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José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission


Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Brussels Forum 2010

Brussels, 26 March 2010

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me begin by thanking the German Marshall Fund, and its President Craig Kennedy in particular, for inviting me to address this fifth edition of the Brussels Forum. It is a real pleasure to be with you.

This year’s agenda is particularly broad and seems to cover every issue imaginable - security, counter-terrorism, the G20, regional hot spots, and food security, to name just a few. All these subjects are of great importance. Most of them are high on the European Commission's agenda.

But today I want to focus on EU-US relations.

Europe and the United States find themselves at a crossroads. On the one hand, we enjoy the most successful and integrated partnership in the geopolitical world. On the other hand, the world is changing fast, and that partnership must adjust to new realities if it is to continue to flourish.

So the question is: what kind of transatlantic partnership do we want for the 21st century?

At the risk of giving away the ending, I'll answer straightaway: in a world of new threats and new challenges, and with a more balanced global distribution of power, we need a more dynamic partnership between the two sides of the Atlantic.

Some argue that with the rise of new powers, the transatlantic relationship has become less important and should just be one normal partnership among many. Let's call it the 'multipolarist argument'.

I think that view is misguided, because it ignores the importance of shared values.

Values do matter. They aren't just abstract ideas; they are the foundation of our constitutional orders. They guide our political behaviour. They justify our political reforms. They shape our political discourses. They should guide our foreign policy.

Values are also influential in defining our interests. Some people separate, if not oppose, values and interests. That is a mistake. Interests are not defined in a normative vacuum. On the contrary, the formulation of political interests is infused by our values, whether we are aware of it or not.

Why do the US and the EU promote regulatory and legal mechanisms to solve their political and economic conflicts? Because, the rule of law is a value we share.

Why do we condemn the use of force by authoritarian regimes against their own people? Because we value individual rights, democracy and freedom.

Why do we lead the world in development policies? Because we believe in solidarity, and the value of all human beings.

Why have we spent the last 60 years promoting global free trade? Because we value economic freedom, and the wealth and stability it creates.

Is it really conceivable that EU-US interests could start to diverge in a significant way, when we hold so many values in common?

I don't think so.

So it is safe to assume that in a world of rapid change, one thing will remain constant: we will continue to have more in common with each other than with any other great power.

Ours is a natural partnership, and it is only natural that we should deepen it.

Of course, the fact that we share values and interests does not mean that we will always agree on everything. It is difficult enough to get two Americans to agree on everything, or two Europeans for that matter - something I'm forced to deal with on a daily basis! [But today I am especially pleased since, at the European Council, the 27 Member States were able to come together around a very ambitious proposal from the Commission, Europe 2020, and yesterday the euro area summit took very relevant decisions for the future of our economic and monetary union.]

What matters is our ability to contain occasional disagreements, and reach reasonable solutions when they occur.

Let me be clear. In a more balanced world order, it is obvious that we need to co-operate and work with other powers. Growing economic interdependence and common threats to security require both reinforced bilateral collaboration with other partners and multilateral global management. There is no doubt about that.

But the transatlantic partnership is special in a way that none of these other relationships are. We do not pursue different visions of global order, based on competing values. We are not geopolitical or strategic rivals. Ours is a win-win relationship. The US has a lot to gain from upgrading its relations with the EU, and vice versa.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The counterweight to the multipolarist argument is that the transatlantic relationship is special. But we must go beyond traditional atlanticism, and build a new atlanticism around the strategic EU-US partnership, in order to shape the global agenda.

The bedrock of this partnership is the transatlantic economy, and it remains solid, despite the financial and economic crisis. The transatlantic economy is still by far the biggest economic area in the world. It has a joint GDP of around $25 trillion - roughly 50% of global GDP - and 800 million consumers. It remains the key driver of globalisation.

According to recent surveys, the transatlantic economy accounts for 40% of world trade, and generates more than $4 trillion in annual commercial sales.

Over the past decade, three-quarters of foreign direct investment into the United States - $1.2 trillion - has come from Europe. By the end of 2008, US investment stakes in Spain alone were greater than the US investment position in the whole of China. And India. Combined.

This level of economic integration, combined with our shared values, constitute a strong foundation on which to build our partnership further.

Yesterday's breakthrough on a second stage Open Skies aviation agreement, worth up to 12 billion Euros in economic benefits and creating eighty thousand new jobs, shows the value of further economic integration.

On top of that, the Lisbon Treaty - finally in place after a difficult birth – empowers further the EU in several areas. Economic regulation and trade. Justice and internal security. Energy policies. Development, civil reconstruction and humanitarian aid. It gives the EU a new profile in external affairs, reinforces the EU's efficiency, and its capacity to deliver.

In other words, all the pieces of the jigsaw are in place for a qualitative leap in the transatlantic relationship; for a more dynamic approach.

This initiative should extend beyond the remit of conventional foreign relations. It forms part of the core of the programme for my second Commission.

My first mandate was about consolidating the enlarged European Union. My second is very much focused on an agenda for global Europe.

I am convinced that Europe and the United States, great drivers of globalisation, can and should contribute towards the leadership which globalisation needs.

Now is our moment, now is our opportunity. In order for us to play our role, we must acknowledge global interdependence as the underlying reality of our times, while reinforcing our partnership. We need to think global and act transatlantic.

We can build on what we have achieved:

  • By re-invigorating the Euro-American economic and political relationship;

  • By making the EU-US relationship more outward-looking, and making a conscious effort to engage more with third parties - including emerging powers such as China, India and Brazil;

  • By combining our efforts to reform the architecture of international co-operation;

  • By working together to mitigate climate change whilst achieving greater energy security;

  • By joining efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals; and

  • By creating a common transatlantic area of security.

All these issues reflect our growing interdependence. And we should make this interdependence work for our citizens.

We should continue to lead the reform of global and financial governance, particularly in the context of the G20, where we need to finish the job we started.

Turning to security issues, the EU will continue to engage in the conflict resolution and state building processes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This matters not only for Afghans and Pakistanis but also to Europeans and Americans.

Our goals must be to win the peace in Afghanistan and to help Pakistan build a stable democracy.

In Afghanistan, European soldiers, policemen, judges and other civilian personnel are on the ground working with Afghans to build the basic institutions that will allow the state to function independently, to establish sustainable livelihoods that will allow communities to thrive beyond conflict and the drug trade.

In Pakistan too we are deepening our engagement. Within a few weeks, at the EU-Pakistan summit, we will focus with the Pakistani government on broadening and deepening the scope of our relations.

The objectives are to support the strengthening of democratic institutions in Pakistan, to develop alternative and sustainable economic livelihoods, and to encourage regional answers to shared challenges.

The EU and the US are just at the beginning of a more dynamic partnership in dealing with security challenges.

During the last two decades we have witnessed European and American soldiers fighting side by side to guarantee the security of both our citizens and the victims of aggressions. In the Gulf, in Bosnia, in Kosovo, and now in Afghanistan.

The EU has also been playing a growing international role in recent years in all areas relating to civil use of nuclear energy: safety, security and non-proliferation. A budget of €520 million has been allocated to these tasks, including the promotion of international co-operation.

The EU stands squarely by international non-proliferation efforts. That is why we will not hesitate to support a new round of sanctions against Iran if it continues to ignore international concerns.

And there could not be a more positive signal to our efforts than the news today of an agreement between the United States and Russia on a new START treaty to cut nuclear weapons. I congratulate both President Obama and President Medvedev for this historic agreement, to be signed next month.

In the modern world internal and external security are indivisible, so a vital aspect of improving security co-operation and counter-terrorism is the sharing of information. We have been working hard with the US to develop effective procedures to that end. We are fully committed to this.

But it is essential to take into account the particular concerns of Europe on fundamental rights and privacy. That is the lesson of the recent vote by the European Parliament on the so-called SWIFT agreement.

We all share the goals behind that agreement, but we must ensure that Europeans are fully behind the measures proposed, by respecting what are legitimate concerns.

That does not mean delay, however. The Commission has already presented a negotiating mandate to Member States and the European Parliament, which we hope will enable us to conclude this important EU-US agreement quickly.

Making the transatlantic partnership more dynamic means improving the way we work together. That means making our summits much more efficient and results-oriented, and occasions for a high-level, less scripted, strategic dialogue between leaders.

In any event, we need to be guided by two principles: strategic priorities over endless lists of issues, and substance over process. The summits must be agenda-setting and decision-making events.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me finish by reassuring both the 'multipolarists' and the 'traditional atlanticists': the transatlantic relationship is a special one, and a new atlanticism does have the means to deliver.

In our fast-changing world, we have no time to lose.

Thank you.

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