Summary: 8 September 2009, Copenhagen - Speech by Olli Rehn, EU Commissioner for Enlargement, "Enlargement and the EU's Role in the World" at the University of Copenhagen
Mine Damer og Herrer, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Lad mig først takke Københavns Universitet for indbydelsen i dag, og Lykke Friis for hendes varme introduktion.
I look forward to an interesting and substantive discussion - something this University is well-known for. I know this magnificent hall has heard many great debates over the years.
Lykke Friis has already led us off on an inspiring note, setting out the historical context for EU enlargement. It is indeed worth remembering.
Europe celebrates a historic double-anniversary this year. It is 20 years since the cold war ended and 5 years ago since the EU undertook its latest enlargement, nearly doubling in size from 15 to 27 Members.
The more middle-aged of us remember the emotions we felt when we saw the pictures on television of the Berlin Wall coming down, and East Germans by the thousands voting with their feet - and Trabants - for a better future. It ended half a century of totalitarian rule in Eastern Europe.
Moreover, we mark a third, more sombre, anniversary this year as well. It is 70 years since the start of World War II.
Together, these anniversaries capture what the European Union is about - and what is often forgotten amid more sensational news stories about fishing quotas, light bulbs, or cucumber curves.
The EU was founded to reunify the European continent after the World War II by ensuring peace through integration, and to protect a particular European way of life based on shared values.
Coming out from under the Iron Curtain, this was magnetic pull that the countries of Central and Eastern Europe responded to when they chose to join the EU. And it is what today continues to inspire Turkey and the Western Balkans. Many of our Eastern neighbours have the same ambition to join one day.
And so does Iceland, which has long and deep European roots. Iceland just applied for membership this summer. I will be heading to Reykjavik this afternoon to help move the process forward.
However, the journey to the EU is quite demanding. The pace of the EU accession negotiations depends on the pace and intensity of reforms that enhance fundamental freedoms and the rule of law in the candidate countries.
For instance, we have always been clear with Turkey that freedom of thought, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are fundamental values in any open and democratic European society. They are a necessary condition for EU membership. The same goes for religious freedoms, women's rights, minority rights and trade union rights.
And EU conditionality works. Without it, the Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk might not be a free man; Ante Gotovina and Radovan Karadzic would not be in prison, along with 40 others of the most wanted by the UN War Crimes Tribunal's; and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia might have succumbed to similar nationalist forces that drove them to war before. These are milestone achievements.
And there is even more to it. The EU's enlargement process is both about domestic reforms and strategic partnerships. As I told the EU foreign ministers in Stockholm this weekend, Europe and Turkey share long-term strategic interests. Stability in the Southern Caucasus, peace in the Middle East, security of energy supplies and the fight against terrorism are all issues on which we have common interests. They are issues that we cannot solve or deal with alone.
Of the other enlargement countries, Croatia is nearing finishing line, after four years of intense negotiations. But a few major challenges remain, even at this advanced stage, notably in the shipbuilding and steel sectors, and on the rule of law - including co-operation with the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.
We have free-trade arrangements in place with the rest of the Western Balkans - the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo - and we are working to extend visa free travel to those countries that are most advanced in meeting the EU's conditions.
But they all have further benchmarks to meet before they are ready to start formal membership talks. Skopje is likely to be the next to do so.
EU enlargement has brought substantial gains. It has helped to bring about peaceful democratic change and extended the area of freedom and prosperity to almost 500 million people. It has brought the newest Member States up to EU standards of environmental protection, food safety and nuclear security, to mention just a few - for everyone's benefit.
Enlargement has also increased our weight in the world. The EU is today the world's largest economy, a global heavy-weight in trade, and a regulatory superpower. We are at the forefront of addressing climate change and development. And we have substantially increased our crisis management capacity. Size matters.
This has important implications for the EU's global role. How to reinforce the EU's capacity to act? I draw three broad conclusions.
First, the EU's common foreign and security policy must build on our existing strengths - that is, our single market and legal order, our European way of life, and our powers of attraction.
The EU's transformative potential is greatest in our Southern and Eastern neighbourhoods where our way of life, our powers of attraction, provide hope and drive reform. This is where we can really make a difference.
Southeast Europe, the Eastern Partnership and the Union for the Mediterranean must therefore remain the EU's top priorities.
The EU's credibility as a global actor stands or falls, to a great extent, by our ability to shape our own neighbourhood.
Also in the future, I'm sure that our external impact will be based on our internal strength. I am thinking, for instance, of the external dimension of energy policy, which is key to European security. Energy could become as important as the Single Market has been for future European integration - but only if we manage to mobilise a collective will for a common policy.
The EU member states are not far apart on the goals - on securing supply, reducing carbon emissions and promoting renewable energy - but still too distant on means. The foundation of an effective energy security policy is to complete the single market in gas and electricity.
Morever, the EU's single market is attractive to all our trading partners; we can leverage it to our advantage - to promote fair competition and fair trade.
By and large, we have a solid European Security Strategy. But we need to combine our strengths to deliver it better. And we must reinforce our relations with NATO under Anders Fogh Rasmussen's dynamic leadership.
This brings me to my second conclusion. To reinforce the EU's capacity to act in external relations, we must make the most of the Lisbon Treaty, which I hope will be ratified soon.
The Lisbon Treaty will integrate all the EU's foreign policy instruments under a single High Representative / Commission Vice-President.
This is a major innovation that carries a vast potential.
The same is true of the future European External Action Service, which will be steered by the new High Representative. It will bring together for the first time staff and resources from the Commission, the Council and Member States, including all our delegations abroad.
The future Permanent President of the European Council, the Commission President, and the High Representative / Vice-President will need to work closely together at the top. Mechanisms will have to be agreed for how this will function.
The Lisbon Treaty also reflects the reality we live in by breaking down some of the barriers that exist today between foreign policy and justice and home affairs, and between Member States' and EU competence.
We will need this broader framework to tackle terrorism, trafficking, illegal immigration and a range of other challenges that depend on domestic policy but can only be solved by international cooperation.
Also for this reason, the new High Representative will need to work closely with Member States. Javier Solana has laid the groundwork with his leadership and tireless efforts.
My third and final point is that, of course, the EU's global role comes with global responsibilities too.
We must continue to do our part in Afghanistan, in the Middle East, and in tackling shared concerns in places like Iran and Sudan.
The EU remains the world's largest donor of humanitarian and development. For a Europe built on values, the moral challenge of global poverty must remain one of our key priorities. This is something I know that Denmark, and the rest of the Nordic countries, feel strongly about.
Europeans are also traditional champions of multilateralism, working with the United Nations and the international financial institutions. The economic crisis and climate change have forced a review of global governance. The EU is playing a central role, and rightly so. Our own experience in building a closer economic union and transforming the European continent brings valuable experience to the world table.
With President Obama, we have a new beginning in EU-US relations in tackling these global challenges.
We need a new beginning with Russia too. It must be based on a realistic assessment of Russia today and the nature of our relations.
We cannot trade human rights for energy. We need both. This is why we need to work out a new and legally binding agreement on EU-Russia relations to deepen our cooperation in trade and economic matters.
At the same time, the EU must continue to underline that a vibrant civil society and civil liberties are the basis of any European democracy. A real partnership with Russia must therefore reflect the basic European values. That's why the new agreement must include a human rights dimension.
Uffe Ellemann Jensen warned in his blog last month against Russia's return to a policy of spheres of interest in Eastern Europe. I agree: we don't need new political walls in Europe to replace the walls of concrete that fell 20 years ago. This would go against everything the EU stands for. That is why our new Eastern Partnerships, e.g. with the Ukraine, are so important in bringing these countries closer to the EU and refusing any spheres of interest. But we can and we should make Russia a closer partner in the many areas where we have genuine shared interests.
Surely, we need patience: this may make Russia a more predictable and reliable partner in the long run. It should help in the modernisation of the country, to the mutual benefit of Russia and the EU.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In announcing my speech today, Lykke Friis asked whether enlargement should take a back seat now, when the economic crisis threatens European jobs and welfare?
The economy and jobs are most people's first concern. They dominate the EU's agenda too, and rightly so. That is why we launched the European economic recovery plan and why so much energy is going into preparing for the upcoming G20 Summit in Pittsburgh.
Even so, my answer to Lykke's question is "no." While combating the economic crisis, we cannot take a sabbatical from our work for stabilisation of Southeast Europe. It is much better to export stability to the Balkans than import instability from there.
In fact, the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy was born in the context of the Balkan wars in the early 1990s. We learned some lessons. We are today more effective and capable in working for peace and stability.
In the coming period, we must make the most of our size and strength as a Union.
We need the political will of all Member States and a joint vision of how to promote stability and prosperity in our Southern and Eastern Neighbourhood.
We need to capitalise on the new instruments provided by the Lisbon Treaty.
The EU's credibility as a global actor rests on our ability to shape our own neighbourhood and meet our global responsibilities.
This is the best way to make a difference for the sake of peace, liberty and democracy - the EU's core values.