|The UK and Germany: ‘A Strong Partnership in Europe’|
The UK and Germany: ‘A Strong Partnership in Europe’
Speech by the British Minister for Europe, Peter Hain, to launch the joint publication of the Centre for European Reform and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Pamphlet ‘Germany & Britain, an Alliance of Necessity’, London, Wednesday, February 13, 2002. Source: FCO.
As Minister for Europe I see for myself the strong alliance between Britain and Germany - the strongest it has been for many years – with a close friendship between the Prime Minister and Chancellor Schröder. In Europe we share common goals, enlargement, security, economic reform and we both want to see an enlarged EU that breaks down the historical divisions in Europe.
Britain and Germany can both gain from further reform. The single market doesn’t function in all areas; EU legislation sometimes puts an unacceptable burden on business; Labour markets lack sufficient flexibility and too many state aids hold back competition. That’s why it’s crucial that the target we set for ourselves at the Lisbon European Council in March 2000, to become the most dynamic and competitive economy in the world, remains a key goal for the EU. And Germany can work with Britain to ensure that we can succeed.
This is not just reform for reform’s sake. It matters. If the EU matched US productivity levels, UK and German citizens could be £5,000 a year richer and reform would help create 20 million new jobs in the EU. Our progress so far has been good: 5 million jobs in EU have been created, phone call costs halved and there are more Europeans online than Americans – and that’s only 2 years into a 10-year programme. We need to be an outward-looking EU, learning from the US and Asia with whom we directly compete.
Despite the current economic climate in Germany, productivity remains higher than in the UK. Germany is the world’s second largest exporter and an economic powerhouse. And let us not forget that it was only a decade ago that the Berlin Wall fell and the huge process of transition for East Germany began. I cannot envisage any country other than Germany capable of reuniting, with a 5% GDP annual transfer from West to East.
Europe is Britain’s number one client – we export 3 times as much to the rest of the EU as to the whole of NAFTA; twice as much to Germany than to Japan, Canada and Australia combined; more to France than to the whole of the Commonwealth and more to Netherlands than to South East Asia. Over half our exports go to the EU, supporting 3 million UK jobs. That’s why we need a Europe that works for both UK plc, and the person on the street.
In or out of the euro, it is in the UK’s interest for it to succeed. A successful euro will boost the single market, reduce transaction costs, boost competition, give greater price transparency and create new opportunities for trade and investment. But the economic conditions must be right and these remain exactly as set out by Gordon Brown in October 1997. They are the five economic tests – convergence, flexibility, investment, financial services and employment & growth. However we must ensure that Europe does not isolate itself from the global market. Whilst the single market encompasses 375 million people today and potentially 500 million in the future, we still have a long way to go to ensure that European business and European consumers get the full benefits from trade. Otherwise we risk losing out to North America or the Asian Tigers. Trade between the US and Europe is $1bn a day and growing at a rate of 10% a year; together we share half the world’s output. We need to ensure that the latest trade round launched at Doha is driven forward to open our economies to the Developing World.
Defence and Security
I particularly welcome the German Government’s move to take a more active international role, especially in security and defence issues. Europe needs to enhance its capability of dealing with military crises and to take on a more active role in peacekeeping. Yet this can only work if all European partners pull their weight, so I welcome the recent German led military mission in Macedonia and post 11 September, I welcome the German involvement and commitment to Afghanistan. For example, the German offer of up to 1200 troops for ISAF and the international policing effort.
The UK and Germany’s ‘Progressive Partnership’
I believe we are building a ‘progressive partnership’ together – from the EU, to Wider Europe, to NATO and the Wider World - as demonstrated in Afghanistan. This ‘progressive partnership’ is more than just an alliance between political leaders, it’s about a commitment to make a real difference. That’s why, for example, I am going to Berlin next week to meet my German counterparts on the EU’s Convention to discuss the Future of Europe debate. I hope that we can continue to build on this alliance, both within the EU framework - dealing on issues like enlargement, reform of the CAP, and Future of Europe - and beyond the EU’s borders, continuing our joint efforts in the Balkans, Afghanistan and beyond. Last year, Britain reopened its Embassy in North Korea, where we share our diplomatic compound with Germany. I hope we can continue this sort of co-operation. Because Britain and Germany, as key players in Europe, must be ready to work together and promote the shared values that we both hold.
We frequently look to each other as a source of ideas. We both want full employment, nutritious and cheap food and a Europe that promotes prosperity for all its citizens. We both want a Europe for the people, with democratic accountability. Above all, I believe that the UK and Germany can form a ‘strong partnership’ in Europe, which will lead the way to the EU delivering real benefits to real people, in a clear and easy to digest fashion.
I hope Germany can join the UK in the fight against red-tape and bureaucracy. There is a real need to encourage plain-speaking on EU policies and not let our citizens become disengaged due to ‘Eurobabble’. I hope that we can work on this together and that Germany can join the UK in presenting facts, not myths on Europe. For both our countries, ‘Europe’ is our number one client and ‘Europe’ gives us a louder voice in the world. The British-German alliance is much more than an alliance of necessity. It is a partnership of choice and we are both stronger for it.