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‘Europe: A Global Framework

 

‘Europe: A Global Framework

Speech by British Minister for Europe, Peter Hain, to the Royal Commonweath Society, London, Wednesday 24 October 2001. Source: FCO, London.

Usama bin Laden could hardly have calculated that his evil terrorist strike would not only unite the whole world in horror, but also give new prominence to the role of international bodies like the European Union and the Commonwealth.

To confront and eliminate international terrorism, international solidarity and close co-operation has never before been so badly needed. Nor has common action on a European level.

International Partnership and the War on Terrorism

It is only by working together that each of the fifteen independent member states of the European Union like Britain can better guarantee our security against terrorism.

Under British leadership, there is now an agreed European action plan for

  • a European arrest warrant so there is nowhere for terrorists to hide in Europe.
  • a common definition of terrorism in each nation’s laws, ending the days when terrorists could avoid justice through legal loopholes
  • quicker freezing of assets and evidence, through recognition by each EU member state of each others’ court orders. No longer will terrorists be able to hide the funds that pay for their campaigns, or the evidence that will convict them.
  • better intelligence sharing between member states so that all of Europe’s eyes and ears will help ensure that we can track and pre-empt planned terrorist action right across our continent.

And a stronger European Defence policy too for peacekeeping, humanitarian and crisis management operations. This to ensure a Europe better able to stop the kind of instability – on its borders or further afield – in which terrorists can hide and thrive.

The transatlantic alliance built around the crisis – with Tony Blair and Britain playing a pivotal role - shows that being in the European Union does not mean standing apart from the US. On the contrary, the alliance between America and Europe makes both stronger in the anti-terrorist fight, just as it made the Allies stronger in the First and Second World Wars.

For the fight against terrorism will be won not just by more troops. Not just by better intelligence sharing. Not just by enhanced extradition arrangements. But by real international solidarity.

And by enlargement of the EU, to re-unite Europe at long last after the bitter divisions of World War Two and the Cold War. Enlargement will make us safer. War between the EU’s members is now unthinkable. By enlarging, the EU will extend stability throughout Europe. It will make our streets safer. Together the EU member states are tackling cross-border crime, drug-smuggling, people-trafficking and illegal immigration.

European Co-operation Building a Europe for the Citizen

We are working to build our kind of Europe. A practical Europe, that delivers real things for real people. Jobs. Prosperity. Cleaner air. Safer cars. The right to live, work and study anywhere inside the EU.

An accountable Europe, whose agenda is set by the democratically elected leaders of the member states. An open Europe, that consults its citizens and takes decisions with transparency. A comprehensible Europe, that uses language people can understand and procedures they can follow.

A diverse Europe, that cherishes the differences between its member states. That empowers them all while respecting the national identity of each.

A Europe that stands in a strong transatlantic alliance with the United States as it has so firmly over the past month. As it must also do in opening up trade, on conflict prevention, on a new deal for Africa, on humanitarian assistance and fighting world poverty. This is our kind of Europe.

This is the Europe that our government is trying to build.

The current terrorist threat to Britain and the values we share with others across the world makes our kind of Europe more vital than ever.

The EU is looking for partners in this struggle: we are keen to find new ways to work with other members of the international community, not just the US, to ensure we prevail.

Peace at home is the first condition of successful engagement abroad. Let’s remember that peace in Europe isn’t an accident. It has happened because of the EU and NATO. NATO protected us against a Soviet threat, and now against new dangers.

The EU has made further war between the 15 European Union members an unthinkable impossibility. Enlarging the EU eastwards will spread this zone of peace and stability to Central and Eastern Europe. It will strengthen the EU's ability to promote peace and stability across the world, in close collaboration with NATO, and together with other countries around Europe.

Rising Above Caricatures on Europe

It is a travesty that all this is so often overlooked by the media. When reading the latest ‘euromyth’ in the pages of certain newspapers, I am often reminded of the quotation from Aneurin Bevan, who said ‘I read the newspapers avidly – it is my one form of continuous fiction’.

And indeed one of the problems we have with Europe in Britain is that public debate has been hampered by language and labels. It is debilitating for each British citizen trying to make sense of their own place in Europe’s future. It is debilitating for the Government trying to protect and advance British interests. And I suspect it is just as debilitating for our Commonwealth friends here tonight trying to make sense of the debate. Just as I am sure they find it as infuriating as I do to see the travesty of 21st century Commonwealth in the British Media as ‘a relic of Empire’. That is patronising and insulting nonsense: the Empire is long gone. And the Commonwealth is a unique bridge: between North and South, between East and West, between rich and poor.

It’s time for us all to rise above caricatures. For rational debate, not knee-jerk argument. For information not propaganda.

Like Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, I am up for a robust debate on almost anything under the sun – including with those who disagree with our Government’s policy. We respect different views, sincerely held, about the direction of Europe or the Commonwealth. But we need a serious debate about what is really happening - not a debate trapped in a time-warp caricature of doughty Britons versus fiendish foreigners or still ruling the waves in our pith helmets!

Plain Speaking on Europe

On Europe, for people to see the real benefits of the European Union we in government need to cut through the jargon and the Eurospeak that makes it hard for them to do so.

The very low turnout right across Europe in the 1999 European elections showed the big gap between the EU and its citizens. The Irish referendum – to ratify the Nice Treaty on enlarging the EU - showed it too: turnout low, answer no. Significantly, the NO campaign ran on the slogan: ‘If you don’t know, vote no.’

Young people are instinctively pro-European. They travel to Paris just as easily as to London. They get by with the language and drink the lager. But ask them about the Council or the Commission or the Parliament and they don’t want to know. They are not necessarily hostile, more not engaged.

We need plain language, not Eurobabble

We need plain language, not Eurobabble. We need a new popular language if we are to reconnect the European Union to its citizens, to show that we are in fact talking about the things that really matter – jobs and prosperity, peace and security, social justice and the environment.

And above all, let’s have the facts and demolish the myths.

British Sovereignty

Myths like the European ‘superstate’, which the eurosceptics claim to see Britain being sucked into by those devious foreigners again.

Let’s have some plain speaking here too. A ‘superstate’ would have an elected central government. A parliament with the power to tax and determine public spending. A standing army. A foreign policy independent of its constituent states. The power to declare war. The kind of relationship with the nation states of Europe which the British government has with Wales, Scotland and England’s regions.

None of this exists today in the European Union and none of it could happen without the agreement of every member state. Britain doesn’t want it. So we could veto it if we had to. But other European leaders don’t want it either. More important still, the people of Europe don’t want it.

I want Britain to be more confident - and get more real – about our ‘sovereignty’.

Take the United Nations. More than 50 years ago we and the rest of the international community ‘gave up’ our right to do simply what we liked over foreign policy by establishing the UN Security Council. Its resolutions have the force of international law. Everyone, including Britain, has to respect them. But as a permanent member of the Security Council, we get to make the laws. We pool sovereignty in the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund and in international treaties like that banning landmines. By pooling sovereignty, the British people have greater influence in building a safer, more stable world. We advance Britain’s interests by being right at the centre of NATO or the UN, the G8 or the Commonwealth – and indeed the EU.

This doesn’t take away our sovereignty. It strengthens it. In today’s global village, power shared is power regained.

Take foreign policy. Britain alone can do a lot. But Britain and the rest of Europe together can do much more. For example: it was Europe which helped topple Milosevic. It is the pull of EU membership which will keep the new Yugoslavia on the democratic path of reform.

It is Britain and the rest of the Commonwealth, working alongside each other in the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), that helps to restore and bolster democracy in countries like Fiji and Sierra Leone, and by constructively engaging with others, like Zimbabwe.

Take trade. We live in a global marketplace. Opening it up further depends on our influence in world trade negotiations: only the EU collectively has that clout. Only the EU has the clout to protect Britain’s own interests when our exporters meet unfair competition. And only the EU collectively can make the steps we need to open up our markets to help the world’s poorest, including some of our Commonwealth partners, trade their way out of poverty.

Take the environment. Acid rain and pollution cannot be stopped by immigration officers at Dover. If we really want power over our environment, we need to share decision-making with our EU partners. And we need to work together with others across the international community: hence our support for Kyoto.

The Euro

Perhaps the greatest of all our media and political caricatures concerns the Euro.

Why is the government, in principle, in favour of joining? What are the ‘potential benefits’ that the Prime Minister and Chancellor often talk about?. What do they mean for you and me?

  • They mean increased certainty for the companies involved in the half of UK trade that we currently do with countries who have the Euro, by removing the need for them to second-guess the currency markets.
  • They mean that because everything would be priced in euros British shoppers could easily compare between Nottingham and Naples or Manchester and Munich - and make sure they could find the best price.

But we’ll only see these and other benefits if we make sure that the decision about whether to join is based on the national economic interest.

That’s why our Government will only recommend to each voter in a referendum that Britain should join the euro if we think that it will be good for British investment, for jobs, for growth and for stability.

But the sceptics scream ‘save the pound’ as if the Euro would mean the end of British civilisation. Of course it’s a big decision which shouldn’t be taken lightly. It does have far reaching consequences. There are pros and cons. But as for the idea that we British will become less British, I haven’t noticed that, since being in the Euro, the French have been less French and the Germans less German.

Conclusion

So, I’m neither a Eurozealot nor a Eurosceptic. I am a practical European. I want today’s Europe to deliver real things for real people: full employment, equal rights, safer streets, cleaner skies, an end to injustice and poverty. And I believe that our constructive engagement in Europe directly benefits the UK.

The British people know this. At the last election, the British people were offered a clear choice: isolation from the rest of Europe, or engagement with it. They overwhelmingly chose engagement. They recognised that Britain’s interests lay in playing a full role in a Europe of Nations. We are a European nation and always have been. Indeed we are a European power, and we should be more self confident about our ability to win arguments for our kind of Europe.

I want people in Britain to see that we are putting our shoulders to the wheel in Europe. The historic drive towards a prosperous, safe, socially just Europe, is a mission of which we can all be proud and which we should lead.

I also want to see a Europe that takes action when it is needed – just as we are doing now in response to the events of 11 September. A Europe that engages and builds support from its links to other international organisations like the UN and the Commonwealth. A Europe that is not a protectionist, rich person’s club but opens its doors to trade and aid with the poorer countries.

Our aim is a strong Britain, a strong Europe, a strong Commonwealth, a strong United Nations and – therefore - a strong international community which protects human rights, extends democracy, builds peace, spreads prosperity and cements stability.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).

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