Venice, 20 June 2007
Remarks by Emma Bonino, Italian Minister for International Trade and European Affairs
I would like to thank Alessandro Profumo and Renato Ruggiero for their invitation. I am delighted to be with you tonight, although I shall not, unfortunately, be able to attend your discussions on Russia and the emerging countries tomorrow, owing to previous commitments. I have not come here today to â€śbring vases to Samosâ€ť, and therefore I will not dwell at length on economic issues. You are all experienced players on the economic and financial stage, and men of the world. Instead, I wish to share with you a few thoughts on Europe and the World, and hope that these will kick-start a frank discussion.
Let me start with a simple, straightforward remark: the European project was inward-looking for the first fifty years of its existence. And rightly so. We wanted peace, we wanted economic prosperity and solidarity. Peace was reached through a lasting agreement between France and Germany; whilst economic prosperity was for the most part due to the progressive establishment of the Single Market and sound competition policies. Solidarity was achieved through the implementation of a far-reaching and imaginative cohesion policy.
Incidentally, it was this combination of peace, economic prosperity, and solidarity that so attracted the Central and Eastern European countries and allowed the peaceful unification of Europe into a continent-wide liberal community stretching from Lisbon to Warsaw, from Dublin to Bucharest.
That inward-looking era has now come to an end. In order to pursue those same goals today we must build an outward-looking Europe. Today, peace in Europe can only be pursued beyond its borders: by tackling international terrorism at its roots; by actively contributing to the stabilisation of key conflict areas; by addressing the issues of non-proliferation and failed states more decisively. Likewise, economic prosperity can best be assured by turning globalisation into an unprecedented opportunity. In practical terms this means establishing the right legal and economic framework â€“ both internally and externally (through the WTO) â€“ in order to allow our businesses, our banks, etc., to compete on the global market. Solidarity, in turn, calls for a renewed internal commitment, but with a global outreach: only then will the EU be able to face challenges such as illegal migration flows, the eradication of poverty, and pandemic diseases.
If you concur with this analysis, you will also agree that the number one priority for Europe today is to acquire, in addition to its undisputed economic power, the capacity to become a credible diplomatic and political actor on the global stage. We can no longer afford - or so the saying goes - to remain a political dwarf in a world of giants.
A world of giants. That is the global landscape Europe will have to face whether it is properly prepared for it or not. A landscape in which the big hitters are playing an increasingly tough game, and in which things happen at a pace that seems to gather more speed every year.
Let us take the example of the US, without a doubt still the most influential player in the world today. A powerful combination of the 9/11 trauma, unparalleled military might, and a sizeable amount of ideological motivation, have produced in the current Washington administration a revolutionary drive for change abroad of Napoleonic dimensions. One may dispute the merits of this â€śtransformationalâ€ť approach â€“ as it is now described â€“ in light of the results achieved in Iraq and elsewhere. However, this is not the point I wish to make here, and may be left for another debate. The point I seek to make with these observations is that it is difficult to stand still when a big storm rushes through. Powerful forces are at play, and they have not spared the EUâ€™s neighbouring countries. There is no way the EU can escape the winds of change that are blowing.
Take some of the other main actors: China, Russia, India. Each is gaining influence as time passes. They all dispose of continent-sized landmasses and vast seaways. They can project their influence on their neighbourhoods and abroad, often to quite some distance (for example China in Africa). They are active in Space, and dispose of nuclear deterrents. As the new economic powerhouses, they are also driving, to a great extent, global growth trends, owing to their formidable internal markets and (in the case of Russia) to huge natural resources. They may not prove as â€śtransformationalâ€ť as the US â€“ at least not yet - on a global scale. But â€“ and make no mistake about it â€“ they are clearly on the path to gaining more influence, and will do so in due course whether we like it or not.
Being influential, if not â€śtransformationalâ€ť, is what counts in todayâ€™s world. A world in which not only major Nation States but even non-state actors (terrorists, the Internet, global media and finance to name but a few) are relentlessly shaping change. The EU has so far remained somehow â€ścrystallizedâ€ť in the shape of a benign paradigm of â€śsoft powerâ€ť. That paradigm is no longer suitable to face the challenges which lie ahead. Our common approach to the outside world was traditionally based on the universal aspiration to achieve peace, prosperity and democracy for all: at every latitude, on every continent. In pursuit of these just â€“ although somewhat unrealistic - aspirations we spent huge amounts of energy and resources: building governments in Palestine, hospitals in Somalia, schools in Afghanistan and so on.
Many of these achievements have in the meantime been wiped out by security crises and conflicts. Time has served to recognize that being a universal donor is not a self-sustaining approach to peace, and that there is no such thing as being a world player if one is unequipped to assume all the responsibilities associated with that status: a strong diplomatic identity, and the capability, if needed, to use force in pursuit of your interests.
Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, the twenty-seven Heads of State and Government will gather in Brussels to agree what we might describe as â€śa fresh start for Europeâ€ť. We all know that even in the best case scenario this is going to be hard work! Negotiations are ongoing as we speak, and we have not yet reached the crucial defining hours.
The Italian Government is tabling proposals that reflect our ambition to strengthen the scope for â€śenhanced cooperationâ€ť. One of the important lessons that the Italian government, and many others, have drawn from this lengthy reflection period is that the EU needs more flexibility and a greater capacity to overcome future deadlocks.
The voting system is likely to become the defining issue for the Summitâ€™s success. But it is not the only thorny subject. I expect a compromise to be found on the Charter of Fundamental Rights â€“ most likely through the inclusion in the Treaty of a simple reference to a legally binding text (elsewhere). The same is true of the primacy of EU law, already consistently established through the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice: the absence of an explicit mention of this principle would not change the legal substance of the matter.
Many other relevant issues seem to have already been â€śsolvedâ€ť - or otherwise disposed of - in the run-up to the European Council. Let me be frank in this setting. I attach great importance to symbols and names: I like the European flag, and the European anthem, and I believe their value is not just cosmetic. Symbols represent communitiesâ€™ identities, and we know how desperately Europe is in need of a soul. But, if that is the price that must be paid for a good deal, then I would be prepared to give them up. The same goes for the â€śCâ€ť word (the Constitution), perceived as a punishment in some capitals. In difficult times one has to concentrate on the core issues in order to make progress.
Of these core issues, I personally consider the institutional dimension of our common foreign policy as the most sensitive, and probably the most valuable, part of the current constitutional exercise.
This dimension essentially refers to the creation of a European Minister for Foreign Affairs and a Joint Diplomatic Service, and partly to the establishment of a more permanent EU Presidency. These major innovations, brought about by the 2004 Treaty, should not be discarded today: not if we want to give the EU the visibility, coherence and strength it still lacks in the international arena.
So far, enlargement has been by far the most effective of the EUâ€™s external strategies. It was the European method of ensuring â€śregime changeâ€ť in third countries. We have a spectacular record of achievements in this respect: never before have so many countries completely overturned their civil, economic and administrative systems in a bloodless process! On the other hand, it is only through enlargement that the EU has proven its potential in terms of transformative power. But this is a potential which can be further exploited provided that we are able to meet the big challenge ahead: the Western Balkans and Turkey. In this respect, I believe that it would be a major mistake to close the doors to membership now. At the same time, however, it seems to me that enlargement has (almost) reached its limits: we must be clear on the point that the EU cannot expand indefinitely, to the borders of Pakistan, or Indonesia!
Thanks to the good work of Javier Solana, and to the adoption of the European Security Strategy in 2003, the EU has already made some progress in terms of identifying the basic elements of a truly European foreign policy doctrine, based not only on common values, but also on shared interests. It has also set up a basic framework â€“ in terms of policy-making and decision-making structures â€“ that could allow the EU to become, over time, an actor in its own right on the security front. Recent years have seen the creation in Brussels of a Military Staff; of a Situation Centre; of an Armaments Agency; and of an Operation Centre that may be the embryo of an Operational headquarters for EU Police missions and Peacekeeping operations. Some such missions (in the Balkans, in Palestine, in the DRC) have already taken place â€“ although not many are aware of this in Europe.
We need to go further. And we need this â€śbabyâ€ť to grow. To allow this, we must stop postponing the establishment of an EU Minister for Foreign Affairs (and of a stable EU President): it is a clear pre-condition for the development and implementation of a fully-fledged European foreign policy. Foreign relations are also built on trust, on complicity, on stable channels of communication. A system allowing the representation of the EU to rotate every six months was conceivable for 6 or 10 members. Now that this system means a Presidency every 13 years or so, it is absurd â€“ and totally incomprehensible for our external partners.
Depending on the outcome of the Summit on this very point, the prospects of the EU (and Italy) may look very different. It would be very regrettable â€“ and I donâ€™t say so simply because of my passport â€“ if some sort of G3 were to emerge at the European level. I was surprised to read last week an article by my friend Joschka Fisher, in which he explicitly mentioned the â€śthree big European countriesâ€ť, forgetting Italy and the decisive contributions made by several generations of Italian leaders to the integration process. The Ancient Roman emperor Justinian once wrote that â€śnomina sunt consequentia reand that is precisely why it is important today that we focus on the substance of things before names transform them.
The ability of the EU to complete its transformation from an inward- to an outward-looking community largely depends on its capacity to assert itself as a credible foreign policy player. This, in turn, will require a high-quality combination of institutional reform, political leadership, and economic/trade dynamism. I would not wish to conclude again, in a few daysâ€™ time, that we know the recipe, but lack the Chefs with the kind of vision and skills needed to mix the ingredients correctly.
European integration has been an asset for all its members, including the most recent. And it can continue to grow from the liberal force it has proved to be across this continent, to the sort of global liberal force that we need today. John Fitzgerald Kennedy once said: â€śThe purpose of foreign policy is not to provide an outlet for our own sentiments of hope or indignation; it is to shape real events in a real worldâ€ť. That is precisely what Europe needs to do today: to shape real events. To become influential outside its borders, and beyond the enlargement area.
Nowadays, Europeâ€™s future lies for the most part outside Europe itself. There is no reason to believe that we will be able to keep our European society open unless we keep working, relentlessly and tirelessly, towards the establishment of a global open society.