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European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood
The Future of Europe
2012 Wroclaw Global Forum
Wroclaw, 1 June 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to be here with you this morning to talk about the European Union and its neighbourhood in a changing world. In today's world I can see three major drivers of change:
1) The emergence of new powers and the consequent power shift at the global level;
2) Demographic trends inside and outside the European Union and it is not a reassuring comparison;
3) Increased globalisation.
What do these changes mean and how do they impact our policy towards the neighbourhood?
First, the emergence of the so-called "BRICS" (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and the Asia-Pacific region means that Europe and the North Atlantic are no longer the only dominant players on the world stage.
Size matters and I would add – again- what a wake-up call at the beginning of the 21st century after living in an illusion for 2 centuries.
The emergence of the Asia-Pacific region has led the United States to re-adjust its foreign policy strategy and to embark on the so-called "pivot" to Asia.
It has left the European Union with ever increasing responsibilities in its own neighbourhood. It has to do more to promote universal values and stability, and it has to use its resources more effectively.
Second: demographic trends. Demographics have a particularly stark impact in the broader European region. The European Union now has roughly half a billion inhabitants but we are having fewer children and are getting older. By contrast, our neighbours in North Africa and in the Middle East have booming populations. In twenty years' time, we will have two billion neighbours and they will be much younger. We will have more and more retired people supported by fewer and fewer workers.
Third: increased globalisation. The challenges of globalisation do not stop at our borders and neither do the unprecedented opportunities. We are part of the issues at stake. Therefore, we will have to shape the issues or they will shape us.
We know that all these drivers of change are cyclical and in 100 years' time things could be totally different. However, this is the first time that we face a "perfect storm" of all the drivers of change at the same time.
This means that we must face up to competition (but what kind of competition?). And this competition doesn't start in China or elsewhere on the Asian continent; it starts right here on our doorstep. You can stop a person from crossing an EU or Schengen border but you can't stop globalisation. It has a visa free status.
Most of the difficulties and challenges we are facing are often presented as side effects of an integration that is not thorough enough. Globalisation is actually testing if our integration model is up to the task. It is testing us, it is testing our banks. It is testing our common market. It is testing our environment.
Nevertheless our current difficulties should not be seen as a sign of failure of our integration project. And I am saying that despite the fact that the Euro having offered for many a sweet pillow of living at the expense of our children. If we can deliver on its full potential we will be much more effective in addressing globalisation
That brings me to our enlargement policy. Don't worry; it is not the only sharp curve in my address. End case I will try to make sure that our neighbourhood is not only part of it but part of the solution. Enlargement offers much more than simple alignment with the European Union acquis. It leads to deeper reforms, but also poses greater demands on our partners. Enlargement requires credibility on our side and credibility on the candidates' sides. They enter when fully prepared. They do their homework, they move forward. We deliver. They join. That is why it is our most successful external policy.
The progress that we have recently made with our enlargement policy is there for all to see:
Croatia will become a Member State of the European Union on 1 July 2013. Its economy is ready to form a part of the internal market. Democratic principles and fundamental rights are respected and the rule of law has been strengthened. However it still has one more year to deliver on its commitments.
Serbia has been granted candidate status.
Montenegro is sustaining its course towards European Union membership and other countries are making visible progress.
Let me turn to our policy towards our neighbours. It is based on two pillars:
first, a commitment to support the process of political reform and democratisation based on our common values of democracy, rule of law and human rights; and
second, convergence with European Union rules and our mutual interests in cooperation, stability and ensuring peace.
These are elements for which we are well equipped. We have the instruments to shape the prosperity and the security of our neighbourhood.
Last year, the European Union launched a renewed European Neighbourhood Policy aimed at:
-providing greater support to partners engaged in building deep and sustainable democracies;
-supporting inclusive economic development more effectively; and
-strengthening the two regional dimensions of the European Neighbourhood Policy, namely the Eastern Partnership and the Union for the Mediterranean.
The renewed Policy is based on the "more for more" approach: more support from the European Union in return for more progress towards democratic reform. The Arab Spring made it even clearer that there can be no sustainable political and economic stability without political pluralism, dignity and accountability. We have redoubled our efforts to encourage civil society in our entire neighbourhood and we have put them much closer to the centre of our efforts.
Our approach to funding is innovative. We have established the SPRING Programme in the South and the EaPIC Programme in the East which are providing additional financial support (1 billion Euro) to the best-performing partners.
Between 2007 and 2013, the European Union budget will have provided over EUR 12 billion in grant funding to the South Mediterranean and Eastern Europe and this doesn't include the top up funding I have just mentioned. A comparable amount of credits will have also been extended by the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. In a nutshell, we have demonstrated the credibility of our Neighbourhood Policy by being proactive, by interacting better and by delivering on our commitments.
But facing the three drivers for change I described at the beginning, the question is not whether we have all relevant instruments to steer processes in our neighbourhood. The question is whether we have the ability and the will to use these instruments to their full potential and in a pro-active manner.
Allow me to reflect about the future. I have already outlined what we are doing with our enlargement and neighbourhood policies but the question is: is it enough? In my view, we can and should be doing more to improve our structures and the way we pursue our polices so that we use our external elements to our advantage. Europe doesn't only need firemen; it needs strategists so that it can deal with the impacts of competition and globalisation.
That is why I believe that the time has come for us to collectively increase the pace of delivery so that our neighbourhood policy can be more effective and becomes finally a part of the solution. We need to use all our instruments. Currently we are not making optimum use of them. We are too cautious.
It is no mystery that the most powerful foreign policy instrument of the European Union, the expression of its ultimate transformative power, is the perspective for a country to accede.
According to Article 49 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, every European country that respects the principles upon which the European Union is founded may apply to join the Union. Our Eastern partners are European countries.
Today there is no agreement within the European Union on the accession perspectives of our Eastern European partners. However, no one has put any limit on the depth and scope of integration they can achieve.
I am convinced that we should send positive signals to our Eastern partners. We should encourage them to advance as far and as fast as possible on the path towards the closest possible political association and economic integration with the European Union. We should be creative as far as our regulatory framework and the extent of approximation that is concerned. But we should be firm on our partners delivery on values and principles – as any compromises here would ultimately weaken our European Union.
As for our Southern partners, after the Arab Spring we looked at our interests and our values together as genuine partners. We're being ambitious in the south; we're not telling our partners what to do but trying to rise to their needs and ambitions – hence "more for more": more support for more reform.
As I envisage it, the end game for our Southern partners is a common economic space together with the European Union, which means that the Southern Mediterranean could gradually become part of the European Union's internal market for goods and services. Their booming populations and fast-growing economies would help boost the economy of the European Union.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Despite the current crisis, the European Union today is an attractive model of democracy, prosperity and stability to many neighbours. Nevertheless, it will have to find new, bold and flexible ways to become even stronger and to accommodate and anchor itself to those neighbours that also want to share in its democracy, prosperity and stability without compromising the unity and diversity of the European Union.
If we look towards the broader context, it is clear that we will have to find a new, more flexible setup. In making the European Union more adaptive to changes, a reference to a multi-speed Europe should not be taboo. It should have the agility to respond to challenges of globalisation while avoiding any kind of discrimination.
The European Union is in a process of political and economic transformation to face the consequences of the economic and financial crisis. I am convinced that it will come out strengthened. We need to change in such a way that the people's confidence in the ability of the Union to be an outward-oriented geopolitical force is fully restored.
Open-up the EU - make it even more inclusive - don't look for contradictions here. There are none.