Bucharest, 7 October 2016
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Good morning everybody. Thank you very much, Lazar [Comănescu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania], friends.
I am really honoured. It is a great pleasure for me to first of all take part once again in an event hosted by the Aspen Institute because each of our meetings, each of your initiatives provides us with so much food for thought. And I am sure this is also the case in these couple of days here.
It is always also a great pleasure to join my friends from the German Marshall Fund. It’s almost a decade since I became a fellow of the Fund and the people I met back then are still playing a very important part of the relations I have developed in these years, including in my current job. So thank you for providing me a good solid basis for these challenging times and tasks.
So let me begin by quoting an op-ed that you wrote together with Marta [Dassù] over the summer. You talked about the Global Strategy and you said it must be – I quote – the “springboard for an exercise in political innovation.” I really like this definition. I really think that this is exactly what we have to do. This is exactly the meaning of the Global Strategy; the reason why we have developed it and I presented it. This Strategy cannot stay on paper, it is not just a document. And in fact, our “exercise in political innovation”, as you put it, has already started in these weeks.
Often we complain that the European Union is slow. Well, we might be in a position that Member States complain we are running too fast. But that is good; I think that is good. If you think about it, you look back, the Lisbon Treaty has entered into force at the end of 2009 and that was in the middle of the financial crisis. It was difficult times for Europe and for our citizens and everyone was so busy with addressing that emergency, and it feels like we forgot to explore the full potential of the Treaty and of an enlarged European Union. Since then, Europe has often given the impression of jumping from one emergency, from one crisis to another. I believe we have realised that crisis management is not enough. We faced the financial crisis, the debt crisis, the refugee flows, security threats. But it is not only that we have to look at.
We need to explore all our instruments that are already there. We need to make full use of them. To realise how powerful our Union is, I often say: you can be the strongest actor in the world but if you don’t realise your strength, if you are not aware of your power, if you don’t use it, it is useless. So we need to understand what works in the European Union, what does not work, what can work better and change what we need to change. And use what we have at full. That’s where we need an “exercise in political innovation.” And this is what leads me here today.
When we started working on the Global Strategy, we knew very well that it couldn’t be simply “made in Brussels.” This is a Strategy for the whole Union, for each of our citizens. Actually, this brings us to a reflection of what the European Union is. I often say: “You know the only ones who cannot afford the luxury of antagonising their capital and the European Union is Belgium”. But apart from that we have to realise that the European Union is each and every one of us and we have a common shared responsibility to make it work.
There is no European Union without the Europeans. There is no European Union without each and every of the capitals of our Member States. There is no European Union finally without each and every citizen of the Union. So this Strategy was born to make the common ground, the common interest of European citizens emerge in the field of foreign and security policy.
It is not something produced in closed rooms, in buildings, far away from our lives. It had to reflect all our different traditions, geographies, histories and priorities. I must thank Lazar [Comănescu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania] for the Romanian contribution to the drafting of the text. That was very much appreciated as it was the contribution that Aspen [Institute] provided to us. I’m not saying this just to be nice to my host. People know that I can be very blunt. I am direct. I am not very diplomatic. It was really appreciated. It was really bringing a special contribution to our exercise and it has to continue because the strength of our Union is our diversity, the richness of our national diplomacies, the plurality of our points of view.
Often I am asked to guarantee that the European Union speaks with one voice and I always say: our strength is not one voice. Our strength is the plurality of our voices. The important thing is that we pass the same message, we work in the same direction, we sing the same song but with different voices. Our strength is that we are a choir rather than a single singer.
For instance, from this side of Europe, from this side of the Union it is much more evident that we cannot split our foreign policy in two: those who are looking to the East and those who are looking to the South. You look at the Black Sea region, and it couldn’t be more evident than that; that you have to look South and East at the same time. Europe can be a global power and a strong security provider only if it manages to do the two things at the same time: East and South. I was sharing with Mircea [Geoana, President of the Aspen Institute Romania] and other friends just some minutes ago: I spent almost one year in 2014 as an Italian Minister saying that the European Union could not have afforded focusing only in the Eastern crisis and that we should have kept the developments on the south in the agenda. Now I spend my time saying the rest of the story, that we should not forget the East because of the worsening of the situation in the South or in the Middle East. There is no contradiction on that. We have the strength, we have the responsibility, we have duty, we have the interest in doing the two things at the same time. And this would give us the credibility and the strength also to be a strong global player. We have the potential to do so, and first of all we cannot shy away from using such potential.
But this isn’t simply about geography. Look at any country in our Eastern partnership, and you will see that our relations are incredibly complex and rich. Our cooperation spans from energy to human rights, from migration to connectivity. Each of our Members States has its own network, its historic and geographic ties. At the same time, we can be so much stronger as a Union of half a billion people; as the greatest, the greatest economy in the world, and the greatest market in the world; as the biggest humanitarian donor and the biggest development actor; and a strong and responsible security provider. Always, always working for peace.
Lazar [Comănescu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania], you were asking for a little bit of positive injections. I take it as my personal job description because I see how our partners see us from outside. I think I have responsibility to bring a little bit of this importance that all our partners attach to the European Union and bring it back to our citizens and to our decision-makers inside the Union.
This is why we needed a Global Strategy. And now we have it, we must make sure that it leads to concrete changes in the way we do our foreign policy. Our work on implementation has already started as I said over the summer. So let me briefly focus on some of the main strands we are focusing on currently together with the Foreign Ministers, the Defence Ministers, the Heads of State and Government, the Development and Cooperation Ministers and with all my colleagues and friends in the European Commission. But most of all, let me say hopefully with all of you because we have produced the Strategy together with an open process, together with the civil society, think tanks, the academia, the foreign and security community in Europe and beyond, because we receive a lot of contributions from very far away, from Brazil to Japan. And we need to keep that open space also for our implementation work.
So the first area of our work on implementation concerns resilience and an integrated approach to conflicts and crises. You understand this better than anyone else here in Europe. Just think of the European history or just think of Ukraine. Of course the conflict in the east of the country has to be addressed from a security point of view and through diplomacy – working for the implementation of the Minsk agreements as we are doing every single day. But the stabilisation of Ukraine requires much more than that. It requires also greater resilience for the country’s institutions. It requires good reforms to help the Ukrainian economy thrive.
And the same goes for the protracted conflicts in the wider Black Sea region. The media keep forgetting about them now until the next escalation, which means hopefully never, but… The point is that our foreign policy needs to keep a constant focus on addressing the causes of the conflicts, with all tools at our disposal and without following necessarily the headlines in the news. But keeping the focus from an early stage to after the acute moment of crisis is gone.
The second area of implementation of the Strategy concerns the link between our internal and external policies. Starting with two priorities that every European Union citizen feels: security and human mobility; counter-terrorism and migration. These are two fields where it is self-evident to everybody in Europe that our internal policies are credible and strong only if rooted with coherent and effective external policies. And vice-versa: only external policies only if our internal policies are credible, sustainable and coherent with our values.
So the third, last element of implementation for our Strategy for the moment, last but definitely not least area of it, is security and defence. The security of our citizens has never been so closely connected to our foreign policy. Everybody perceives that. Instability outside our borders is impacting our citizens’ daily lives. At the same time, our partners are asking for a stronger Europe of defence.
Just two weeks after I presented the Global Strategy at the end of June, John Kerry [US Secretary of State] joined a meeting of our European Foreign Affairs Council. Lazar [Comănescu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania] will remember that. And I was surprised to find out that it was the first time ever for a US Secretary of State to join our European Union Foreign Affairs Council. Isn’t that incredible? Still we did it and we did it a few weeks after the referendum in the UK. I think it is not by chance. And he fully supported our decision to strengthen our Union, including in the field of defence. And I think John [Kerry] visited Brussels four to five times in the last couple of months: a strong sign of friendship and partnership. I will come back to that at the end.
But the very same day I presented the Global Strategy to the European Council at the end of June, the first person I handed personally a copy to was my friend Jens Stoltenberg, ten minutes after presenting it to the Council. [He is] the Secretary General of NATO, for those of you might not know it. I don’t think there are many in the room. That was a symbolic decision, but also a very concrete commitment to our cooperation. In fact, Jens joined our informal meeting of Defence Ministers just one week ago, ten days ago in Bratislava, as we always does. He always comes to our Defence Ministerial meetings as I always go to the Defence Ministerial meetings. And his message there ten minutes ago was crystal clear, in public and in the meeting: a strong European defence cooperation can only reinforce NATO. There is no contradiction; on the contrary there is only space for complementary. And it is not by chance if the implementation of the EU Global Strategy is moving forward in parallel, at the same time, hand-in-hand, to the implementation of the EU-NATO Warsaw Joint Declaration. We can strengthen each other because NATO needs a strong Europe of Defence,
We are now discussing concrete proposals to bring the Europe of defence to the next level. And we have committed to a very tight timetable. Next month I will present to the Ministers with a full implementation plan on defence and security, to which all Member States are currently in these days contributing. The idea is to bring it to the European Council in December European Council.
We can work on a common level of ambition, on more effective cooperation on capabilities and on the full use of the potential the treaties gives in the field of security and defence. As I said the Lisbon Treaty has plenty of that have never been used or explored. Maybe it is time to using the tools we have.
I see a strong political will to move forward in this field. It is what our citizens expect. It is what I expect that our national leaders would be ready to do. And I believe this is a truly historic opportunity. We can fulfil the process that’s started in Lisbon, which has been delayed for too long. We can realise the dream of Europe’s founding fathers and mothers - a few of them, but still same - who always imagined a Defence Community would have gone hand in hand with the Economic Community. Back in the 50s, the world has changed, Europe has changed, but the potential for that is there and maybe the time is right to go for that. But most of all, we can truly address our citizens’ needs and our partners’ aspirations and expectations, because our partners around of the world have very clearly ideas on us on the EU and on the strength of the EU.
So let me conclude by pointing to John Kerry who just three days ago in Brussels at the GMF [German Marshall Fund] event delivered a very powerful speech on a transatlantic relations and he said, I quote: “I encourage you all – and you as Europeans - to believe in yourselves as much as we believe in you”. I believe we have a common responsibility in listening to him.
Thank you very much.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I127002