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SPEECH/11/895

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Democracy and development – Europe's unwavering commitment

European Development Days

Warsaw, 15th December 2011

Thank you very much, Andris, for your very kind and friendly words!

Distinguished guests from the development community,

Presidents,

Prime Ministers,

Ministers,

I would like to welcome you here as co-organiser with the Polish government.

It is a great pleasure to be among you for this sixth edition of the European Development Days. I would like to extend my thanks to the Polish Council Presidency for co-organising this year's event and for hosting us in this impressive new Copernicus Science Centre.

The European Development Days have become a landmark event in international affairs and development cooperation, and I trust this year's event, focusing on "development and democracy", will meet and exceed expectations.

I am extremely pleased that so many Heads of State and Government have travelled to Warsaw today, as well as the leaders of so many key organisations. I welcome you all. Such high level participation demonstrates the approach of true partnership for which the Development Days have become known.

Today, it is clearer than ever before that many of the challenges we face require joint, global solutions.

One year on from the start of the democratic uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, the theme of this year's event is even more crucial - it is essential to address the links between political change and socio-economic progress, which I believe are mutually dependent and reinforcing.

Mesdames et Messieurs,

Chers amis,

Le rythme des changements auxquels nous assistons partout sur la planète est tel que le monde devient vraiment différent, même de ce qu’il était encore voici un an, au début des soulèvements dans les pays arabes.

L’année 2011 a vu la crise se renforcer: d’une crise financière, nous sommes désormais passés à une crise structurelle, une crise qui touche profondément et directement l'Europe mais qui est aussi une manifestation d'une crise globale qui a commencé ailleurs et qui, maintenant, peut aussi toucher l'ensemble de la planète et même mettre en cause les perspectives de croissance. Je peux vous dire que l'Union Européenne fait face à ses responsabilités en prenant des mesures fortes, ainsi que le sommet européen de la semaine dernière l’a démontré. Ce ne sera pas facile, ce ne sera pas un seul événement qui pourrait apporter une solution. C'est un processus qui exige de la détermination, qui exige de la persévérance, qui exige que cette détermination soit soutenue dans le temps. Je peux vous dire que j'ai confiance dans la volonté de tous les gouvernements européens, notamment ceux de la zone euro, à faire tout ce qui est en leur pouvoir pour soutenir la monnaie européenne, l'euro, pour soutenir la stabilité financière en Europe.

Je peux vous dire que même dans cette crise, l’Europe reste aussi fidèle à ses principes fondamentaux. Car elle est d’abord une communauté fondée sur des valeurs fortes, comme la démocratie, la liberté, l’état de droit, le respect de la dignité humaine et le respect de la solidarité.

Le message que je vous adresse aujourd’hui est donc le suivant: oui, l’Europe doit encore faire des efforts pour résoudre la crise et pour mieux adapter ses institutions et sa monnaie unique aux exigences du 21e siècle et du monde multipolaire dans lequel nous vivons. Mais que les choses soient claires: l’Europe en ressortira plus forte. Ça a toujours été comme ça dans l'histoire de l'intégration européenne. Les crises sont des moments qui permettent de voir comment aller de l'avant, et si vous regardez le débat en Europe maintenant, il est intéressant de remarquer que personne ne propose de mettre en cause les acquis. Personne ne veut revenir en arrière: il y a un débat, parfois avec différentes opinions, c'est vrai, mais toujours sur comment aller de l'avant. Et aussi qu'est-ce qu'on va faire de plus pour l'intégration, pour le renforcement de la gouvernance dans la zone euro et, dans l'ensemble, dans l'Union Européenne ? L'Union Européenne qui a 27 Etats membres, et très prochainement un 28ème Etat membre, la Croatie. Nous venons de signer l'accord d'adhésion avec ce pays.

Il y a une chose très importante que tous nos partenaires devraient savoir: l'Europe restera ouverte sur le monde et décidée à jouer un rôle clé dans celui-ci. Nous restons fidèles à notre volonté de promouvoir nos valeurs. Et nous restons prêts à soutenir tous nos partenaires qui œuvrent en faveur de la liberté et de la prospérité, par la voie de la démocratie et du développement.

Mesdames, Messieurs,

Chers amis,

Permettez-moi de commencer par souligner ce premier élément: l’Union européenne reste ouverte sur le monde. Dans un monde caractérisé par une croissance forte hors de l'Europe et où la croissance, les emplois et la stabilité sont si intimement liés, il serait contraire à l'intérêt européen de nous centrer sur nous mêmes. Nous devons tirer parti de nos atouts. Nous devons promouvoir un ordre mondial qui soit juste et multilatéral, fondé sur des valeurs telles que les droits de l’homme, la démocratie mais aussi sur des règles communes pour la gouvernance globale. Aussi sur l'idée de l’ouverture des marchés et de la protection du climat. Ce sont des défis globaux qui exigent une réponse globale.

Voilà pourquoi nous avons rapidement, fermement et spontanément soutenu nos voisins du sud de la Méditerranée dans leur quête de liberté et de prospérité. J’y reviendrai dans quelques minutes. Voilà également pourquoi nous restons décidés à promouvoir l’association politique et l’intégration économique avec nos partenaires orientaux, ainsi que je l’ai souligné lors du sommet du Partenariat oriental, à la fin du mois de septembre, ici à Varsovie. C’est dans cette optique que nous sommes convenus d’un calendrier de négociation en vue de la conclusion d’accords commerciaux avec la République de Moldavie et la Géorgie. Je me réjouis d’ailleurs de voir le Président Saakashvili parmi nous aujourd’hui.

C’est aussi pour cette raison que nous concluons des accords commerciaux avec des pays d’Amérique latine. C’est encore pour cela que nous avons renouvelé notre partenariat avec le Pacifique. L'Union européenne, et la Commission indirectement, est le deuxième donateur d'aide aux pays du Pacifique. Et c’est, également dans cet esprit que nous continuons à lutter contre la pauvreté, en veillant notamment à atteindre les objectifs du millénaire pour le développement, et contre les effets du changement climatique. Le changement climatique n'est pas seulement une menace pour le futur, ses effets très forts, très graves sur les conditions de vie des gens, que ce soit dans les petites îles du Pacifique ou dans les déserts de l'Afrique, se font déjà ressentir. Tous ces éléments se reflètent dans la série de nouveaux instruments d’aide internationale que la Commission européenne vient de proposer.

Pour résumer, Mesdames et Messieurs, l’Europe travaille aux avant-postes de notre monde partagé (et la conférence sur le climat de Durban l’a prouvé), car des événements qui interviennent dans une partie du monde peuvent avoir des répercussions dans une autre partie à la vitesse de l'éclair. Des solutions doivent donc impérativement être trouvées à l’échelle mondiale.

This brings me to my second message: that the European Union is, and will remain, committed to the defence and promotion of democratic principles.

Democracy is enshrined in the European Union's founding Treaties. It has underpinned the development of our Union throughout its 60-year history. It is both a core value and an essential aspect of the EU's internal and external policies, including development cooperation.

Democratic principles stretch far beyond Europe, they are universal. Events in the Arab World have underlined that. Of course, people will follow different paths in their pursuit of their objectives, but I tend to believe that when one man or one woman has the opportunity to choose, he or she chooses the possibility to live in peace and to live in freedom.

But the fundamental wish to have a dignified life for oneself and one's children, free from poverty, violence, oppression and corruption, where all can participate in a community that is respectful of its people, that is something that all human beings have in common. There may be cultural differences, but I believe that there are some common aspirations of every human being.

But, as I well know from my own experiences in my home country of Portugal – I remember when my country was not a democracy, I had that experience in my generation – and also in many other countries in Southern Europe and in Central and Eastern Europe, the quest for democracy is not always simple. It is a very complex, sometimes turbulent process. Kofi Annan once wrote that: "No nation is born a democracy". And this is true. In other words, democracy is something that we must build and it is first and foremost a matter of choice. It cannot be imposed. It takes time. It has to grow. It is a construction that must be constantly improved.

So building "deep democracy" is a complex task. It relies on many factors: free elections, institutional and legislative reform, a pluralistic system of parties, an independent judiciary and respect for the rule of law, fundamental freedoms and minority rights, the fight against discrimination, the independence of the media, the fight against corruption, transparency and accountability. It is indeed a very ambitious programme and even some of the most advanced democracies cannot perform perfectly in all these categories.

Putting these principles into practice remains a challenge for many countries. But it is a challenge that must be overcome, because to build such a system is to sow important seeds for human fulfilling, for human realisation, but also for growth and development.

Allowing all members of society to contribute, fostering openness and extending a hand beyond borders are vital steps on the path to prosperity.

That is why the EU and the international community are more prepared than ever to support their partners in overcoming these challenges together with local and international partners.

We do not seek to impose any single model for democracy. After all, the EU's 27 Member States each have their own form of democracy shaped by history, culture and circumstance.

But we do seek to play a role where we can in supporting democratic processes, which are so fundamental to spurring economic development.

The EU does so through an extensive array of instruments, including political dialogues and human rights dialogues. Through an approach that includes institution building, electoral support and observation, media and civil society programmes, civic education and monitoring the actions of public institutions, as well as support to vibrant political and civil societies. Today, there are 215 European Union projects ongoing to support democracy worldwide.

Allow me to illustrate this with the example of our EU support to our southern neighbours. The EU acted swiftly to help the people in the streets of Tunis, Cairo, Benghazi and elsewhere, not just through humanitarian aid, but through a comprehensive approach to support, which is making a demonstrable difference on the ground.

Our help has been guided by three priorities, which are:

  • First, democratic transformation and institution building;

  • Second, partnership with the people through support to civil society, and;

  • Lastly, measures to support economic development.

This approach was enshrined in the Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity, adopted in March. It is supported by the European Commission programme "SPRING", or Support for Partnership, Reform, and Inclusive Growth. This programme was launched in September with 350 million Euros in grants and a specific focus on democratisation. The Commission intends to extend this to 500 million euros for the period 2011-2013.

This comprehensive approach reflects our conviction that a fully democratic society is the best possible basis for solid economic development, and that economic progress underpins open societies.

It is true that sometimes people believe that societies can be more stable without democracy. What we have seen recently is that what was apparently very stable collapsed from one day to the other. So, indeed, real stability is achieved through democracy. Because it is systemic stability that allows variety, allows changes in governments, and provides possibilities of growth and development. Some of those that believe that through some kind of control, not to say repression, you can achieve better levels in terms of growth, they are making a mistake. And the question is when they are going to discover that mistake.

This brings me to the final message I wanted to share with you today. That Europe will continue to support democratic choices throughout the world and that it remains a major international partner in tackling global challenges such as fighting poverty, ensuring food security and combating the effects of climate change, all of which can affect political stability.

That is why I have proposed an ambitious package for the European Union's upcoming financial period from 2014 to 2020.

This goes significantly beyond what we are currently spending abroad, namely through a 20% increase in aid. It means that the European Union will uphold its commitment to allocate 0.7% of our GNI to international aid by 2015. In other words, this is a clear sign of European solidarity. Let me be clear: the European Commission, Andris Piebalgs, myself and all our College will continue to work hard to ring-fence international support. This is something that so far we have got agreement and commitment of all our Member States. Even in the times of difficulties they will keep their overall commitment to development aid.

I would like to highlight in particular, that our action promoting democracy and human rights, if our proposals are approved, will be increased by over 40%. This will enable us to respond even better to democratic transformations, such as the one witnessed in North Africa and the Middle East, but also other difficult situations, such as the one in Belarus.

Still, we must certainly become more strategic, synergetic and effective in delivering our democracy support. This fits in with our wider ambitions to improve our European Union development policy. Commissioner Piebalgs unveiled ambitious proposals on this in October this year. This is the "Feuille de route", this is our Roadmap for the future in this area.

The "Agenda for Change" presented at the time, is a new European Union approach. It places even stronger emphasis on political conditionality and a prioritisation of democracy and human rights in our development policy.

In a nutshell, a government that is neither accountable nor transparent will not be able to uphold democracy and the rule of law.

But neither will it be able to look after the social and economic needs of its people. Hence, the EU will help the people of such countries by increasing support for civil and political society, while using general budget support more selectively.

General budget support is of course highly important, but we will provide this kind of support only if our partners are on track with respect to human rights, democracy and rule of law.

We live in difficult economic times, where we have a duty to European taxpayers to get the most impact from our resources.

At the same time, we must show strong solidarity to the peoples that are committed to international values and standards and we have to reward those countries that are going that way. Hence our decision to channel our resources even more strategically, where they are needed most and make the most difference.

In a changing world, where resources are tight, where some former developing countries are now aid donors – and I applaud them for that progress - it is only logical that Europe adapts its policy. Making our aid more effective is moreover the only way we will meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. This was also the message that came out of the Busan conference on aid effectiveness two weeks ago.

It is also the best route to promote our values and develop strategic alliances with growing economies. Just take the enormous potential of the African continent, which the IMF forecasts to grow by 6% in 2011 and in 2012. This will be of great advantage to Europe and the global economy, which is one reason why we are determined to keep our relationship with the African Union a priority. It is our neighbour and we have a huge responsibility there. In fact, the recent progress with the Desertec energy project in North Africa is a promising sign of the type of cooperation we could enjoy that would bring economic and environmental benefits to both regions.

To close, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, let me say that 2012 will bring important challenges on the global stage, in terms of multilateral negotiations on trade and on climate. On this climate issue, we have great cause for more confidence following the positive outcome of the Durban conference. I believe that we can consider the Durban conference a step forward, and it was certainly important that for the first time ever all the global emitters, all the biggest emitters, have agreed in principle with binding agreements for the future. Now we have a roadmap for that.

I would like to stress that it was the strong alliance between Europe, small vulnerable island states and the poorest nations, namely from Africa, that successfully pushed for this deal. We will also face important challenges in terms of resolving the global economic crisis and in terms of maintaining the democratic momentum, namely in the Arab uprisings.

All of this requires that we work together in a spirit of partnership, solidarity and openness. I believe that during the Polish presidency we have made progress on this matter, namely the very interesting idea that we have supported: a European endowment for democracy. It is a concrete example of a programme to give more focus to our support to democratic transitions. This is another way of demonstrating that Europe remains committed to the promotion of democratic values, to the pursuit of global solutions, and to the continued development of our partnerships with other countries and regions.

Yes, in Europe we have some problems, we know that. But we should never forget those who have even bigger problems than us. We should never forget that in some parts of the world people do not have enough food to eat and do not have clean water to drink. And I think this is simply not acceptable in the 21st century. To think that some people die because of hunger is not acceptable in moral terms. And that is why Europe, even in the situation of financial crisis, has to commit to this great cause of aid-development and aid-development cooperation.

I thank you for your attention.


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