|A New Mission for Europe'|
'A New Mission for Europe'
Speech delivered in Berlin at the Auswärtiges Amt (German Foreign Office) by the Rt Hon Jack Straw, MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Source: FC0, Berlin, May 27, 2002.
The Rt Hon Jack Straw (FCO Photo)
Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is always an honour to address an audience of experienced foreign policy practitioners. And this building - opened only 2 years ago - is a reminder - if ever we needed one - that this city is still witnessing the historic process of rebuilding and reuniting the German people and state.
I would first like to pay tribute to the strength of the UK's partnership with Germany. Together we have taken great strides in developing the European Union and promoting a shared agenda.
Our own new-found confidence within Europe happens to have coincided with a major evolution in your foreign policy. In recent years, Germany has become an increasingly important actor in international affairs.
It is in no small degree due to the efforts of Joschka Fisher that the government here has been able to win both public and parliamentary support for this new international role. In particular I welcome the personal contribution Joschka has made to the search for peace and reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians.
I also welcome the fact that we are working together to avert the very present prospect of conflict between India and Pakistan. I will be travelling to New Delhi and Islamabad later today to urge both parties to exercise restraint. I know that Joschka shares my commitment to getting India and Pakistan to the negotiating table. I also welcome the fact that we are working together in respect of India and Pakistan.
The current tension, and the build up of military forces in Kashmir, could all too easily spiral out of control into a conventional, and then nuclear conflict of a kind we have never seen before. We sometimes add the word 'incalculable risks' in such circumstances. But whilst we cannot be precise, the risks are all too easy to describe. Death, destruction, disease, economic collapse, affecting not just he immediate war theatre but many parts of the subcontinent and lasting for years.
So it is imperative that a better way out of this conflict is found; a way that sees the end of cross border terrorism and the support for all forms of terrorism; then a de-escalation of military preparedness; then a constructive dialogue to resolve this longstanding bilateral argument over this beautiful but benighted area of Kashmir.
The UK and Germany are also working more closely than ever before on other foreign policy challenges, be it counter-terrorism, efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction or NATO enlargement.
Tomorrow, in Rome, we shall witness the signature of a co-operation agreement between NATO and Russia. This historic agreement is, amongst many other things, good news for Germany and the UK. And it underlines the fact that, a decade on from the fall of the Soviet Union, European security still depends on the Atlantic Alliance. NATO is the principal instrument for sustaining European military co-operation with the United States.
NATO is helping to transform Europe. Its 'Partnership for Peace' with the post-communist states has completely reformed their security sectors and helped with the transition to democracy and free markets. Already Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland have joined. At the forthcoming Prague Summit in November, more European countries will be invited to join.
To underpin stability and prosperity throughout Europe, NATO and EU enlargement must proceed hand-in-hand. EU enlargement to eastern, central and southern Europe is one of the biggest challenges currently facing our two countries, not least our diplomats. I know there are difficulties. I understand people's reservations. But we must hold our nerve. We made promises to the new democracies in 1990. Now is the time to deliver. Though I don't want to pre-empt decisions for later this year, I hope that, at Copenhagen in December, we will be able to conclude negotiations with 10 countries, allowing them to join in 2001. Alongside that decision, we shall want to give new impetus to the negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania, to give further consideration to Turkey's candidacy, and to send a signal that the door remains open to new candidates.
- Germany's experience of reunification
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany has been at the heart of the historic mission to end the Cold War division of Europe. For the past 12 years, you have shouldered the enormous economic costs of reunification. The near instant transition for the eastern part of Germany from command economy to free market was always going to be painful. You took the moral and visionary stance that, whatever the economic cost of accelerated integration, it was worth the price of making East Germany's former citizens full and equal members of the new Germany. And I think we in Britain still tend to underestimate the remarkable achievement of doing this without an increase in social or political disturbance.
The EU now faces its own challenge of reunification. From the outset, Britain and Germany have been partners in pushing this forward. Today I want to set out my vision of the course the EU needs to chart in the coming years if we are to do justice to the aspirations of all Europeans, from member state and applicant alike.
In the 1950s the founders of the EU had a mission for Europe. It was not about institutions. It was about how to make war impossible. It recognised the pride of nations. But acknowledged the frailty of frontiers. The Treaty of Rome created a new frontier within which the member states were to share common policies and laws in certain areas. The balance between the national and the supranational was vital to the success of the enterprise. A purely intergovernmental organisation would have worked only at the lowest common denominator of agreement. A wholly supranational organisation would never have got off the ground.
Since then, our Union has enlarged and integrated. The thing which would perhaps have most surprised Jean Monnet is that the EU has integrated a wide range of policies without changing the fundamental relationship between the member states and the supranational institutions of the Union. That is a tribute to the robustness of both.
The original mission for Europe remains valid. But it is no longer enough. We need to offer our electorates new arguments, not least because the EU is now facing a test of leadership and legitimacy.
In recent weeks, European citizens have voted in droves for parties that have deep reservations about both the European Union and its enlargement. In the words of Guy Verhofstadt, the Prime Minister of Belgium and a passionate supporter of a stronger Union, 'the EU is out of touch with its citizens.'
In putting the case for the EU to the many doubtful Europeans, we need to start from first principles. It will not be sufficient simply to ignore their immediate concerns and leap straight to the case for an expanded Europe. We have to begin by improving public faith in the EU and addressing voters' fears about loss of sovereignty.
We have to work together to convey a simple message: a united Europe will not be a superstate, but a Europe united across the old divide by common values and common identities. This wider Union will be a unique structure. It will not correspond to any form of political organisation which currently exists or has existed. It is founded on the concept that, in many areas, sovereignty pooled is sovereignty gained.
Fifty-four years ago Churchill acknowledged hat post-war reconstruction depended on this principle. He accepted that there would be 'some sacrifice or merger of national sovereignty' if Europe was to emerge from the ashes. But he saw this as the 'gradual assumption by all the nations concerned of that larger sovereignty which can also protect their diverse and distinct customs and characteristics …'
These were typically prescient remarks. In today's interdependent world, pooling sovereignty, when we choose to, is the way to strengthen our freedom of action rather than weaken it. At the supranational level, we can achieve policy goals - and therefore outcomes for our citizens - which are quite beyond us as individual countries.
In the EU, such co-operation has enabled our citizens to live, work and travel anywhere within the world's largest Single Market. The air we breathe is cleaner. So are our beaches and drinking water. Our industries are healthier and more competitive. Women have greater rights to equality at work.
And with public fears in many states about rising crime, it is abundantly clear that the EU is crucial to stepping up cross border efforts to make our streets safer. At the same time there has been no erosion of national identity. The fears of the opponents of European integration have proved unfounded. Europe now has more nation states than ever. All the countries of Europe have retained their different historic, constitutional arrangements and political identities. I have noticed no diminution in the Italian, French or German sense of national identity as the EU has developed.
But these reassuring messages will not be sufficient, in themselves, to win the battle for public opinion. The EU will also need to demonstrate that its institutions are prepared to reform to meet concerns about its legitimacy. And we also now need to demonstrate that the EU can deliver the policies that people want. The Convention on the Future of Europe provides an important opportunity to reverse public disenchantment with the EU. I have already set out my ideas on institutional reform in a speech in The Hague three months ago.
I want to see an EU which delivers real benefits to its citizens. The Convention's aim must be an EU which is prepared for the institutional challenges of an enlarged EU, and is better understood by our citizens. We need to deepen the bond between the EU and its citizens based on a common attachment to a set of values and efficient machinery that delivers.
At the same time, we have to redouble our efforts to generate popular support for enlargement.
Milan Kundera has said that during the Cold War central Europe was the 'kidnapped west.' The British historian, Norman Davies, forcefully makes the case that 'despite the divisions of the Cold War, the concept of Europe was no less alive in the East than in the West.'
In promoting the benefits of enlargement to an audience of German diplomats, I know that I am preaching to the converted. German business is already positioning itself for expansion to the east and south. In 2000, German direct investment in the 12 countries which have opened accession negotiations was worth almost 3 billion euros.
But for other countries, including my own, public awareness about the impact of enlargement remains relatively low. And in recent months, as I have already mentioned, those political parties from the far right have made electoral gains across Europe by opposing enlargement and seeking to exploit - but never to solve - popular fears about crime and immigration. Main-stream politicians must be clear: enlargement is part of the solution not part of the problem.
Of course, we have to deal with the immediate abuses of our immigration and asylum systems. But we have also to deal with the causes - principally the huge imbalance in the quality of life and the standard of living between countries in the EU and those some way to the east. The accession countries next to the EU's current eastern border, are principally transit countries. But even amongst them, there is a considerable difference in their living standards compared with the 15. The ten new applicants in 2004 will add 23% to the EU's land area, 20% to its population and just 4% to its GDP.
But experience tells us that we need more partners to tackle the issues which concern our citizens; more countries working in an EU framework in the fight against illegal immigration; more resources to tackle global terrorism, more co-operation to shut down people and drug smuggling routes and disrupt the networks of organised crime.
An enlarged EU should also be a buttress against extremism. At Copenhagen nine years ago we set out criteria for EU membership, not just in terms of economics but above all in terms of values, including support for the rule of law, human rights and respect for minorities.
These criteria have provided an essential impetus to the transformation of the EU applicants from former members of the Soviet bloc to the threshold of EU membership. In the process, they have helped to exorcise the ghosts of the past, and to turn electorates away from extremism.
The preparations for enlargement are already delivering results. UK and Czech officials stopped a major drug-related money laundering operation in 1999. Bulgarian customs officials, with support from EU partners, seized around 2 tonnes of heroin between 1999 and 2001.
Previous experience shows how much the EU has gained from expansion. The evidence shows that enlargement has been of mutual benefit to new and old member states alike. It has delivered political stability, underpinning the reintroduction of democracy in Spain, Portugal and Greece - three countries which, when Joschka and I were students, were entirely off limits; it has encouraged growth and mutual prosperity. For example, since its accession to the EU in 1986, Spanish trade with the UK has increased by over 400%; and it has led to considerable migration – but more from the old member states to the new, rather than the new to the old. In 1986, when Spain joined the EU, there were 109,000 Spanish workers in France; by 1994 this had fallen to just 35,000. And there are hundreds of thousands British people living in Spain. Ireland has been similarly transformed since joining the EU from a country of large emigration to a country of net immigration.
Some worry that enlargement will cost money. So it will. So has the first post-Soviet 'enlargement', namely the unification of your country – for which you have paid the cost. But the whole of Europe owes you a debt of gratitude for what has been achieved as a result.
Some worry that enlargement will put the brakes on European economic growth. Another myth. Independent studies suggest that enlargement should create up to 300,000 jobs in the EU. With the prospect of imminent accession, many of the candidate countries are in fact growing faster than the EU: Hungary's economy grew by 5.2% in 2000 compared with 3% in the UK and France. The Czech Republic has one of the most vibrant mobile telecommunications sectors in Europe, with an estimated 65% of Czechs owning mobile phones. In the 1980s, people joked 'why does a Skoda have heated rear windows? To keep your hands warm when you push it.' Today, with VW's investment, the Skoda Octavia was a car of the year.
Some argue that enlargement will suffocate the EU's ability to reform. That is an insult to the extraordinary changes which the candidates have made in the last decade, guided by the prospect of EU membership. This has been the quiet revolution of Europe, signalled first by the bulldozing of the Wall but since marked by the inexorable change of citizens' lives. That spirit of renovation and reform will be vital to enable the enlarged EU to tackle the challenges which confront it.
For all EU member states, enlargement should not just be about an historic obligation to those that suffered so long under the Soviet yoke. It is also a matter of enlightened self-interest. If we want to deliver economic prosperity, a cleaner environment and safer streets for our citizens then we should embrace enlargement, not postpone it.
Our citizens also expect us to deliver European security. I welcome our involvement in the long haul to recovery in South East Europe. The incentive of EU membership is already helping to build peace in these countries, and encourage democracy and economic reform.
This imposes a reciprocal burden on the countries and peoples involved. Countries such as Bosnia, Serbia and even Croatia must give up their indicted war criminals, and state authorities must do more to tackle crime and embrace the opportunities of globalisation. By taking such steps, the countries of the Balkans will set themselves on the path to prosperity and eventual accession to the EU.
We also need to look further east to the EU's new neighbours. We must not create a new dividing line of 'haves and have nots' on the continent. I have recently written to my EU counterparts making the case for new policies towards Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus which offer incentives for reform. I know this is a priority shared by Germany and by the incoming Danish Presidency. We also need to strengthen our relations with President Putin. Where close co-ordination in NATO with Russia is blazing a trail, greater economic co-operation with the EU has to follow to integrate Russia into the European economy.
The events of 1989 and 1990 provoked one commentator to declare the 'end of history.' Well it certainly marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War. But until the countries of Eastern and Central Europe take their seats at the European Council, the final phase of Europe's century of turmoil will not be complete. The historic nature of this enterprise has provoked much thought and many metaphors. One of my favourites comes from Pope John Paul II: 'Europe has two lungs. It will never breathe easily until it uses both of them.'