Ferrero-Waldner: "Keeping to our course in a changing world"
Check against delivery
"Keeping to our Course in a Changing World"
Address delivered by the
Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs
Dr. Benita Ferrero-Waldner
to the Austrian Association for Foreign Policy and International Relations,
the United Nations Association,
the Federation of Austrian Industry and
the Diplomatic Academy
Vienna, "Haus der Industrie", 20 May 2003, 6 p.m.
Former Federal President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to start my speech by quoting Baruch de Spinoza, who once said that "peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence and justice".
The course Austrian foreign policy is steering enables it to hold on to its values and goals even in stormy times of change, thus contributing its share to global peace.
We have set our course towards strengthening Austria's position in the world,
promoting peace and security bothin our geographic vicinity and worldwide while safeguarding stability, economic growth and security for the Austrian people.
These are the principles of Austria's foreign policy course and we will continue to adhere to it in times of troubled waters whatever new challenges and threats emerge for Austria and Europe at large.
Austria is a medium-sized country which pursues its independent foreign policy within the European context, reliable and capable of inspiring confidence, humanitarian and always focused on balance - and this is why our voice is heard.
What do I see as the future orientation of Austria's foreign policy in the years to come?
For me the enlarged Europe isand will remain a top priority - particularly now that Austria has shifted into the centre of Europe.
Let's make the enlargement a success! We will seize the opportunities and advantages offered while upholding Austria's interests.
On 16 April Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and I signed the accession treaty at the cradle of European democracy. Hardly ever has the word "historical" been used more often than in connection with this signing ceremony. But I must tell you that I was also deeply moved by this moment and I am grateful that after many years of preparations I was given the chance to sign this treaty with my own hand.
This is not just any old treaty. The ten new Member States, "new old" partners as they are called in the best sense of the words, enlarge the EU to a group of 25 members. 75 million people expand the Union's overall potential in the field of business, politics, security, research, etc. to almost half a billion people.
The Federal Government - and this comes as no surprise in the light of what has been said so far - is in favour of swift ratification of the accession treaty.
In the referenda held to date in Malta, Slovenia, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovakia (the latter last weekend) people have confirmed their support for their countries' accession to the EU. I assume that this trend in favour of accession will continue in the referenda that have yet to be held.
You might remember that my address last year was largely dominated by open issues and hurdles to be overcome in the course of the accession negotiations. Today I may justly claim - and I would be happy if you agreed with me - that we negotiated well. Well in that we guaranteed respect for Austria's interests, and particularly those of Austria's businesses and workforce, while at the same time taking account of the needs and interests of our partners.
And this is where my Regional Partnership concept comes into play in very concrete terms: within this Partnership we work at solving open issues, the excellent ties in all areas are being strengthened and - anticipating our partner's actual accession - we are already defining joint interests. This process includes many aspects of EU policy (economic affairs, security, transport, health, the environment, etc.) and especially the question of how the EU should be reformed with respect to the Debate on the Future of the European Union. Thus we have already started to discuss and agree with our partners on issues relating to the EU Constitutional Treaty which is currently being discussed by the Convention. Yesterday, for instance, on the margin of the latest General Affairs Council, we the Partnership's foreign ministers also got together informally to talk about issues of concern to our countries.
But the process of European enlargement has not yet been completed.
We are in the middle of intensive negotiations with Romania and Bulgaria, which we hope to conclude by 2007. Croatia has also submitted its application for EU membership; this is fully backed by Austria, which also supports swift elaboration of the relevant avis.
Besides, Turkey will also receive support on its road towards reform. In late autumn 2004 this country's progress will be re-evaluated by the Union and then a decision will be taken on the potential opening of negotiations.
As a logical consequence of the enlargement the process of deepening the European Union is again shifting into the limelight. What is called for in this context is ensuring democracy and efficiency, a task with which we have mandated the Convention.
The deliberations within the Convention have reached their final stage. Soon it will submit its recommendations or options to the individual governments for discussion. These also include the contributions made by the Austrian members of the Convention, with which the Austrian government will certainly deal in more detail.
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's concept of a big bang scenario is in principle correct and there is nothing to be said against such an approach. But it needs to go into the right direction. This zeal to reshape Europe must not lead us to disregard that which has been so essential for its integration: focusing on the balancing of interests and the involvement of all partners, and particularly that of the people in the Member States.
We can agree to many of the proposals introduced (though I will refrain from mentioning each individual element). Some are excellent. Others, however, would disturb the institutional balance between smaller and medium-sized Member States and the larger members, or between old and new members.
It is therefore no wonder that we do not agree with such proposals.
Let me just highlight those issues which are most essential for Austria:
To date I have, for instance, not heard a single convincing argument in favour of creating the office of President of the European Council or why we should give up the system of rotating presidencies. Providing Henry Kissinger with a European telephone number alone will not suffice. What is required is the will for a common political approach, something the EU lacked during the Iraq crisis for example. Besides, Mr. Kissinger would be the first to confirm that it is not the phone number which counts but the content: i.e. a common foreign policy.
Moreover, not a single convincing argument has been voiced for relinquishing the rule of appointing one commissioner per Member State. I see no reason for reducing the number of members of the European Commission.
The majority of the current Commission members also share this view. And what is more, larger European countries sometimes have more members of government than there will ever be members of the EU Commission.
After all, the Commission is the most visible link between a country's national government and Brussels.
Sometimes larger Member States favour the idea of creating a EU "directorate" (we don't need a directorate in Europe). Now and then they even tend to adopt more radical positions for reasons relating to the balance of power - as has been the case recently on the issue of Iraq. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that the European centre, where Austria has farsightedly positioned itself, must be the driving force within the EU. When it is about cohesion and progress in Europe, countries like Austria are called for, countries which give the cold shoulder to any kind of lust for power and instead focus on the common weal.
The fact of the matter is that we also need peace, stability and security within the EU!
I am in any case undertaking every effort to support Austria's full involvement in the Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy and ensure that we contribute our share to making the EU speak with one voice on the international stage. The EU needs to hold its ground in the context of the new spheres of power created by the large international players, it needs to play a stabilising role, and, first and foremost, it finally needs to acquire a political standing that corresponds to its economic weight.
I therefore welcome the proposed establishment of the office of an EU Minister for Foreign Affairs, who will wear the double hat of EU Commissioner for External Relations and High Representative for the CFSP.
This EU Minister for Foreign Affairs must be a member of the European Commission and have the closest possible institutional links with the Commission.
Regarding the decision-making process within the CFSP, we have proposed that decisions should in general be taken by qualified majority. The application of the principle of unanimity should be limited to decisions having a military or defence policy impact and decisions based on a proposal submitted by a Member State.
The recent developments in connection with the Iraq crisis in particular have illustrated how important it would be for Europe to realise - also with respect to foreign policy - that individual national interests could best be ensured in the long term by pursuing them in the context of the common European interest. And, Ladies and Gentlemen, this is also the approach that best serves global peace!
Again, the next huge opportunity for Austrian foreign policy is opening up right on our doorstep, namely in South Eastern Europe. An assessment of the developments taking place in this region shows that the process of peace and stabilisation is making good progress.
However, genuine and sustainable stability will only become a reality if the countries of South Eastern Europe are also offered a European perspective. I therefore fully support the Greek Presidency initiative aimed at dealing in more detail with these issues at the Thessaloniki summit.
The fact of the matter is that there is still much to be done, for instance in the field of building up new administrative structures and preventing new threats posed by corruption, drugs, trafficking in human beings, cross-border crime, etc.
It is therefore important to support all initiatives directed at stabilising the region, such as the Stability Pact for South East Europe - in which context I would like to stress the significance of the role played by its Austrian coordinator, former Vice-Chancellor Erhard Busek.
Other important tasks in the region are fulfilled by the Central European Initiative, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the Danube Cooperation Process, which was jointly initiated last year by the Stability Pact, the EU Commission and myself and comprises all countries bordering the river Danube.
Besides, countries like the Ukraine, Moldova and even Belarus also require the EU's attention.
Since our country held the EU Presidency in 1998 Austrian foreign policy has pointed to the important tasks to be assumed by the EU with respect to these countries. I am thus very pleased that our partners within the Union have recognized that too. And, by the way, the time for stepping up the EU's commitment to this region is particularly favourable now that the group of the new members joining the EU includes states which already maintain intensive bilateral relations with these countries and are also familiar with the region.
The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership formed by the EU and the Mediterranean countries plays a major role in promoting development towards peace and stability with the Union's neighbours in this region.
An essential economic goal pursued under this Partnership is the establishment of a free trade zone between the EU and the southern Mediterranean countries.
From my point of view this goal could be reached by 2010; politically, however, we have not yet achieved what we intended.
The impacts of the Middle East conflict have obstructed this multilateral process between Europe and the southern Mediterranean countries much too strongly. However, the publication of the Road Map, prepared to outline the way towards peace in the Middle East, has marked a fresh start for re-launching the peace process.
Let's use this window of opportunity - which not least opened up because the EU is speaking with one voice on this issue:
With the appointment of Abu Mazen to the office of Palestinian prime minister an important demand formulated by the quartet (consisting of the USA, the EU, the United Nations and Russia) was fulfilled. Now we all hope that Israel will send out the necessary signals to give mutual rapprochement a chance. Unfortunately this sensitive process is all too often upset by extremists and hardliners. It must however be clear that there is no alternative to a negotiated peace achieved by a political solution which will eventually lead to the coexistence of two states within secure borders.
I have just returned from a number of visits to the Middle East, to Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. In the discussions - and this is quite encouraging - my interlocutors expressed some optimism with regard to the new political situation in the Middle and Near East. It goes without saying that within the context of the EU, and particularly in the field of humanitarian assistance, Austrian foreign policy is always prepared and willing to contribute to the best of its possibilities.
A valuable instrument in this context is the Dialogue among Cultures and Civilisations. In the aftermath of the events of 11 September 2001 and the Iraq conflict, we Moslems, Jews and Christians all have to stress that we are not working against each other on principle but that we absolutely reject extremists who provoke terrorist excesses.
As I did last year, I will thus again call a seminar in Vienna on this topic where ways and means for the media to communicate joint positive messages are discussed.
Moreover, Austria will organise a conference of European Imams in the Styrian capital of Graz, this year's European Capital of Culture and at the same time the first European human rights city. At this conference, which is scheduled for the middle of June, the religious scholars of European Islam will discuss their relation to Europe - a task which in my view is as topical as it is important.
The last few days in particular have dramatically reminded us of the terrible threat posed by terrorism (in Riyadh, in Casablanca and again in Israel). And the Austrians held hostage in Algeria had to experience this danger at first hand. Thank God, all ended well! The Foreign Ministry and myself were actively involved in the efforts to liberate the hostages and I am delighted that they have been freed. At the same time I would like to thank the hostages and their relatives for their patience and the trust they placed in our efforts and the negotiations with the Algerian authorities. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the Algerian decision-makers, first and foremost President Bouteflika.
My thanks also go to the staff in my department, the competent people in the Interior Ministry and everybody who was involved in ensuring the well-being of the hostages and their relatives.
Another positive topic I would like to bring to your attention, and one which is a huge concern of mine, is our relief programme for children wounded in the Iraq war. Last Thursday eleven heavily injured patients from Southern Iraq were taken via Kuwait to hospitals in Southern Styria, Salzburg, Vienna and Carinthia. Austria has thus once again reminded a very important region of the world that we are a country with an open and humane attitude. Again, I would like to thank all those involved and particularly all the competent Kuwaiti, American and Russian institutions for their support and their huge commitment.
During these last few days we also succeeded in launching a joint project together with Slovenia and Jordan for the establishment of a psychosocial therapy centre for children traumatised by the war in Iraq, which will become operative as early as this September. Moreover, we are undertaking efforts to make medical equipment available and to dispatch doctors to Iraq, thus contributing actively to the reconstruction of the country. Besides, Austrian foreign policy is closely involved in the provision of humanitarian assistance to Iraq under the ECHO relief fund set up by the EU.
In terms of creating and maintaining peace in the world, transatlantic relations indubitably play the most substantial role.
The view shared by all of us involved in foreign policy is that the world has changed since 11 September 2001.
In solidarity with the USA, Europe has placed the focus on the struggle against international terrorism, terrorist networks and weapons of mass destruction. Nevertheless, the attitudes and views adopted by the EU and the USA in the Iraq conflict sometimes differed substantially, which also gave rise to tensions.
I am, however, firmly convinced that we will succeed in overcoming these tensions in our joint interest. We Europeans need to work towards building up a new type of partnership with the USA.
Ideally, such a partnership would be one of partners on an equal footing.
What would be the advantages of such a model?
First of all, the shared values and interests. Europe is the largest investor in the USA (EUR 750 billion) and 45% of all US investments abroad go to Europe.
In this connection it is highly important for Europe to implement the decisions adopted at the Lisbon summit and make progress in closing the innovation and technology gap.
On both sides of the Atlantic Ocean parties must more clearly realise that part of these shared interests is that on the one hand we as Europeans need the USA to ensure stability in an uncertain international environment, but that on the other hand, in spite of its predominance, the USA cannot do without Europe. Thus partnership and cooperation are the best solution.
Putting it more simply, one could say that while the USA, as the oldest democracy in the world, creates a democracy dividend from which Europe itself benefited in the years of post-war reconstruction and in the aftermath of the Nazi dictatorship, Europe creates a peace dividend.
Both the USA and Europe are interested in spreading these dividends of democracy and peace. However, this will not be possible if the EU and the USA let themselves drift into a logic of opposition and confrontation, since this would eventually create a world characterised by less freedom, less wealth and clearly less peace.
In the Balkans we have proven that by joining forces, Europe and the USA can succeed in creating stability in a region torn apart by conflicts.
The formula to be used is first of all fighting an inhuman dictatorship, such as that of a Milosevic or a Saddam, but also the threats emerging from a regime like that in North Korea, which should not be underestimated. And, secondly, drying up the fertile breeding grounds for such regimes, like racism and intolerance, poverty and hopelessness. We who live in the wealthy nations of the West must join forces and offer a perspective to all the people on this globe!
Differences between Europe and the USA have existed for some time already; just think of the trade conflicts, and issues like uni-lateralism versus multi-lateralism, Kyoto etc. The recent global political developments, however, made them even more evident.
So how should we proceed in order to overcome these differences of opinion?
Simply repeating American positions is, after all, out of the question. Thus Europe - not as an opposite pole, but as a supplement - must summon up its full potential in order to define a clear-cut, uniform line of policy on central issues, such as those dealt with by the UN Security Council. This will, however, only be possible if we succeed in giving preference to "European" positions and refrain from national showmanship. Unnecessary confrontations must be avoided, as must transatlantic wars of words. We should rather engage in an in-depth transatlantic dialogue with the USA - a true Dialogue among Cultures, the European and the American.
It is after all also an issue of resources, which Europe must be willing to make available. Only if Europe employs these means efficiently under a Common Security and Defence Policy will it be equipped with the credibility it requires in today's world.
We also need to demonstrate to our American friends that we are absolutely aware of the importance of prevention.
Because we must not look on inactive as states degenerate and turn into playgrounds for governmental or non-governmental players who threaten global peace. We also need to make clear that for us prevention is not only limited to military aspects but must include the fight against poverty and disease (such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and most recently SARS) and the promotion of sustainable development, an issue I would like to refer to in more detail a bit later on.
It is seen as an undisputed fact that the USA will remain by far the most important superpower for many years to come. At the same time, however, when extrapolating the current developments, the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China are two powers which will become important partners for us, both from the global policy and economic points of view. With both players Austria enjoys an excellent reputation on which policy, business and culture must build.
Thus Austria must convincingly support a course which promotes these two powers' orientation towards the West, while at the same time engaging in intensive lobbying to open up future opportunities for Austrian business. It goes without saying that this should go hand in hand with upholding fundamental European values. In this context I would like to share with you a statement made by former Chinese Foreign Minister Tang on the occasion of his visit to Austria last year, who said that "Austria is an important partner for China, a gateway to the EU."
This clearly illustrates that large extra-European countries, too, are aware of the relative importance of Austria, which is the result of our reliable policy, our geographic location and our position within the EU.
In this spirit we also need to shift our focus to India as well as to the markets of the other Asian countries, among which Japan in particular will continue to be an important economic player and a factor of political stability.
While talking about Austria's role on the international stage I should also point out that through direct contacts Austria is also involved behind the scenes in the Sri Lanka peace process, for instance, which is an important personal concern of mine.
As the core of the enlarged Europe, Austria may now push further ahead with the globalisation of Austrian foreign policy. This approach also applies to regions such as Central Asia and the Caucasus, and holds true for our relations to the Asian and Latin American countries and regional organisations as well as for our relations to the African continent.
The United Nations is now being put to the test. The prime institution responsible for maintaining global peace and fighting terrorism and weapons of mass destruction has been and will remain the UN Security Council. However, it also needs to effectively assume this responsibility. In the context of Iraq, for instance, the United Nations are first of all called upon to fulfil their humanitarian mission. Finally, the often-quoted "vital role" to be played by the United Nations needs to be defined and incorporated into the process of reconstruction in a pragmatic manner.
This process must be based on sovereignty, political self-determination and the Iraqi people's control of their country's resources.
The resolution recently introduced in the Security Council could create the basis for shaping the future role to be played by the United Nations in Iraq. However, the United Nations cannot serve as a rubber stamp for decisions taken by the only superpower.
Hence, I advocate generally enhancing the role played by the UN with a view to the important issues of life, such as human dignity, justice and stability. In this spirit we have also undertaken substantial efforts aimed at strengthening the importance of Vienna as an official seat of the United Nations - and in the course of the new policy against terrorism the Vienna units were actually expanded.
Thus I particularly welcome the UN's recent decision to make Vienna the seat of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), i.e. its internal audit unit. In this context the substantial role played by the Vienna-based UNIDO in promoting global economic growth also needs to be stressed.
When talking about international organisations, mention must also be made of our country's long tradition of involvement in field missions. Austrians participate in military and civilian peace operations and missions under the auspices of the UN, the EU and the OSCE.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Human rights policy forms an integral part of an active peace and security policy, hand in hand with promoting democracy and the rule of law worldwide. In the years to come I will thus continue to undertake every effort aimed at supporting a convincing human rights policy because I regard it as a sine qua non for preventive action against terrorism and promoting peace in the world.
A few days ago I ended my term as president of the Human Security Network. The foreign ministers of this interregional group formed within the framework of the UN met for their annual conference in Graz at the beginning of May. The goal of this network, which is composed of 13 member countries spanning all continents, is to make life free from fear and misery a reality all over this globe.
The priorities I had set for my year in the chair of the Human Security Network were children in armed conflicts and human rights education. In this context I would like to draw your attention to the first human rights education manual to be used across cultures on all continents, which we elaborated under the HSN. Additionally, the Network's foreign ministers also adopted a ten-point declaration on the promotion of human rights education, since proper human rights education represents an indispensable pre-requisite for successful enhancement of each individual's security.
As regards the second priority, children in armed conflicts, we elaborated a Network strategy aimed at raising the international public's awareness of this problem.
Whenever children suffer so intolerably in armed conflicts we want to be able to sound the alarm and alert the international public to their fate. In this spirit the Austrian HSN chair also submitted the issue of the regrettable fate of the child soldiers serving in the Lord's Resistance Army in Northern Uganda to the UN Security Council. I also dispatched a delegation of Austrian diplomats on a fact-finding mission with the Ugandan authorities.
Closely related to the issue of human rights is the topic of development policy.
Sustainable development policy is of the utmost importance, a fact which has been recognized internationally, at least since the Johannesburg summit last autumn. Development cooperation is not only the developed world's moral duty but it also lies in its own interest with a view to promoting peace, stability and preventing new threats.
It represents an important pre-requisite for a successful policy of securing peace in the world and is at the same time an essential pre-condition for a permanent and consequent global prevention of terrorism. Another sine qua non for an effective struggle against international terrorism is that the international community eliminates zones dominated by poverty, lawlessness and a lack of future prospects, which offer shelter to terrorists and provide a breeding ground for fanaticism that despises mankind.
The Austrian federal government is fully committed to the obligation undertaken at the World Summit on Financing for Development held in Monterrey, Mexico, approximately one year ago, where we undertook to raise the Austrian contribution for development cooperation to 0.33% of the gross national income. Currently the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for all activities in connection with development cooperation. It would, however, make sense to shift project management to some other institution in line with the increase in the level of bilateral development cooperation.
Austria's image in the world is dominated by culture. The goal of active international cultural policy, as the third pillar of foreign policy, is thus to communicate the many facets of Austria's cultural heritage and particularly the current cultural and artistic developments in Austria. I have therefore pursued an international cultural policy which strengthens the basis of European unification in close coordination with other foreign policy and cultural policy initiatives. Let's make use of this "soft power" in the interest of Austria's position in the world.
Concluding, I would like to come back to the issue of trust, because I am convinced that in times of huge change and a difficult global situation, trust is an essential pre-requisite for peace. It is the trust we can put in our neighbours, our partners' trust in our policy and the trust in a peaceful future for our continent.
John F. Kennedy once said that there is no progress as long as people have no trust in the future. We do trust in the future and therefore our country will forge ahead both in Europe and in the world at large. But to do so we need to keep to this course Austria is steering, as this is our contribution to peace.
Thank you very much!