CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
On the 9 November 1989, we all thought that a new world order was about to start. I was 16 at the time, and at that age you are full of hope and dreams, but it would have been impossible for anyone in those days to convince not just me, but many others much older and much wiser than me, that the future of Europe, the future of the world, was not going to be bright and peaceful. The fall of the Berlin wall was opening the doors to great expectations and great opportunities.
Today, 25 years later, we hardly dare to refer to any form of world order. And rightly so. In the world we see emerging it’s hard to define the centres of power: they are multiple, of different nature, and overlapping in a rather chaotic web. 25 years after the end of the old bipolar system, the world is far from being a unipolar one, nor is it truly multipolar. Maybe we are living in times of absence of poles, times of an endless transition to something we cannot yet define. Complexity, conflictuality, interdependence seem to be the only elements we can be sure of when we refer to our times.
The big question for all of us is: how do we try to make a change? How can we manage complexity, prevent or handle conflictuality, and take the opportunities that interdependence offers to us? How do we shape, after 25 years, a new world order?
Let me try to say how I think the European Union can contribute to addressing the many challenges (and the few opportunities) we face and hopefully trying to make the opportunities more than the challenges.
First, by focusing on our immediate and wider neighbourhood. I am convinced that, as Europeans, we can only expect to be a credible global player if we act as a responsible power at our doorstep. Our priority are the many challenges that are most immediate and most urgent. We stand side by side with our partners and friends in the region, in defence against those that seek to undermine their values, their aspirations, their sovereign choices. We support their statebuilding projects, their democratisation, economic reforms, as well as their European and regional integration. It is both a responsibility dictated by history and an interest dictated by geography.
And we do that together, north and south, east and west of the European Union, united. As we know very well our strength comes from a balanced mix of diversity and unity. And because we all know that we can’t afford the luxury of choosing which crisis we want to deal with. The conflicts around us are many and don’t queue up: we have to work on all of them, all at the same time, all of us together, to the east and to the south.
To our east, on European territory, the conflict in Ukraine has carried an unsustainable price in human lives, has shown us that one of the basic principles of international law – the respect of country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and that you don’t change borders by force – can be violated. An extremely dangerous precedent, not only for Europe but for the rest of the world as well.
What is our response? What is our action to stop the conflict and restore the respect of international law?
First: exhaustive diplomacy, including the economic pressure we put with our sanctions. We work through all channels, all forms and formats of dialogue that can lead to a solution. Being it the Trilateral Contact Group, the efforts of mediation led by the OSCE, being it the talks in the Normandy Format. The initiative taken by Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande in the past days goes exactly in this direction, with the goal of finding effective ways of finally implementing, in full, the Minsk agreement. We do not know yet whether these efforts will succeed. But it is our duty to try. Not only because we feel the urgency of reaching a ceasefire, and making it sustainable. But also because we know that there is no alternative solution to a diplomatic solution for this crisis.
But our work is not only focused on solving the conflict. We also have to make sure that Ukraine becomes a functional state, I would say a success story. That is why we are supporting Ukraine in its broad reform agenda. That is why we have just added €1.8 billion in macro-financial assistance; let me say that much more, much more is needed from the international community. That is why we have deployed Advisory Mission to assist with security sector reform, and that is why we are facilitating the gas negotiations between Russia and Ukraine to ensure security of supply.
I’ve heard yesterday some words from minister Lavrov. Let me say that our vision for the EU’s relations with Russia had been a partnership for prosperity and security. The EU can never be described as a project against someone. It will never be. Never. We have made our dream of integration true, after centuries of war, to move from confrontation to cooperation. Internally and externally. The EU’s doors remain open for dialogue, but we cannot and we will not compromise on international principles and values. Never.
To the south, we face multiple and interconnected crises, from Libya and the Sahel to Syria-Iraq. All of these call for a stronger European role. We need to work harder to stop the immense human suffering in Syria. That’s why we have mobilized more than €3 billion for relief and recovery assistance to Syrians in their country, and to refugees and their host communities in neighbouring countries. But we know that our work has to focus on the solution of the conflict: we fully back the efforts of Staffan de Mistura to realise a Syrian-led transition.
The conflict in Syria and Iraq has been greatly amplified by the threat emanating from Da’esh. This is first of all a threat to Muslim comunities and to Arab countries, but concerns all of us. We are working together with all our partners in the region, and beyond, to prevent and confront terrorist acts and networks. It is a security challenge, but it is first and foremost a cultural challenge. We must be smart enough not to fall into the trap of a new clash of civilisations and call Daesh for what it is: the misuse of a religion to perpetrate violence in a conflict for power.
Now, in a region that is more turbulent than ever, it is all the more important to find ways to bring the Middle East back on track of Peace Process. This has impact not only on the parties themselves, but on the region and the wider world. Our deep political and economic partnership with Israel, and our role as the foremost donor to the Palestinian Authority and UNWRA give us a key position in reinvigorating the peace talks. We know that. As we know that we need to build a new international consensus to get this conflict to a solution: EU, US, Russia, UN are the important pillars of this effort – we all bring different and complementary strengths to the table. I have invited the Quartet Principals to meet today, to discuss the situation in the region and to underline the importance of the parties resuming negotiations as soon as possible.
The protracted deadlock shows that we also need a collective rethink of our overall approach to the conflict. In light of this, the Quartet should prepare for a resumption of the peace process, including regular and direct outreach to Arab states. The Arab Peace Initiative with its vision for a comprehensive settlement for the Arab-Israeli conflict remains for us a key basis on which a new initiative could draw.
Lack of progress in resolving the Iranian nuclear issue overshadowed relations between Iran and the international community, and held up cooperation in many areas of mutual interest. We have a historic opportunity: for the first time we have a real chance to resolve one of the world’s longstanding problems. As you all know, the EU is coordinating the process. We are now in the critical phase of intensive work towards a comprehensive solution that both recognises Iran’s right to access peaceful nuclear energy, and gives us the necessary insurance that the programme will be exclusively peaceful. But not much time is left. It is the time to show a strong political will. We cannot miss this opportunity. A comprehensive agreement with Iran will open up prospects for cooperation in many areas, both bilateral and regional.
Let me mention one last challenge we need to work on in our region: Libya. We tend to forget this perfect mix of arms, absence of state structures, uncontrolled land and sea borders, flow of refugees and migrants, natural and financial resources, and divisions. We need to use all our pressure to encourage those that are ready for a national unity dialogue to really engage, and to avoid that those that want the dialogue to stop don’t have the possibility to make it fail. Be sure the EU is doing, and will do, its part of the job, supporting Bernardino Leon’s efforts in a very concrete way.
And finally, one opportunity, in our region – the Western Balkans. The most quiet place of our neighbourhood (things change!), where the European perspective is bringing stability, security, prosperity, and regional integration. And tomorrow in Brussels we will restart the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue.
But the world does not end at our doorstep. Europe was build on cooperation, and it’s in our DNA to build partnerships on a global level. The new world we see emerging is not a zero sum game, where more influence for some necessarily means less for others. It is a world where influence can be, should be, shared.
The rise of new powers, the growing number of fragile states, as well as the risks that come from climate change, resource scarcity and insufficient attention to human and social development all demonstrate the urgency of forging strong partnerships. We need to define a new level of ambition on how we engage with the most important players around the globe – in Africa as much as in Asia, in the Arab world and the Americas.
Partnership is also the key to increase the effectiveness of our Common Security and Defence Policy: we need to draw on all the instruments that we finally have, as EU, but also work systematically with the UN, NATO, regional organisations, starting from the African Union.
Supporting partners’ capacity in crisis management makes also our response to security challenges more effective and sustainable. The ongoing eleven civilian missions and five military operations are a clear expression of our commitment to global security. But they are no reason for complacency. The security challenges we are facing are growing in number, and they are growing in complexity and quality. Hybrid warfare is a point in case. We therefore have to constantly review our engagement, our means and our approach. The planned discussion on Security and Defence at the European Council in June will give us the chance to answer some key questions: how to make the best use of our existing resources, how to make cooperation the rule rather than the exception in capability development, how to halt the decline in defence research.
In a rapidly changing world we need to have a clear vision of the way ahead. So the final element I would like to emphasize today is the need for us to think and act strategically.
In these times of crisis it is not easy to go beyond the immediacy of today. But taking the time to look ahead is not a luxury. It is an essential prerequisite to transition from the current global chaos to a new peaceful global order.
We need a sense of direction. We need an ability to make choices and to prioritise. We need a sense of how we can best mobilise our instruments to serve our goals and in partnership with whom. We need a strategy.
This is why I have launched a process of strategic reflection to guide the EU’s foreign and security policy. Let me thank my predecessor Javier Solana: his strategy is still a point of reference. But we need a new strategy – one that is not drawn up in a closet by a select few, but a broad process that involves the Member States and EU institutions, as well as the foreign policy community spanning across academic and think tanks, the media and civil society. You all have a contribution to make to this new start. I look forward to discussing with you today, and to working with you all in the years to come.