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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Speech by President Jean-Claude Juncker at the 54th Munich Security Conference

Munich, 17 February 2018

Good morning,

I want to begin today with a few introductory remarks before speaking with Wolfgang Ischinger and all of you, if that is possible. I am delighted to be here and to report on Europe, European foreign policy, European defence policy and initiatives that we have taken or hope to take.

The fact is that the European Union and the European Economic Community that preceded it were not designed for playing a role in world politics. For a long time we were unable to do so. But circumstances dictate that we must aim to be able to hold our own on the global stage. This applies above all in defence policy. In the last year we have made more headway on European defence policy than in the preceding 20 years. Frequent efforts on this front in recent decades have made little real headway. Now we are making headway, and this headway is much needed. The figures speak for themselves.

Although very few Europeans are aware of the fact, we have 178 different weapons systems. Our American allies have 30. We have 20 different aircraft types in Europe. In the USA there are six. We have 17 different battle tank systems in Europe. In the USA they have just one. Europe has more helicopter types than governments to buy them. There are many other examples I could list. It is obvious to me that we need to make European defence policy, especially procurement, more efficient. In budget terms alone, our American allies are spending twice as much as European defence efforts can drum up. Yet Europeans are only 15 % as efficient as our American allies. We therefore need to simplify and improve procurement considerably. We have made proposals to that end and I am determined to see them implemented. We have so far allocated EUR 90 million for research in 2018 and 2019. In the interests of greater efficiency, we will be increasing these sums considerably, earmarking EUR 590 million for the period to 2020 and EUR 1.5 billion a year thereafter. And the Member States will have to dig deeper into their pockets. 80 % of military research tasks are conducted on a purely national level. 90 % of equipment is procured on a purely national level. Efficiency demands that we operate across borders and significantly improve the European Union's procurement.

I have read — with some astonishment — that some people on the other side of the Atlantic are beginning to feel the European Union is becoming too independent in matters of defence policy and security policy. Yes, we want to emancipate ourselves. But we are not doing this against NATO, against the United States of America. I continue to see NATO as a project to which we need to remain strictly committed, also in the interests of future generations. For years we have been hearing Americans complain that we are not doing enough to defend ourselves. Now we are trying to do more. And that does not suit them either. They cannot have it both ways: either they were right the first time and wrong the second, or right the second time and wrong the first. We are doing more because we have to do more. We cannot depend on allies alone. We both need and want to do something ourselves to be able to safeguard our security interests. But that is not a move against NATO. The European Treaty establishes — in plain language — that NATO and the European Union have to be complementary. And this is how they will stay.

However, if we want to be able to act credibly on the global stage, then we also need to simplify and harmonise our decision-making processes. Although many foreign ministers — including my own former foreign minister, Mr Asselborn, whom I greet most warmly — would disagree with me, we simply cannot continue having to take all decisions on matters of foreign and security policy unanimously.

It is this unanimity, this compulsive need for unanimity that is keeping us from being able to act credibly on the global stage. Time and time again we find ourselves unable to reach the consensus needed for unanimous decisions. The European Union cannot reach a unified position on the problems in the South China Sea; we cannot reach a unified position on human rights in the People's Republic of China; we cannot reach a unified position on Jerusalem. This means we need to simplify these decision-making processes so that the European Union can also reach positions by qualified-majority voting. I advocated this in my address on the state of the European Union before the European Parliament. And the Commission intends to present proposals to this effect in the near future. Contrary to a widely held belief, this would not entail amendments to the Treaty, as Article 31(3) of the Lisbon Treaty allows the European Council to decide unanimously the areas in which decisions may in future be taken by a qualified majority. And this is the way we want to go, above all in matters of civilian security and defence mission and other matters to.

In matters of soft foreign policy, we need to be able to reach decisions by a qualified majority. Although soft power is not powerful enough. We need more power in common defence, foreign and security policy matters. Of course, we first need to put our own house in order in many respects. I do not have the time to go into the details of this.

I would, however, like to say a quick word about the Western Balkans. I will be travelling to the Western Balkan countries in late February/early March and I am looking forward to it with interest. I believe I was right in 2014 when I told the European Parliament that there could be no new Member States during this Commission's term of office, which ends in November 2019. This created a lot of agitation and frustration, especially in the Western Balkans. Had I said in 2014 that the six Western Balkan countries would be members of the European Union by 2019, I have no idea what I would have been able to report on the subject today: there would have been nothing. The Western Balkan countries are not yet ready to join the European Union at this point in time. It is, however, important that these countries retain European prospects. Were the Western Balkan countries to be deprived of their European prospects, we could very soon — almost overnight — find ourselves reliving the conflicts of the early 1990s. This is a highly complicated, highly sensitive part of Europe and we have to be aware of our responsibilities there. And we have to export stability to the Western Balkans by extending these prospects of accession rather than importing instability from the Western Balkans into the European Union. However, the Western Balkans will need to have settled their border disputes before they can join the European Union.

I am currently deeply distressed by the Slovenian-Croatian border dispute. Rather than resolving the issue before Slovenia and Croatia joined the European Union, a decision was taken to refer the matter to international court of arbitration. The court of arbitration has delivered a ruling, but the parties are unable to agree on what to do with the arbitration ruling. I do not want to go through this again. And there are plenty of border conflicts in the Western Balkans. They need to be resolved before we take one step further in the matter. I can tell from the expression on my friend Wolfgang's face that I must now thank you for listening to me for so long.


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