Stockholm, 10 October 2016
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Thank you very much, Margot [Wallström, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden], thank you very much for organising this. This is really something quite special for me, because Sweden has been from the very beginning, as Margot was saying, a strong promoter of the need for a new Global Strategy for the European Union.
Many Member States contributed in many different ways, but Sweden has contributed in a special way because it forged, I would say, the spirit of the Strategy. Because in the very beginning when we were thinking if we needed Security Strategy, we listened to the Swedish approach that seemed very reasonable and wise to me, looking beyond the traditional security sphere, recognizing that we have to discuss and work first of all on the human security which goes from societal resilience, to climate change, to natural disasters, to conflict prevention, to human rights, to women empowerment; and that a purely security angle was not enough in our times.
So first of all, this Strategy was very much in nature the scope of it, global not only geographically, but also thematically. It looks at all the issues that are relevant for our common interests and for our common values in the European Union and this is thanks to a Swedish proposal, to a Swedish approach to our Strategy. So thank you for putting it on the right track from the very beginning.
Second, the way in which we worked in the strategy was very much beyond governance only. Obviously we had to develop full ownership of Member States, governments, across the government spectrum, so not only the Foreign Ministries, but also defence, development cooperation, trade, environment and other portfolios. But it was very clear from the very beginning that we have to look beyond the government and look at national parliaments, look at the authorities, civil society, universities, think tanks - what I call the foreign and security policy community in the European Union that is very strong in all our corners of our continent. And my expectation is that this method of keeping a strong involvement of our communities beyond institutions, beyond national institutions will be kept as we work on the implementation of the Strategy.
This is one of the first occasions we have to exchange views on the implementation of the Strategy with this lively and vibrant community we have, in Sweden in particular. I see many friends in the room, so I know that I will have a challenging hour in front of me in terms of exchanges and questions, but also a lot of notes to take for our work when we go back to Brussels.
Let me start by saying that it is very often that we hear our citizens and our partners referring to the need to have a strong European Union as a strong global actor. I have the impression that this expectation is sometimes stronger outside of our borders than inside of our borders.
I’ll give you a couple of examples. Just last week, a few days ago, the Nobel Peace Prize went to a President that invested all his political career and his political capital in the last years to peace in Colombia. It is well known that he got the Nobel Peace Prize but it is maybe less known that the European Union has worked with him hand-in-hand since the very beginning of this process. Every single week, I would say, we were in contact at different levels to see how the European Union could practically accompany the negotiations, make sure that the peace agreement could be done and implemented in a successful way, providing the political support, the logistical support, the funding support in most cases but also the diplomatic atmosphere around it. And this is something that for instance in Colombia is very widely recognized. Do our European citizens know about this? Do they recognize same kind of global role for the EU that you would get in Colombia where you get it clearly: yes, the European Union is a global actor? I am not sure about that.
And second example. Margot will remember that in July we had the first time ever a US Secretary of State participating at our Foreign Affairs Council. To me it was a surprise, if not a shock, to know that never before a US Secretary of State was participating at a Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union. Still it was the case. John Kerry came to Brussels I think four to five times since then, so in only a few months he was visiting officially the European institutions several times. And the last time was just last week. He delivered a very powerful speech, I would suggest to have a look at that. It was at the German Marshall Fund and he concluded the speech saying, I quote: “Europe needs to believe in itself as much as we believe in you”. I would print this sentence in very big letters and put it in all our official buildings and possibly in the streets somewhere in our cities because sometimes, in London and in many other capitals, because my impression is that sometimes our friends around the world see our potential, see our strength much more than we do ourselves. And the basic rule of strength – that is not a bad thing, depends how you use it – is that if you are not aware of your strengths you do not use them and then they become useless instead of useful.
My purpose with the Global Strategy, in having the process going, in having the document now and focus on the implementation is somehow putting a mirror in front of us and trying to make us all realise the huge potential we have in our hands and that sometimes we don’t use. The Lisbon Treaty gives us enormous powers. A huge number of tools that we don’t always use at full because of lack of political will, because of lack of self-confidence, sometimes the two combined. Sometimes you do not go towards a certain decision because you expect the political unity not to be there while obviously if you do not try, you don’t get there at all. The purpose of the strategy was exactly this: the combination of 1) making common European interest emerged in the field of foreign and security policy; and 2) making us Europeans aware of which kind of tools we have and which kind of tools we can use to fulfil our goals and our objectives. So achieving our potential as Europeans together, underlying the added-value of being together.
Today, I was just meeting the Prime Minister [Stefan Löfven] and he was telling me: “You know, when Sweden joined the European Union, the support for the European Union was lower than today. Perfect, ideal. This means that there has been a work to show that Sweden has something to gain from being part of a bigger family. And I think this is exactly the key, especially in foreign and security policy, that there is not one only single country in our European Union alone that in the world of today - complex, difficult, violent, confrontational - can influence the international and global agenda, while we can do it if together.
Because sometimes we don’t realise but we are already a super-power as a European Union. Every time I say super-power together with the European Union, I see a lot of sceptical faces but you look at the numbers and we are the first economy in the world, we are the biggest market in the world, we are the biggest provider of foreign investment in the world, we are the biggest humanitarian aid provider and we are the biggest development cooperation provider in the world; and here Sweden has something to teach us. And I could continue. We have with our network of diplomatic presence in the world combined – European Union offices plus all our embassies combined – the most connected diplomatic network in the world and this showed very clearly when we managed to mobilise a consensus around the climate change agreement that was finally ratified by us just last week. Again, last week plenty of things happened.
So this is showing us the huge potential of European Union’s instruments when we really use them and when we really believe we have the possibility to use them for good purposes. And the Global Strategy’s aim is exactly this: making full use of our potential, realising it can serve the citizens’ interest at best. I always feel very bad when I see that there is a distance put between the national capitals and Brussels. I always say that the only ones that cannot do it are the Belgians. Apart from that, all of us can say Stockholm against Brussels, Rome against Brussels, Paris against Brussels, London against Brussels, Lisbon against Brussels. And I could go one. The Belgians cannot do this game but in terms of politics obviously they also can.
In the Global Strategy the merge is quite heavily, quite strongly that the best and maybe only way of serving our interests, our citizens’ interests - when it comes to migration, when it comes to… you name it, when it comes to trade - the best if not the only way of serving these interests is through the European Union, much better than purely national approaches. The point is making the European Union work at its best to serve this common interest and here we need to join up our works. So we have started now, having the Strategy, the implementation work. We started over the summer, we had several discussions. Large parts of my meetings today with Margot, the Ministers today has been focused on this. Where do we start the implementation? Which are the priorities? This is also what I am going to discuss with the Members of the Parliament today, because I am convinced that national parliaments have to play a role also in the implementation phase of this Strategy.
I know that the Defence part of the Strategy is the one that attracts the most of the public attention. Maybe it is because Europe is always perceived as a soft-power, when we actually have also some degree of hard-power. Very few people know that we have already as the European Union seventeen – civilian and military – operations around the world supporting peace, like the United Nations have peacekeeping operations. We also have operations that in most of the cases cooperate with the UN missions on the ground. Actually the UN is our first partner on the ground everywhere. So we do have some hard power already, but maybe there is something else we can do at the service of our diplomatic work, at the service of our humanitarian work, at the service of our development work. And by the way, if you look at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), you have the SDG number 16 that says very clearly that there is no development without security and no security without development and asks us for more work on providing security. Also because a purely civilian power will need to rely on someone else’s hard power in order to have access for instance to certain areas.
So I understand there is potential for more work to be done in security and defence cooperation inside the European Union. I understand that there is a lot of attention to that, but we need to avoid that our work in the implementation of the Global Strategy on defence does not overshadow our work on all the other sectors which are maybe even more important than the one on defence and security. Because the core business of the European Union is what we call the integrated approach or the comprehensive approach and this is what works best and this is also where we have our biggest assets. Only the European Union can mix and match trade policies, environment policies, aid, development but also some sort of security work.
So the work on the implementation of the Strategy will start from one point - working to build resilience of countries and societies around us. It is something that we would need also inside the European Union, but this is beyond the scope of my institutional mandate. But when we say in the Strategy building resilience this touches really all fields of our action, because we don’t only mean resilience of institutions, we mean resilience of societies. There is no resilient institution if not based on strong, open, resilient societies. And when you touch this, you touch indeed the issue of good governance, access to resources, human rights, women empowerment, jobs for young people, good education and you could continue. So, this is going to be the first field of implementation of the Strategy. How do we concretely, with clear deliverables work in building and encouraging resilience in societies and institutions all around our region?
Second is the integrated approach to conflicts and crises. This is something, again, that only the European Union, has to this extent. We are the only ones that have the tools to intervene from the early, early, early warning to the conflict prevention, to the crisis management, to the post-conflict reconstruction and stabilisation and, to make sure that after the acute crisis, a new crisis does not come again in a couple of years' time, because all the crises we are facing in this moment around us are either something we could have easily foreseen ten years ago or things that are coming up again after having been coming up and down for quite some years – think of Iraq, think of Libya, and I could continue. So, this is not only a good thing to do, it is also a smart thing to do. It is investing in something that brings a sustainable security if you allow me to use this term.
And here again, and then I will close, I have a good example of something that happened last week. Be sure also other things happened the week before and two weeks before, but last week was particularly intense. Last week we hosted in Brussels Afghanistan Conference when we remobilised again the international donors' community to support Afghanistan. That Conference started with two events that to me were even more important than the Conference officially. And that were 1) the meeting on women empowerment in Afghanistan where the First Lady [Rula Ghani] herself was passing on the message, and the President [Ashraf Ghani] as well, that as long as women are not fully empowered in the country, the entire country will not stand up to its own potential.
And 2), the meeting with civil society organisations both inside Afghanistan and in the international community: the work we do with civil society inside the country and outside the country; the work we do with women, inside the country and also outside the country, the work we do to support economic development, to support jobs creation, to support resilience of societies, is what I think European Foreign and Security Policy at its best.
We did not do only that. We did also something that is purely diplomatic, meaning we managed to gather - this was quite unnoticed media wise, but I think it was quite something - the evening before the conference at Ministerial level Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China, together with Ban Ki-Moon [UN Secretary General], John Kerry [US Secretary of State] and obviously ourselves, to see if around that regional compact some support for talks on reconciliation in Afghanistan could restart. And just a few days after India and Pakistan were in a rather confrontational mood among themselves, they still managed to come at the European table to discuss something that was a common interest, trying to re-launch a peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
I notice more and more that the European Union can provide that space. It can provide this open space for quiet mediation and negotiation, looking for the common ground, for the win-win situation in conflicts and crises that are otherwise difficult to solve, looking at different levels of need of intervention – the local, the regional and the global.
Now let me conclude with a word on Syria. I was – I think as many of you in this room – very saddened by what happened in the UN Security Council in these days, because we saw not only a very dire situation on the ground, a dramatic situation from a humanitarian point of view and a military point of view in Aleppo, but also we saw the potential breakdown of the multilateral mechanism by definition – the UN Security Council. I believe it will be vital for us to work together and, as Margot was saying, as the best friends of the United Nations, to restore the space for the United Nations to play its role in the many crises we have around us. I am sure that with Sweden in the UN Security Council, with the new UN Secretary General [António Guterres] taking up its role, we will as Europeans invest in creating this strong multilateral player that the United Nations have to be; to move from a confrontational to a cooperation approach in the crisis around us.
Because this is the common feature we see all over the crises that are around us. That we too often go on the zero-sum game approach, the confrontational approach, where at the end of the day nobody wins and everybody loses, especially the civilians. We have seen it with Iran last year, it is possible even in the most difficult circumstances, even after 13 years - in that case – of negotiations to find one tiny space of common ground that can then be expanded as much as it is sufficient to find an agreement that satisfies all.
So, I believe that on Syria we will need to find a way as European Union, together with our friends in the UN, of rebuilding the path to a political solution. You know we always said in the European Union that there is no military solution to the war in Syria; there can be a military victory against Da’esh and probably there has to be, but it cannot be a military solution to the conflict in Syria which is a different thing. It is an overlapping issue. If we really mean it, and I think we do, then we cannot accept that the voice is only for the arms on the ground and we cannot accept that we give up any diplomatic space to be explored. And this is what we discussed with Margot today, this is what we will discuss with the Foreign Ministers on Monday. Trying to stubbornly open small spaces, little ways that can lead to some political solution, locally, regionally and at the global level.
Let me conclude by thanking you. I was as always longer than expected and longer than needed, but I thank you very much first of all for the invitation, for arranging this that is for me very important not only to get questions but also to get suggestions. I would be very honoured also to hear your views on how we can improve our security and foreign policy; how we can better implement our Strategy as we start doing that, obviously also ready to answer your questions but also ready to take notes of your suggestions and comments.
Thank you very much.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I127413