An official website of the European Union. See all European Institutions
CHECK against delivery
London, 24 February 2015
Many thanks for this introduction Quentin. I look forward to our discussion. You have brought us three decades of lucid analysis on the European Union in your various assignments with the Financial Times and it is wonderful to see you continue this work here at Chatham House. Chatham House is at the vanguard of new thinking on how to confront present and future challenges, so it is a pleasure to be here today.
Last year Chatham House inaugurated the Queen Elizabeth II leadership academy. This means that you are not only carrying great analysis about Europe and foreign policy into the world, you are also bringing the world’s future leaders to us.
When Margaret Thatcher delivered her famous Bruges speech, she quipped that, considering her views on Europe, it was quite courageous of the College of Europe to invite her. Well, given the current debate in the UK about Europe, you could say it is quite courageous of you to have me here today!
But I am here today not to be daring. I am here because I believe that the UK has a central role in the European Union. In its past, its present and its future.
The United Kingdom has always helped the EU to look outward, not inward. At no time is this more important than today. We count on you to continue in your role as an advocate of a European Union that is truly global in its outlook.
“In an increasingly competitive world, the future belongs to those who can collaborate, innovate and co-operate together best”. These are words by Prime Minister David Cameron. And here is how the quote continues: “Our Union isn’t just some sort of deal, to be reduced to the lowest common denominator. It’s a precious thing. It’s about our history, our values, our shared identity and our joint place in the world”.
I should perhaps clarify that Prime Minister Cameron was speaking to a Scottish audience, and the Union he talks about is the United Kingdom. But his words make a powerful case for a renewed British role in the EU, as well. We live in a competitive and dangerous world – and all of the world’s most serious crises are taking place right on our doorstep. I believe that there is no better way for the EU to have a global influence than to be a responsible power in our immediate neighborhood. The challenges we see in our neighboring regions illustrate the benefits of a collective EU Foreign policy on issues which affect the vital national interests of our member states.
The situation at our borders has never been more urgent and never more unstable. The threats we face are complex, and need to be addressed with the broadest set of international tools available. And yes, I believe we have them. Military force is at times necessary, but never sufficient. We need to combine sanctions and incentives, quick reactions and patient negotiations, hard and soft power. Let us be frank: none of us, alone, can succeed in this complexity.
This is why I believe the narrative of a clash among national interests and European interests is flawed. We hold a “joint place in the world”, and it very much depends on the unity and the effectiveness of the European Union’s international projection. It should be clear to everyone that we, the Europeans, are much better when we are together. It is a matter not of European interest but of national interest, for all.
Think of Ukraine. We believed Russia could move beyond a Cold War mindset, and that we could be not just good neighbours, but partners. So far, Russia proved us wrong. Its violation of Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty has set a very dangerous precedent. The conflict has carried an unsustainable price in human lives.
Our response to the crisis mixes sanctions – both economic and political – and exhaustive, and sometimes exhausting, diplomacy. We have worked through all channels, all forms and formats of dialogue that can lead to a solution: through the Trilateral Contact Group, through the efforts of mediation led by the OSCE, and of course through the talks in the Normandy Format. Some argue that this is not 'European foreign policy'. Let me say that , at the end of my five years in office, I would like to see the European Union as a key player, with one voice, ready to tackle all crises that are crucial for Europe. But we are not there yet.
That's why we have all decided, in the last months, to continue to invest in the format that - since last summer- has proven to be useful in facilitating the talks between Kiev and Moscow. That's why all European Member States have unanimously decided, during the last month, to increase our political and diplomatic efforts in all possible means and formats, including the Normandy talks. I believe Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande didn’t just work for the German or French national interest, but for the interest of all of Europe.
A European common foreign policy does not call for Member States to give up their own foreign policies. On the contrary, each country can reinforce our common action with its own strength and expertise. But we see Europe at its best only when all twenty-eight members push in the same direction. It is good teamwork we need. And we had it and delivered on reaching an agreement. What we need to do now is push for full implementation of that deal.
Not only the European Union, but the whole international community stands behind the full implementation of all points of the Minsk agreement. The resolution that was adopted in the UN Security Council shows that we are all united on this.
We welcome each step towards the fulfilment of Minsk. But the violence is not over yet. Russia and the separatist in Ukraine need to urgently implement the Minsk agreement. They must start by observing the cease fire and withdrawing their weapons. We will be steadfast in our action against further violence and stand ready to take appropriate action in case the fighting and other violations of the Minsk agreements continue.
We are working, with our delegation in Kiev and all our services, to strengthen the OSCE in view of its expanded role on monitoring. You might know that today in Paris the foreign ministers of the Normandy format released a statement demanding to expand the mandate for OSCE. We are working, as always, to prepare further measures to be ready to use them if and when they will be needed. We are working to ensure that Ukraine becomes a functional state that honours the aspirations of its peoples. That is why we are supporting the country’s broad reform agenda, through macro-financial assistance; that is why we deployed the EU Advisory Mission to assist with security sector reform; and that is why we are facilitating the gas negotiations between Russia and Ukraine to ensure security of supply. And we are ready to engage in trilateral talks with Ukraine and Russia on the implementation of the DCFTA.
Most of all, we are working at with the best possible tool we have: our unity. In the EU and with partners in the international community. Time and again, Moscow (and not only Moscow) has bet on divisions within our Union. I've personally feared that differences among us would have not allowed us to take unanimous decisions, even recently. But our differences have proven to be a richness. And through exhaustive dialogue we have managed to make our common European interest emerge. This is our strength.
Solving the crisis and safeguarding Ukraine’s territorial integrity is not simply the interest of the Ukranian people or of the EU’s Eastern Member States. It is in the interest of all Europeans. Our common strategic interest.
The same applies to Libya. A non-state on our Southern border, or worse, the rise of a subsidiary of the Islamic State – just a few hundred kilometres off our shores – would be a threat to our continent as a whole, not only to its Southern border. There is no contradiction between an eastward looking and a southward looking European Union. Only a comprehensive approach to our foreign policy can protect our values and interests in the long run. Events in North Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe affect all of us. No one can expect to close their eyes.
Let me say a few more words on Libya. We cannot let the country continue on its downward spiral. Human traffickers have already put at risk the lives of too many migrants in the absence of state control on Libya’s coasts or land borders. A continued tribal conflict has let the Da'esh-franchise spread thousands of miles away from the Levant. And we have already witnessed the de-stabilising effects of the conflict on the entire Sahel and the sub-Saharan region.
It would be impossible to address all these concerns -migration, terrorism, regional stability – without a functioning Libyan State. This is why the European Union strongly supports the national reconciliation talks led by UN representative Bernardino Leon. A national unity government, or something close to it, is the only way forward – and the premise to any other international action, any other.
In this, also, we are united. As Europeans, with our American friends, with our partners in the Mediterranean, as they have a key role to play. I hope this message gets out clear and loud to all parties in Libya: the EU and the entire international community is ready to support you by all means. But we need to see the internal dialogue work or we risk a division of the country that will make it impossible for anyone to tackle the complexity of a place like Libya.
In Syria, too, the EU fully supports the UN efforts for peace – as we also mobilised more than 3 billion euros to assist Syrians in their country, as well as refugees and their host communities in neighbouring countries such as Jordan or Lebanon. The road to peace has already been too long and has not led to results so far. But we see steps in the right direction now. Staffan de Mistura’s work on a UN-brokered local ceasefires plan can pave the way towards a political solution to the crisis. It could be the first move in the direction of a Syrian-led transition, after years of bloodshed.
The war in Syria has had a paramount role in the rise of the Islamic State, and we all know that: the two issues are so intertwined we cannot help addressing them in a comprehensive way, together. I would like to thank the United Kingdom for being one of the most active members of the Global Coalition to counter Daesh. I am grateful for all the important work you have done; not least for hosting the first group meeting of key coalition partners here in London last month, which I had the pleasure to attend. At that meeting we were all very clear and united as well: as we fight Daesh, we will not fall into the trap it is laying for us. We will not revive a fabricated clash of civilisations. Arab and Muslim countries are the first target of Da'esh. They have a crucial role in the coalition. Everyone should increase their efforts to prevent and halt any support – be it military or financial – to Da'esh and al-Qaeda’s associates in Syria and elsewhere.
All countries in the Middle East at large can take this chance to overcome long-standing animosities. Sectarian conflicts create the perfect environment for extremism and terrorism to spread. Regional powers share an interest to stop fighting wars against each other through their proxies, and choose cooperation against their common enemy. This terrible crisis could lead to an historic opportunity: that of reshaping the current regional framework in the Middle East.
The regional turmoil also reminds us of the need to restart the Middle East Peace Process as soon as we can. And I hope that will be sooner rather then later. As Da'esh challenges the frontiers and sovereignty of existing states, Israel and Palestine have the chance to mutually recognise their borders and their right to security. Peace in the “Holy Places” could lay out the most resounding message against extremism, for the region and the whole world. The protracted stalemate in the talks can only strengthen forces that oppose an agreement, in both Israeli and Palestinian communities. At the same time, all recognize that the status quo is not an option: if we don't move towards people, we will move towards ore violence.
This affects not only the parties themselves, but the entire region and the wider world. We need to build a new international consensus to bring this conflict to a solution: EU, US, Russia and the UN are important pillars of this efforts. That's why I invited the Quartet Principals to meet in Munich a couple of weeks ago, where we committed to support the resumption of peace negotiations following the Israeli elections. This commitment includes calling on both parties to refrain from any actions that undermine trust. We also agreed to reach out to our Arab partners in the region more directly and more frequently. They play a key role in supporting a successful peace process, not least through the Arab Peace Initiative that provides vision for a comprehensive settlement for the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The Europea Union's deep political and economic partnership with Israel and our role as the foremost donor to the Palestinian Authority and UNWRA give us a key position in reinvigorating the peace talks. And it gives us a special responsibility too.
I believe that the EU has to play its role in this and I will personally work on this; ensuring that the diversity and richness of our position, our history and deep ties represent an added value in our diplomatic efforts in the Middle East.
Finally, Iran. A few weeks ahead of the deadline for our E3/EU +3 talks, we face an historical opportunity. As you all know, the EU is coordinating the process. A good deal is at hand – if the parties will keep cooperating, as they did so far. And if we have enough political will on all sides to agree on a good deal and 'sell' it domestically. For too long we thought of the Iranian issue as a zero-sum game. In fact, I believe it is quite the opposite: a comprehensive agreement would be hugely beneficial for both sides. The West could be reassured about its security and the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. Iran’s economic situation would improve, and Teheran could play its role as a regional power in a positive way. A deal would open up prospects for cooperation in many areas, in our bilateral relations and in the region.
Let me say that, looking at our region, we need to develop a new approach. We need to stop jumping from crisis to crisis, and to start looking at the complete picture. We need to start thinking in a strategic way. About a decade ago the EU adopted its Neighbourhood Policy. It was meant to bring stability and prosperity. And here we are, with our region in flames. There are success stories, no doubt: Tunisia, Marocco and the way in which Lebanon and Jordan are welcoming millions of refugees. But every success story has also its dark side. We have to be aware of that. We have to invest in the younger generations in a consistent way: education, employment, freedoms, rights. We have to think and to act strategically first of all in our neighborhood. That's why we a launching a review of our European Neighborhood Policy.
Our European Security Strategy, on which Javier Solana didwonderful work, is now 11 years old. At the time it was conceived, no one could imagine how fast the world and our neighbourhood would change in the following years. Today everything has changed; we have changed.
This is why I have launched a process of strategic reflection to guide the EU’s foreign and security policy. Amid the current global chaos, a new strategy will give us hopefull a sense of direction, an ability to make choices and to prioritise. It will also help us determine how best to mobilise all our instruments and develop partnerships that serve our common goals. The reforms of the Lisbon Treaty gave us the tools we need. Our added value lies precisely in the unique set of instruments we can summon – from development to defence, from trade and energy to policing. But our foreign policy can sometimes be disjointed. We need to connect the dots. And we need a true sense of ownership. A common vision. A common European interest. Our identity in the world. That's why I'm starting from member states. Not only governments, but also national parliaments, think tanks, NGOs, the Foreign policy community at large. So I look forward to discussing with you here in London today, and also in the future on the new strategy to come.
As we work on our new strategy, we should learn from our recent experience. After the fall of the Berlin wall, many believed the world needed some sort of “global policeman” as a security provider. After 9/11, the narrative of a “clash of civilisations” seemed to prevail. By 2015, we see that the clash runs within our civilisations, and no one can really succeed alone. In each theatre at our borders, a multitude of actors are involved. State and non-state, secular and religious. Old alliances and rising forces. In the era of cyber-attacks, traditional warfare has all but disappeared. We need to cope with fierce battles for the control of land and resources, and with propaganda wars in social media. Terror has proven to be a powerful force in our age, but so has hope.
The EU should be aware of its potential. Sometimes we tend to believe that a Western or European intervention holds to key to solving any crisis. Well, I am afraid that is an illusion. We could also end up thinking that we are powerless; that we should lock ourselves into our Fortress Europe. Let me tell you: that too would be a very naive illusion.
Europe needs to be pragmatic and ambitious at once. Sometimes I say thar European Union is a superpower and some might doubt this. But we are a superpower if we combine our tools.
Most of all, we need to realise that our unity is our greatest strength. We have to combine our assets and our international expertise, as we all head towards the same goal. We can work with our partners and neighbours, to support the forces that are ready to choose dialogue over confrontation. Together we can establish a more cooperative and peaceful world order. I believe that the United Kingdom is a crucial pillar in our work towards this. It has helped to create a Europe that is open to the world and not afraid to take on global challenges. I truly hope we will continue along this path. Together.