Ferrero-Waldner at the European Forum Wachau
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European Forum Wachau
"The Future of the European Union: New Opportunities through Internal Reform and Enlargement"
Opening Address by the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs
Dr. Benita Ferrero-Waldner
Göttweig, 28 June 2003
Some years ago now the famous Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann said that "thinking as a European was enough to put anyone in a predicament". And she was and is not alone in her uncertainty.
- Having said that, recent events in particular have demonstrated that there indeed exists what we might call an enthusiasm for Europe, that is, namely, in connection with the enlargement of the EU.
- However, the last few months have also shown where Europe's deficits lie, where we are still failing to think as Europeans. This was especially evident in the role Europe played on the world stage during and after the war in Iraq.
This, then, is the apparent contradiction that has to be resolved: the objective and direction of a strong Europe in a strong transatlantic partnership in a more peaceful world.
Ladies and Gentlemen !
Since signing the Act of Accession at the very cradle of European democracy - and for me, having the honour of putting my signature to this treaty and playing an active part in this historic event in European history were one of the highpoints of my career - a series of new Member States have held referenda on their accession to the EU, most recently Poland and the Czech Republic. In every single case we were told that it was going to be a very close call. However, in actual fact the people who went to the polls to cast their votes were motivated by an enthusiasm for Europe which gives me very high hopes for our future.
This represents an excellent foundation for our future cooperation within the European Union. There will be no such thing as first and second-class Europeans. In all 25 Member States there will only be citizens who are already enthusiastic Europeans and those who have yet to become so.
The referenda have also shown us that we as the EU must do what Austrian foreign policy has been doing from the outset: having an open ear for the interests of the new Member States and taking their concerns seriously. (For it should come as no surprise if their views and interests coincide with or complement our own more often than we might have expected. After all, in today's world "zero-sum games" in which the winner takes it all and the other player loses out have been consigned to the scrap-heap of political concepts which have quite simply become outdated.)
Unity has emerged victorious. A unity in which each of us preserves our own identity.
And while I am on the subject of pleasing developments in Europe, I also think with great satisfaction of my visits to those Austrian Federal Provinces which have common borders with the new EU Member States. I have noticed that the Austrian people's endorsement of EU enlargement, gratifying in itself, is particularly strong in the majority of the border regions. These regions have at last been given the opportunity to develop their full potential !
In this context I am also delighted that our Regional Partnership with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Poland has meanwhile achieved a very broad level of acceptance. This has led to progress in virtually all areas of our cooperation - politics, economic affairs, culture, interpersonal relationships - progress that people can directly experience today. In its present form the Partnership already represents an excellent platform for pursuing our joint interests within the EU, and our partners' readiness to use this platform is growing.
A look at the neighbouring regions in South-Eastern Europe also reveals a great number of positive developments. Austrian foreign policy is energetically supporting the EU's negotiations with Romania and Bulgaria as well as Croatia's application for membership.
Our commitment to advancing the remaining countries of South-East Europe remains undiminished. I have high expectations of the improved agenda for the Stabilisation and Association Process, which was agreed a week ago at the European Council of Thessaloniki under the Greek EU Presidency, and eagerly await its implementation. We know what these countries are aiming for: Europe. And we support their aim. It is up to them the make the most of this assistance. But occasionally this might also mean that they still have to undergo some very painful reforms.
The Danube Cooperation Process is an initiative we were able to launch last year in Vienna which aims to use the integrative power of the River Danube to intensify cooperation between the 13 countries in its entire catchment area from the North Sea to the Black Sea, and I am delighted that this project too is coming to life.
And there are plenty more points I could mention that justify this feeling of "EU-PHORIA".
Let me just select one more of them as a further example:
Hand on heart - who among us when we met here last year would have bet even a single EURO that today, just one year later, we would have the draft of a European Constitutional Treaty at our disposal? Looking at it from that point of view, the Convention has indeed succeeded in achieving something very important.
When I voiced my call for an "EU Foreign Minister" a year ago here in Göttweig, would you have thought that this very point would be set forth in the draft Constitution just one year later? To be quite honest, I still wasn't so sure it would happen myself.
The Constitutional Treaty is a huge step forward. And a logical one. Because the Enlargement should and must go hand in hand with a process of further deepening.
At any rate the draft represents a good starting point for the Intergovernmental Conference, which will start in October and probably not end before May 2004, though at all events it must be over before the elections to the EU Parliament.
I find it a great pity that the Convention has departed from the mandate it was given in Laeken and is not presenting the European Council with any options.
We understand the intention to come up with a bold design. In itself this is no bad thing. Only we have to make sure that this bold design does not disregard the principles on which the integration process has been based to date, first and foremost the equality of the Member States, the balance of interests, and proximity to the citizens. We must not disappoint our citizens' desire to identify themselves with Europe !
The Convention has in any case achieved the following - all things that we have called for and/or approved from the outset:
- There will be a Constitutional Treaty and the EU will be given a uniform legal personality
- The European Charter of Human Rights will be embodied in law
- There will be better control of the principle of subsidiarity
- The office of European Foreign Minister will be created and the CESDP strengthened
- A co-decision procedure will be instituted for the European Parliament
I. Nevertheless, the draft remains disappointing in a number of points, especially those relating to the EU institutions:
1) Austria does not really see the necessity of having an elected President of the Council. We have made the reasons for our opposition to this absolutely clear. The draft was supposed to improve the functional capability of the institutions. In fact, the various solutions to the presidency question in the different Council formations are both inconsistent and confusing. (In the European Council this role is to be fulfilled by the elected President and in the Council of Foreign Ministers by the EU Foreign Minister; in the General Affairs Council and in the Councils of Specialized Ministers, on the other hand, the presidency is to be held on a rotation basis.)
2) Additionally, the draft was actually supposed to improve identification with and articulation of the common European interest by strengthening the European Commission. In fact, the proposals provide for a massive strengthening of the powers of the European Council, especially with respect to external relations, though they do also foresee a greater role for the European Parliament.
3) I personally would like to have seen the rotation principle adhered to, for instance in the form of team presidencies, an idea I put forward a year ago in an article in the German newspaper "Die Zeit".
II. Furthermore, in my view the proposed distinction between voting and non-voting members of the Commission is not a propitious one. Just think for a moment of the governments of many of our Member States. They are often no smaller than a 25-member Commission would be, and in many cases they are considerably larger.
Besides, most of them take decisions unanimously, whereas the Commission does so by absolute majority. The argument that the Commission would not be able to function efficiently if the principle of "one Commissioner with full voting rights per Member State" were to be retained is therefore a very weak one.
I believe that a great responsibility will fall to the Intergovernmental Conference in this context.
Taking the draft produced by the Convention as its starting point, its main task will be to come up with reforms and improvements in the area where, in my opinion, the Union's greatest deficit lies:
The Union still does not speak with one voice. And this diminishes the Union's capability to live up to its European vocation, namely the propagation of a peace dividend.
III. Making the Union speak with one voice would doubtless be easier to achieve with the introduction of voting by qualified majority, which ought to be made applicable in all areas with the exception of issues relating to military cooperation.
The EU's lack of a single voice also contributes to the scepticism towards Europe shown by our large and increasingly powerful transatlantic partner, the USA. In a time in which America feels its very existence threatened und regards itself as in a state of war, the EU must also be capable of adopting clear positions.
How did Clausewitz put it in "On War?" - "There is seldom peace everywhere in Europe, and there is never an end to war in the other parts of the world." We have almost achieved the first part. Peace reigns in Europe, along with broad stability. In the world outside, from Baghdad to Bunia, plenty still remains to be done to make the world a more peaceful place and thus a safer place for us too.
Allow me to discuss this in a little more detail.
The most important relations for the creation and maintenance of world peace are transatlantic relations.
We foreign policymakers are agreed that the world has changed since 11 September 2001.
In solidarity with the USA, Europe has placed the focus on international terrorism and the combating of terrorist networks and weapons of mass destruction. Nevertheless, in the Iraq conflict the EU and the USA held some partly very different points of view, and this led to tension.
Differences between Europe and the USA have already existed for quite some time now; we only have to think of the conflicts surrounding trade and the issues of unilateralism versus multilateralism, Kyoto, the International Court of Justice, etc. The latest events on the world political stage have accentuated these differences of opinion.
Nor can we rule out the possibility that further differences of opinion between Europe and the USA may arise in future, for instance with regard to policy vis-à-vis Iran or North Korea, or also concerning the question of genetically manipulated corn.
I therefore consider it important that we re-establish an exchange of ideas and balance of interests with the USA in a spirit of confidence and trust. It is not the different points of view that are the decisive factor, but how we deal with them.
I am deeply convinced that it is in our common interest to overcome any existing tensions. We Europeans have to work towards a new partnership with the USA.
I am pleased to see that our EU partners have also become fully aware of this fact. This was evident at the Conference of Foreign Ministers in Rhodes a few weeks ago, and likewise last weekend in Thessaloniki. Thanks are due to the Greek Presidency for addressing this issue and now also for bringing it up for discussion at the recent EU-USA Summit in Washington:
Ideally, the partnership between Europe and the USA should be a partnership of equals.
The strategy we need to pursue is namely a twofold one:
- firstly, to strengthen Europe through enlargement and deepening and,
- secondly, to strengthen transatlantic relations.
Why is this so important?
First of all there are our common values and interests. Europe is the largest investor in the USA (750 billion Euros) and 45 % of all US foreign investments are made in Europe.
Another facet of these common interests - and this must be made clearer on both sides of the Atlantic - is that we as Europeans need the USA to lend stability in a precarious global situation. But despite its global supremacy it is equally true that the USA cannot manage without Europe.
In rather simplified terms, let me put it like this: the USA, as the world's oldest democracy, extends a democracy dividend from which Europe itself benefited when it came to reconstruction in the aftermath of the Second World War and the Nazi dictatorship.
Europe, on the other hand, extends a peace dividend. Both the USA and Europe have an interest in propagating these dividends of democracy and peace. But this is impossible if the EU and the USA let themselves drift into a logic of confrontation and one against the other. Such a world would be a world with less freedom, less prosperity and less peace.
Europe cannot define itself by building barriers, but only through inclusion and cooperation. We have to assume that concepts of unipolarism or multipolarism will prove ever more absurd in these present times. We live in an increasingly interdependent world, and no-one can rule this world alone.
But neither can the world be controlled by a group of states, whether in solidarity or in mutual antagonism. The fact is that practically all responsible systems of government today are based on the same security agenda (protection against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, combating poverty and mass epidemics, etc.).
I admit that the USA occupies a pre-eminent position on the basis of its military and economic power. But does it make sense to oppose it? For Europe, the answer can only be "no". The question is rather whether the USA will continue to be willing to bear the responsibility that is part and parcel of this position.
On the one hand, Europe must be willing to carry its share of such responsibility. On the other hand, it must have an interest in the USA fulfilling this role in a way that does not run counter to Europe's interests.
We showed in the Balkans that we can jointly succeed in generating stability in a region torn apart by conflicts.
We must combat cynical dictatorships, such as those of a Milosevic or a Saddam, but also the dangers emanating from the regime in North Korea - a situation that should not be underestimated. And what is more, we must overcome the evils they feed upon, like racism, intolerance, poverty and hopelessness. Together we prosperous nations of the West must give the people on this earth a perspective for the future!
So how should we go about bridging these differences between Europe and the USA?
Merely parroting the American positions is, after all, out of the question. Europe must therefore muster its collective potential - not as an opposite pole, but as a complementary one - by finding a uniform line on pivotal issues such as those currently being addressed by the UN Security Council. And we will only succeed in doing this if we give "European" positions precedence over national self-presentation. Unnecessary confrontation is to be avoided, as are transatlantic wars of words.
On the contrary, we must engage in dialogue with the USA too, an in-depth transatlantic dialogue; by all means - if you want to put it like that - a dialogue of cultures, the European and the American.
Within a dialogue of this kind we could also discuss what Stanley Sloan, the Director of the Atlantic Community Initiative, proposed in Vienna a few days ago. He expressed the opinion that the USA and Europe would have to find a common framework within which they could jointly bring the "soft power" arising from their shared values to bear in the world. It would certainly be worth talking about how much we could achieve in the world by this method without having to resort to military means.
An article on the subject in "Die Zeit" a few days ago stated that realpolitik in today's world could not depend solely on the reality of power, but had to recognise the effectiveness of values. I must say that I fully subscribe to this view.
Ultimately, however, the transatlantic reality we create is also a question of resources, resources that Europe must be willing to make available. Only by using these resources efficiently within the framework of a Common Security and Defence Policy will Europe be able to equip itself with the credibility it requires in today's world.
I am in absolutely no doubt that our dialogue with the USA also requires a new communications strategy aimed at better mutual understanding of the structures and working methods on both sides of the Atlantic. This should certainly also include increased efforts with regard to the EU's public diplomacy activities in the USA, such as, for example, the establishment of an EU Office in Washington for lobbying of Congress.
The importance of a clear-cut security policy concept is also reflected in Javier Solana's paper on EU security strategy, which he presented in Thessaloniki. This paper will represent an important basis for ensuring that the EU will actually be capable of upholding its strategic interests and fulfilling its strategic role in the world in the transatlantic context. In our view, at any rate, the European security concept must be a comprehensive one combining political, economic, social, ecological, cultural and military aspects.
One of its goals should be prevention of prevention, and by that I mean using non-military means to ensure that military prevention does not even become necessary in the first place. Of course, this also means ensuring that the latter cannot be ruled out from the start.
Having said this, the Charter of the United Nations continues to provide the basic framework for international relations. That is why it is important that we strengthen the UN in order to enable it to fulfil its responsibilities and take effective action.
I am convinced that this is a concept we will be able to agree upon with our American friends.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the foot of the hill on which Göttweig stands lies the town of Mautern, the ancient settlement of Favianis where St. Severin died in the year 482. Even back in Severin's times the Danube valley was a place of conflict and encounter between peoples and cultures. Severin acted as their mediator, thus paving the way for the synthesis that was the catalyst for the European Middle Ages.
The fact that Göttweig, with the European Forum Wachau, has today become an important meeting place for European policymakers, can be explained by its long tradition and by its geographical location in a region at the heart of a converging Europe.
I am sure, too, that this weekend's deliberations on Europe's new opportunities on the world stage through enlargement and reform will be fruitful and successful, and that they will help us make headway in thinking as Europeans.
Many thanks for your kind attention.