal financing gaps, and thereby maintaining essential spending. It effectively has made the EU the donor of last resort, working closely with the banks who are the lenders of last resort.
As the European Commission has consistently said in the G20 and elsewhere, we absolutely have to avoid a two speed recovery, with low income countries stuck in the slow lane. Not just because this is morally right, but because it makes sense – the world economy needs multiple poles of growth and stability. It is a question of enlightened self-interest to deal with this.
And I also want to stress that the economic downturn cannot, must not and will not be used an excuse to go back on our promises to increase aid to developing countries. Indeed, although that's my point of view, I am not alone in Europe - despite the economic crisis, public support for development in Europe remains unchanged – according to a recent survey, around 90% of people think this is an important issue. And we put our money where our mouth is. Taking the Member States and the Commission together, we account for almost 60% of total global public assistance.
So we are serious about meeting the MDG targets .
The economic crisis is in fact another reason to meet the targets, not another excuse to miss them.
But two further thoughts on this. First, let us also take our aid seriously, striving to make the most of every euro. Aid effectiveness is an important topic – it could free up several billions of euros a year in aid. Later this afternoon, no less than 3 roundtables will be discussing aid governance and how to enhance the effectiveness of aid, including from the European Union.
And secondly, let's remember that money alone is not enough. Let's use the Development Days to spark creative thinking on development policy more globally. In this respect, the Commission will present to you this afternoon the first European report on Development.
The second issue I want briefly to raise is governance, and in particular the focus on democracy.
For strong leadership, nations do not solely need strong committed and competent leaders, but also strong institutions. That was the very philosophy of one of the greatest founders of the European Community, Jean Monnet: “Nothing is possible without the people, nothing can be lasting without institutions."
That's the European experience in developing a workable model of regional integration over the last fifty years. I think we can give some advice to states on this. After all, the EU can serve as a laboratory for global governance. I personally think that it can, and our experience certainly makes us natural advocates of global governance.
I think this will be an important theme at European Development Days 2009.
On the last of these three underlying values of development, respect for the environment, let me finish with some comments on climate change, which I expect to dominate our sessions bearing in mind we are only 50 days from Copenhagen.
No-one can be either as eloquent or experienced about this issue as Professor Pachauri. So I will not try to match him, except to confirm what you already know: that this, ladies and gentlemen, is the biggest challenge of our time. Indeed, the changes are happening now. I met last night with the Prime Minister’s of Vanuatu and Micronesia. They both told me vividly of the problems they face, of food security, of the need to relocate whole villages, faced with ever rising water.
Because of this, I am very proud of the lead Europe has taken on climate change during the lifetime of my Commission .
We were the first to unilaterally cut our own emissions of greenhouse gases (and have now promised to deliver 20% cuts by 2020).
The first to promise even more substantial cuts needed as part of an overall deal.
And the first to set out credible funding arrangements to help mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. Indeed, I hope we will be able to finalise this when we meet in the European Council next week in Brussels. A firm proposal for Copenhagen.
Because climate change is of course a major development challenge. Developing countries will be seriously hit by climate change, and will face the greatest difficulty in adapting to it.
But more than that: developing countries weigh heavily in these negotiations.
I am often asked if I accept that the developed countries are largely r esponsible for climate change.
Of course I do. Historically, we are responsible.
But this fact doesn't solve the problem for the future. The developed countries could shut off their emissions to zero today, and if developing countries continued with Business As Usual, climate change would almost certainly lead to a temperature increase of more than two degrees Celsius. And we know by science that we cannot go beyond that.
We are all in this together. Developing countries are crucial to sealing the deal in Copenhagen.
Ladies and gentlemen.
This year we welcome leaders from the Caribbean, from Africa, from the Pacific. European Development Days has become an event with truly worldwide reach, in recognition of the need in the European Union to build and develop – or re-develop - lasting partnerships with every corner of the world.
Development Days are going global.
I want to thank you all in advance for your contributions over the next three days. I want to thank the Swedish International Development Minister, Gunilla Carlsson and Commissioner De Gucht for organising this day. I urge you to make the most of your time to meet each other, to help find new ways to tackle global problems. And if you find those new ways, I want you to let me know !
But most of all, I want to welcome you once again.
So finally, and it gives me great pleasure, to my ultimate task this morning: to declare Development Days 2009 now formally open!
Thank you for your attention.