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It is my pleasure to open this week’s conference of Heads of Delegations. I have also seen that our Heads of Missions and Operations are with us and this is something I welcome very much, because indeed the work we do together, all together, is particularly important especially in these times. But before I start I would also like to join Helga [Schmid, Secretary general of the EEAS] in welcoming our new Political Director Jean Christophe Belliard who will be with you the entire week.
I would like to start by thanking you all - Heads of Delegations but also all of you who work in our missions and operations - for the incredible work that we have done together in the last year. And the last year has been quite a difficult one, very intense and we are entering into probably an even more intense and complex year ahead of us. So the “thank you” comes with the expectation that we will not only continue with the depth and the rhythm we have had this year, but probably also increase it.
First of all, because I believe we have collectively, all of us in this room and all who work with us in the Delegations, operations, missions, Headquarters, a huge responsibility – actually, maybe I would say two huge responsibilities. One is that we are together the face and the voice of the European Union with our partners in the world – in our region and beyond our region. We know very well that in these months and in the year ahead we will need to reaffirm very strongly the EU's determination to play a very consistent, a very strong regional and global role and we are not looking inwards. I say this very openly, because I know very well that, especially after the result of the UK referendum but not only that – some of our partners are asking themselves if we are still focussed on our external relations, on our external action; if they are still key for us, if they are still important for us.
We have experienced this just the day before yesterday in Bratislava when, at the margins of the Foreign Affairs Ministers Informal Meeting, our friends of the Eastern Partnership, but also from the Balkans were asking the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the European Union if they were still a priority for us. And we had – I had – the honour but also the responsibility to say yes: it is a priority for us, it is actually a priority for us even more now, because we see it every day, the Europeans see it every day, the world is a dangerous place, and the only way in which we can invest in our own security and prosperity is if we work together with our partners in the world.
I have seen this plea for a reconfirmation of commitment and engagement with our partners all over the world in the last couple of months. I could mention a few examples, but I am sure that each and every one of you could mention ten more.
In July it was quite significant to me that [US Secretary of State] John Kerry paid his first visit to the Foreign Affairs Council. He was in Brussels twice and I was in the United States twice as well in only one month to reaffirm the strong link and the strong attention from the United States to the European Union as such and from the European Union to the United States as such. The same goes for Canada, where we have a very important summit coming up. And I hope and I believe it will be a very important moment to go on with CETA and continue also with our trade agenda.
The same goes for Asia. It was very important that we have reaffirmed our determination to work together with all our Asian friends and partners, also in the month of July - with the summit with China, a complicated but very important one, the work we are doing with ASEAN, and the work we are doing with all the partners we have at the ASEM summit in Mongolia in July.
In Africa, always looking for partnerships; and in these weeks the work we are doing with key partners on these new partnerships we have established is fundamental. We will launch next week a new External Investment Plan, and also the ongoing work with the G5 Sahel and the work that we need to start preparing for the next EU-Africa Summit that, I will suggest, should focus on youth both in Africa and in Europe.
So, to help us focus on the challenges that both migration and radicalisation pose to us, both inside the European Union and inside the African continent.
And on Latin America, in a few weeks from now, I will be in Cartagena I understand, witnessing the signature of the peace agreement [between Colombia and the FARC] that the European Union has accompanied all along these years and that we will be supporting in the future. And also with the historical move we have done hosting the Argentinian President for the first visit in – I think – six years to the European institutions just a few months ago, or the relation with Mexico and I could go on forever.
This is to say that wherever we turn around and look at our partnerships – and I did not mention Oceania but we are having a bilateral with Ms Julie Bishop, the Foreign Minister of Australia, just this week – wherever we look around, we see our partners looking at us – by “us” I really mean “us in this room” and all the people who are working with us – looking for confirmation of a strong determination, a strong commitment, a strong engagement, of the European Union's role in the world. And I have not mentioned North Africa and Middle East because somehow I take it for granted - this is the first test of our global work and sometimes we are, if not the only one, for sure the first to mention constantly the crisis in Syria, the crisis in Libya and the need to go on with the Middle East Peace Process in a consistent way.
I do not want to do a shopping list here, we will have the questions and answers session and we will have again occasions to meet tomorrow and also the day after tomorrow so we will have plenty of time to discuss this year but just to mention a few elements of what I see around the world is the request to Europe. So we have this strong responsibility, collectively, to pass this message that yes, the European Union is not only still there but is going to be there more and more and more, and in an even stronger way in the coming months and years.
We also have a second responsibility that is a responsibility towards the European Union's citizens. Obviously our first responsibility towards the EU's citizens is the one that we have to meet when we represent their interest, their collective interest, their values, their expectations, but also, I believe, especially in these days, we have a collective responsibility to them to let them see and realise what the European Union represents in the world and for the world because sometimes we know very well, you know better than me, that the European Union seen from the outside sometimes shows much more added value than when you look at it from the inside.
Now, this does not mean that seen from the outside we are perfect, far from that. You all can come with a list of ten, twenty one, hundreds, depending on where your are posted, elements on which we should change, and this is true, we have to change some things. But, if you look at the way our partners look at us, from every single angle of the world what we hear is not only the question "will you still be here?", but mainly "we need you to be there." Because the European Union is a key partner for peace, a key partner for stability, a key partner for economy, a key partner for many things, we have a long, long list. And sometimes my impression, it is a personal impression, is that our European citizens do not always see, do not always hear these messages coming from the outside on how important the European Union is for the world and for the stability of the world, which is also the interest of the Europeans.
So I will just mention three examples of messages we have heard in these last weeks. US President Barack Obama, the Hannover speech that we were mentioning when we were in Washington a few months ago. I think that the speech that President Obama gave in Hannover should be somehow sent around inside the European Union, but President Obama mentioning, I quote, that "the European Union is one of the greatest political and economic achievements of modern times" and thanking the European Union as such both for the Iranian deal and for the climate change deal in Paris last year, should make us open our eyes on how important our work is even for super powers like the United States.
Again, Prime Minister of Georgia [Giorgi Kvirikashvili], a few weeks ago, refers to us as "the most powerful regional union in the world," and I have heard that sentence so many times meeting of Heads of State and Government, Foreign Ministers but also people around the world and I am sure you listen to the same messages. But is it the same messages that our citizens inside the European Union hear? I am not sure. So maybe we have also this responsibility of bringing back this kind of perception of the European Union.
Or, in Tunisia, the Foreign Minister [Khemaies Jhinaoui] mentioning the fact that the European Union is, I quote, the "first sponsor of Human Rights and democracy" in a region as important as the Arab one.
Or, again, the Japanese Prime Minister [Shinzo Abe], I am quoting, "a strong, united Europe is essential" to global order. All those messages that you hear, that I hear - we have also the responsibility of bringing this back to the European institutions, the national institutions somehow. And I know you can do that, also through the network of Ambassadors that we coordinate and gather wherever you are posted, and also to our European citizens. This is a lot relying on our efforts on communication, not only outside, and I know you will be also working on this in this week.
It is very important for me that we manage to pass messages in an effective way. But it is not just about the opinion of world leaders. I am convinced that this is about people's lives – because these are messages that I hear when I talk to Ministers or Presidents, but these are also messages that I hear from people wherever I travel in the world. And I am sure you see hundreds of stories that are worth to be told to the European citizens on what we do in the world. This is about families in Iraq that go back to their home, thanks to our work for de-mining the areas liberated from Daesh. This is about the two children that were born on our ships in the Mediterranean, Sophia and Ikpomosa. It is not an operation that was thought for saving lives only, but it is saving lives and this is about people's lives.
It is about the stories I have seen in Ethiopia of young women who decided after terrible slave stories linked to migration experiences to return back and with projects funded by the European Union, together with the ILO, supporting their reintegration in their own community, and we could have hundreds or thousands of stories like that our European citizens need to know and need to hear because this is the added value of working together. Wherever we work together as the European Union, the EU plus the Member States, we are the number one. And we do not see it. And this is my pride, at the same time my concern that we have to continue to be the number one and we have to continue to reflect or actually maybe to start to reflect on how to make it better and also on how to make it visible for our citizens because understanding our potential is, I believe, a starting point.
The Union is everywhere in the world, the Union plus its Member States, and this is also why I will insist so much on joint programming everywhere we can. The Union plus its Member States is everywhere the first trading partner, the first humanitarian or development donor, the first foreign investor and I could continue - first economic presence, first diplomatic presence, sometimes first security provider. This is especially true in Africa but not only, we are starting to do the same or at least to increase our level of being a security provider in Asia and in our region as well – I will come to that in a moment.
But this is to say that the fact that we are, as a Union, in the world's G3 is not the perception of our citizens. Sometimes it is not even the perception of our decision makers, and we need to change that. Because if you are strong and you have a huge potential and you are not aware of it, it is useless. You do not use it and if you do not use it, you lose it. And this is why I believe that in the year ahead we will have to have all of us focussing on this huge, huge effort of making us understand what we have in our hands, and use it before it is too late and we lose it all.
Sorry, it might sound a bit dramatic but I think we are at this turning point. We could relaunch our European project and make it even more functional and powerful for the EU citizens and for the rest of the world, or we could diminish its intensity and its power until we get to the point that this "being the first" becomes not really a reality anymore. This was also somehow the exercise we launched with the Global Strategy, and this is also why we decided to present the Global Strategy to the Council even if it was a couple of days after a shocking result in the UK. Because exactly in the moment when people inside and outside Europe question the most whether the European Union is and will still be there, we need to say “yes” and to put on the table ideas on how we want to relaunch our role in the world and in our region.
And this is why, this has not to be and to stay a paper: the Strategy is not a paper, it is not an academic work, it is not done to stay on our desks - or under our desks. It has to become action, it has to turn the vision into a common action, and this is why I have started already with the help of some of you – most of you, many of you, maybe not in the Delegations but it will come and it has to come also already in this week – to have ideas, concrete ideas, on implementation and to start looking at all our policies, all our practices, in the Delegations, in the Missions, in the Operations, on how to translate these ideas into something real.
I have started to do that already last week with my colleagues in the Commission, with the Foreign Ministers at the Informal meeting in Bratislava, we discussed about ideas for implementation, I will come to that in a moment, and I intend to do the same also with the Defence Ministers, with the Development Ministers, with the European Parliament, with national Parliaments, first and foremost we have to do it through our network in the world because we have asked our partners in the world to contribute with ideas to the Global Strategy, we have to use the Strategy and its implementation now to establish even deeper working relations with our partners in the world.
Let me tell you a bit on how I imagine the work on the implementation of the Strategy. I think it is useful for our work and again then we will have more time to go into the more specific policies issues if you want, not only today but also in the coming days.
First thing, I intend to present a roadmap for implementation with concrete timetables and steps. My note says by mid-September: actually it is for the end of this week, and this tells you something about the speed we need to keep. Because things need to be moving not in a matter of years but in a matter of weeks and this speed is something I require and our citizens require from all of us in a very clear way.
I see the focus on implementation on four specific areas. I will start with the one that might not be the most evident one in the Global Strategy, but I think is the one that has the most clear and evident window of political opportunity in this moment, especially with Member States but also with the Commission and with our citizens which is the work we can do on implementation of security and defence. The Strategy has already opened a debate, you may have noticed this. In the debate over the summer a certain number of Ministers, Prime Ministers, Heads of State, Commissioners, whatever, have come up with ideas on how to build our European Security Union, how to make sure that our defence at a European Union's level uses all the potential it can have. And I think this is a very positive sign because if we do not have the ownership, the buy-in, the commitment of all stakeholders here starting from the Member States, this will not be a possible way to go.
So, I think that we have the political space today to do things that were not really do-able in the previous years. My intention is to present, before the end of the year, an ambitious, the highest possible ambitious level, an ambitious implementation plan on security and defence, including a few clear elements. One: how we make full use of the existing Treaties, how to make use of the huge potential of what we have already, from an institutional point of view. The Strategy mentions the Battlegroups, and the need to remove the obstacles to their deployment. But we have also other issues like structured cooperation, or how to best implement an article we use already, article 42.7 or an article we have never used, article 44. It is not an exhaustive list: it is just to give you a flavour of what I intend to put on the table.
Second element on security and defence: change our institutional structure because we could have the need also to be imaginative. Because our recent experience shows very clearly, and some of you have experienced it directly, how crucial the cooperation between the civilian and military personnel is. We have seen it in the missions in the Sahel, we have seen it in Operation Sophia, we have seen it in many different fields, we see it in Libya in a very clear way. A more effective joint civilian-military planning might need a specific structure and we will look into this kind of institutional innovation as well.
Third element on the chapter of security and defence: capabilities because we will have to speed up the process towards a truly European defence industry, identifying key strategic activities supported by the European Defence Action Plan. I think that we could look at incentives in that field as well.
Another element, last but not least: working with partners in the field of security and defence. NATO is the most obvious one. We have signed with NATO a joint declaration at the margins of the Warsaw Summit, it is now for implementation. I intend to present proposals for implementation of that Joint Declaration in the coming couple of months. But it is not only NATO because with the United Nations for instance we work a lot on security and defence and many of you see it every day on the ground. This is not in contradiction; working with partners is not in contradiction with strengthening our capacities to work autonomously on security and defence because actually in the world of today the only way in which we, Europeans, can take responsibility for our collective security, and doing our part, our share of responsibility, is through cooperation inside the European Union.
Now we know very well that this part of the implementation of the Strategy will get and will need much of our attention and work and for sure, from a media point of view, it will be one of the most attractive ones, but part, actually the key element of the Strategy and the key element of our work also is the idea, the core idea, that military means alone never solve anything. They work, this is the European Union's way, they work whenever they are mixed and accompanied by all the other tools we have. And this is true for all the crisis we are dealing with now. So we know that security is never real, never stable, never sustainable somehow, if it does not go together without good development, human security in all its aspects, trade policies, economic opportunities, diplomacy, dialogue, reconciliation but also investments in culture, education, social inclusion – and I could go on forever. We are the ones who do not deny the role of hard security but we always want to accompany it with all the rest, the soft power. And also here, we are definitely the best – “also here” refers to the soft power, on the hard power as you might have noticed I think we have a lot to do, and that we are ready to do it.
So the implementation of the Strategy, our work in the months ahead, will also have to span across all the different sectors of our policies and tools, with the same level of ambition that I have highlighted for the security and defence one which means the highest.
I will mention three other elements, areas where I see priority in the implementation of the Strategy which means translating it to our daily work. First, an integrated approach to crises and conflicts, the work on resilience that is so key in the work we do. Resilience, integrated approach, conflict and crises, we need to re-define the work we do by making sure that we intervene at all stages of a conflict, that we reach out to all actors, be it the very local, that is not necessarily national or not necessarily institutional, which might create some problems but we need to find a way. Mobilising all our tools in a coherent way and this is also why, by the way, it is so important for me that in the implementation of the Strategy, I use the three hats I have – because I do not have only two [hats]- the European Defence Agency, the Vice Presidency of the Commission and the High Representative, presiding some of the Council's formations and obviously having the responsibility of such a wonderful network of Delegations, Operations and Missions that we have in the world.
Making the coherence of all these instruments will be key to turn this idea into something real. We will have a first test, beginning of October, with the Afghanistan conference we are hosting here in Brussels together with the Afghan government, where we will focus on the peace process, on the post-war stabilisation, on development, on migration, while trying to build at the same time a regional framework for supporting the country and its recovery, trying to involve all the regional partners we have – because we know that what is important for us it is even more important for them – somehow being a facilitator and an honest broker. This is just one example; I could make another ten, of how we can bring together different pieces of our work. And you do that every day in your work to have what we call an integrated approach or a work on resilience.
The third element on which I believe we need to focus our work in the next months and also the implementation of the Strategy is this idea of having more internal/external coordination or nexus in our work. Up to a couple of years ago, maybe even last year, we had internal policies and external policies. And now we are understanding that namely on counter terrorism and migration, but on other things as well, also on economy growth and investment if we look carefully at that, we need to mix and match policies and resources we have, in the European Union, in a much more coordinated way. Here the work has started already - this is by the way what the Sustainable Development Goals expect us to do – and we will not wait a minute for the implementation of this, having worked so hard to make them achievable. Now we have to work on turning this “achievable” into something real and this is something we will do also already from couple of weeks' time in New York in the UN General Assembly.
But migration is the key example here, and work here has already started. We are working very intensively, and some of you that I would like to thank you in a special way, are working on the ground intensively, on our new Migration partnerships or Migration Compacts. As I have said, we will present next week a very ambitious and innovative External Investment Plan to tackle the causes, the deep causes of migration in a sense of partnership, acknowledging the fact that this is not a European problem, this is a global phenomenon, somehow I often say, the new normal in the world of today with the most of the flows happening within Africa and within Asia, some of it happening towards the European Union. If you have a common, global, complex, difficult phenomenon, the only way you can manage it is together, globally, and this is why we will bring in the UN General Assembly the idea of a global compact for migration where it is not a trade-off – I do something if you do something else – but we have a common issue, how we work together to manage it in a sustainable way. And the together is not only with the countries of origin and transit, even if it is mainly countries of origin and transit, but it is also with other partners in the world from Canada to Argentina, how we can better sustain the world in facing a very difficult challenge.
When we look at this, the example of the External Investment Plan, tells us also that we are also helping our own economy, because while we work on the deep roots of migration, we work on how to facilitate investments in countries of origin. We are also trying to assist EU investors in other parts of the world, in new parts of the world with, maybe, innovative projects that could help also on other issues that are always related to the Sustainable Development Goals – like resilience to climate change or other issues related to infrastructures.
What we are trying to do here is building this more cooperative international environment in the daily work we are doing, bringing together public, private, NGOs, institutions, Member States, Commission, European Union, United Nations, other partners in the world, you name it. The world is complicated: if I had to explain it to my daughters I would say "the world is a mess". Our region is particularly as such. We have to work together, we have to work together inside the Union and with our partners. The message might be a bit simplified but I think we have to get back to basics sometimes. And delegations are the hubs of this. Each and every delegation is the hub of this integrated approach, of this cooperative work we are trying to build with local partners, with international partners, who are present everywhere you are. It might change, it does change very much from place to place, but in every single delegation we have, we have this mix that can be built, strengthened, supported, invented sometimes.
Finally, last point, on which we will need to focus on the implementation of the Strategy, is the strategies that we have. We have plenty of strategies, sometimes I ask my staff or the services: "What happens to the strategies after we have adopted them?" Because sometimes I have the feeling that we produce strategies and then – ok, we have it – and nothing happens. This time we will go to all the strategies we have and see – according to the priorities and the guidelines we have in the Global Strategy – where we need to update them, where we need to work in a different way on implementation of these strategies, where we need new common strategies or approaches. There are few elements on which we might need to think a bit more pro-actively. For instance, one idea could be working more pro-actively in our approach to connectivity in the Eurasian space, and not only waiting for some inputs to come from some of our big partners in the Asian region. Or we could work on merging the work we do on energy security and climate change in a more proactive way. And these are only some of the ideas that will come up with the revision of all the existing strategies we have.
And this, let me finish by saying this, does not come on top of all the policy priorities we have. It is not that we have to do this global exercise, this theoretical exercise and in the meantime we have to, you know, deal with Syria and Libya, Ukraine and a certain number of other crises. I think that the real challenge here is to bring this approach also to the emergencies we have today. Because if you look at Syria for instance, it is clear that you do not defeat Daesh, you do not put an end to the war in Syria, if you do not, at the same time, address radicalisation, which is at the same time an internal and an external challenge, work on reconstruction, work on national reconciliation, work with different actors in the world and in the region, work on the security level, work on the diplomatic level. So, it is all there. It is just that we need to have this more and more inside our daily work.
And the same goes on Libya, we can help stabilise Libya only if we use all the elements we have, as we are trying to do. But the same goes for supporting peace being it in Colombia or in Myanmar. It requires different strengths of actions as it requires different strengths of actions in all areas of the world, from Africa to the Balkans and the Eastern Partners.
By the way, let me say one world on the Balkans: I will meet all of you who are posted in the Balkans – I think, tomorrow. There we really need to move forward very, very consistently. This is a footnote, but not so much for me. It is Europe and it is the investment in our security first of all.
So, to conclude – and I apologise, I took a lot of time – but over the next few days, we will have the opportunity to discuss and focus more on different priorities together. But what I would like to stress is again what we need to pass as a main message. We will also have to work internally on the necessary institutional adjustments, including in the EEAS, I will leave that for Helga, we have discussed this over the last days, but it is perhaps as important to tune in on our common mission, our common message in the months to come. And my message would be in a word, a mix of European pride and hunger for change, and ambition to realise this change, internally first of all.
Let's give, let's try to give voice to all those proud Europeans who see very clearly why we count and why we deliver much more for our citizens and for the rest of the world if we act united as Europeans than if we are fragmented. And let's try to give voice to all those who see very clearly that we are not losing sovereignty when we act as a European Union, but we are actually regaining sovereignty at the European Union's level because in the world of today, in the global world of today, the only way which you can really and effectively exercise sovereignty is all together. No one of our Member States can exercise sovereignty effectively in the global world of today alone. While we can, if we want - if we want - if we act, together. So, we are much stronger than we realise. We have to use this strength, we have to pass the message of this strength, we have to foster it, we also have to change the things that prevent us from working more effectively. We have a lot to change, we have to make Europe an even stronger regional and global player and this is in the interest of our citizens and also in the interest of the rest of the world.
I thank you very much for your work, I thank you very much for your very silent attention and I am looking forward to our exchange and also to the entire week of work that is ahead of us– and most of all, to the entire year of work that is ahead of us. And, by the way, a special word of welcome for all of you who are joining us this year for the first time. Thank you very much.
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