Speech of H.E. Austrian Foreign Minister Dr. Michael Spindelegger at the Princeton University
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Speech of H.E. Austrian Foreign Minister Dr. Michael Spindelegger in the
Woodrow Wilson Hall at the Princeton University
The EU and the Security Council – Current Challenges and Future Prospects
on Thursday, 12 November 2009
Ladies and Gentlemen
Almost to the day 20 years ago the Berlin Wall fell and with it the post World War II Order. The system of bi-polarity broke down and the world changed fundamentally.
One lesson we quickly learned is that history had not come to its end, as some intellectuals had predicted. On the contrary, just two years after the fall of the wall, war returned to Europe. As the ice of the Cold War melted away age old conflicts and ethnic hatred came to the surface and triggered the Balkans tragedy of the 1990s.
In other parts of the globe too the proxy wars deriving from the rivalry of East and West gave way to new types of non state conflicts, civil wars and cases of state failure; conflicts that were equally tragic to the civilian population but often remained without effective international response.
The hope for the rapid emergence of a “new world order” expressed by the first President Bush at the time turned out to be an illusion. While the post-Cold War world offered fascinating new opportunities, it also proved to be not orderly at all, but quite messy and more uncertain than many had predicted.
The European Union, which Austria was just getting ready to join, also faced radical adjustments. The old Community of Western Europe, which had been devoted mainly to economic integration had lost much of its meaning with the end of the Cold War.
To remain relevant the EU had to turn itself into the vehicle for the reunification of the European Continent. Its crucial role in assisting the peaceful transformation of the former Warsaw Pact states into solid democracies and functioning market economies remains one of its proudest historic achievements.
This project remains to be completed, however. The countries of the Western Balkans have all been promised future membership in the EU. In view of the structural economic and political problems of these countries, which still carry the heavy burden of a decade of conflict, this process will take its time. Austria, which has strong historic and human links with this region and is one of the leading investors is strongly committed to its success.
As is well known, our views regarding Turkey’s eventual accession to the EU are more cautious. We support the ongoing negotiations which are a valuable instrument for Turkey to promote reforms and to come closer to European standards. However, at the end of the negotiations it will be up to the EU – and to Turkey – to assess whether full membership is really the optimal type of relationship with this vitally important partner.
The post-cold war experience and in particular its initial failure to contain the Balkans crises has also taught the EU that it had to become a political and security actor.
Since then the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy has come a long way.
Today, the EU member states closely coordinate their policies in international organizations and conferences. (voting together in 90 percent of UN votes). Hardly a day passes without the EU adopting declarations and positions on ongoing developments.
And these policies do not lack “teeth”. At present about 21 States are targeted by some type of EU sanctions.
The EU also plays a significant role in crisis management as shown in the Balkans or in containing the Georgian crisis of 2008.
The operational dimension of European foreign policy has developed dramatically. Since the first operations in 2003 about 23 police and military missions have been launched, not just in Europe, but also in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
And yet, in spite of all these accomplishments there is still the widespread notion – both in Europe and with our international partners – that the EU is “punching below its weight”.
Just consider for a moment the Union’s potential: 500 million people, more than 20 percent of the world’s GDP, about 2 million soldiers, the world’s biggest share in trade and - by a wide margin – of development and humanitarian assistance. Clearly, there is still a huge gap between the Union’s potential and its actual influence on the international stage.
Closing this gap will be a long process. However, the Lisbon Treaty, about to enter into force in a few days, constitutes an important step forward.
The main objective of the new foreign policy set-up is to increase the coherence of all EU activities: foreign policy, security and defense, trade, development cooperation, energy security, climate change, neighborhood policy and EU enlargement policy.
The creation of the post of a President of the European and the enhancement of the role of the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, is a major institutional innovation in the EU’s foreign policy-making machinery.
The President, elected by the European Council for 2 and a half years, will prepare the European Council’s work, ensure its continuity and work to secure consensus among member countries. He will also represent the EU at heads of state and government level on common foreign and security policy matters.
The High Representative will de facto assume the role of the Union’s foreign minister, supported by the newly established European External Action Service.
The choice of the right personalities for these two functions will be crucial, as it will be largely up to them to ensure that the commitments of the Treaty are turned into practical reality. This is at the moment the hottest European topic giving rise to feverish speculations. I will be relieved when the decision will finally be taken next week on November 19.
Upgrading the diplomatic structure of the Union, both for bilateral relations and for the representation of the Union in international organizations alongside the missions of the Member States is a clear signal to all our partners that we want the EU to become a fully-fledged international actor with an ambitious policy agenda.
Personally, I am very confident regarding the dynamic future development of European foreign policy. A stronger role of the EU as an international actor is not just supported by European public opinion, it is also a necessity in a globalized world.
In view of growing interdependence and the shift of economic and political power towards Asia individual EU member states including even the biggest ones inevitably will play a more and more diminished role. Only an EU that speaks with one voice and that acts together will be able to play a significant role in shaping international developments.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I now come to my second theme, the role of multilateral diplomacy and in particular that of the United Nations. Again, I will tackle this subject not so much from a national perspective, but from that of a member state of the European Union.
The European Security Strategy, adopted in 2003, was the first attempt to define Europe’s role in the post Cold War world. This document stresses the importance of the United Nations Charter as the fundamental framework for international relations and the primary responsibility of the UN Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security. Thereby, the European Union expressed its firm commitment to closely cooperate with the United Nations with a view to enhancing the global system of collective security.
Today, the European Union rightly considers herself a principal partner of the United Nations in UN peacekeeping, providing more than 40% of the UN’s regular and peacekeeping budget and approximately 12% of the deployed personnel. These contributions go beyond the EU’s share in world GDP and reflect Europe’s strong commitment to international peace and security.
The new ambitions of the Lisbon Treaty will also be reflected in the United Nations. For instance, the new High Representative shall give European positions more weight by presenting them directly in the Security Council. Since these changes take effect during Austria’s two year tenure as a non-permanent member of the Council Austria will be fully committed to their swift implementation.
Austria, as a medium-sized country, has a specific interest in an international system based on effective multilateralism and the rule of law. Together with our European Partners we share the universal values of the United Nations. We have established as our objective the development of a stronger international society, well-functioning international institutions and a rules-based international order within the fundamental framework of the UN Charter in order to equip the United Nations to fulfil its responsibilities and to act effectively.
Therefore we welcome the renewed engagement of the United States with the United Nations, as outlined so eloquently by President Obama during the last UN General Debate in September and already underpinned by concrete action in the Security Council.
In a historic meeting, the United Nations Security Council convened in September under the Chairmanship of President Obama, unanimously adopted resolution 1887 (2009) committing to work towards a world without nuclear weapons and endorsing a broad framework of actions to reduce global nuclear dangers.
During these past weeks in New York we witnessed something new and different: a genuine opportunity for a real renaissance of multilateralism. There is a real chance to turn the United Nations once again into what was originally envisaged in the Charter: not just a forum of discussion but a place for action, the central focal point of the efforts of the international community to find common solutions to common challenges.
One of the key tasks of the coming months will be the review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Review Conference will have to agree on a package of measures that address the key issues, but most of all it will need to build confidence. We support an ambitious agenda, including significant progress in the bilateral arms control talks, an early entry into force of the CTBT and serious work towards a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.
Developments in North Korea and Iran remain a serious threat to non-proliferation. The international community will need a well balanced approach combining genuine engagement with attractive incentives with the credible prospect of effective sanctions should this engagement yield no results. Regarding both North Korea and Iran the Security Council has a crucial responsibility.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Regarding the Middle East we welcomed President Obama’s speech in Cairo. For a brief moment his courage and vision seemed to transform the political dynamics of the region. However, we are frustrated that all the efforts to restart a serious dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians have so far been in vain. We support the calls for an end to the settlement policy of Israel, which we consider a violation of international law and we are concerned about Israel’s recent actions in East Jerusalem.
We regret President Abbas’ decision not to run for office again. He would the right partner for a real effort at peace. His departure would be a major loss. We will continue to holp establishing the economic foundation and the institutional infrastructure of a future Palestinian state.
For us Israel’s right to exist in security and peace and the realization of the rights of the Palestinian people to their own state are not contradictions. On the contrary they are both crucial elements of a comprehensive and just solution.
The deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan is another burning issue on the international agenda. Clearly, the presidential elections have been a very flawed process. Probably, the best that can be said about them is that they are now over and that a new government will soon be in place. It is now important to have a real fresh start. President Karzai has promised that persons involved in corruption will have no place in the new government. The international community will have to take him at his word.
It is also important that the international community reaches a clear agreement with the new government on a credible reform agenda. At the same time the situation will require a significant mobilization of resources to improve security and support the process for building local capacity. Austria is also looking at ways and means to upgrade its contribution.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to use the last part of my speech to briefly describe one important aspect of our work in the most important organ of the United Nations. We are guided by the same set of priorities which have shaped and characterized the Austrian foreign policy within the UN system during the last years: Strengthening the rule of law and contributing to an international system that operates on the basis of international rules.
The protection of civilians and especially of women and children, in situations of armed conflict therefore constitutes a priority for Austria. Over the last decade, the nature of conflicts has changed, and as the conflicts in Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo or Pakistan have shown, today the civilian population pays the price of war.
Therefore, we decided to focus on this topic during our presidency of the Security Council in November of this year. An open debate, which I chaired yesterday, resulted in the unanimous adoption of Resolution 1894. which constitutes an important step forward in addressing the major problems the United Nations is currently facing in its efforts to ensure an effective protection of civilians in situations of armed conflict.
The resolution includes practical steps to enhance the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations in protecting civilians, including through better training and a better flow of information. It highlights the importance of unimpeded access for humanitarian aid and strongly opposes impunity for those who commit violations of humanitarian law.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
20 years ago with the fall of the Berlin Wall we ended the threat of a global nuclear war. However, the world of today is not a safer place. The risks of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction remain serious. The threat of terrorism has worsened. The major regional crises remain unresolved. Human suffering resulting from civil wars and failing states continues. Global warming and climate change might fuel the conflicts of tomorrow.
In brief the world of today faces unprecedented challenges that can only be addressed through an effectively functioning, rules based multilateral system. The European Union, which following centuries of war and distrust has succeeded in turning our continent into a space of genuine cooperation and partnership is strongly committed to this objective. I am convinced that today’s world needs a strong Europe to help build a better and more secure future for our children.
Thank you for your attention.