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Speech - A united, strong and open Europe

Commission Européenne - SPEECH/13/672   03/09/2013

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European Commission

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

A united, strong and open Europe

Address to European Union Heads of Delegation/Brussels

3 September 2013

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to once again address the Seminar of the Heads of Delegation of the European External Action Service.

I know that I am not addressing just everyone here in this room but also more than five thousand five hundred Commission and EEAS staff in our delegations around the world. And through you I am reaching out to heads of state and government, politicians, leaders of faith, civil society activists, businesspeople, the media and ordinary citizens from the very oldest to school children in the countries in which we operate and you are accredited.

Today is, therefore, an opportunity to say a big "thank you" for your hard work and to express my personal appreciation for your efforts. I am a firm believer in the virtues of diplomacy. In fact one of the criticisms that I often hear is that I would be "too diplomatic". Well to me that it is not a criticism, it is actually a compliment.

Of course, diplomacy is essentially about getting things done in a complex global environment. And in life you have two basically ways of getting things done: against the others, or with the others. Only things which are done with people, communicated properly and transparently, and ultimately accepted by others stand a chance of passing the test of time and making real change.

This is precisely what diplomacy is all about. And not only I have been preaching the virtues of diplomacy, I have also been practicing them. As many of you know, whenever my heavy internal responsibilities allow it – and the last years were not easy in this regard, I have been engaging with partner countries, travelling to different continents, meeting both political leaders and civil society, visiting our projects that are making a difference on the ground, and also meeting our excellent teams in our delegations to show my appreciation for their hard work.

At this crucial moment, we need to demonstrate more than ever that our diplomacy plays an essential role in shaping the future of Europe, and that it delivers to our citizens: from underpinning our economic recovery, to facing up to global challenges such as climate change, from promoting and defending the values on which our Union is based to securing regional and global peace: Our Europe will only succeed if it remains united, strong and open on the international stage.

Dear colleagues,

I remember telling you last year that the effectiveness of our foreign policy is a function of our internal well-being and of the success of our integration project. Hence the solution to the economic difficulties, the pace and quality of future growth and the demographic prospects of the Union are among the key factors that will affect our international profile and capacity to influence world affairs. It is, therefore, useful to highlight where we are now as compared to when the crisis started.

Throughout these last 4 years we have taken very tough measures to deal with what has become a crisis of confidence in the European model, as the financial crisis of 2008 mutated into first an economic and then a social and political crisis.

Of course, there can be no overnight success. How could there be when the structural weaknesses which the crisis exposed and exacerbated; excessive public borrowing, corporate and individual indebtedness and erosion of the EU's [or certainly of many Member States'] global competitiveness have been building up over decades?

But our efforts to ensure stability, through fiscal consolidation combined with deep structural reform and targeted investment to lay the foundations for smart sustainable inclusive growth, are beginning to bear fruit.

The results of the last quarter show a modest, but encouraging growth of 0.3%, breaking with two years of recession. The rebalancing of the euro area is underway: the improvement in the net export performance of the countries hardest hit by the crisis is driven not only by a fall in domestic demand but also by an increase in their competitiveness.

The challenging reform programmes being undertaken by those countries most under pressure is leading to a turnaround in economic sentiment. Greece has made major structural reforms; Ireland regained access to capital markets in the summer of 2012 and the economy is expected to grow for a third consecutive year in 2013. And this year, for the first time in over 40 years, the Portuguese current account is expected to be broadly balanced.

We have also overhauled and dramatically strengthened the mechanisms for the coordination and surveillance of economic and budgetary policies inside the European Union.

A Banking Union is in the making. The Commission proposal for a Single Supervisory Mechanism was approved and I hope that the proposal for a Single Resolution Mechanism which we recently tabled will meet the same degree of urgency and support. The logic is simple: if the financial sector has become trans-border and European, supervision and resolution cannot remain national.

This a basic premise of the institutional overhaul that we are carrying out. We need to bridge the governance gap that currently exists. Member States are no longer capable of facing up to some of the challenges that a globalised economy puts them; so we need to empower the European level to do it. This is not about losing sovereignty; it’s about pooling it to be stronger, about sharing power to regain it. And it is not about giving up on politics, it is about adapting our political toolbox to make a difference and help shape globalization.

In stark contrast to the views of the professional pessimists and of those who think that doom-saying is somehow intellectually glamorous, the European Union and the euro area has not imploded - it has in fact expanded. In July this year Croatia became the 28th member of our Union, and from 1st January 2014 Latvia will be welcomed as the 18th euro area Member State.

Ladies and gentlemen

Despite all these efforts, we are not yet out of the woods. This is not the time for complacency or to slacken off in the intensity of our reforms. Many challenges remain: first and foremost that of unemployment, especially youth unemployment, which stands at over 50% in some Member States.

The EU is meeting this challenge head on with a comprehensive approach based on the Youth Guarantee – to ensure that all young people up to 25 receive a good quality offer of employment, an apprenticeship, a traineeship or the chance to continue their education within four months of leaving formal education or becoming unemployed.

We need to prevent the risks of a jobless recovery. Europe's young men and women need to be given an opportunity to succeed.

Our capacity to defend our interests and values in the world also hinges on our internal cohesion and solidarity, between citizens and between Member States, on the effectiveness of our integration model and on the legitimacy of our political construct.

Dear colleagues,

In a world where size matters and scale is an asset, both economically and politically, we have to use our collective weight to shape a rules based international order and to promote our interests. We stand tall when we stand together but we lose stature when we stand apart.

In all of this we have a good story to tell: a story to which you have all made, and will continue to make, a significant contribution.

The EU with its 507 million inhabitants accounts for 7.3 % of the world's population but accounts for over 23% of global GDP. Our combined GDP is greater than that of the United States and twice that of China.

Please note that I said "our combined GDP", we live in a world of globalising giants; a world where the economy of our largest member state is only 40% the size of China's and less than a quarter the size of the United States; a world where the GDP of each of our next two largest economies is comparable to that of Brazil.

It is not, however, just about size and scale. It is also about the model.

In an interdependent and polycentric world, the Union is endowed with powerful assets including great human capital, vibrant civil societies, a social market economy with high labour and environmental standards, world-class companies and, last but not least, a model of governance that reconciles national sovereignty with inter-state cooperation and political integration.

We have been witnessing demonstrations and social unrest in several countries around the world. Democracy is being tested everywhere. Change has also come to the other parts of the world, not just in Europe. The huge rise of global middle class – from 1.8 billion today to 3.2 billion in 2020 and 4.9 billion in 2050 – is an enormous factor of transformation in the world. Better services, housing, healthcare, environment and political accountability will be in high demand. Everyone needs to adapt and reform. We understood this quickly in Europe; it is important that other countries and other regions of the world do the same.

Dear colleagues,

Ultimately the world needs smart, sustainable and inclusive economic growth. This is what I will be discussing later in the week when I will travel to Saint Petersburg, together with President Van Rompuy, to represent the EU at the G20 Summit.

Trade is one engine for such growth: we need to remain open and tap into the growth potential of other regions of the world. Thanks to the openness of our trade regime the EU remains the biggest player on the global trading scene. Latest figures indicate that the European Union has a trade surplus of 10 billion euros with the rest of the world [17.3 billion euro surplus in the case of the Euro area].

The EU is the largest exporter and the largest importer of goods among the G20. And we are the leading trading partner of more than 80 countries, among them the United States, China, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa.

We remain the most important global player precisely because we are united. We want trade to be open and fair, abiding by international norms and rules. Free trade for all must not be a free ride for some. We will only achieve that if we remain ambitious in opening and concluding trade deals that promote growth and jobs for our economy and if we remain cohesive when upholding European and international norms to ensure a level playing field.

Such deals can have a significant impact. For instance, the annual budget of an average European family should increase by some €500 once the EU-US negotiations launched in June 2013 are successfully concluded. The rest of the world also stands to benefit from the positive impact of this trade agreement, as it is set to produce a spill-over effect adding an extra €100 billion to the world economy.

And despite our ambitious bilateral trade agenda, which also includes FTAs with Japan, Canada, India, Southeast Asian countries, neighbouring countries and Mercosur we remain committed to the Doha agenda and to the multilateral process. We expect that these agreements can serve as an incentive to progress in global trade talks.

Energy is another essential element of our competitiveness and economic security. A chain is as strong as its weakest link, and our Union is only as "energy secure" as the most exposed of our members. This is why we need to complete our internal energy market by the end of next year – and I have worked hard to get Member States to agree on this, and eliminate any energy islands that still might exist in the Europe. This is, by the way, also a major driver of growth in Europe.

And on the external front, we have also improved our game and reinforced our diversity of supplies – the important recent decisions taken on the Southern Gas Corridor, a key priority for the Commission, being an illustration of that progress.

Just as globalisation has accentuated new economic challenges, it has also led to other global issues for example, climate change and ensuring sustainable development.

Here the internal policies of the Union play a strong role in shaping our external actions.

Let me take the example of climate change – one of the most critical challenges we face. The greenhouse gas emissions of the EU account for only around 11% of global emissions, and our continued success in reducing them through our ambitious energy and climate package until 2020 means this share will fall further in the future. Already today, our per capita emissions amount to less than half those of the US and are at similar levels to the, rapidly increasing, per capita emissions of China.

Therefore, it is obvious that we need a truly global climate agreement to really protect our planet. We need a comprehensive, legally binding arrangement that covers all emitters. The next two years will be crucial in fleshing out this global agreement, and we must remain at the forefront of this work with our green diplomacy.

In particular, we must continue supporting developing countries in their efforts to combat climate change. They are key allies here! The EU is the world’s largest donor of climate finance to developing countries. As you know, we already provided over €7.3bn in ‘fast start’ finance to developing countries in 2010-2012, more than originally pledged. As of next year, at least 20% of our external aid under the new MFF will go to sustainability purposes.

Beyond global climate action, there will be a second key "rendez-vous" in 2015: meeting the Millennium Development Goals and agreeing on a new global development agenda which should combine the fight against poverty with the fight for sustainability.

Europe is and remains the world’s most generous donor of development aid and accounts for more than half of the global aid, even in difficult economic times. Our new Multi-annual Financial Framework from 2014-2020 will maintain our high levels of external aid. I have fought hard for this, not just because it is the right thing to do from a moral perspective but also because it is central to our strategic credibility, as our Delegations which implement our many projects know better than anyone else.

We are also actively working to develop the export potential of developing countries in a fair and equitable manner. This is key, as development can only be achieved via the gradual integration of all countries into the global economy.

Dear Colleagues,

Each one of you knows that day in, day out, we do make a difference on the ground. Through the prospect of EU membership, through our power of attraction, we are slowly but surely bringing about change in the key area of South Eastern Europe. This year, through the tireless efforts of Cathy Ashton and her team, we achieved a historic deal between Serbia and Kosovo which was only possible because it was complemented by parallel steps of setting a date for opening accession negotiations with Serbia and starting negotiations for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo.

Later in the year we will have a historical rendezvous in Vilnius for our third Eastern Partnership Summit, launched during my tenure as President of the Commission. We are close to concluding the main objective of political association and economic integration with most of these countries.

This should be a decisive step for anchoring their reform process and their gradual approximation to EU. But this is just a step, albeit an important one. They will have to show that they want to travel the rest of the journey. It will ultimately depend on them and on their will and determination to live by EU principles and norms. Their sovereign decisions need to be fully respected and they should decide free of any external pressures.

The tragic situation in some countries of our Southern Neighbourhood is a powerful reminder that we have not reached the end of history. History is being lived and fought in the quarters of Damascus and Homs, in the squares of Cairo and Alexandria and in the streets of Tunis.

Syria remains a stain on the world's conscience; we are now witnessing things which we thought were long eradicated from human behaviour. The use of chemical weapons is an abhorrent act that deserves our firm condemnation. It cannot go unnoticed or unpunished. But we should also focus on a comprehensive solution for the conflict. The chance of peace is fading quickly it is our collective duty to restore it.

Egypt also shows that democracy is not a calm river that always flows in a straight line. There are many twists and turns. For democracy to be built we need people and forces committed to its principles and to the fundamental freedoms that underpin it. It is essential that in Egypt both the interim authorities and the opposition show this commitment.

In my last State of the Union address I spoke of my commitment to a united, strong and open Europe. With an influential and more effective foreign policy at its heart. This also requires a stronger and more effective EU defence policy. We need to reinforce our capacity to participate in military and civilian missions aimed at stabilising regions in conflict. We need to assume our responsibilities in the world as a force for stability. We need to reinvigorate an important sector of our industry with a high innovation and technology content. And we need to make the most of our taxpayers' money.

These were the principles that have guided the Commission recent communication on Defence which I hope will be matched by a similar degree of ambition by the European Council when it meets in December to discuss European Defence.

We want a world of international cooperation based on a rules based global order. Our partnership with the UN is fundamental in this respect. Just last weekend, I co-sponsored with UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon a strategic retreat with global leaders from various walks of life exactly to reflect on global challenges and reinforce this common vision of an effective multilateralism. But let's not fool ourselves. Competition still exists and will exist for a long time: competition for growth, competition for resources, and competition of models. These are all compelling reasons why the EU needs to hang together if it does not want to be hung high and dry separately.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In previous speeches I referred to all of you who started this project of the EEAS as true pioneers. But with these three years of hard work I think you have already moved from pioneers to settlers.

We have achieved a lot together in the short time since the creation of the EEAS. There is much more to be done. I am certain that building on the foundations which have been created the external dimension of the European Union will continue to be reinforced. This is the dimension you represent in terms of daily work, commitment and intellectual input; this is the dimension which will continue to be one of the pillars on which the future of our Union is built: a Union which meets the aspirations of citizens and plays a full and constructive role in the world.

I thank you for your attention and look forward to your comments and questions.


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