Check against delivery!
Grazie Luca [Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee].
E' veramente un piacere tornare tra amici, trovare un amico come te – io e Luca ci conosciamo da molti anni, nel nostro passato italiano. Ma soprattutto tornare qui, condividere con voi, ma anche e soprattutto per me ascoltare il vostro punto di vista sulla nostra politica estera e di sicurezza comune, sulla nostra politica estera europea.
It is a pleasure for me to be here with you, because as you might know my own background - my own roots - are in the NGO sector and civil society. And this is maybe why for me it has always been clear that foreign policy is never just about governments. It is even truer today, I think: governments alone and institutions alone would never make foreign policy effective, it would simply not work. That requires NGOs, civil society organisations, private companies – large, small, medium, and micro – trade unions, media, academia and the list could continue. In one sentence: you need politics to be rooted in society, you need policies to be rooted in society otherwise it simply does not work.
I know that this sounds like common sense to all of you in this room - I would say to all of us in this room. Yet, I believe it has never been more urgent to stress this message nowadays. Politics and diplomacy is not just a matter for strong men. And I underline men, because I see the tendency of thinking that deals are done by two strong men sitting across a table and shaking hands. First of all, most of the functioning agreements are made by women – but I see that you do not need gender advocacy here, rather the contrary -, but most of all if you do not have countries, societies, people behind these agreements, they stay on paper – provided they stay on paper.
Secondly, it is more just to have, I would say, a participatory diplomacy in our world; it is also the only way for policies and diplomacy to be effective. This is even truer today, because the more complex our world becomes, the less top-down policies work. You need social actors to be part of it. This is what we had in mind when we put resilience at the core of our Global Strategy
. It is true the Global Strategy was drafted, approved, presented before the referendum on Brexit – actually it was presented the day after with a timely sequence of steps -, it was presented with a different US administration and in a different global scenario. But if you read it today, it still has everything it has to have in it and mainly the compass – the values, the principles and the interest that are our values, interests and principles - at the centre of our action.
With the Global Strategy we wanted, first of all, to shift from a purely security angle to a global angle, introducing the concept of sustainable security. But we also wanted to shift the focus towards societies, because often the focus is on institutions – governments, inter-institutional or multilateral agreements -, but we believed and we saw at the time that if things do not move in the right direction, it is because there is not enough investment on resilience in societies. There can be no sustainable peace, there can be no sustainable security when societies are not strong, when human rights are disregarded, when the economy is unequal, when entire sectors of the population cannot contribute to their country's public life. You can have an illusion of stability and security, but it never lasts. Everything collapses in a very short time.
And, Luca, let me say that the priorities you have set at the beginning of your Presidency are fully in line with this approach and are fully in line with everything that we have been trying to do in these last years: sustainable development, sustainable peace, the role of culture in our work and the constant focus on youth – I would say this is actually probably the first focus we have. These are your priorities, these are my priorities, and these are our priorities together. I will touch briefly on these four and then I would leave the floor to your comments. I am obviously more than happy to answer questions, but also I would be very much interested in hearing your views, your comments, your suggestions, and your indications on how we can make our common work on foreign and security policy on the European side more effective.
First, on sustainable development: It is completely clear to me and to all of us in this room that governments alone cannot deliver on the sustainable development goals in isolation if we are serious on achieving them. This has been the reason why we have put forward some proposals in these years - the best example is the External Investment Plan
- with the work we have done with the European Commission for Africa and our neighbourhood, trying to incentivise, encourage, accompany the private sector in making investments in the most fragile areas - in particular in Africa, but not only - so that private investment can contribute to sustainable growth and inclusiveness.
Creating jobs is obviously always important - including inside Europe, but this is not my portfolio. But it is even more important - including for European stability and security - to create good jobs, first of all quality jobs, but also to do it in the places where they are needed the most. And the most fragile areas of Africa in particular are also the places where for the private sector it is more difficult to go, because of security, institutional, bureaucratic reasons that go beyond the will of the private sector sometimes. So we have established not only a guarantee – a fund –, but also a network of support to accompany these investments in places where it is more difficult, but also more needed to have them.
Recently, we are also exploring a new kind of partnership with tech companies, in particular, with an initiative I have set up called Global Tech Panel
. One of the first projects that we have put in place aims at providing digital skills to all Tunisian youth. You know that Tunisia has always been at the forefront of any movement, of any change that has happened around the Mediterranean. We have thought that by putting together private and public sector that maybe Tunisia with its educated, large young population can be a laboratory for exploring the digital potentials of job creation and economic development. This is, obviously, something too ambitious for governments alone to do, but this is also something that private companies could not achieve without the support of the public sector. So we are bringing together private and public, local as well as global actors, not only from the Mediterranean, but from everywhere in the world to try and pursue this objective.
Clearly, trade unions and civil society organisations are essential partners in this kind of work. When workers are discriminated, when they do not get equal pay for equal work, when they cannot make a decent living, we cannot call this sustainable development. And this is not going to lead to a resilient society. And when the economy is not fair, it is also not efficient. So we are trying to put social and economic rights and the centre of action, including in our foreign policy.
We launched recently a campaign, during the UN General Assembly Ministerial Week, on Good Human Rights Stories
. You know that the European Union has probably remained the - I hope not the last, but almost – strong player when it comes to advocating for human rights in foreign policy. We will always continue to focus and base our foreign policy on human rights. But we also want to highlight the good results that work on human rights brings in societies. And we highlighted several cases where through our work with civil society, we have managed to make a real difference in the life of many workers, which is a different angle of seeing foreign policy, if you like.
The second point I would like to touch upon is sustainable peace. Obviously, I do not need to explain to such an audience that there is a close connection between sustainable development and sustainable security. To us, the two go together and this is what I would call the European way to peace and security, make it sustainable in the daily life. And here again, we can only work together. Sustainable peace needs good jobs and opportunities.
I know that the link is not immediate in everybody's mind, but I would mention to you one example that highlights how the two fields of work are joined in our daily work and that is the example of the work we are doing in Colombia, supporting the implementation of the Peace Agreement between the government and the FARC. We are working there with civil society and with also the private sector so that ex-fighters can learn a job, or some of them go back to school, because many of them are children and need to continue or to sometimes start education. It is not enough to have a Peace Agreement; it is not enough to make the fighters lay down their arms. You have to offer them a real opportunity to change [their] life, to be part of the society, to be part of the political life of the country, of the economy of the country. This is the kind of work that normally does not go together with the normal peace foreign policy approach, but it is the integral part of the success of any agreement. And here I see a lot of potential for us to work together, not only in this format, but also with your partners in the rest of the world.
The same is true closer to here – in Africa, for former militiamen, but also for those who used to be human smugglers and are now being pushed to change life. I think we have to ask ourselves: How can we offer alternatives to the economy of the economy of the trafficking of human beings? How can we offer jobs and opportunities to the communities that have now, in the recent years, lived out of trafficking human beings and exploiting desperation?
Third point, culture: This is indeed something for which we have had to fight. The first initial reaction of many has been that culture in foreign policy is cocktails in embassies, exhibitions, fashion, music, piano concerts – what is this? I think that it is absolutely clear that first of all, culture is a very important part of our soft power; and if you think of how the Cold War ended, you probably realise that soft power was more relevant than hard power. And maybe movies, jeans and Coca Cola played a relevant part in the mindset and the aspirations of the people. Our culture is part of our DNA, it is part of our toolbox in terms of soft power, and it is also part of our economies – a very relevant part of it.
We had to fight to include culture as a fundamental element and at the centre of our foreign policy. Now, it is already being implemented. I can share with you two good examples: Iraq and Mali, where we are today restoring cultural heritage destroyed by terrorists. In Iraq in particular, we launched less than one year ago a European Union mission
that is working on supporting the Iraqi authorities in their reform of the security sector, and for the first time ever, a European Union Civilian Mission includes an expert on cultural heritage protection, so that we can help the authorities protect and restore the cultural heritage of the country.
Why is it so important? First of all, for reconciliation. When terrorists destroy parts of the cultural heritage, the message is to either a group, be it ethnic or religious, "you do not belong in here, this is not your place, this is not your country" or denying parts of history. So restoring cultural heritage is part of, I would say, a sense of belonging of everybody to this place, to this society, to this history. It is a way of mending wounds. But it is also a very powerful economic tool, because if you think, again, of Mali – obviously there are always security concerns that need to be considered and we do that as well – but the potential of tourism and cultural economy in countries that have enormous cultural heritage cannot be underestimated. So it is also a way to not only rebuild a shared sense of belonging for all - all individuals -, but also contributing to the local economy and bring back tourism to places that have gone through a conflict. Here, I see the partnership with NGOs - cultural NGOs - and academia as key for advancing in this implementation.
Last but not least - I would say actually first - we focus on youth. There are almost two billion people in the world today between age 10 and 24, which is more than ever before in history. Normally, we take a very paternalistic approach, saying that young people are the future of our world and they need to express themselves because we need to factor in their views on the future if we want to build a better future. My approach is that already today they have to be part of the decision-making because if that large number of people fails there is no way we can succeed. It is a matter of percentage; it is a matter of numbers. If we want to live in a world that works not tomorrow but today, we need to make sure that our young people in the world have access to jobs, to education, to decision-making. Listening to their solutions and not only their problems, because most of the time they have also ideas on how to solve the problems they perceive in their lives and the creating the space for participation, working with them, opening up spaces.
To me it is not just one policy among others. This is really the centre of world politics because no policy, I believe, can succeed if it does not engage with young people serving them - and serving means, as I said, first of all providing access to decision-making and giving opportunities. Last month we announced a new initiative to let over 100,000 African students benefit from our Erasmus programme in the next ten years, and to give vocational training to 750,000 young Africans by 2020. I think these are elements of policies that are going to change the trends, including in migration in a significant manner, a very concrete one because to me education is not just a basic human right, it is also a clear investment in our own interests. It is only by investing in Africa's strength and the youth of Africa that we can have a more stable and secure environment also here.
And let me conclude on this point. We see a growing trend in Europe, in the world and everywhere to describe national interests as something that can be achieved against other national interests. I believe that it is only through cooperation, and particularly international cooperation or European cooperation for what concerns Europe, that you can serve your national interests best. In Europe we have done so now for several decades. It has worked – plenty of limits but I can tell you, seeing Europe through the eyes of our partners in the world you see it in a different way. You see that it is true, we have plenty of problems and nobody knows better than you especially the economic and social problems Europe is facing and has been facing, but, seeing from the rest of the world, we are an island of economic development, human rights, participation, democracy, and a multilateral approach.
So with all the limits, elsewhere it is not going better – on the contrary. So maybe we could be a little bit more proud of the way in which we manage to serve our national interests through a cooperative approach inside Europe. I believe this is the only way to go. This is also true for sustainable development, it is not charity. It is self-interest; it is investment in our own interest. I know that this can only be a team work. I know that you are an essential part of that team, probably the most essential part of that team because you are touching and representing the largest piece of societies that can be thought about. So I thank you very much not just for the invitation, but also the opportunity to exchange views with you today. I attach a lot of importance to this dialogue we have and this cooperation we have. Luca, I thank you again, not only for this opportunity today, but also and mainly for the work you do every single day back home which is really letting our societies advance in a way that otherwise would not happen.