Ferrero-Waldner: "Europe's Role in the World"
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"Europe’s Role in the World"
Address delivered by the
Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs
Dr. Benita Ferrero-Waldner
Ceremony on the Occasion of the 54th Anniversary of the
Signing of the Petersberg Agreement
Königswinter, 21 November 2003
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I thank you very much for the warm welcome and the invitation to speak on Europe's role in today's world at the end of this congress, in which you dealt with some of the most topical issues of global politics.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Towards the end of his life, at the age of almost 90, Konrad Adenauer described a good politician as follows:
"The good politician must not only know a lot, he must not only think in realistic terms; he must have a good mind, but he must also have courage".
I want to start my address with these words by Konrad Adenauer, because here on the Petersberg, where Adenauer in November 1949 took the first steps towards integrating the newly-born Federal Republic of Germany into the West, it seems fitting to remind ourselves of this courageous project of European integration which we have jointly accomplished over the last half century. Indeed, it required much courage and far-sightedness from individual personalities to join forces and build up this Europe, which through voluntary integration is currently about to become a united, integral whole for the first time in its history and to step out as such onto the global political stage.
The road it took to get there has not always been an easy one. Even Adenauer's first steps towards systematic Western integration were met by vehement resistance in some instances. But Adenauer was a courageous, visionary man, who knew that you need long breath if you want to achieve really great things. Even when he started out on this road he was not thinking in terms of years, but in decades. Two decades ago in Austria it was Alois Mock who had this courage to follow a concrete vision, the idea of Austria’s full integration into Europe. He too had to overcome resistance. But today his visionary idea has long since become reality, and those who were against it at the time can hardly remember the position they adopted back then. Austria became a committed member of the European Union right from day one.
Today we are again standing at the threshold of a very decisive section of the road towards European integration. When by far the widest enlargement the European Union has seen in its history becomes reality on 1 May 2004 and ten new Member States are admitted, Europe will be largely united in peace and freedom for the first time ever. And only then will we have finally overcome the artificial divide ripped open by the Cold War. A dream that has been dreamt for generations can finally become reality. But this is a long way from being the final step in the process of European enlargement. Accession negotiations have been underway with Bulgaria and Romania since 2000, next autumn the EU will decide whether to take up accession negotiations with Turkey, and only this spring Croatia submitted its application for EU membership.
As Austrian Foreign Minister and as a convinced European it is precisely Croatia's application for membership that fills me with particular confidence.
The project of European unification would indeed remain incomplete if we do not succeed in leading the countries of South East Europe along the path towards integration into the EU. If we succeed in turning the hatred, war and destruction we had to witness until only recently in South East Europe into the peace, stability and prosperity that this idea of European integration has brought to the rest of the continent, then we will in our time have succeeded in accomplishing a task which might one day be put on a level with the project Konrad Adenauer and his European partners launched half a century ago. And that is why I am a firm supporter of offering a European perspective to South East Europe.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are now facing the task of completing a new constitution for this Union while at the same time creating the pre-requisites that will enable this great, united Europe to assume its foreign policy role in the world in a responsible manner. Let me discuss these last two aspects in more detail:
The EU of 25 will have to give itself a constitution that lives up to the challenges posed by the enlargement and the deeper integration of the Union that goes hand in hand with it. It will be this constitution which will pre-determine the way in which Europe continues to grow further together, and it will probably do so for a very long period of time. Therefore this time we must undertake particular efforts to make sure we get it right.
As you know, the European Convention prepared a draft constitutional treaty for the EU, which is currently being discussed in an intergovernmental conference which is to finalise the text of this treaty. In this context, allow me to say the following from the Austrian point of view - and from the point of view of convinced Europeans, which we Austrians indeed are:
Today there is agreement on the fact that the goal of the constitutional treaty is to bring the EU closer to the citizens and to strengthen the democratic legitimisation of its institutions. What will be important in this connection is that the new, larger Europe must be built up as a Europe of the citizens and not one of anonymous bureaucrats. 95% of the constitutional draft are not subject to any doubt whatsoever, but for the remaining 5 per cent some improvements will be necessary.
Austria, herself a medium-sized EU Member State, makes a point of insisting that the Union respects the interests of the small and medium-sized countries and that all members are treated equally. That is why we attach so much importance to ensuring that every Member State will be represented by a Commissioner with equal rights in Brussels. Some say that an EU Commission with 25 members would be unworkable. But think of the governments of many of our co-members, some of which are no smaller than a Commission of 25 would be. On the contrary. Bureaucratic zeal should therefore not entice us into committing an error for which the European Union would have to pay dearly. Because it would mean that the EU’s citizens would no longer identify with one of the Union’s central institutions and that its decisions would lose in political legitimacy.
Let’s join forces and create a larger Europe with a strong heart, a strong EU Commission in which we all feel at home, the small, the medium-sized as well as the large Member States. Our point of view on this issue is gaining more and more support, because the others have come to understand the intrinsic value of this position. Besides, in connection with subject-related coalitions formed between like-minded states within the intergovernmental conference, the Regional Partnership I initiated with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Poland has proved very successful.
The same holds true for some other areas which require institutional reform - which leads me straight to the new foreign-policy structures. If the 25-member EU wants to pursue a credible and reliable foreign policy, something for which we have steadily been striving for quite some years already, then we must give the EU the opportunity to actually speak with one voice. Right from the very beginning, Austria has explicitly advocated the creation of the office of a European Minister for Foreign Affairs. Likewise, a more generous expansion of qualified majority voting on Common Foreign and Security Policy matters would also be desirable in order to facilitate more efficient decision-making processes in the Council of Ministers and to ensure that the Union retains the necessary capability to act.
Closely related to that are the presidency regulations in the various formations of the Council of Ministers and within the European Council, i.e. the issue of the EU Presidency. Some clarification is expected from the intergovernmental conference in this respect. The team presidencies currently under consideration could point the way to a good compromise, a suggestion I put up for discussion at a very early stage in an article for the newspaper "Die Zeit".
In the further development of the Common European Security and Defence Policy we must also be led by the same principles: Austria supports the opportunity for closer cooperation among individual Member States with respect to mutual defence so long as there is no European Council resolution on a common defence. What is important in this context is that this opportunity always remains open to all - also at a later point in time - with all sharing the same rights and duties and no state attempting to play a lone hand. At the intergovernmental conference Austria thus supports a solution in which the relevant criteria for this "structured" cooperation are jointly defined by all Member States.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Once we have accomplished that - and I am very confident that we will succeed if we join forces - once we have thus set the course for coherent joint external action and established a uniform external representation of the Union, we can tackle the decisive substantial issue: namely which role the EU is to play on the global stage. Let me share with you some considerations in this regard:
It seems only natural that Europe's foreign policy should be guided by those values which have made Europe what it is. However, we must take good care to avoid arrogance or, even worse, sabre-rattling in our dealings with other states or civilisations, but must rather make use of our "soft power" to win others over to our cause. Europe has a lot to offer the world in this respect and dialogue is the appropriate vehicle by which to achieve our goals. Austrian foreign policy intensively supports the dialogue among religions, cultures and civilisations, the goal of which is to replace hostile stereotypes of other cultures by positive images. For the second time already Vienna hosted an international media conference this November on how to better communicate positive images on the respective other culture and the media’s role and moral responsibility in dismantling prejudice against other cultures. The conference was attended by journalists from Europe, the USA and the Arab region, including a news editor from Al Jazeera. It is true that this is just a small contribution, but I believe it is an important step which ought to be followed by many more.
Let me give you a concrete example of this dialogue. In June this year the first pan-European conference of Imams, Islamic religious scholars, was held upon my initiative in Graz and dealt with the role of European Muslims and their relationship to Europe. At the end of this conference a call for tolerance and cooperation was issued. Upon my explicit request the Imams present also made a statement in favour of Amina Lawal, who was condemned to death by stoning by the Nigerian Sharia judiciary because she had given birth to a child outside wedlock and who was eventually acquitted by the appellate court in September.
For me this particular example is of special importance. Why? For us Europeans and for our friends in the West, human rights, and particularly the rights of women and children, are universal and indivisible. For us, respect for human rights and enforcement of their application represent an important contribution to peace in this world. Especially when fulfilling this task of enforcing respect for human rights it is essential that other civilisations do not see us as arrogant cultural imperialists, but as partners in a dialogue. And that is why it was so important to me that this call in favour of Amina Lawal was made by the European Imams.
Allow me to share yet another example with you. Until only a few months ago I held the presidency of the Human Security Network, a group composed of 13 states from all five continents who attach particular importance to promoting issues related to people’s individual security, so that as many people as possible can enjoy their lives in freedom, free from misery and fear.
The priorities I had defined for Austria’s term in the HSN chair included the extremely important issues of promotion of human rights education and the rights of children in armed conflicts. As the most tangible outcome of our work we were able to prepare a human rights education manual for global and cross-cultural use, which is currently being translated into various languages and will be distributed on a global scale, since demand is already huge. Only recently, for instance, on the occasion of my visit to Beijing at the beginning of November, I agreed with my Chinese counterpart - who, by the way, I am particularly pleased to see in our midst today - that the manual will be translated into Chinese by the University of Beijing. I would like to seize this opportunity to thank Foreign Minister Li once again very warmly for his support. Currently, together with Mali which took over the presidency from us, we are undertaking efforts aimed at distributing this manual in the countries on the African continent where human rights education is particularly important, and, sadly, where the issue of child soldiers has become a very acute and pressing problem.
In my view the extraordinary value of this Network is rooted in the very fact that partners from all continents have joined forces to pursue goals which fully correspond to those fundamental values the EU stands for.
I know that many of my colleagues in the EU are active in a similar manner in a wide range of areas. I therefore believe that the EU should use this variety of strengths its individual Member States possess by increasingly engaging in a coordinated manner in a dialogue in which member states are allocated the role to which they are best suited, in a spirit of partnership and sensible work-sharing instead of one of competition. The central hub in charge of all the relevant activities should be the European Minister for Foreign Affairs. A very good example of the success of such a joint approach was for instance the recent negotiating success achieved together by Germany, France and Great Britain with respect to the Iranian nuclear programme.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is unnecessary to incept the best possible forum for a comprehensive dialogue - it already exists, even though it requires some reform. I am talking about the United Nations. This spring, many stated that the disputes surrounding the war in Iraq had weakened the United Nations and demonstrated its low level of relevance. I have never shared this view. Today, only a few months later, everybody must have come to realise that there is no alternative to multi-lateralism and cooperation within the United Nations. Because the UN is the only body that can provide the legitimacy ultimately required by any action at the international level.
Today more than ever we have come to realise that we really need the United Nations - and the European Union is playing a particularly important role in this respect.
Not only are we by far the largest payer of contributions to the United Nations and thus its major financial support, but in nearly all its areas of responsibility we act as an essential provider of ideas and are one of the most influential factors in the process of shaping opinion among its member states. This special role naturally goes hand in hand with a special responsibility. Therefore the focus of our future common foreign policy must lie in a pro-active involvement in the United Nations, in supporting and strengthening this eminently important body.
The intensification of the cooperation between the EU and the UN, which found its expression this September in the signing of the Joint Declaration on UN-EU Cooperation in Crisis Management represents an important contribution on the part of the EU to peace and stability in our world. The Artemis operation launched in the Democratic Republic of Congo this summer was the first occasion on which the EU as such, and not the individual Member States, supported the United Nation’s peace efforts in a swift and unbureaucratic manner until the UN could dispatch its own peace-keeping force. This step enabled the prevention of further massacres of civilians - and thus a good start has been made.
At the same time the level of cooperation among the EU Member States within the UN has intensified substantially, which is very encouraging.
The Commission has just elaborated a paper which analyses the status quo and points the way towards even closer cooperation in future. In this paper, which bears the very telling title "The EU and the UN: The Choice of Multilateralism", the path on which we have to proceed is clearly outlined. In a nutshell, the report tells us that the EU has to clearly focus its common foreign policy on multilateralism and effectively support and strengthen the instruments of multilateralism in the long term.
This also includes giving full support to the Secretary-General and the President of the United Nations General Assembly in their current reform efforts.
Let me say a few things about the ongoing discussion on UN reform. As a donor country, Austria shares a special level of responsibility for the smooth functioning of the United Nations system.
An essential element of the necessary reform of the United Nations is a reform of the Security Council, whose current composition no longer takes account of the geopolitical realities of the 21st century nor reflects the substantial increase in the number of UN member states. The Security Council is endowed with no less a task than that of maintaining global peace. But it is also necessary that it actually assumes this responsibility - and a better regional balance would be very conducive to achieving this. Thus the UN’s regional groups are called upon to work vigorously in elaborating concrete proposals to this end.
Especially in the Security Council, European foreign policy too will have to aim at a more united approach if it wants to speak with one voice. This development should one day lead to an EU seat on the Security Council, a suggestion I already made in my statement to the United Nations General Assembly this year. I know that many think that the time is not yet ripe for such an idea, or might even consider it utopian today. But I believe that we as Europeans should have the courage to think about such a future today. Having such a scenario in mind could in fact help us to think less in terms of national and more in terms of European when addressing crises in the future.
The General Assembly has suffered an increasing loss of relevance - a fact which has rightly been deplored by all over the last few years. In order to regain that relevance it will have to focus on just a small number of very burning issues. It will simply have to refrain from adopting the largest possible number of resolutions on the widest possible range of issues and from repeating this procedure year after year with only minor variations in the wording. For many states such a step will involve parting with habits of which they have grown fond. But we must accept that this is the only solution, and any state that fails to see this will be obstructing any reasonable reform of the General Assembly. Moreover, the resolutions adopted by such a reformed General Assembly must be less declaratory in manner, instead focussing on concrete implementation.
Once the community of states has succeeded in achieving such a concentration of the General Assembly’s activities, thus enabling us to keep track of the implementation of the contents within a defined reasonable period of time, a huge step towards reform will have been taken. The reforms will also involve a further strengthening of those UN agencies which concern themselves with the fight against terrorism and combating international crime, and which offer the relevant technical assistance to the UN member states. This is the domain of the Vienna-based UN agencies.
Besides, everybody has come to value the importance of the work undertaken by the IAEA, and this agency requires strengthening too. Thus a situation in which important information is withheld from the IAEA over many years must simply no longer be possible in future. The fact of the matter is that the most substantial global political threats involve the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and openness and control are therefore of vital importance.
At the General Assembly I also addressed the necessity of reforming the WTO, for instance, because a setback like the one we experienced at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancun simply must not be allowed to repeat itself. I am a supporter of multilateralism in trade too. Any relapse into a purely bilateral world trade regime would not be in the interest of the industrialised countries, nor would it benefit the developing or newly industrialising countries, since it would entail mercantilism and chaos and would result in severe trade conflicts which would make our current disputes look ridiculously trivial. We EU countries must therefore join forces and tackle the important task of finding solutions which will enable the successful completion of the Doha Round.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Recognising the interrelation between security and the fight against poverty and hopelessness is one of the prerequisites for living together peacefully in a globalised world.
The largest single problem in today’s world is the appalling poverty in which millions of people live. If we do not succeed in solving this problem of poverty it will develop into a problem for global peace from which we in Europe will not be spared forever. Thus we must muster the courage and the farsightedness to confront this issue effectively, although there might be some who find it more convenient to push it aside. The very fact that poverty seems to be a problem which can be pushed aside relatively easily by a wealthy society like ours makes it even more dangerous.
But we do not have to reinvent a solution for this issue either - the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals clearly outline the course to be taken. These goals, adopted by the heads of state and government at the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000, clearly define targets for combating poverty, hunger, HIV/AIDS and other epidemics, illiteracy, environmental damage and discrimination against women. What matters now is their implementation. According to calculations made by the World Bank we lack 50 billion dollars per year to implement the goals defined. So let’s roll up our sleeves and join forces. Reaching these targets will represent an important challenge for the common foreign policy of a united EU that speaks with one voice.
Development cooperation is therefore not a moral commandment but a dictate of security and economic policy.
Austria takes the goals defined in Monterrey seriously and in 2004 will already be increasing the funds earmarked for development cooperation which are managed by the Agency for Development Cooperation just hived off from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
As an answer to the complex global challenges of our time, the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction alone - as important as it is and as much as we must continue to devote our full commitment to it - is far from being a sufficient and complete solution. Only by focusing on resolving the issues of poverty and hopelessness and taking concrete measures aimed at a sustainable improvement of the living conditions of the poorest and the preservation of a world worth living in for the generations to come on all continents, will we succeed in effectively tackling the root cause of many potential future conflicts and sources of instability, international organised crime and terrorism. In order to meet this goal, the call for the EU to do more than pay lip service to the problem and follow up its words with effective action will be stronger than ever.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
For the implementation of its foreign policy goals the European Union needs partners all around the globe. And here too the EU is making good progress. A wide network of partnership relations and EU-led dialogues spans almost all parts of the globe, and these will have to continue to grow in an organic manner and be further deepened.
Particularly important in this context is the transatlantic partnership with the USA. There is a lot Europe and the United States can offer each other and achieve together. The creation of a new, large Europe and structures that are in keeping with its standing should be seen as an opportunity to overcome past differences.
I remember that Henry Kissinger once expressed the wish for one phone number for one European contact partner. Well, Colin Powell will soon get it. Of course, a true partnership that really deserves the name must be a partnership of equals. A simple repetition of American positions cannot be an option for the EU, and I am convinced that our American friends too will derive much greater benefit from a genuine - and only as such really strong - partnership for the 21st century.
Within such a renewed partnership Europe could assume the important role of bridge-builder between the USA and other civilisations. As it has been in almost continuous close contact with other civilisations for thousands of years it would seem eminently qualified to do so. The structure of the German-British-French talks with Iran I mentioned earlier could serve as an example of this bridging function, which could well represent a very tangible and not unimportant contribution to promoting global peace over the next few years and decades.
Another important area for the EU’s future activities at the foreign and security policy level is finding political solutions for dangerous regional conflicts. I am thinking about the role the quartet played in connection with the Road Map for the Middle East. The recent acts of violence should therefore not deter us, but should give us ever more incentive to step up our commitment to this issue even further. Moreover, the role played by the EU in the process of stabilising South East Europe should motivate us to undertake similar efforts in other regions too; just think of the Caucasus, Central Asia, the new neighbours or a continuation of our engagement in Afghanistan.
In the longer term, Europe will also have to make an active contribution to the reconstruction of Iraq - which is only in its own interest. Austria, by the way, was among the first countries to provide humanitarian assistance to Iraq after the war, and we are still doing so today.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The global political scenario in which the EU - stronger thanks to its new structures, speaking with one voice and more united than ever - is setting out to play a common role in this world is a very stormy one. But it will not be granted a long period of apprenticeship if it wants to be taken seriously as a global player.
The following factors therefore seem to me crucial in this respect:
- That we all make a conscious decision to think along European lines right from the outset and subordinate any national interests to this European way of thinking.
- That we develop our own European point of view based on our own assessment and not only react to that which is predefined by third parties.
- That we - the 25 Member States - view one another as our mutual primary contacts.
- That we jointly define our common line of approach before we engage in a dialogue with others based on this approach.
- That all of us, all 25, each and every Member State for itself and all of us together (!) see ourselves as the engine of integration that we do not consider the European vocation as something which is exclusively reserved to certain European nations, but as a call that has been issued to us all.
In concluding, let me point out that I am well aware that huge steps towards integration have never been taken overnight. More than half a century ago Konrad Adenauer and his European partners faced a challenge quite similar to the one we are about to tackle today. They mustered the necessary courage and farsightedness and handled it most brilliantly. I believe that we will likewise succeed in managing the task set us by the times we live in.
Walter Hallstein once said that in Europe you have to believe in miracles if you want to be a realist. Let’s be realists in the spirit of Hallstein, Adenauer and the other founding fathers of the European process of integration.
Let’s join forces to set about this task in a European spirit! After all, there could be no better place than the Petersberg in which to reaffirm this goal!
I thank you for your attention.