Sumario: 24 September 2009, Princeton - Speech by Olli Rehn, EU Commissioner for Enlargement, "The EU Enlargement Process and Europe's Role in the World" at Princeton University
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me first thank the Woodrow Wilson School and the Lichtenstein Institute on Self-Determination for the invitation to speak, and Professor Danspeckgruber for his kind words of introduction.
I have wanted to come here for a long time. Some of the scholars and practitioners who have most shaped my thinking came from here: George Kennan, Joseph Nye, and Robert Gilpin to mention only a few. Professor Gilpin's writings provided the intellectual foundations for my doctoral thesis and guided me through the labyrinth of global political economy throughout my career. I could have wished for no greater tutor.
It is therefore with particular pleasure that I take the floor here today.
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.
Most of us remember the emotions we felt when we saw the pictures on TV 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.
We mark a third, more sombre, anniversary this year as well. It is 70 years since the start of World War II in Europe.
Together, these anniversaries capture what the European Union is about - and what is often forgotten amid more sensational news stories about butter mountains, banana curves and the ups and downs of the Euro.
The EU was founded to reunify the European continent after World War II by anchoring peace through integration, and to safe-guard a particular European way of life based on shared values of liberty and democracy.
Coming out from under the Iron Curtain, this was the 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 - from the Ukraine to the Southern Caucasus - have the same ambition to join one day.
And so does Iceland, which just applied for membership this summer.
But the journey to the EU is quite demanding. The pace of the EU membership negotiations depends on the progress of reforms that enhance fundamental freedoms and the rule of law in the candidate countries.
For example, we have always been clear with Turkey that freedom of thought, speech and the press are fundamental values in any open and democratic society. They are a necessary condition for EU membership. The same goes for religious freedoms, women's rights, and minority rights.
This should sound familiar to an American audience. For Turkey to join, we simply ask that it lives up to the same values and principles that are set out in the United States "Bill of Rights."
I know Prime Minister Erdogan spoke here at Princeton yesterday. As he told you, and as I always tell my colleagues, the EU foreign ministers: Europe and Turkey share paramount strategic interests.
Peace in the Middle East, relations with Iran, stability in the Southern Caucasus, security of energy supplies and the fight against terrorism are all issues that we cannot solve or deal with alone.
This underlines the fact that the EU's enlargement process is both about domestic democratic reforms and international strategic partnerships. They go hand-in-hand and reinforce each other.
Of the other enlargement countries, the Western Balkans have made important progress in stabilisation and reform over the past 5 years. Croatia is nearing finishing line, after four years of intense negotiations. 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. Moreover, we are working to extend visa free travel next January to those countries that are most advanced in meeting the EU's conditions.
But they are not yet ready to start formal membership talks. Many conditions still have to be met. Skopje is likely to be the next to do so.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Looking back, there is no question that enlargement helped to bring about peaceful and democratic transformation in Europe. It has extended the area of freedom and prosperity to 500 million people.
Enlargement has also increased the EU's weight in the world. We are today the world's largest economy, a global heavy-weight in trade, and a regulatory superpower. We are EU is in the lead in addressing climate change and development. And we have substantially increased our involvement in international peace-keeping missions. In all of this, size matters.
So what should this mean for the EU's global role in the years to come? I would draw three broad conclusions.
First of all, the EU's credibility as a global actor stands or falls, to a great extent, by our ability to shape our own neighbourhood.
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, our Eastern neighbourhood and the Union for the Mediterranean must therefore remain the EU's top priorities.
Second, the EU's foreign policy must build on our existing strengths - that is, on our single market and legal order, on our European way of life, and on our comprehensive approach to security.
I am thinking, for instance, of energy policy. Energy could become as important in the future as the Single Market has been until now in 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: to secure supplies, to reduce carbon emissions and to promote renewable energy. I know the United States shares these goals. But we are all still too distant on means.
The foundation of an effective policy for energy security is to complete the EU's single market in gas and electricity. A single integrated market is infinitely better than 30 fragmented markets. It will increase our leverage and limit the scope of suppliers to divide and conquer. We must also reach a deal on climate change at the Copenhagen Summit in December.
The EU has a comprehensive European Security Strategy. It reflects both conventional and new threats, such as state failure and organised crime.
European military capabilities have increased significantly in recent years. We have three ongoing military operations in Bosnia, in the Congo and off the Horn of Africa. Others have been successfully concluded already. The EU is in the business of peace-keeping to stay.
We need to join forces with our closest partners for maximum impact, in particular with NATO. France's return to the military structures of the Alliance should facilitate a more effective cooperation and division of labour.
As Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in his first press conference as NATO Secretary-General, "There is enormous potential for cooperation between NATO and the EU. […] Unfortunately, the reality falls far short of that potential." He added that no serious politician intends to put personnel at risk in the field, but that is what sometimes happens in places like Afghanistan. The EU and NATO need to work closely together with Greece, Cyprus and Turkey to help find a solution soon.
To reinforce the EU's capacity to act in foreign affairs, we must also make the most of the Lisbon Treaty, which I hope will be ratified soon.
The Treaty provides for an "EU High Representative" who will also be a vice-president of the Commission, backed by an EU "external action service" [foreign service] and with a clear mandate to initiate and implement policy. This will strengthen the EU's ability to act and provide foreign and security policy leadership. It is self-evident that 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 conclusion is that, of course, the EU's global role comes with global responsibilities too.
We must continue to do our part in places like Afghanistan and Iran, both of which were discussed at length and in depth by the European foreign ministers last week.
The stabilisation and development of Afghanistan and the entire region is a crucial challenge we face today, and where the United States and Europe are working closely together. This calls for a long-term commitment to accompany and assist Afghanistan to become a more secure and democratic country ever more important.
As for Iran, we have seen some movement on the nuclear issue in recent days. It is essential that the United States and the EU continue to deliver a united message and work with our international partners, China and Russia.
At the same time we continue to be very concerned about the human rights situation in the country. We are following very closely the ongoing trial against those who demonstrated after the elections.
The EU is committed to a dual track towards Iran. We want to engage with Iran and its civil society with positive incentives, while we are also prepared to consider targeted sanctions in case Iran will not respect its obligations on the nuclear issue and continues to breach human rights.
Beyond Afghanistan and Iran, for a Europe built on values, the moral challenge of global poverty must remain a key priority. The EU is the world's largest donor of humanitarian and development aid. The EU will propose to the G-20 in Pittsburgh today to adopt an "Everything But Arms" initiative on aid and trade to help developing countries deal with the financial crisis.
Europeans are also persistent 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 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 strong transatlantic partnership based on common values and shared interests.
Together, the EU and the US account for 60% of world GDP. We must use this weight to achieve common goals.
We need a new beginning with Russia too. It must be based on a realistic assessment of our interests, of Russia today, and of the nature of our relations.
EU-Russia relations have changed dramatically since George Kennan wrote his famous Telegram "X" in 1947. Containment in the classical sense is neither appropriate nor possible in today's interdependent, post-cold war world.
We can and we should make Russia a closer partner in the many areas where we have genuine shared interests, from energy security to nuclear non-proliferation to counter-terrorism. We have to achieve a better understanding and deeper trust when it comes to matters of crucial importance for European and global security. It is of paramount importance that events like those in Georgia last year are never again repeated.
By a realistic policy of engagement, matched by patience, we can help make Russia a more predictable and reliable partner in the long-run, to the mutual benefit of Russia, the EU and the United States.
While times have changed in these respects, George Kennan's warning against sphere of interest politics still rings true today, as does his belief in human rights, values and the powers of attraction of the West.
We don't need new political walls in Europe to replace the walls of concrete that came down 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.
Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt spoke for the whole of the EU last week when he said that our eastern neighbours "are sovereign nations and they have their right to choose their own destiny." They have expressed a wish for a closer relationship with the European Union.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The economy and jobs are foremost in most people's minds these days. They dominate the EU's agenda too, and rightly so. That is why we launched the European economic recovery plan earlier this year and why so much energy has gone into preparing today's G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh.
But, while combating the economic crisis, we must continue our important work for stabilisation in Southeast Europe. As history has taught us, it is much better to export stability to the Balkans than to import instability from there.
In fact, the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy was born out of the Balkan wars in the early 1990s. We have learned some hard lessons, and we are today more effective and more capable as a result.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In conclusion, we stand before a historic opportunity to move the EU's foreign policy and global role to a new level.
We need to shape our own neighbourhood by consistent policies of enlargement and partnership.
We need to make the most of our size and internal strength as a Union, including through the Lisbon Treaty.
We need to meet our global responsibilities in international security and in the fight against poverty and under-development.
This is the best way we can make a difference for the sake of peace and prosperity, liberty and democracy - which remain the EU's core values.