European Union External Action

Extracts from the High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini's keynote address at the Conference "The EU's Contribution to Global Rules: Challenges in an Age of Power Shifts".

 

The Hague, 8 December 2015

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Actually, you might even wonder if there is one international system. Borders are redrawn, terror spreads, and international norms are bent or broken. So, can we discuss about common global rules? That is the first question to ask ourselves. And let me answer very directly: not only we can but we must. This is not just an academic discussion, I believe; it is about our own future, our values and our interests, our place and our strength in the world.

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But there is one mistake we cannot afford. We cannot be led by fear. We cannot act impulsively. Of course, we must react to crises, and sometimes we have the feeling of not doing anything else, but running from crisis to crisis. Of course, we have to react to crises, manage, in the best case scenario prevent, and manage the post-conflict. We have to be ready collectively for action here and now. But we must always be always driven by a vision of what we want to achieve, in the medium- and long-term, and how we want to get there. Emotional reactions can be very powerful but can only lead us so far. Un-strategic engagement can easily backfire. We need a strategy, a common one, to orientate our external action beyond the latest crisis, or the current one, and to prevent the next one.

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I believe that in an age of power shifts, as we are living in, Europe can be a global power and a force for good. I believe that faced with increasing disorder, Europe must be the driving force pushing for a new global order: a global order based on rules, on cooperation, and on multilateral diplomacy.

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Europe’s commitment to a rules-based multilateral order stems from our beliefs and from our principles, it stems from our identity. This is what we are and this is who we are. But it is also based on experience and realism. Our values and our interests converge upon the same goal. In a cooperative world order, Europe is safer and is stronger.

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More recently, the temptation of a new Cold War has resurfaced as if the world was still the same - but it is not. I believe it is first of all our responsibility as Europeans and our interest to pass this message, to explain that now the world is not anymore like that. I believe no one in Europe can regret the end of an era of iron curtains and armed peace. But there is more than that. A new confrontation between world powers will not bring stability to the world, it would only let our common enemies prevail. It would soon give way to global chaos. For this is the alternative for our generation: a cooperative world order, or chaos. Terrorist groups like Da’esh are a threat to all nations, with no exceptions. Their goals are, in a way, very traditional: money, natural resources, power. At the same time, chaos is their breeding ground and their political goal; this is new. Against agents of chaos, we need cooperation among all nations: a global alliance against global disorder. Multilateralism is not the forgotten dream of the Nineties – it is the clarion call of our age.

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2015 has been an exceptional year for multilateralism. It has also been an exceptional year for crisis but also have to see the positive trends. Cooperation among world powers – the EU, the US, Russia and China – has led to a historic deal on Iran’s nuclear programme. The UN General Assembly and the Security Council in New York saw a growing consensus on the fight against Da'esh and other terrorist groups, and we had a global agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals.

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We need cooperation on a global scale. But we also need to strengthen regional and sub-regional architectures. Our European Union has provided our continent with unprecedented peace. We were reminded of that very wisely. We had peace, stability and economic prosperity, even sometimes we tend to forget, how fortunate and lucky we are today. This is the result of courageous, wise choices that our founding fathers did many decades ago. And of the end of the day it was the choice of cooperation rather than confrontation after the most terrible war that the world had experienced. The same can happen with other regional organisations.

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And on a smaller scale, addressing or preventing a crisis might require that we engage with regional and local players. We need to enlist all who have a concrete impact on the ground, with local authorities, with the communities, with the civil society and with religious leaders. We need to pioneer a new form of engagement in conflicts, by sharing responsibilities with other powers, with other forms of power. We have to think mega-regional and mini-lateral at the same time.

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We cannot split the world in new spheres of influence: in an age of fast power shifts, it would only lead to perennial conflict. Think of the Middle East: drawing borders on sectarian lines would only produce more instability, more sectarianism and more hatred. In this world, walls are made to be torn down: they can only hide reality, but they do not make it better. We do not need new fences; we need to build up new spaces of coexistence and of cooperation. This is true in the Middle East as much as inside Europe.

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I believe we are seeing - sometimes taking part in - the wrong debate, as if integration, further integration on the European side is opposed somehow to sovereignty and national sovereignty, as if the European project and the coming together as a Union is a way of renouncing sovereignty. I believe the contrary is true. The European Union is the only way to regain sovereignty in this complicated world.

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