It is a pleasure to be here and thank you very much for arranging this. I know that over the past two days you have been discussing "why strategy matters". In a world that is more connected, conflictual and more complex, strategy matters to provide us with a sense of direction; to help us navigate choppy waters; to be proactive in the protection and in the pursuits of our interests.
And, I know already what you are going to ask. This is normally the first question I get. It is about interests and values. I know you. So let me be clear: I believe that our interests and our values can only go hand in hand. We have an interest in promoting our values around the globe. And the way we articulate our interests has to embed our fundamental values. So, we need a strategy to protect proactively our interests, keeping in mind that promoting our values is an integral part of our interests. I hope this clarifies (this point) from the very beginning.
Many of you have been advocates of a new strategy for the European Union – for months now, and probably for years for some of you. So I do not need to convince you why this is an important project. Still, I would like to take a few minutes today to outline what we want to achieve with the European Union Global Strategy and why now it is such a crucial moment for doing this.
We live in very un-strategic times. Policy issues get under the spotlight following emotional waves: a YouTube video, or a tragic picture... Sometimes emotions push in the right direction – we have seen it recently – sometimes they don't. But emotions are never enough. As policy makers, we need to move beyond emotions and think strategically. Reacting to crises is essential. But reaction alone is not enough. This is a basic rule of politics and of foreign policy, since the ancient times. I never quote anyone, but in this case I think I can make an exception quoting Demosthenes, who warned his fellow Athenians: do not behave like the boxer who gets struck and “always clutches the place. He gets hit on the other side, and there go his hands. He neither knows nor cares how to parry a blow, or how to watch his adversary”. We must think about our next move, and the following one. This means being strategic.
Unless we cast our response in a clear framework, unless we make plans to stay engaged even after the eyes of the international media have turned away, we will forever be chasing one crisis after the next. And the list is very long. We cannot let sensationalism dictate our agenda. We need a sense of direction, and a common one; we need conflict prevention and post-crisis management, we need a strong narrative to underpin our day-to-day work. And at the same time, in a world – and in a Union – of limited resources, we need to prioritise. We need to define where we can, where we must, and where we want to make a difference.
Do not get me wrong: I do not believe that more attention from the media on foreign policy is a bad thing, or that emotions on foreign policy are a bad thing – on the contrary. As the link between internal and external security tightens, and the world becomes more connected, more people are beginning to care about what happens elsewhere. And actually "elsewhere" is becoming quite an indefinite criterion. Think of the events of recent months and weeks: it is perfectly clear to everybody that the "out there" often has a direct impact on "right here". Foreign policy is no longer the exclusive domain of diplomats, or of policy makers, or even of the foreign policy community – that, I see, is very well represented in this room. Foreign policy concerns all of us, European citizens and not only Europeans. And this opens important chances for us.
It opens a chance to show that Europe matters to its citizens. That our foreign policy is connected to our citizens' needs, to their own priorities. Think of our response to migration. You might be surprised that I give you this example, because this is one of the most difficult issues that we have tackled in these recent months. But think of our naval operation in the Mediterranean, this sends a message, a powerful one, to our Europeans citizens that faced with a tragedy right off our shores: Europe got together, and in less than two months our ships where ready to sail, to chase smugglers of migrants and to save lives. So, in this case our foreign policy helped – I believe – reconnect our citizens to the European project. It is a small part of the puzzle but if you multiply that small part of the puzzle, you might have a good picture in the end.
This is the sense of our strategy, a strategy that is not only about foreign policy, it is not only about our role in the World, but it can be and must be very much about us, about Europe, about who we are, how we work together, what as Europeans we share in terms on common foreign and security policy. It is about making a European public opinion on foreign policy and security policy emerge.
That is why we all have a role to play in shaping it. This is the reason why an EU Global Strategy cannot be drawn up behind closed doors. We are gathering as many voices as possible to feed into the debates on an EU Global Strategy for foreign and security policy. Your ideas, the ideas of the European community on foreign and security policy are a crucial input to this debate and to the strategy that will spring from our exchanges over the coming months. I am here today because I believe that when it comes to strategy-making in the European Union, the process is as crucial as the document that will come out of it.
This is the moment to open up beyond the circles of the foreign policy community and get everybody involved. If we get the process right, it will bode well for the future of the strategy. I want a strategy that responds to the ideas, the fears, and even the dreams of the European citizens, the young and the older generations. The North, the South, the East and the West of our continent, the capital cities and the small villages – not only Europe as we normally think of it, but the Europeans.
The document we are working on will have to be a living document. We will need to have it constantly updated trough time. In these months, we are also putting together a community. A community that will help us review and adapt the Strategy to future challenges. What makes our Union so special is its diversity, the way it brings together different histories, perspectives, and interests, and forges a common vision of the world. We can and we must use this diversity as our main point of strength. The diversity of our backgrounds and of our instruments is our natural resource. It is the European natural resource – provided that we put it in the service of our common purpose, of our common strategy. Let us not forget what we are good at as Europeans. The European Union has many strings in its bow. From diplomacy to development, from trade to energy, from migration to cyber policies. We are still exploring the full potential of the Lisbon Treaty. My task as High Representative, and at the same time Vice President of the European Commission, is to bring these tools together in a coherent way, to form a whole, a European Union policy.
This is the reason why I was determined to work not just on a narrow security strategy, but on a “global strategy”. And by “global” I am not referring only to geography, but also to the whole range of instruments at our disposal. The threats we face are changing in nature. Think of Da'esh. Conflicts for the control of land and resources have made an unexpected comeback in recent years. But at the same time, and in the very same conflicts, we need to cope with new kinds of propaganda and information war. Hybrid threats are the new normal. To stabilise places like Iraq, or Libya, we will need to train their security forces as much as we will need to strengthen their other institutions, or to foster development. Security and defence will no doubt occupy an important place in the strategy. But the value of our work on what we commonly traditionally define security and defence will be enhanced – and not diluted – by being discussed together with other instruments we have and can be complemented.
So, we need first of all to agree on some core principles. The Strategy cannot just list the current crises and explain our relevant policies. This would not be a strategy, this would be a state of play, this would be a collection of Council conclusions. Strategy needs to provide a direction for the future, to tackle future crises and to prevent new ones. As we begin our common conversation of what this should entail, I would like to outline some of the key ideas I would like to see reflected in the strategy.
The first is engagement. In a more connected world we need to engage. We face seemingly innumerable crises – let alone stronger financial constraints. Our instinct can be – and in same case is, in parts of Europe – to turn inwards. But closure is not an option for our Union. Building walls, physical or psychological ones, will not protect us. They cannot keep the messy world outside, while we wrap ourselves in cotton wool. Just think about the phenomenon of foreign fighters: the reality is that our continent exports more than imports terrorism; it is European citizens that go off to wage violent jihad in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere; not the reverse. They have European Union passports. Walls are of little use when there is no fine line separating the inside from the outside. In a world where the traditional boundaries between internal and external policies no longer hold, turning inwards will only make us more vulnerable, not protected.
Or look at it at from a different angle. Closure also means that we will miss out on the opportunities that our global links present. Be it in terms of trade, human mobility or technology – a more connected world offers us, Europeans, unprecedented opportunities. Engaging is a choice, it is up to us. We can make the most of the opportunities which a more connected world presents. Let us not stick our heads in the sand. We must embrace change. Europe has been able to do that is past centuries. We must seek to shape a world order, in which cooperation thrives over confrontation.
The second main principle I would like to see reflected in this strategy, is responsibility. Because we must engage, but we need to rethink how we do so. In a world that is more conflictual and chaotic we need to be guided by a clear sense of responsibility. Now, what do we mean by responsibility? Responsibility to me does not mean that we should carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. And here, let me say that sometimes I have the impression that we move from one opposite to the other. Sometimes we move from a sense of being completely irrelevant and frustrated about not being able to do anything at all, to the opposite, the need to take care of all that is happening in the world. Now, we need to find a balance. A realistic, pragmatic one that, to me, means also an ambitious one. To me, our pragmatic approach means also being very ambitious. But let me be clear on one thing: the illusion of a “global policeman” is long gone. There is no “one size fits all” solution to conflicts. Less still solutions that can be imposed from outside, be it by the European Union or by other global actors. In a world where power is more fractured, global security can only be the result of a collective effort.
We therefore need to pioneer the way towards a new form of engagement in conflicts. In responsibility, in sharing responsibility. A way that works from the bottom up. That supports local and regional initiatives aimed at reconciliation and resilience. We need to work on creating the broader international conditions and partnerships – I will come back to that – to support local and regional peace efforts, so as to embed them into a broader international framework. Be it in Syria, Libya, Yemen or elsewhere, and together with our international partners, we need to think long, act local and broker regional. There is no magic wand solution to put things right overnight, from above. And even if we really wanted to believe in this sort of Cinderella approach, we should remember the magic lasts only until midnight. Then the carriage turns into a pumpkin again. So we would live an illusion.
This brings me to a third key principle: no magic solutions but hard work and partnership. Partnership, I think, is embedded in the European DNA. The notion of partnership. In the face of current challenges no one can go it alone, it is clear to everyone. Nor, in a world that is so much more connected and complex, should we have to. As Europeans we have practiced building common grounds over decades, after centuries of making war. Remaining united as Europeans now is more important than ever. In this regard I am always a little bit surprised – but in the end of the day it is only rational – to see the importance that all of our partners give – for good or for bad – to our internal unity. Ever since the conflict over Ukraine erupted, this is the one demand that Ukrainians have always consistently made to us. Maintaining our internal unity is our strength, this is the one thing that President Poroshenko tirelessly insists on. And I am proud we managed to respond always positively. And let me say, I believe (unity) is also the one thing that President Putin was most probably surprised about.
Forging internal unity within the EU is essential. But in a complex world in which new powers rise and power diffuses, we need to rethink partnerships at the regional and global level too. This means promoting our principles and interest, but also listening to our partners' views and priorities. A true partnership can never be built on one party determining the rules of the game or the content of the story you want to tell together. Partners are equal, have to be. And the partnership is as strong as each of the partners is. We need strong powers, not to be the strongest part of the partnership.
Time and again, we are learning that the best way to promote our values and interests is through cooperation on a global scale. The deal with Iran shows the way. It shows that multilateralism is still the most powerful tool that we have in our hands, if and when we manage to make it work. We need to keep on that path. Cooperation can benefit everyone and we can pivot a global network of regional and international networks towards a rules-based and cooperative world order. The essence of the European Union, together with the idea of partnerships – I believe – is the win-win concept. Never as today, the world needs it; the peoples of the world need it.
Because when we rethink partnerships we need to reach out much beyond governments. Depending on the challenge at hand, our partnerships can involve states, regional and international organizations, but they can also include civil society and the private sector, all of which are necessary to build stable and prosperous and resilient societies. And let me mention in this respect that the Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded today is, I believe, a very clear reminder of the role that the civil society and the private sector can have in making societies and countries resilient and peaceful.
To conclude, a Global strategy for the Union's foreign and security policy will help us prioritise and focus our actions, deal with events effectively and shape some of the events of the future. Our strategy will strengthen a common European vision. Today more than ever, we need a common project rather than just a list of things to do together. We need a document that can respond to the challenges of our day and still stand the test of time.
A strategy will not only help us be more effective in facing new and persistent challenges. By agreeing on a joint path ahead, we also have an opportunity to forge a stronger and more effective European Union. Cooperation among the 28 does not mean that national policies should be thrown to the winds. The strength of a Member State can be the strength of the whole Union. Our different histories, geographies and diplomatic services can and should live side by side. They can complement each other, on one condition: that they do not compete with each other. And we have a chance to help our Union somehow to come out of an identity crisis on its own nature.
European citizens believe now that global challenges call for a European response. You see it every day. When we confront all different kinds of difficulties, our citizens tend to turn to Brussels and ask what Brussels is doing. This is positive. This is a demand of Europe we had been missing for many years. We have to respond to that. It is now clear to everybody that we must act together when faced with challenges on a global scale. In times of Euroscepticism, of populist approach or even isolationist narratives, this is not a minor issue. It is about our role in the world, but it is also – and maybe first and foremost – about us. About shaping a common European sense of direction and purpose. Not about us, European institutions, but about us, Europeans.
This is why I am convinced that we need to reach out in this process. Reach out also beyond the "usual suspects" that might be in this room. We do not want to simply receive input or papers – they are welcome, they are more than welcome. But we want to work together on a common vision for our common European role in the world. This is a chance that we cannot miss. To make this common sense of being a community emerge in our continent and in our Union. That is why I am looking forward to engaging with all of you in the months ahead to shape together this common vision. Thank you.