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Udenrigsministerens tale ved offentligt debatmøde den 16. november i København om EU´s udenrigspolitiske udfordringer

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Thank you Nanna Hvidt for the introduction. And thank you for the invitation to come here today together with my good colleague from Finland, Alexander Stubb, and open this seminar of what is a very interesting series of public debates under the heading - Lighthouse Europe. I am extremely pleased to see that so many managed to find the time to come here and join me and Alexander for this debate. The concept “Lighthouse Europe” is very ambitious as it requires us to come up with some effective guidance on how we deal with the challenges facing Europe.

As you know, the purpose of a lighthouse is to provide guidance to captains and sailors at sea about dangerous coastlines or hidden reefs and thereby help a ship enjoy a safe entry into harbour. And in much the same way, “Lighthouse Europe” requires us to provide guidance to Europe’s leaders on how best to navigate in difficult international waters and how best to respond to the foreign policy challenges confronting us. This is our task here today, and I hope that our discussion will prove so productive that we can arrive at some useful guidance, which might help our European ship enjoy a safe entry into harbour.
For let me be perfectly clear with you. It is by no means a foregone conclusion that our European ship will be able to reach harbour safely without the passengers first having to go through a painful ordeal. There is a real risk of a rocky voyage, if we do not urgently attend to the task of improving the ship’s engine, the ship’s manoeuvrability and its ability to compete vis-à-vis other oceangoing ships. The theme for today – EU foreign policy in a new world order – begs the question: What is keeping the EU from having a truly coherent and effective foreign policy? Why does EU foreign policy count for less than the sum of its parts when viewed from Washington, Beijing or Moscow? And how come public opinion in EU Member States continues to be “underwhelmed” by the performance of Brussels on the global stage?

Well, the short answer is this: We have not been able to get our act together. We, the governments of the 27 Member States, have not been able to muster enough unity of purpose, enough political will and enough flexibility to make Europe capable of setting the agenda in the new world order that is under construction. Despite the fact that a common European foreign policy has been a declared objective ever since the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, we are still struggling to become an effective partner, when solutions are being devised to global issues like climate change, financial reform, human rights or international terrorism.

The EU remains the world’s biggest exporter of goods and services. We are the world’s biggest donor of development assistance, and we are the largest recipient as well as the largest provider of foreign direct investments. The total population of EU Member States comprises around 500 million people, which is 200 million more than the US. Jointly, the Member States and the EU Commission employ more than 25.000 diplomats and run 2297 embassies worldwide compared to a total of just 170 US embassies around the world. In short, Ladies and Gentlemen, the human resources, the economic leverage and the political foot soldiers are in place to serve our interests internationally and to ensure that Europe’s voice is heard.

Yet, at the COP15 climate summit last year, which took place at the Bella Center not far from here, the EU came up short, when the final accord was hammered out. We all remember that it was the US, China, India and a few others, who decided the final wording of the accord, which as a result fell far short of the EU’s ambitions. On a more regular basis, we also come up short at the UN in New York. At the UN headquarter, the EU organises no less than one thousand internal EU co-ordination meetings every year, which are aimed solely at achieving a consensus among ourselves. On some issues like the Middle East conflict, it is now deemed a relative success, if Member States only split up in two different positions instead of three. And at the UN in Geneva, the amount of times that the EU manages to build a majority with other countries in support of important human rights resolutions is decreasing each year. Previously, we were able to get a majority behind our human rights agenda roughly 75% of the times, when it came to a vote in what was then called the UN Human Rights Committee. Today that number has gone down below 50% in the UN Human Rights Council.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I mention these examples not because I want to engage in EU-bashing – as a firm supporter of the European project, I never do that - but I mention them because I want to underline that all is not well with the EU’s foreign policy. In a nutshell, Member States must become far better at pulling together around a common European position, when such a position has been established. They must refrain from launching un-coordinated and merely attention-seeking foreign policy initiatives that run counter to what they themselves have agreed to at the European level. The EU’s foreign policy will always build on the initiatives and legitimacy of Member States, but we must all pull in the same direction. Otherwise we stand to lose. We might find it amusing to watch the Eurovision Song Contest each year, where 34 European countries present their own songs, but in foreign policy we cannot have 27 Member States singing 27 different tunes at the same time. Our aim is not to have all 27 Member States singing the same song. That would be an unacceptable straitjacket, which is unnecessary as well as unrealistic. Rather, our aim must be to make sure that our different voices play out in harmony. If we want to achieve results on the big global issues, we have to make use of the differences among us and build on the various historic and cultural ties that exist between European countries on the one hand and virtually every part of the world on the other hand. We all know this, and now we need to do something serious about it.

The good news is that we are in fact doing something serious about it now. Three weeks ago, Alexander and I together with the rest of our EU colleagues endorsed the final pieces of legislation required to launch the EU’s new foreign service under the leadership of Cathy Ashton. The legal basis and the budget for Europe’s new External Action Service are now in place, and Cathy Ashton has begun assembling her team in order to get this new European institution up and running quickly. Yes, the process of establishing the service has been long and complicated at times, but now we are almost there and more than anything else, the time has come for Member States to make room for Cathy Ashton and her efforts to forge a more dynamic and robust EU foreign policy.

Our age-old habit in Europe of petty quarrels and national rivalry must give way to a more coherent and more effective European voice on the big, strategic issues on the international agenda. Of course, this will not happen overnight, because old habits die hard as we all know. But the Member States must become better team players. Just as the best football teams are composed of hard-working players, who each use their skills towards a common goal, so must all Member States contribute with their analysis, proposals and comparative strengths. It is an advantage that the EU has 27 voices as long as we have a common message. And with the appointment of Cathy Ashton, we have an extra player on the team who can help coordinate our efforts like a football coach and hopefully energize the European team to score some goals.
Therefore, the guidance that I would like to transmit from our “Lighthouse Europe” today would be that Member States use the EU External Action Service to turn the page and adopt a new, more constructive and more consensus-seeking approach to the EU’s foreign policy. The External Action Service must be allowed to do its job of converting Europe’s economic leverage and democratic pre-eminence into political influence on the global stage.

The Member States must allow this to happen not just for our own sake in order to avoid Europe getting squeezed by the US and China in the new world order, but also for the sake of the billions of people around the world, who struggle daily to survive conflict and poverty. People, who look with understandable envy on what we as Europeans have accomplished during the past 50 years. People, who are calling for a stronger European presence to help them towards a better and more worthy human existence. Fortunately, the EU has been able to heed their call on several occasions in the past, including in Georgia, in Aceh and in Southern Sudan, but we can do more, and we should do more in the future to bring security, democracy and economic progress to people in need. The External Action Service is a means to this end.

As you probably can hear, I am quite optimistic with regard to what Cathy Ashton will be able to accomplish in co-operation with us, the 27 Member States. Sadly, however, doing the right thing is no guarantee against misfortune. At this particular moment in time, when the EU is about to apply its new foreign policy toolbox, the capacity of many Member States to play their part in strengthening Europe’s international position, is severely diminished by ballooning public deficits. Our national budgets for peacekeeping operations, development aid and monitoring missions are under huge pressure from finance ministries that are desperately trying to balance the books.

Greece and Ireland are feeling the pinch from the international bond market most dramatically at this point, but many other EU countries are also in a vulnerable situation. Many of them have to confront rising unemployment, low economic growth, mounting deficits and a declining ability to compete on world markets, before they undertake any new international obligations. It is unfortunate that the launch of the EU’s External Action Service and the attempt to bolster Europe’s position in a new world order has to take place in such extraordinary economic headwind. But that is the situation, and it is the responsibility of Cathy Ashton and her 27 colleagues from the Member States to make the most of it, and I am confident we can do it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the political and economic challenges facing Europe today are many and they are real. And for us to deal with them in an effective and ultimately successful manner, political leadership is required. We need bold leadership from European governments that will pave the way for key reforms to be implemented in order for our continent to prosper in a new world order, where non-European giants like China, India and Brazil will gain more influence and will be striving to set the agenda. In short, we will have to do our homework in Europe in a changing and in some respects adverse global environment. An environment, where formal and rule-based institutions like the UN and the IMF are being tested and sometimes pushed aside by more dynamic, but less inclusive organisations like the G20.

It is no secret that the global financial crisis has revealed the strengths and the weaknesses within the current international system. And it is equally clear that the G20 has been the single most important global forum with regard to crisis management and future guidance. It has served the world economy well in this time of crisis, but it is not founded on any international treaty. It has no administrative body, and it has no formal powers. In the long run, the international community should not depend on such informal ad hoc groupings alone. I firmly believe that not just Europe, but the world as a whole will be better off with formal - but still flexible - multilateral institutions, which are considered relevant, effective and legitimate. Just like their American and European counterparts, Chinese and Indian exporters are relying on liberal trade policies and an internationally agreed set of rules, which can be mobilized, if they encounter illegal trade barriers or unfair competition from local producers. They have as much stake in a well-functioning and transparent world order as we do. Therefore, countries like China and India must now begin to face up to their responsibilities as global economic heavyweights and not continue to use an anachronistic UN-classification as “developing countries” in order to get a free ride.

There is no doubt in my mind that the G20 will continue to evolve and constitute a forum, where big, strategic decisions are shaped. At G20 summits, Europe is represented by the President of the EU Council, Herman van Rompuy, the President of the EU Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso and the five biggest Member States - Germany, the UK, France, Italy and Spain. In order for small EU countries like Denmark and Finland to feel comfortable with the growing influence of G20, we need better and more thorough co-ordination in the EU before key summits like the one last week in Seoul. It goes without saying that it is not easy to communicate a clear and united European position, when the common European voice is supplemented or at times even disrupted by one or more of the five European countries sitting at the G20-table. Since the agenda of the G20 meetings in the last couple of years has expanded significantly beyond financial and economic issues and now includes a whole range of global issues like trade, development and climate change, we must ensure a much more thorough coordination of the EU position in advance of G20 meetings.

As a consequence, I would like to take this opportunity today to suggest that we consider establishing a new EU mechanism with the task of achieving a better coordination of the European position towards the G20 agenda. Such a mechanism is necessary to ensure a stronger and more united European voice at G20 meetings and more generally, it can help inspire confidence in the G20 among those EU countries like Denmark and Finland that do not belong to the twenty biggest economies. In this way, such a mechanism can help balance the principles of legitimacy and efficiency, which so often seem to be at odds, when we discuss reform of international institutions.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the question for today’s debate is, whether EU foreign policy could bounce back in a new world order. My answer to that question is a qualified yes. Yes, it is possible, if we get our act together, reform our economies and renew our commitment to the European project, which has served our people so remarkably well for the past 50 years. It is possible if we – the 27 Member States – rise to the occasion and refrain from the temptation to cry foul, because we are faced with challenges that require us to become more competitive, more efficient and more united. Therefore, let me conclude by quoting an African-American songwriter, Mrs. Bernice Johnson, who had this to say about challenges: “Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they are supposed to help you discover who you are.” Let’s move forward and discover who we are.
Thank you.

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