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European Commission

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Speech by President Barroso at the European Forum Alpbach: "European ideas for fair globalisation"

European Forum Alpbach/Alpbach

31 August 2013

President of the European Forum Alpbach, Dr. Fischler,

President Fischer,

President Kikwete,


Ladies and gentlemen,

We are meeting at a crucial point in time: after a financial crisis more serious than anything we have witnessed since the Second World War, after a geopolitical shift not seen in generations, when global problems transcend national boundaries, when civil wars threaten regional peace and disturb the conscience of the international community. At such a critical juncture, global leadership means testing and adapting the basic concepts that underpin our political actions.

At a point when new ideas are needed to make globalisation fairer and more inclusive, and to enable people to reap its benefits, we need to see if our basic outlook on international politics, and our own role in it, passes the test of our fast-changing times.

I am grateful to the European Forum Alpbach for providing a "testing ground" in this regard and in particular for providing a platform for the retreat with global leaders which I had the honour to co-host yesterday.

This need to develop "new ideas for fair globalization" is especially relevant for the European Union, in many ways the most successful and most advanced regional integration project of the last century.

The ideas and ideals of European integration, I believe, have become more and not less applicable in the decades to come. And not just for Europe, but for the world as a whole. I may recall the words of one of our "founding fathers", Jean Monnet: "The Community itself is just another step towards the forms of organisation of tomorrow's world."

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me outline what these basic founding ideas of the European Union are, and how they can inspire fair globalization.

First of all, size matters. In a world with many - and some of them massive - players, you need to join forces to be heard. Simply tending one's little back yard would not deliver to our citizens.

At the same time, the world of the future will clearly not be as European as it was in the past. But for us, this means that we actually have to be more European – and not less - to remain relevant.

With the US and China as huge players, with new actors stepping into of the limelight, from India to Brazil and with many other emerging nations taking up their rightful place in world markets and world politics, we need to join forces to play our role. President Kikwete is one of those global leaders who demonstrate this open, international and constructive outlook, to the benefit of his people.

Look at international trade, for instance, a field that has expanded immensely over the last decades, where economies of scale apply both in the economic and in the political sense.

United, the European Union is the biggest economy in the world, and it speaks with one voice. We therefore succeed in joining up with the most attractive partners, even starting the most ground-breaking negotiations in recent years with the talks on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Divided, on the other hand, we would neither have the economic potential, nor the negotiating power to do so – which would be clearly self-defeating. That is why I have so strongly argued over the last crisis-years that we must all withstand the siren song of protectionism – in Europe and globally.

Nor would a divided Europe have the same power to make sure the rules apply equally and fairly to all. Would any member state on its own have the power to take on dumping or unfair trade practices by the biggest blocs in the world? Or would any nation on its own have what it takes to improve the rules of global trade, as the EU does in multilateral and bilateral negotiations?

We have learned to be strong together, because we are weak if divided. This may be self-evident, but it matters a great deal, not just to our immediate interests but also for our role in shaping the new global game.

The same is true in many other fields, such as energy policy, where we would become a mere object in other countries' geopolitical power-play if each member state acted on its own. Moreover, the economic benefits to our companies and citizens of a fully integrated European energy market, which the Commission is pushing hard, will reach up to 30 billion euro by 2030. Here, we have already improved our EU game, as reflected for instance in a stronger external energy policy that improves our security of supply; or our strong support to the UN "Sustainable Energy for All" initiative that will literally "energize" hundreds of millions of people.

Or take development cooperation, where the EU is and remains the world's most generous donor, even in difficult times. Our new multi-annual EU budget from 2014-2020 will maintain our high levels of international aid. I have fought hard for this, not just because it is the right thing to do but also because it is central to our strategic credibility. We literally invest not just in the fight against poverty and for global equity and fairness, but also in protecting and connecting our planet. Europe is in the lead in supporting the Millennium Development Goals, in investing in health systems, supporting education or reducing child mortality. We remain extremely committed on this final stretch of achieving the MDGs in the next two years, and equally when it comes to shaping the new, post-2015 global development agenda, which should combine the fight against poverty with the fight for sustainability.

Or take the EU's enlargement policy, where we enabled a historic breakthrough in the relationship between Serbia and Kosovo, which was only possible with the smart use of the Union's power of attraction.

Or the European neighbourhood policy, where we create strategic ties to improve mutual security and prosperity. Of course, this is an incredibly challenging enterprise, as the Arab awakening shows. Open societies and economies are neither imposed from outside nor created overnight. But if we want to even try to influence such tectonic shifts, Europeans simply have to act in concert. The situation in Syria is a stark reminder of how the systematic non-compliance with core democratic principles and rule of law inevitably leads to a breakdown of safety and security that affects us all. And recent events have confirmed that Syria is a stain in the world conscience.

So our internal dynamics and international dynamism are fundamentally linked. Our capacity to defend our citizens' interests and promote universal values hinges on our internal cohesion and solidarity. And in addition, a strong European Union is the strongest advocate for effective multilateralism and fair globalization.

It is of course not the only advocate – far from it. The idea of interdependence and integration is not limited to the EU – on the contrary. From the East African Customs Union to ASEAN to Mercosur, from the African Union to the Arab League, not to forget the UN family, there is a long and growing list of bilateral, regional and multilateral agreements and organizations – with whom we cooperate closely - in which economies and societies are linked and political cooperation harnessed.

Some people sometimes make fun of this "alphabet soup" of organizations – but they are crucial, because fair globalisation can only be promoted if politics is globalised as well, from the bottom up.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The second fundamental idea that underpins the EU is this: yes, we need to think European, but we must act internationally. We do not only have to stand united, but we have to be open to the rest of the world.

There is a growing realisation that in a world of global supply chains, complex financial streams, integrated companies, competition for raw materials, but also the accelerated worldwide exchange of ideas, there is no country, large or small, that can ignore the global game in the longer run. Our wealth, our competitiveness and our inspiration are all enriched from abroad. That is why I believe that, in the end, an open economy is intrinsically linked to an open society, and stronger global governance.

But if the opportunities are global, so are the problems. Climate change is by its very nature blind to borders; terrorism cuts across national frontiers; migration and technological progress are accelerating but also have their dark sides; underdevelopment is a threat to developed economies too; and internal instability often acts as an incubator of regional problems.

Let me just highlight one particular point on which the EU will continue to lead: global climate action.

We pledge to remain at the forefront not only of greening our own economy – the Commission will propose a new, ambitious EU energy and climate framework for 2030 by the end of this year - but also on the international stage. We are working hard to flesh out a comprehensive, legally binding, global climate treaty by 2015.

I am confident that our international partners are gradually coming on board. I may also applaud Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's leadership in this critical phase of the process.

The third basic concept behind the European project which is relevant to managing globalization is integration: cooperation as such is critical but ultimately not enough. To provide certainty and stability, countries need to integrate their structures and policies. Not by giving up their sovereignty, but by pooling it. In the global concert, they need to share power - precisely to regain it. Globalization therefore does not simply mean "the end of politics". It rather means reshaping and reinventing it.

In this regard, international progress in recent years is unfortunately less pronounced. Let's be frank: some may still cling to an idea of exclusive national interests. But open international markets and fair exchanges require international organisations and shared responsibilities. To put it simply: we need to replace "la raison d'état" with "la raison de l'humanité". Because the basis of our lives are ultimately not ideologies or states but being members of the human race.

That is why Europe remains so highly committed to effective multilateralism and a stronger United Nations. Being interdependent means acting as a responsible stakeholder. That is one of the lessons of globalisation. In the end, there is no such thing as a free ride.

Ladies and gentlemen,

To conclude: In today's world, all nations face a situation similar to the one that led to Europe's integration. Interdependence is undeniable, both with positive and negative consequences. Countries must be willing to adapt, open up to global opportunities and contribute to international solutions. Economically, they need to integrate into global supply chains and politically, they need to integrate their institutions into broader networks.

Some speak of a "globalization paradox", according to which economic prosperity, legitimate governance and the self-determination of nations would be fundamentally irreconcilable. I would disagree and argue that the EU – with all its challenges - proves the opposite.

Globalisation as such is a fact – but if we want to sustain its great advantages and remedy its undeniable defects, if we want it to become more sustainable in the long run - economically, politically and socially, then we have to make it fairer.

That means ensuring access, equipping people with the tools to benefit from it – hence the key role of education, and cushioning its negative effects.

We can shape it together if we muster the political will. If not, we will be shaped by it individually.

That is what I believe modern global leadership is essentially about.

Only with this open and global attitude will we be able to make possible what is necessary.

Thank you very much.

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