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Thank you very much.
First of all, Madame Rector [Liisa Laakso], the entire university and the Dean, thank you for this great honour you give me.
Let me start with a personal note. When I graduated in political science at the University of Rome La Sapienza, my dream was to continue studying, starting a PhD. It had actually taken me long years to get to that degree, because I was working while studying – as probably many of you here in this room have been doing - and then I spent over one year to prepare and write my thesis on political Islam, an issue that at that time in 1998 was hardly considered relevant for political science studies. But it was the issue I was interested in, and I wanted to write about, and it was only thanks to a European Union programme, the Erasmus programme, that I could do my researches in France, in Aix-en-Provence, for nine months. When I finally got my degree I seriously considered continuing my studies - but in the meantime I had also started to work with European youth organisations and NGOs, and life took me on a completely different path.
Today, thanks to you, my old dream comes true. And who knows, maybe in the future I will go back to research and studies, I take this recognition as an encouragement in this sense.
But let us go back to where life took me - far away from research and university, that was my passion, true, but right at the heart of our European Union. The most successful peace project ever. Think of Tampere exactly one hundred years ago: the most violent battle in the Finnish civil war, and one of the largest ever battles in the history of northern Europe. A century ago, our entire continent was at war. One of the far too many that devastated Europe for thousands of years. And in 1918, World War One was about to end, but another great European war had just started. Nationalism and totalitarian ideologies were spreading fast across our continent.
Finland had just gained its independence, but soon it became the battlefield for new power games. The Finnish borders were redrawn by foreign powers, thousands of people were killed or had to flee their homes. A new and an even greater war was about to spread from our continent to the rest of the world. That European war became the largest catastrophe in human history. I would call it a permanent scar on our face, a scar that we will never forget. Europe woke up after the Second World War as a devastated continent. And after the war, a generation of brave and wise Europeans understood, finally, a simple reality of life: that making peace was simply more convenient than making war.
That’s when a truly revolutionary idea started to spread across our continent. The idea to replace competition and confrontation with cooperation, and eventually with integration - starting from something not particularly idealistic or visionary, or exciting: steel and coal. It was the beginning of the European project as we know it. And today, from the ashes of devastation, through economic cooperation, we can celebrate more than seventy years of peace in a continent that had been at war for thousands of years. I have the impression that we sometimes tend to forget where we come from, what we have achieved, and how much we risk to lose, if we do not continue to invest in our common European Union. Taking things for granted, I believe, is one of the biggest mistakes one could do, in life as in history.
The founding fathers and mothers of the European Union understood that war had destroyed each of our countries, while economic and political cooperation would have made all of us, collectively, together stronger and safer. They understood that in a war no one wins, and everybody loses. That military victories are just temporary illusions of glory. And that the only way to be safe, prosperous, and strong was for everyone to invest in the safety, prosperity and strength of their neighbours. That was the real turning point: when we realised that the strength of our neighbours does not represent a threat or a challenge, but rather a guarantee of stability – provided that this happens in the framework of a cooperative regional and international order. And this was exactly the way we, Europeans, took after the Second World War.
And look, look where we are now. One century after the battle of Tampere, this University has become one of the best in the world for peace studies and mediation. From our own history, from our own experience, I would say - from our own scars, we learned how to invest in peace not only inside our borders, not only in Europe, but also elsewhere in the world. We do it not only because we know it’s the right side of history - having been responsible, as Europeans, of the darkest ones. But we invest in peace also because we know it is in our own interest.
Europe is not an island. Nor is it a territory you can isolate with walls and fences. I believe that a country like this knows that far too well. Geography, together with our economy and our history, make it just impossible to conceive isolation for Europe. Our own peace, our own security and human development inevitably depend on peace, security and human development in the rest of the world.
And the only way we have, as Europeans, to have an impact on what happens around the world, close to our borders or very far away, is to join forces within the European Union. I often say that we do not have big and small member states in the European Union. We just have Member States that have not yet realised they are small in the world of today. While together, as a Union, we are not only the most successful and inspiring peace project ever. We are also the largest single market in the world. The biggest humanitarian and development aid donor in the world. The second world economy. The first trade partner for most of the countries worldwide. The most influential player in diplomacy, in culture, in soft power. And a growing military power - always keeping our own way to security, which is based on the awareness that derives from our own history, that while some crisis might require the use of military means, no single conflict can ever, ever be solved through hard power alone.
Complex problems can never be solved through simplified approaches: and we are the ones, often the only ones, that can understand complexity - as we are so complex ourselves - and we are the ones who can mobilise such a complete and unique set of tools: from humanitarian aid to mediation, from training police forces and judges to institution building, from support to good governance to protection of human rights, from development aid to trade and investments, from disarmament to reconciliation, from non-proliferation to empowerment of women. Just to mention a few of our “areas of operation”, to use a military term.
Think of it for a moment. Close your eyes and imagine for one moment the European Union disappeared from the global scene right now. Let us say for a month, or a week, even for a few days. The world would simply collapse. The world is not in good shape, true, but without the European Union it would be in a much worse situation. I am not sure that this is a very optimistic sentence to say, but the world could be in an even worse shape than today. But this is the reality of facts. Take away all the actions we do as European Union, with Member States together around the world, be it on peace and security, on development, on humanitarian, on diplomacy, and you would realise that the situation in the world would be definitely much, much worse.
Never take things for granted. I believe if the European Union did not exist, we should invent it. Together, as the European Union, we have become a global power. Europe is definitely not the battlefield of superpowers anymore, as it used to be during the Cold War years. Today, Europe is a superpower. But, there is a but: we often forget it. And your power becomes irrelevant, if you are not fully aware of it, if you do not use it. We, Europeans, have to realise that this is the time of responsibility, this is the time to exercise the power we have. We have a role to play on the global scene, we have to realise that the world looks at us as a point of reference, sometimes searching guidance, to build networks of alliances to advance peace, security, sustainable development, free and fair trade, multilateralism, human rights.
The question is not anymore whether the European Union is a superpower, but what to do with the power that we hold in our hands. This is the main idea behind the Global Strategy for foreign and security policy that I presented two years ago, also with the help of many institutions and universities across Europe and also in other parts of the world that have helped us drafting that strategy. A Strategy that was intended and is still intended to help us understand our incredible potential and help us make full use of it not only as a piece of academic work – which it is not – but mainly to shape a shared vision that could drive our action in the world. I have to tell you, in my daily life, in my daily experience, I see within these years that the Strategy has guided our common action, as 28 Member States and the European institutions, in a coordinated manner as it was never done before.
What is our way?
First of all, on peace and security. It is ten years since the Nobel Peace Prize was given to [former] President [of Finland, Martti] Ahtisaari, and he was a true pioneer in this field. Tonight, we will celebrate these ten years in Helsinki. He was a pioneer in this field not just in the Balkans, but at all corners of the world. When he mediated peace to end the civil war in Aceh, Indonesia, he asked the European Union to engage directly to monitor disarmament and reconciliation, but also to support reconstruction and economic recovery.
And today, over a decade later, Indonesia has become one of the strongest and most important partners for the European Union – one that shares our approach to diversity, diplomacy and multilateralism, and constantly works with us towards our shared global goals. Indonesia may be at other side of the world, and actually it is, but engaging in that peace process, even far away from home, has made the European Union stronger, recognised, credible and safer. We did it because of our values, of our European values, but by doing that, we also advanced our European interests.
And with his approach, President [Martti] Ahtisaari has contributed to shaping what I call the European way to peace and security. A unique mix of hard power and soft power, peacekeeping and diplomacy, traditional security and economic leverage. Since then, we have refined such European way, exploring new pathways and instruments to contribute to peace and security.
In Afghanistan, we are working to make sure that women play an active role in the peace process and in rebuilding their country, after having trained women police in the country - something quite revolutionary, believe me. In Iraq and in Mali, we are restoring cultural heritage destroyed by terrorists, to support the local economy and facilitate reconciliation. In Colombia, the opposite side of the world, we are working so that former fighters can learn a job and find their place in the country’s social and political life.
We are finding new ways of putting our soft power to the service of peace. For instance, we have now launched the largest ever investment plan to bring private investment in the most fragile parts of Africa, to create jobs for that young and motivated population. Other world powers see investment in Africa only as a way to expand their influence or to exploit local resources. For us, investing in Africa, with Africa, is a way to strengthen Africa’s societies, giving opportunities for human growth starting from women and youth. We invest in Africa to help the local economies diversify, respecting their natural environment. We invest in Africa so that peace can stand the test of time, it is what we would call sustainable peace and sustainable security. I believe that after having developed the concept of sustainable development, we should look into that.
Together with soft power, we have also taken unprecedented steps to strengthen European cooperation on military matters. There is a European way to use hard power, and this is what we are investing in. Some Member States are now investing for instance in a common European training for our militaries when they respond to national disasters, thanks to the new permanent cooperation we have established in security and defence. And I have proposed now to set up a European Peace Facility to better finance our military missions, but also to train and equip our partners – starting from the African ones – so that they can better protect peace, security and human rights in their continent.
Military force is sometimes necessary and we know that, and our partners all around the world are asking us, Europeans, to play a greater role as a global security provider. Why? Because they trust the European way to peace and security. They trust us, precisely because we know that military might, alone, is never enough. They probably trust us because we still have that scar on our face that tells people around the world that we know, we remember, what war and devastation is. We do not want to go there anymore. Because we know military might can be a tool, but is never the only solution.
We know that security, to be sustainable, has to be based on human rights, good governance, social inclusion. We have seen the damages of military interventions, even recently, in the lack of a clear political strategy and of an international mandate. And we have learnt that sustainable peace always, always requires a negotiated political solution.
Sometimes I hear – with a certain frustration – that the European Union would not be a credible power in one crisis, or the other, because we are not a military player in a given conflict. As if, the best or the only way of being player in a conflict was to be a military player in a conflict. I wish this is the way out. The exact opposite is true. Our credibility lies in the constant search for a mediation where violence and destruction prevails. Our convening power is impressive. And it is always at the service of mediation, in a multilateral framework.
In all the conflicts of our times, a political solution requires some kind of multilateral framework, different from case to case. We live, true, in a multipolar but also in a very chaotic world. Power belongs not just to great continental giants - what we normally call the superpowers - but to regional powers and their local proxies. Power belongs – like it or not – not only to national governments, but also opposition forces and sometimes rebel militias. You have to face reality and deal with it.
Putting together all the pieces of the puzzle is never an easy job. And sometimes it does not work. Frustration is permanently around the corner. We have seen agreements between great powers break down, because the actors on the ground simply refused to comply. And we have seen local ceasefires collapse in the lack of a larger political agreement.
Diplomacy today is more difficult than ever, simply because the actors have multiplied and become more complex and confused. Diplomacy today to work has to be global, regional and local at the same time. The only way to try to manage such complexity is through multilateral frameworks. In our times, a superpower for peace can only be a superpower for multilateralism. In a multipolar world, multilateralism is not only a more equal and democratic way to deal with international affairs. It is also the only realistic way to address our national interests.
We, Europeans, have learnt that we can only advance and serve our national interests through multilateralism. The European Union is the exact proof of this. In our fragile and complex world, bilateral agreements are important, but they are not enough. No superpower is big and powerful enough to address the great challenges of our times alone. We need an effective multilateral system with strong United Nations at its core. The alternative to some form of global governance is not the rule of nation states: it is complete chaos. The alternative to a new global order is an even greater global disorder.
A multilateral and cooperative global governance is an aspiration that actually has never been fulfilled, has never been fully realised. How many times in the last thirty, forty years have we thought: "Here we are. It is coming. The new global order is here to be realised in the coming years." Actually, the idea of a new world order has never truly turned into reality.
I believe that the only way to save multilateralism today is to reform it and make it more effective in building peace and security for all. It is clear that there is no golden age to go back to. The best is yet to come, always. And I guess this is the most optimistic sentence I can deliver to you. And the only way to bring about change is not to focus on destroying the old, but on building the new.
And we can only build it together – joining forces, first of all, within our European Union, but also with all our many friends and partners around the world, those who share our vision and our ideals. I do not know what Europe and the world will look like tomorrow. But I know that it will depend on us and that the choice about the future of Europe and the world lies in our hands – also in your hands.
The survivors of the battle of Tampere 100 years ago chose to rebuild the city anew – and it is a beautiful city with a beautiful university. The founding fathers and mothers of the European Union chose cooperation to end war in Europe. And since then, we Europeans have collectively chosen to make Europe a global force for peace. So the next choice is up to all of us, together. I have always been convinced and I stay convinced that Europe is what we make of it. It is our common house. So let us be true to ourselves, to our history, let us honour that scar on our face and let us never waste the potential we have.
I thank you very much.
Link to the video: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I161402