An official website of the European Union. See all European Institutions
Check against delivery!
First of all, for me it is really a pleasure to be back in the Munich Security Conference and let me tell you how pleased I am to speak just after Jens [Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General] but also just after António [Guterres, UN Secretary General]. It fits perfectly well to highlight the wonderful cooperation the European Union has with NATO, with the UN and, by the way, with many other international organisations and partners. We indeed live in very dangerous and confused times and in a world that seems to go in a direction that is not reassuring to many of our citizens, if not to all of our citizens.
I remember very well exactly two years ago here in Munich, I announced that the European Union was going to work on a new Global Strategy. That was far before the US elections, before the UK referendum, before the turmoil we are now seeing in the world. I would like, by the way, to thank many in this room who have worked on that strategy. And a few elements of the Strategy that we now share at 28 – because I would like to stress that we are still 28 and we will be still 28 at least for a couple of years – is that power is indeed diffused: we are far from unilateralism and unipolarism and we are far also from multipolarism.
We are actually in a state of confusion where the power stands, who has the power today in the world. But, also, we live in a world where rules are perceived increasingly as a constraint for one; one be it one country, one group, one individual rather than a guarantee for all and this is a major challenge of our global order. And we live in times that in the Global Strategy we define as times of “predictable unpredictability” and I guess we were quite right in analysing these trends.
In this dangerous and confused times where our citizens feel exposed to dangers, where does the European Union stand? Allow me to surprise you because I know that you are used to associate the word 'European Union' to the word 'crisis'. It is at least a couple of years we do that. Let me bring here the voice of a proud European: I believe that in the state of the world that we live in today, the European Union is quite in a good place.
I say this because I have the privilege of seeing the European Union through the eyes of our partners around the world; from Japan to Argentina, from Canada to South Africa. And I think out of these experiences, that the European Union is much, much stronger that we Europeans realise and it is much more indispensable to Europeans and to the world than we realise most of the times. Because seen from the outside the European Union is a reliable, predictable, strong, cooperative partner for many in the world.
I would say a point of reference when it comes to multilateralism, free and fair trade, human rights and rule of law, economic development, SDGs – and I could continue -, fight against climate change. Look at us from the outside - it should be the same also from the inside.
The European Union is the biggest market in the world, including for US goods; it is the first humanitarian donor worldwide; it is the first provider of development assistance; it is the first trade partner for most of the countries and regions in the world; it is the second world economy – there are fights ongoing on who is the first; it is a major political and diplomatic power with 140 delegations of the European Union around the world coordinating the work of 28 embassies of our Member States, in countries and in international organisations starting from the United Nations; and it is a security provider, globally.
Jens was mentioning the cooperation we have. NATO and the European Union in the last seven months have developed 42 common concrete projects from cyber to maritime cooperation and we are implementing them hand-in-hand. We are different organisations, we have different members – many of them are the same, but not all completely -; we have different mandates: NATO is a military alliance, the European Union is a regional integration project. But there is a lot we are already doing together and this is only one part of how the European Union is a security provider in the world.
The Chancellor [of Germany, Angela Merkel] was mentioning today that the European Union has 15 military and civilian operations and missions around the world, from Africa to the Mediterranean. If in half of the Horn of Africa we do not see piracy anymore is thanks to us and the list could continue.
But there is one more thing – let me be very open and clear here: the 2% debate on the defence spending is a NATO debate and it is for member states or allies in NATO to define their way. But if the European countries want to spend more and better, the only way in which they can do that is through the European Union. Because when it comes to spending together it is the European Union that can provide the Member States the incentives to do so, be it on innovation, on research, on capability development and we are putting in place a European defence fund that will support exactly this cooperative defence spending to fill the gap not only – or not so much – on the investments, but on the outpout.
Jens is very well aware of what I am saying because we go around as a couple for many months and we send similar messages so he heard this many times. What worries me the most is not the fact that Europeans spend 50% of what Americans spend in defence – that is half of it. What worries me the most is that the European output in defence is 15%, which means that we have to work on the economy scale and the way in which we can work on the economy of scale is through our European Union instruments.
So you want to increase the effectiveness of what you call burden sharing, I would call as a European the responsibility sharing for global security, then the instruments lie in the European Union as well. But this means that the European Union is working to do more on its defence as European Union – not to mix with the NATO one – because it is European Union's citizens priority number one. We have seen for seven, eight, nine years the priority number one for our citizens was economy. Now we see it is security.
We need to do that for ourselves not because someone asked us to do that as Europeans. We will do more in the European Union and this will help also NATO. But let me add also one other question that is profoundly a European Union question: having said that we will do more, are we sure that simply doing more would make it? Are we sure that more of the same is what we need? I am not so sure. I am not sure because security challenges today - and António Guterres was saying this a few moments ago -, security challenges today cannot really be faced effectively today with a purely and exclusively military approach. We see that. We see that every day, be it in the terrorist threats, be it in the cyber attacks.
Are we sure that is only through increasing military capabilities that we will make it? And here, again, you need the European Union, because when you invest in development, when you invest in the fight against climate change, you also invest in our own security. And, finally, I believe Europeans are understanding that investing in strong societies – and in strong societies, not in the illusion that a strong man – and always a man – makes a country stable -, in resilience, in human rights, democracy, good governance, jobs, education… investing in this, which is the European way, is also an investment in our security.
It is not only the European way, I am looking at my friend from Canada and I know it is also the Canadian way and many others in the world. But this combined approach when you have the soft and the hard power together and you do it the smart way, I think it is the way and the only way to face our security challenges today. It is not charity: investing in development, investing in the Sustainable Development Goals, investing in humanitarian [aid], is not charity. It is an investment, a selfish investment, in our security.
I do not know if this is something we share with all our partners in the world. I know this is the European way: friendship, partnership, with many – starting from the United States, I think this is a friendship that will stay, it is much deeper that any change in an administration and politics.
Let me also say that for Europeans the transatlantic friendships and partnerships go beyond the friendship we have with the United States. It belongs also to our Canadian friends, to our Mexican friends, to the whole Latin America which is also for us across the Atlantic. And it means that we will continue to invest in partnerships and cooperation with all the other partners we have around the world, be them countries, be them other regional organisations – from the African Union to the League of Arab States -, and investing in a strong UN system. The European Union is and will continue to be the first supporter of this multilateral approach and obviously we will continue working with NATO.
So, we will continue on this way. I think we will need to change a lot of things inside the European Union, but outside, in the world, the European Union will for sure be a more indispensable partner than before and I would say a more indispensable power than before. In the confusion we are facing, you can be sure that the European Union will remain a stable, reliable, predictable partner for many and for security in the sense of a collective security based on cooperation. This is the way we are working, this is the way the world can count on us to continue to work. Thank you.
Q. On the conflict in Ukraine. In every panel we discuss about security in Europe and everybody understands that without referring to the situation in Ukraine we can't talk about stability in Europe, because Ukraine is one of the largest countries in Europe and instability in Ukraine can bring instability to the whole region. We heard today the position on Ukraine from the Vice President of the US, Mike Pence, from Chancellor Angela Merkel. Everybody understands it is not a civil war as explained in some news. Everybody understands that without weapon delivering, financial support and propaganda, this conflict would have never ever ended. It is a more political question. And there are not good results. Every day people die in the conflict zone. What do you think about having the United States in the Normandy format together with France, Germany and Russia?
FM. Thank you for the question and also for the part that preceded the question. Because indeed I think that our focus has to stay on the situation in Ukraine. That is also part of my talks in Washington when I was visiting our friends from the new US administration last week. It is extremely important for the European Union to constantly raise this issue to make sure that we have an international unity around the implementation of the Minsk agreements.
For us, as you know well, and I constantly work together with President [of Ukraine, Petro] Poroshenko, with Prime Minister [of Ukraine, Volodymyr] Groysman and with many of the ministers as well in Ukraine, to try and to support and you know that the European Union is supporting the country in many different ways. For us what is essential is that the Minsk agreements can be fully implemented.
We have, as you know, sanctions in place on Russia both for the illegal annexation of Crimea and for the situation in the east of Ukraine, for the conflict in the east of Ukraine and these sanctions are clearly linked to the fully implementation of the Minsk agreements. And this is going to stay in the European Union as our position. The point though is, for me, not the issue of keeping or not the sanctions. The point, for me, is improving or solving the situation in the east of Ukraine and implementing fully the Minsk agreements.
On the format, I have stopped quite early on in my job to focus too much on the formats of the meetings and try to focus on the substance of the outcome. I know that most of the times this is what we spend time on; I think that times do not allow us to define this as a priority. I think that the priority is how the European Union – possibly with others -, but how the European Union – I speak for ourselves – can do more to help all to implement fully the Minsk agreements. We are working on some ideas, we are discussing these ideas both with the French and the Germans and mainly with the Ukrainian government and with our Russian friends to see how we can do more to make sure that the Minsk agreements are implemented.
As you know the commitment is there. The format is facing some challenges in these times. We are ready to help, to support, to accompany, provided that this is for the sake of the substance and not for the sake of the discussion on the format. We are not looking for a place in a ministerial photo. We are looking for substance and results and for us that is what counts: that the conflict in the east of Ukraine ends.
Q. Basically the efficiency of the defence spending, especially in investments in Europe can only be improved substantially if we do away with the principle of juste retour, eg you get back accordingly to the money you spend. As long as we do that, we will be as inefficient as we are today. Because do you see any chance that the European [Member] States are willing to concentrate for certain activities in one company, in Europe, as we see effectively in the United States or you see that is not realistic chance in the near future?
FM. I think there is a chance; more than a chance. And this is exactly the work we started to do in the last six, seven months. It started in August – not the most popular month to start such a heavy work for my staff - but I think it was right to do it quite quickly focusing on the very beginning of this which is investments in research, innovation, on capability developments and working on this cooperative approach, facilitating and incentivising the Member States of the European Union, with European Union instruments, to work together from the early stages to the outcome, to the output. I believe this is the right way to go and I see the space to do so.
Why? Because there is now a combined need, on one side, the need to work more on defence, for the European Member States, because, again, it is a priority for our citizens and, on the other side, the need to square the circle with the budgets. The national budgets are put to test after so many years of economic crisis and some other priorities that the only way to do that is to do that together.
And I see that there is a window also because Jens often makes this example of the frigate. If Norway and Spain were producing the frigate together, he would not have faced any problems of re-election probably, so it is also a matter of sustainability in terms of producing more European projects and sustaining them. We already have the European Defence Agency that is doing that but we can put - I was mentioning the European Defence Fund - money to support this work and this is going to make the real difference in European Defence.
I know this was the last question, but I would like to add one thing if I can. Can I? Thanks. Because I was mentioning the fact that we are linked across the Atlantic with our friends in the United States not only by gratitude which is reciprocal – and as an Italian, or as German this goes without saying, and we heard [the US] Vice-President [Mike] Pence saying that this is also a gratitude that in the United States they feel for what we have done in Afghanistan and elsewhere - but it is also economy that links us.
I was looking at the numbers: 80 per cent - eighty! - of direct foreign investments in the United States is generated by the European Union. There are 15 million jobs that depend on our economic relation across the Atlantic and half of them are in the United States. So if you look at every single state in the United States, there are hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on our economic cooperation. So when we see that Europe needs America, it is also America that needs Europe and I think we have to be very careful on how we handle this cooperation and this partnership in the months ahead. Thanks.