Speech by Mr Hans-Gert Poettering, Chairman of the EPP-ED Group in the European Parliament, at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, on Tuesday, 10 October 2006

„Our common EU and US – Responsibility in the World“

John Kenneth Galbraith, down here at Harvard, once said that politics „is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.“ I am not sure whether I can subscribe to this definition. At least here, at the distinguished Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, you have a higher vocation as far as the career perspectives of all those who study here and the job assessment of those who teach and do research here are concerned. I am sure Robert Frost had never thought of the Fletcher School when he said that the brain starts working in the moment you get up in the morning, and does not stop until you get into the office. I feel honoured for the invitation to come to the Fletcher School and to share some of my thoughts and reflections about the global responsibility of the European Union with you. I know that there is hardly any better place to test my own brain for its coherence and robustness.

When I was appointed for the first time to the European Parliament in 1979, these were its first direct elections. The European Parliament was not in high esteem. It did not seem to have any relevant meaning as a legislature, neither in terms of its decision making powers nor regarding the scope of its mandate. As for foreign and security policy, this seems to be a complete and eternal taboo in the European Community as the EU was then called. When we started with a subcommittee of the foreign policy committee dealing with disarmament, the member state governments agreed to this project only because they were convinced of its irrelevance. The foreign affairs committee was considered a shallow talk-shop and its subcommittee even more an expression of symbolic politics. Today, in practically all relevant decisions of the European Union, the opinion of the European Parliament is relevant. Hardly any legislative decision in the EU can take place without co-decision of the European Parliament.

The common market and the EURO came about because of continuous perseverance of the European Parliament. The whole process of EU enlargement was largely shaped and advanced due to our work in the European Parliament. The President of the European Commission has been elected on the basis of a political majority in the European Parliament. Progress in matters of domestic security – including data retention as part of the fight against terrorism – have required the co-decision of the European Parliament. Foreign and security policy have become an integral part of EU policies. By now, more than a dozen of military and police missions of the European Union can be found all over the world. What has been a taboo in 1979 is a reality in 2006.

This might not be enough and often, the European Union’s foreign policy is criticized for not being coherent. This is one of the reasons why the European Parliament favours the installation of a European Foreign Minister. This idea is included in the European Constitution that was rejected in referenda in France and in the Netherlands last year. The European Constitution has been supported by the European Parliament and ratified in 16 out of 25 EU member states. This document would not turn Europe’s realities into a new paradise. But it would facilitate more democratic, transparent and efficient EU policies. This is why we want to implement the core ideas of the European Constitution before the next election to the European Parliament in 2009. New scenarios are being developed currently in Europe to advance in this direction during the German EU Council Presidency next year.

More cohesion and more visibility in matters of foreign and security policy are essential for the global presence and credibility of the European Union. We do not want to achieve this for the sake of being present. We want to contribute to the management of global affairs as much and as constructive as possible:

We have a common European foreign trade policy. On this basis, all US Administrations have recognized the EU as a commercial and economic equal. This has been to the benefit of multilateral trade talks. We welcome a revitalization of the WTO negotiations under the Doha Round.

The European Union is the largest donor of development aid across the world. Some say that this is a compensation for developing regions after the end of Europe’s legacy of colonialism. I think it underlines the self-assessment of the new Europe, wanting to be partner of the world.

The European Union is part of the Quartet, along with the US, the UN and Russia, that has designed a Road Map for Peace in the Middle East. Many obituaries have been written for this Quartet. But in the end, I believe, a comprehensive solution of the vexing Middle East conundrum will have to follow the main elements of the Quartet’s Road Map and, in fact, will need the commitment of the Quartet. We want a comprehensive, just and lasting peace that recognizes the right of existence of Israel and of a viable Palestinian state.

The European Union has developed a complex web of neighbourhood policies to stabilize our immediate neighbourhood and to project stability, peace and affluence beyond the borders of the EU. The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership is the most elaborate concept of bringing all European countries together with the Arab littoral states of the Mediterranean and Israel. Our partnership with Russia and the other Eastern European countries that are not member of the EU has helped to built up a very stable partnership with that part of our neighbourhood.

These are but a few elements of the global presence of the European Union. Most important for an audience in the United States is certainly the question as to how the EU is coping with global terrorism and is positioning itself in the global war on terror. The European Union – to be absolutely clear on this point – is determined to fight terrorism and any form of political violence. We are gravely concerned about the ideology of Islamic radicalism that includes the use of violence as a means to succeed in its political and religious agenda. We absolutely condemn terror in the name of politics or religion. And we are concerned that the continuity of any form of Islamic terror will undermine the chances of the dialogue among cultures that is more vital today than ever.

Europe is an immediate neighbour of the Arab world. The bulk of immigration into the European Union originates in Northern Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. Spain is the largest recipient of immigrants in today’s EU. Muslims have become the second biggest religious group in the EU. They represent around 3,5 per cent of the EU population: This is not spectacular but it is a larger number than the number of Jewish citizens in the EU.

We are by the nature of things and based on our history absolutely determined to guarantee a peaceful co-habitation of Christians, Muslims, Jews, secular and atheist people and members of other religions. We can do so only on the basis of mutual respect and the recognition of the principle of reciprocity. All over the EU, you can find mosques today. This is why we also demand from the EU candidate country, Turkey, to fully recognize the religious rights of all non-Muslim communities in Turkey – not as an act of tolerance, but as recognition of a European principle.

The global role of Europe has changed and continues to change tremendously. Three dynamic forces attribute to this development, which, I am convinced, will impact international law and the global order increasingly:

1. Globalization has been challenging Europe economically and technologically. We have been slow in some fields to adapt to the opportunities of globalization with the same speed as you sense here in the US, or in China. But the European Union has been fully aware from the outset that globalization includes opportunities as it expands the global market while at the same time it requires cautious adaptations inside Europe as it imposes transformations for our traditional attitudes towards job security, welfare, the role of capital, and, most importantly, the need to improve human resources through education. We would never accept a form of globalization that would undermine our principles of human dignity. Therefore, we plea for a frame around the forces of the market that serves as protection for the weaker parts of our society. This is what we call „social market economy“.

In a way, you may say that European integration has been and continuous to be an anticipated form of globalization in one region. European integration has been driven, by and large, by political decisions. These were always meant to support the freedom and social cohesion of our societies, to facilitate the creation of a single European market and to provide legal predictability about the proceedings in this European sphere. European integration is based on supranational law, generated through political decisions, and sometimes even ahead of them. European integration therefore is the sort of frame in which a free market can flourish to the benefit of more and more citizens. This is our understanding of integration and its objectives. Based on this experience, we believe that globalization may also be most beneficial if it goes hand in hand with legal rules – not to undermine the forces of the market but to protect the weak. This is also the guiding principle for European negotiators in the WTO Free Trade Round. Sometimes, this approach may be slow. But in the end, we want to uphold legitimacy for the political process in Europe and for the fascinating trend of globalization.

2. Globalization, so far, has left out large parts of the world community, notably in sub-Saharan Africa and in the Arab world. Both these regions are our immediate neighbours. We are therefore particularly sensitive to their situation. In fact, we ought to pay even more attention to what is going on in that part of the world. Poverty, insecurity and fear produce illegal migration, fanaticism and violence. We all are affected, but we in Europe even faster than you in the US. The war against terror, in which we are united as the two pillars of the Atlantic civilization, can only succeed if we apply two principles: we must fight radical Islam preaching violence as a means to reach its objectives and we must fight the root causes that nurture this radicalism or can be exploited by radicals who look for cheap excuses to instigate hatred against the West. To eradicate poverty in Africa, to support democratic governance, free civil societies and rule of law in Arab countries and to help bringing about a just and fair order of peace in the Middle East – these are the main challenges right at our European doorsteps.

We are aware that we can succeed only if a sense of ownership will grow in those areas of the world that breed frustration, anger and despair these days. We cannot re-engineer those conditions from the outside without the will to change and the commitment to peace and freedom from within. Both have to go hand in hand. This is why the intellectual, cultural and religious dialogue among civilizations is an essential element in the process of global change and security. It is, probably, the most important precondition because it is the basis for mutual trust and respect. The Western world can only succeed in the global recognition of our key values of peace, freedom and justice if we are perceived as credible and honest. We therefore should never allow the instruments we use in the war against terror to undermine our principles. This is why many in Europe, and I personally, are so critical about the prisoners without trial in Guantanamo. This is why those of us who have supported the war against Saddam Husseins regime have become frustrated and critical since we learned that we were cheated as far as the reasons for this war were concerned. These are not just matters of critique against certain actions of the administration in Washington. These are matters that deeply affect our credibility as the “free Western world” among millions and millions of Muslims. They may be critical about the West. But we should not help them finding easy support for their prejudices about hypocrisy in the Western world.

3. The management of globalization requires transatlantic cooperation more than ever. Hardly any of the big global issues, including those related to climate change, can be resolved by the US or by the EU alone. Whenever we do not agree on how to manage global challenges, the result is not that either of us is succeeding unilaterally. The result is practically always that we both fail and that the credibility of the Western world fails. The United States and the European Union are not interchangeable. We are two different mirrors in which you need to look to understand the complete Atlantic civilization. And we are the two mirrors in which to look ourselves in order to better understand our strengths and weaknesses.

There is simply no alternative to transatlantic relations. We are the most important economic partner for each other. There is no other bi-regional degree of mutual investments, capital flows and job dependency similar to that between the US and the EU. The enormous degree of interaction between our societies – most notably in the world of universities – is legendary. Nowhere else in the world is the exchange of e-mails and the number of air travellers only barely comparable with the intensity of communication across the North Atlantic.

As far as our political relations are concerned, I believe, we could do more and we could do better. The regular annual summit diplomacy between Washington and Brussels has been installed. Transatlantic parliamentary activities could certainly be intensified. It is surprising that transatlantic relations are not based on a treaty yet that would go beyond the successful and continuously important NATO Treaty. Decades ago, John F. Kennedy had proposed a transatlantic treaty broadening the bases for our relationship. As of now, we may say that the Atlantic community is well constituted in many ways, but it lacks a constitution.

Ladies and gentleman, the global presence of the European Union has become a new reality in world affairs. Political scientists like to distinguish between soft and hard power. I prefer to distinguish between coherence and incoherence in foreign policy conduct. Foreign policy is a matter of credibility and trust. We may have thought for a long time that foreign policy is easy, compared with domestic affairs. And we may have even thought that it is no longer relevant after the end of the Cold War. Both hopes were wrong. Foreign policy is a complex matter and it is penetrating our domestic living conditions in many ways.

This is why we need sophisticated and well educated people getting involved in international relations. People like you who have the privilege of being at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. To think beyond one’s own interests is a key to success in international relations. To incorporate the perspective of the other may even be smarter. This is certainly true when it comes to like-minded partners. This is why, I believe, the study of the European Union has much to do with your studies about the role and impact of the United States in international affairs and global matters. I thank you for having given me the opportunity to share some thoughts about the links that bind us.

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