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Speech - Global dialogue - Working towards the common ground

European Commission - SPEECH/13/1017   04/12/2013

Other available languages: none

European Commission

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Global dialogue - Working towards the common ground

Speech accepting the 2013 CGDC Award for Enhancing Mutual Understanding and Dialogue amongst Diverse People/Vienna

4 December 2013

President Stoyanov,


Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour and privilege to receive this award today.

I would like to thank all of those that contributed to this event today. This award is related to the globalisation process we are living. I believe in globalisation. I think globalisation has of course its risks but brings great opportunities, contact and dialogue among people all over the world.

Certainly, globalisation does not offer just opportunitie. The benefits are less evident today, after the biggest economic crisis since the 1930s, after 9/11, in the light also of rear-guard battles against some of the openness that the world has been experiencing. But still: globalisation brings dialogue and cooperation, as is indispensable in our contemporary world.

Let me stress something that may seem clear but we should nevertheless emphasize. To tackle global challenges together, you need a true dialogue, and not just parallel monologues.

Dialogue means both sides must be willing to speak truthfully, openly and boldly – even if you know your message is not always welcome. Leadership means reaching out to convince.

Dialogue also demands both sides to listen with the same openness, and to show some basic willingness to change their mind – even if they have different opinions, different interests or sometimes the perception of different interests.

This much underestimated characteristic - knowing how to listen - is vital for democratic leadership. I believe, in this world, we should invest more in listening. This openness for dialogue is a quality that Europeans have acquired after decades, even centuries, of suffering the opposite. Centuries of conflicts, of wars, of so many missed opportunities.

We have learnt - the hard way – the virtues of dialogue and the lessons of interdependence, especially after the Second World War and the huge disasters that it brought to our continent.

We have understood that we can exploit common opportunities if we work together;

If we have to fight common threats we must do it together;

If we want to foster the common good we must do it together;

And we can do so only by working hard towards the common ground.

I know how difficult it is to bring about a degree of mutual understanding and set up a real dialogue amongst diverse people.

Today in the European Union there are 28 Member States from the Balkans to the Baltics, from the polar circle to Portugal, including regions as diverse as Sicily or Silesia, even including territories like the Azores in the middle of the Atlantic, Guadeloupe or French Guyana…So, for those of you who don't know, you should not forget that the European Union has a border with Brazil.

There are in the European Union today 24 official languages, and more than 60 indigenous regional or minority language communities.

To bring these people together into a true dialogue, into a true common project like the ever closer political and economic union is in itself a tremendous achievement. That is what the Nobel Peace Prize has recognised last year when it awarded the European Union precisely the Nobel Peace Prize for the great process of peace that the European Union has created and is developing and deepening in our continent.

But this job is not over. It is a task we can only achieve by converting our complexity into stability, by embracing our differences and moulding them into a common project, by being – as the official European Union motto says - 'United in diversity'.

This is not only something history has taught us. It is also something the future is demanding from us. And this principle of sharing sovereignty among European countries, because it's the best way to be stronger together. I believe it is particularly relevant on the world scene.

The crisis has shown how interdependent we are. The crisis has shown that when there is a real problem we cannot say 'your part of the boat is sinking'. Because we are all in the same boat. And Europe knows that, in today's world, and in tomorrow's world, we will need to speak with one clear voice more than ever before, if we don't want to be relegated to the side-lines of history.

As Europeans we must defend our shared interests and promote our values and ideals in a different way: through the same type of dialogue and cooperation that defines our relations within Europe's borders.

In a way, Europe itself is a successful laboratory of integration and managing globalization on a regional continental scale. So we are well-equipped to make ourselves heard internationally. And our partners expect this "European dialogue" – I have been witnessing this on a daily basis as President of the European Commission over the last decade. Our fellow leaders, too, want "more Europe", not less. Many of the countries that are close to us want to join the European Union. That is why it is important to continue our enlargement process. We are developing closer relations with the neighbourhood countries as well, those that will not join now, but want to be close to us through political association and economic integration. And I believe this is a message that we can convey to the rest of the world.

The European Union will therefore continue to let its voice well heard in tomorrow's world:

To tackle "problems without passports", like the problem of climate change, we need to have a vision that goes beyond the nation state. Of course we all love our respective countries, but I believe in the current days it is important to go beyond the nation state, working with others and developing a real sense of global identity. Because after all, we can be proud members of our nations but we are all citizens of mankind, of this world that is developing today.

To deal with those "problems without passports", like climate change, like security, we need, of course, a more multilateral approach. We need to get all partners who have a stake in global integration to take up their responsibility.

This, I believe, is the motto for globalisation: solidarity and responsibility. With power comes the duty of more responsibility. But also showing solidarity for those who are the most poor of the world, those who cannot yet enjoy the benefits that globalisation, economic growth, development of a middle class, technological advances, the revolution in information, are now bringing to the world. That's why with this motto - solidarity and responsibility - I believe we can manage globalisation and we can work together beyond the borders to make a better world.

I thank you very much for the award and I thank you very much for your kind attention.

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