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DN: SPEECH/01/451 Date: 2001-10-11
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Speech by Romano Prodi
President of the European Commission
Europe one month after 11th September: challenges and reactions to the European Trade Union Confederation Brussels, 11 October 2001
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to thank you for your invitation my visit is a long-planned one, and I have been looking forward to my discussions with you. You well know the importance I attach to speaking to unions which represent millions across Europe. You also know the importance I attach to building a Europe of solidarity. To my mind, this means going in search of sustainable growth, in other words, growth which is both respectful of social and environmental rules and economically productive. Our societies need cohesion as well as competitiveness.
Exactly one month ago, terrorists attacked the US. This week, military strikes have begun in Afghanistan. In the light of what has tragically happened, allow me to reflect on matters which go beyond the scope of your usual functions. The pictures of death from New York and Washington touched every thinking, feeling human being. All of us here, every worker you represent, and every man and woman who wants to live in peace, wondered how such horror was possible, how we had sunk so low.
So many old certainties evaporated. So many old arguments became meaningless.
I would like to appeal to you, and through you to all of Europe's citizens. I would like to try and allay fear, which is the worst motivator. I would like to try and restore hope, by showing how the building of Europe can help to build a fairer world.
I will take in turn each of the five principles which I believe should guide Europeans at this time of crisis:
to avoid falling into the trap of seeing this as a clash of civilisations;
to realise how much our similarities outweigh our differences;
to demonstrate total solidarity with the US;
to opt for European integration;
to promote our view of politics, one of multilateralism and solidarity.
A clash of civilisations
The crimes which took place in the US affected all of humanity. This is not a war of civilisations. It is not a clash of religions. The perpetrators have set a trap for us. Their attacks are the result of the fanaticism and hate of a few. This is something I was careful to point out when I spoke at the main mosque in Brussels at Yom Kippur.
Europe has seen plenty of religious persecution. It set off the Shoah. It is not in a position to preach. However, it has a universal message to pass on. In the age of enlightenment European philosophers battled in their own countries against the actions of absolute monarchs, and against atrocities which were committed in God's name. They took great risks to argue for tolerance, in the face of the dominant thinking of the day.
At the same time, the United States was proclaiming its independence in terms which were just as universal: "all men are created equal .with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
I would call on everyone, believers and atheists alike, to spread tolerance and moderation in their cultural and religious lives.
Our similarities outweigh our differences
Here in Europe, we have spent much time in recent years discussing what our values are. Last year, we proclaimed a Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The Charter states that "the peoples of Europe are resolved to share a peaceful future based on common values". These values of course include freedom and security, but also, as you know because the unions played an active role in the drafting of the Charter, solidarity.
I have voiced my regret that the Charter is not recognised as a legal document. I am formally renewing my call to the Member States today to make it rapidly a legally binding instrument. When it comes to issues such as these, political declarations are not enough.
Globalisation has also been at the root of much debate and controversy, and even of violent clashes in Gothenburg and Genoa.
Then, the events of 11th September brought us down to earth with a jolt.
We realised that we were already living in a globalised world. I have been sure of this for a long time. This is why the Commission defended an ambitious position on the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases. This is why the Commission wants to help to make the next round of WTO negotiations in Doha a success, and is arguing for their agenda to include social and environmental matters.
The perpetrators of the 11th September attacks provided an all too bloody proof that globalisation exists. By making use of technology and abusing the openness of a democratic country, an enemy holed up in a remote and backward mountain area was able to kill thousands of civilians in their places of work in Manhattan. The threat is global, and the terrorists' instruments are global.
This means that there are fundamental questions facing us. Our response must be in tune with this globalised world. We need common answers to common problems.
It is my fervent hope that the rather detached debate on the future of Europe will tackle these issues too. We are no longer talking about matters which are the preserve of technocrats or specialists in institutional questions. The issues I am putting to you are vital ones.
Are we in the European Union prepared to give priority to what unites us our fundamental values and to forget what divides us on whatever minor point? Are we willing to be united and resolute in defending our common interests, giving pride of place to the incredible openness to other peoples and the promise of prosperity that globalisation holds?
Have we forgotten that rights go hand in hand with duties?
What should we do to eliminate the poorest countries' destitution, a destitution which is the breeding ground for anti-enlightenment? What should we do to integrate young people into our societies to prevent them losing their bearings and sliding into fanaticism?
Are we prepared, mutually, to make concessions to build a Europe which has both internal solidarity and enough strength externally to defend its way of thinking?
We should not of course come up with hasty answers. The consequences of the acts which we have been talking about need a response that stands the test of time. However, I did not want to leave without raising these highly political issues, issues which have long been tied up in the building of Europe. A number of European heads of state and government have recently pointed out that Europe was becoming "a necessity".
These are political matters. Dealing with them by theorising would for ever cut us off from our citizens.
This is why I asked all the Commissioners, directly in the wake of the 11th September attacks, to make proposals in their own spheres of competence. The Commission will take a calm and considered look at potential initiatives in the next few weeks.
Total solidarity with the US
The European Union reacted fast and in concert to the attacks against the US.
The EU's transport and justice ministers held extraordinary meetings devoted to air security and combating terrorism. A General Affairs Council coordinated national positions.
Thanks to the hard work of the Belgian Presidency, an extraordinary European Council in other words a meeting of heads of state and government - was held on 21st September to discuss all the issues connected with the attacks economic, diplomatic and legal. The decision was taken to establish a European arrest warrant, and to make extradition easier.
At the same time, though less visibly, the euro provided protection for our economies.
The allies of the US also invoked Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty for the first time in NATO's history. A number of EU Member States offered the support of their armed forces. These commitments helped the US response, which was recognised by the UN as legitimate defence.
We can see that the Union and its Member States acted using the full panoply of means at their disposal. Europe was efficient in this crisis because it reacted fast and effectively, but also because it relegated questions of method and procedure (Community-based or government-based measures) to the background.
As President of the Commission, I am very pleased with this unity of action. I hope that this tragedy will have the positive effect of giving us a lasting focus on results. We must deliver now, and in the long term.
There would be nothing worse, after emotions have cooled, than seeing ourselves erupt into open disagreement (for example, over the rebuilding of Afghanistan), or relapse into institutional squabbling, leaving the concerns of our citizens far behind.
Opting for European integration
We have to recognise that Europe is at a crossroads.
These events have happened at a crucial point in the building of Europe. As all the speeches we have heard since the spring of 2000 confirm, everyone agrees that we need reform. The forthcoming arrival of a dozen new Member States and the upheaval created by globalisation mean that the Union needs to be recast. The time has also come to involve our citizens more deeply in integration.
Recent events have simply reinforced this belief. However, there is no guarantee that what happens next will necessarily be automatically positive.
The current crisis could be seen as favouring integration by stressing the need for action at a higher level. Greater convergence in foreign policy and closer relations in justice and home affairs could help to place our differences in perspective and bring easier solutions to institutional issues which are still to be settled.
However, there could also be deterioration rather than progress. Fear, feelings of a physical threat (for example, through attacks in Europe or large-scale biological or chemical hazards) could create differences. There could be major political disagreements between Member States on the course of action to take (against terrorism or in foreign policy or defence policy). An atmosphere of war usually provides fertile ground for countries to become inward-looking. The Union, which has few means of diplomatic or police action, let alone action in defence, could be discredited without having done anything wrong.
December's Laeken Summit is due to establish a Convention composed of members of the European and national parliaments and government and Commisison representatives to lay the foundations of future reform of the Union. This will be accompanied by intense debate. The traditional European circle of discussion will thus be widened
One possible outcome would be that the Convention genuinely cleared the way and yielded viable proposals, with the IGC producing reforms.
Another possible outcome would be that the Convention met, but the major issues were actually discussed elsewhere.
I would appeal to you and to all our citizens to play an active role in this debate, so that the first outcome wins out over the second.
The Convention will have to work closely with the social partners and civil society as a whole. The unions should play a full role in the debate. The social partners have a historic legitimacy and representative role. To forget this is to forget the heart of society.
Integration is a valuable and delicate achievement. It is our common property. We have just seen that peace and stability cannot be taken for granted, even in apparently powerful countries.
I firmly believe that we need to speed up the integration that is under way. The events of 11th September oblige us to act resolutely and rapidly, but not unthinkingly, to continue down the road on which the EU has already embarked. We have almost fully completed economic and monetary integration. We now need to turn together to social issues, sustainable development, justice and security.
What do we actually need to do?
We need to take the decision at Laeken to implement the reforms so often postponed at previous intergovernmental conferences (chiefly Amsterdam and Nice).
To achieve this, we have to change our way of working, and talk about our aims before we talk about technical issues.
The Convention's mandate will have to tackle straightforwardly the issues which are vital to the future of the Union:
how to set out the EU's internal objectives and the role it wishes to play in the world;
how to simplify the architecture of the EU and its treaties, particularly with enlargement on the horizon;
how to clarify responsibilities and involve each country's elected representatives and society as a whole in EU decisions;
how to make the EU more efficient.
Once we have answers to these questions, we can start thinking about the legal procedures and instruments needed to translate our aims into action. But I could summarise my goal for 2004 as being this: having an efficient and democratic EU, with more members.
Multilateralism and solidarity
The European Union has some genuine advantages in the face of today's challenges.
As I have said, it is founded on noble values: rejection of war, respect for cultural differences, freedom and solidarity.
The EU also combines economic liberalism (the single market and the four freedoms) and an organisation in step with the scale of that market. Competition rules and rules on control of aid prevent distortion.
The EU has also been able to achieve monetary integration. Its advantages can be summed up in one word: stability. Since the launch of the euro in January 1999, Europe has benefited from exchange-rate stability, price stability and stability in finance and taxation.
I would like reiterate to you that this stability is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. The ultimate aim of economic and monetary union is to enable Europe's economy to be modernised, to lead to greater growth, and, most of all, to produce more jobs.
All these years of structural policies have been difficult. Workers and their unions were among the architects of the "European pact" which enabled us to reform and stabilise our economies.
What is clear is that the Union's political integration still lags behind its economic integration. This is not a satisfactory state of affairs because one of its effects is to prevent the Union from having an active enough policy to target the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society.
We launched innovative social procedures in Lisbon, including the open method of coordinating social policy.
Issues such as universal access to jobs, preventing exclusion and action for the most deprived are now on Europe's agenda.
Indicators to measure poverty and combating exclusion will be refined gradually, thus promoting more effective action. The Member States have undertaken to produce national plans of action.
Last December, in Nice, the European Social Agenda was adopted. It sets out the broad directions of European action in the social sphere for the next five years. Last June in Stockholm, the Union demonstrated its will to continue along this path.
There is much still to be done, but these first steps provide hope for the people affected, and constitute an important acknowledgment of the need for social policy to be run in tandem with economic policy.
I cannot go into detail today, but Commissioner Diamantopoulou published a joint report on social inclusion yesterday which explores the matter in depth.
On the economic and social fronts, the indirect consequences of the events of 11th September could also be considerable.
On the positive side, a single school of thought which defends unbridled liberalism will no longer be able to be taken as gospel. We have seen the damage caused by movements of capital used to fund terrorism; we have seen the shortcomings of banking secrecy; we have seen the dangers of money-laundering havens.
More worryingly, the economic slowdown could be more serious than anticipated. The Commission and the Member States have undertaken to remain alert to the effects of this situation, particularly the effects on jobs.
I am concerned at the prospect of renewed redundancies. When workers lose their jobs, we have human dramas played out, and the social fabric suffers.
Europe's internal cohesion needs to be reinforced if the EU is to take its place alongside the US in the post-September-11th world.
To sum up, I am convinced that Europe can provide the hope of a fairer world, a world made for man's benefit and not a world set against him.
A world where reconciliation between old enemies is a reality.
A world where legal procedures can be used to settle disputes.
A world in which countries and peoples of whatever size cooperate, in mutual respect, with a desire to succeed even where success is hard to achieve.
A world founded on a model of society ruled by solidarity, with policies to make transfers and in which the most vulnerable are considered.
A world in which competitiveness goes hand in hand with exacting and high-quality social considerations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for listening, and I hope you will understand why, a month after the attacks on the US, I wanted to widen the scope of my address.
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