European Union External Action

Remarks by HR/VP Mogherini at the event to commemorate the 10th anniversary of President Ahtisaari's Nobel Peace Prize

Helsinki, 11/10/2018 - 16:32, UNIQUE ID: 181011_10

Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the event to commemorate the 10th anniversary of President Ahtisaari's Nobel Peace Prize

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First of all, let me thank [former] President [of Finland] Ahtisaari, but also Alexander [Stubb, former Prime Minister of Finland and Chair of the Crisis Management Initiative] for the invitation.

I will try to share with you why President Ahtisaari is so important to me personally and to the work of the European Union - and not only of the European Union - in peace-building. And the second thing I want to share with you is how it feels to be the only woman at the table and the work we are trying to do to bring more women around the table.

I am deeply convinced that there is a "European way" to foreign and security policy. It is a European way that is rooted in the values that we need to monitor and their implementation inside the European Union. President Ahtisaari, you have my commitment: we will try to establish a mechanism to monitor the implementation of values and human rights starting from inside the Union and across the world. But Alex [Alexander Stubb], I count on your support for doing that.

There is a European way to foreign and security policy that is based on the experience we have had of conflicts and wars for thousands of years. This morning in Tampere University I called them scars on our face. As Europeans we have produced the most terrible, awful, devastating conflicts in the world, finishing with the Second World War, where I think all of us Europeans felt the shame of the most awful, awful destruction it brought to the world. And we have learnt through our experience that peace is more convenient than war. It is not only about values and "nice to have" dreams, it is simply more convenient for all of us. At the end of the day the European Union started with coal and steel, which is not something very poetic, it is something very concrete and practical and it brought us so many decades of peace. We simply understood that, as President Ahtisaari said, there is always a solution to any conflict. And I would add that the solution to conflict is always better than the conflict itself.

Today, we are challenged. You cannot imagine how many times I am accused of being naive, simply because I speak of peace or the need for peace, as if it was something for girls, something for the weak. As if looking for peace or building peace or mediating was something weak. The strong ones fight. Well, I believe we Europeans have learnt that fighting requires much less courage than making peace - making peace is the difficult part of it. It is recognising the others' reasons and interests and compromise on them and finding the common ground of the win-win solutions that requires courage and boldness. If you are weak, you are too afraid to make peace. I think here we have some work to do also on media and journalists to start to re-inverse the narrative. You can be soft, you can smile, you can be kind and you can be strong. The two things do not go in opposite sides. And I think this is deeply European.

I think this European way has been very much inspired and forged by the work of President Ahtisaari. In Aceh, when negotiating the end of the civil war in Indonesia - if I am not wrong - President Ahtisaari called the European Union to come in and [Javier] Solana [former High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy] at a time answered in a positive manner, not only to monitor the disarmament and the reconciliation, but also to help with economic reconstruction. And that was, I believe, the first time when the toolbox of the European Union in terms of leverage was used at the service of peace making, not only from a security angle, but through what we now call  the "comprehensive approach". This was the first time, I think, when the European Union was called and answered to play its global role at full. And today, Indonesia is one of our closest partners and friends on the global scene, on multilateralism, in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and so many different things.

Another example is regional cooperation. The work that President Ahtisaari made in Africa and particularly in Namibia, I think, is telling: yes, conflicts are contagious, but also peace is contagious. And if I am not wrong, it was Nelson Mandela saying that thanks to that work the entire southern part of Africa, starting from South Africa, was inspired to make peace and reconciliation happen. And this means that not only is there a solution to every conflict, but also that to every conflict there is a pattern leading to regional cooperation. Think of the Balkans: I would not spend more words on Kosovo, as this could lead us to breakfast, but it is clear that the work that has been done by President Ahtisaari on Kosovo, but not only Kosovo, in the Balkans has led to an atmosphere in the region that continues to be complicated and difficult, but 20 years ago we were at war. 20 years is nothing, it is yesterday. And today I invite regularly Prime Ministers and Presidents of all the six partners we have in the Balkans for a dinner in Brussels - regularly, every four months. The first time we had to be careful on who was sitting next to each other and who was being first and in what languages we were speaking to one another. And today I am relaxed if they start speaking their own languages, understanding each other, because the aim of mediation is when the mediator is not needed anymore.

And this is the result of turning conflicts into regional cooperation patterns. And I believe the next step is the Gulf. It will be much more challenging, but I believe it is going to be needed. And then if I can say one last word on why the President Ahtisaari is so inspiring to me personally, it is what we just mentioned a few minutes ago: stubbornness. I take it as a compliment. I believe that it is a duty, it is a responsibility, it is very tiring, but being stubborn and never giving up in negotiations, in mediation and sometimes even in politics, is the most precious tool you can have around that table. Sometimes it becomes hard, tough and sometimes you have to be hard and tough. But not giving up is the fundamental compass we continue to have thanks to the lessons that we have learned from him, from you Martti [Ahtisaari]. In these times, we will need to keep this strength of stubbornness and attachment to our values and principles, even when they are under attack, very firm, very clear, because it might get difficult. We could head towards complicated times, even more complicated than they are now. But I think that if we are true to ourselves, the others will recognise leadership, consistency, and at the end of the day we will find the sparkling light at the end of the long tunnel.

And then let me say a few words on this initiative of bringing more women around the mediation table. To me, it has not been particularly difficult, personally, because the main negotiating process I have been part of was with a team: if we managed to achieve the Iran nuclear deal, this was thanks to an excellent teamwork. Let me say that I was proud in that moment of our European officials, who literally drafted 103 pages of the nuclear deal with Iran most of them overnight, with plenty of technical details that were hard to even understand for most of us inside and outside of that room.

We had a team that was mainly composed of women. The European team was mostly women. In the Iran team there were a couple of women. The Americans had Wendy Sherman [former US Under-Secretary of Political Affairs], who played an extraordinary role. And I believe that part of the results we achieved was for the patience, stubbornness and - if the men in the room allow me - the lack of ego-management requirements that the presence of women in the room brought, so that for us it was not important who was speaking first, who was appearing to be achieving results, but that we achieved results. And we achieved results. But I realised more and more that around the table in the Syria negotiations, in the Middle East peace process, on Libya, on North Korea, on Afghanistan, I was often the only woman around the table.

And this is why we have started to work systematically to support and promote the presence of women in peace negotiations, starting from Syria, where we support the group of Syrian women that are advising Staffan de Mistura [UN Special Envoy for Syria] and his work. And let me tell you they come from completely different backgrounds, completely different political orientations and they always find a common ground among themselves - always. I am convinced that if it was on them, the work would have been over long ago. Also in Afghanistan we are trying to make sure that in the peace process hopefully to come, women find their place at the table, at least on the government's side. And in all the other processes in which we are trying to help and support, including in Libya, we are looking at ways in which we can open the space for women to be sitting at the table, because they bring a different perspective. And most of the times they helped finding the solution. I would be more than happy to partner in this project to bring the voices and the wisdom of women in negotiations more, as it is very much needed.

Let me finish by saying that the President of the Republic said something that touched me a lot when he said that President Ahtisaari made all Finns proud, 10 years ago and I believe also today. And I immediately thought not only the Finns but all of us, Europeans! I would like to thank Martti [Ahtisaari] for having served peace for so long and for continuing to serve peace. His work is not only a legacy and inspiration to all of us, but also a living body, a group of people that are continuing this job in a marvellous manner with a team and most of all, because he is continuously - not only 10 years ago, not only before, but also today - making us all proud to be Europeans. Thank you.


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