An official website of the European Union. See all European Institutions
Check against delivery!
Being a member of a national parliament myself for 7 years back in my Italian times, and being myself at that time part of both the defence committee and the foreign affairs committee, you can easily imagine first of all that whenever I have the chance of meeting with members of national parliaments, I feel part of a family back home. And also you can imagine how much I value the contribution of national parliaments and especially your three committees to the foreign and security policy work of the European Union.
To me this is an integral part of our European Union external action. And this is why I always, always, include in my visits - not only outside of the European Union but also inside of the Union-, meetings with members of the committees that are competent for our external action, obviously also the European Union affairs committee. Because for me this is an excellent opportunity not only to answer possible questions, but also to get – if you allow me - the temperature of the political debate on foreign and security issues inside the Member States.
I work on a daily basis with the Governments, with the Foreign Ministers, with the Defence Ministers, with the Development Ministers, in some cases with the Trade Ministers, with the Prime Ministers, in some occasions with the Presidents, but for me it is essential to go beyond governments and get the sense of where the parliamentary debate is on our foreign and security common agenda as European Union.
So, as I understand that we do not have the entire day - which would be deserved for our exchange - and I am very interested in having a real exchange with you, I would suggest that I would simply mention a couple of points that are high on our European Union foreign and security policy agenda currently, without entering too much in the details and then actually take the opportunity of having a real exchange according to your priorities and the issues you want to go more deep into the discussion about.
I would mention probably two or three issues that are on top of our common foreign and security policy agenda these months and will be so in the couple of years to come.
One - and I am not saying this because I am here, I said it also in Brussels last week - is the Western Balkans. I know that this is a top priority here in Ljubljana and I would be very interested in hearing also your views on where the region is going and where we can help in the best possible manner to consolidate positive trends and avoid negative trends. For me, it is essential that all the Western Balkans 6, all our partners in the Western Balkans, make so significant and clear steps towards EU membership - and I am using very clear words here - that the process becomes irreversible for them and for us.
This is not an easy or popular discussion to have inside some of the European Union Member States, as you know very well. I take it that this is not the case in Slovenia, but I am ready to hear different views. For me, it is a top priority linked to our security, linked to our economic development - and I do not go into the details because I know very well that the headlines are enough for you to get the sense of what I am saying.
And it's also linked to the fulfilment of the project of the European Union integration. I normally do not even refer to enlargement. For me it is completing the project of the European Union integration, because the Balkans are part of Europe.They have to become fully part of the European Union, but the continent is clearly that one.
The second point I would like to stress is the work we are doing on security and defence on the European Union level. We have done more progress in the last year on advancing on the European Union defence cooperation than in the previous decades. This was at the very roots of the beginning of the European Union integration process. This year we celebrated the 60thanniversary of the Treaty of Rome. Back then there was already this dream of unifying our work on defence; back then these hopes and dreams were frustrated.
Today I think we realised that in the world of huge continental powers we are confronting, only together as Europeans we can have the size, I would say the critical mass, to do the necessary investments when it comes to the defence industry, including the Small and Medium Enterprises. Together only we can face the major security threats our times are putting in front of us, from cyber to hybrid threats, to nonconventional threats that are spreading in Europe and not only. Or only together we can partner with key players, be it our friends in Africa when it comes to the control of their territory for smuggling or trafficking of different kinds, from human beings to drugs or arms, or partner with our friends in Asia when it comes to preventing nuclear programs to be developed in the DPRK [Democratic People's republic of Korea] for instance.
I often say that there are no big and small country inside the European Union, but there are countries that have not yet realised they are small in the world of today. This is the reality of our European Union Member States. But, together, we are the second largest spending power in the defence sector. The point is that fragmentation is not leading us to have that critical mass that makes it work for the best.
So, the work we have started is not a militarisation of the European Union. I want to make it very clear. But it is a way of spending better by spending together, making the most of the investments we can have in the defence sector, opening new possibilities for our defence industry in all different countries and in all different sectors, including on research and innovation, to make sure that we can have the strategic autonomy to face the security challenges by ourselves. Because it is good to rely on partners, but it is also good to be on the safe side and be able to do some things alone, if needed. And it is essential especially in these times of geopolitical uncertainties, let's say, to be perceived as a strong security provider worldwide.
This is what our partners are asking us and this is I think what our citizens are asking to us. So, for sure, some external or internal dynamics are pushing this agenda forward. But I think the main point is that at this stage we clearly realised that we cannot afford wasting the capital of acting together also in the security field as Europeans.
And maybe as the last mention I would give is the need for us to focus in these years on being the cornerstone of the multilateral system. We live in times where a multilateral way of working centred on the UN system, but also on the rules-based international organisations – on trade, on non-proliferation, on peace and security and on many different things is put into question, such as on human rights - is put into question.
The European Union, I believe, is and has the responsibility to be the key player when it comes to upholding the multilateral agenda globally with Latin America, with Asia, with Africa, with Canada, with obviously also our friends in the United States - on certain files, not on all, we know that well.
We have the possibility to be the ones keeping the global agenda running on climate change, on trade, on peacekeeping, on sustainable development and so on, on a humane and sustainable manner of managing migration and the list could continue. So the global agenda and the upholding of the multilateral system for us, I think, is a key priority. We could had many others, but I would say in terms of headlines these are the two or three main points I would highlight.
Then I know there are many other issues we can discuss. I also know that some of who had the chance of a meeting also First Vice President [Frans] Timmermans before me. So some of the things you might have in mind probably were also addressed by him, including the respect of international law and rulings of arbitration.
I mentioned this at the beginning, so I clarified this from the beginning. I said it also publicly yesterday: we expect and we hope that this can be the case also for the credibility of the European Union position in the world and in the region. And I stop here and ready to listen to questions but also observations and suggestions. Thank you.