Since the very beginning, the European Union has been a peace project – a project to finally end all European wars, and such a peace project is greatly needed in today's world. For this reason, the EU is building a Union of security and defence, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini said on 17 October, becoming a global security provider while investing in people and the solid foundations that peace and security needs. The European Union of security and defence is not about militarisation, but combining hard power with diplomacy, and conflict prevention, reconciliation and reconstruction. This is an approach which effectively delivers security, and which Europeans do better than others, because it is at the heart of the European Union, said Mogherini.
Speaking in Madgeburg, Germany, at the award ceremony of the Kaiser-Otto Prize 2017, presented to the High Representative by German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen, Minister-President of the State of Saxony-Anhalt, Dr. Reiner Haseloff and Lord Mayor of Magdeburg, Dr. Lutz Trümper, Mogherini said peace on the European continent was the result of difficult, sometimes unpopular, political decisions.
Today, said Mogherini, "it feels like international affairs are all about power-politics and real politik. But not for us, not for Europe." While "Europeans probably understand power politics more than everyone else," we have made a choice for a different path "out of wisdom and self-interest," the High Representative said. "Sometimes, fighting or shouting too much is a sign of weakness," while working together, while often challenging, makes us safer and stronger.
For this reason, the EU does not believe in "zero-sum games," said Mogherini. "Our relationship with our neighbours has never, ever been about spheres of influence; we have never asked to pick sides. Our goal, as a Union, has never been to expand our influence – it has been to expand peace, to expand partnership, to expand international cooperation and to strengthen rules."
The EU peace project is not yet finished, and courage is still needed to continue this work. Geographically, the European continent will only be united and free of the fear of war when the Balkans will finally become part of our Union, said Mogherini, reiterating her personal commitment to ensure all the countries of the Balkans take irreversible steps on their path towards the EU before the end of her mandate. "I believe this is possible, that is what they want, and that is what we need, for our continent, and for our security," the High Representative said.
But the EU's peace project needs to go further, as our security depends also on peace and security in the rest of the world. "So, the European Union has to be a global force for peace," Mogherini said. The EU played this role in mediating the deal on Iran's nuclear programme, and today, "preserving the nuclear deal with Iran is our own interest, as well as the world’s interest."
"This is what the European Union has become: an indispensable partner for global peace and security. We have become indispensable to preserve, strengthen and reform the UN system, because we Europeans know how crucial the United Nations and the UN agencies are," said the High Representative, citing the crucial work of UNESCO to protect cultural heritage in conflict zones, of the World Food Program to prevent humanitarian crises, of the UN Refugees Agency to save millions of displaced people.
"These are key contributions to our common daily security in Europe – it is not charity." Therefore, the EU is and will continue to be the largest contributor to the UN budget, to humanitarian aid and to development cooperation, "because we know that the best way to build peace and security is to invest in people, in human rights, in decent living conditions, in social inclusion, in a sustainable environment, in the fight against climate change, in culture."
Security requires more than just military might, while "there is no development with a security threat." The EU trains security forces in partner countries to help them fight terrorist groups and criminal networks. The EU saves lives on a daily basis in the Mediterranean and directly combats the traffickers who put those lives at risk. Our military staff work side by side with police officers, lawyers and doctors, aid workers and human rights experts, UN agencies and civil society organisations, engineers and school teachers.
"The world needs a strong European Union more than ever now," the High Representative concluded. "The world needs a global force for peace that is reliable, predictable, solid, consistent, cooperative, wise, strong and calm. The European Union is that force, for the world and for our European citizens. Because Europeans, all of them, no matter the nationality, are strong and safe only when our European Union is strong and safe."