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DN: SPEECH/01/484 Date: 2001-10-24
Mr Romano Prodi
President of the European Commission
"Time for real solidarity"
To the European Parliament
Strasbourg, 24 October 2001
Ladies and gentlemen,
Following the attacks on 11th September against our longstanding allies the United States, the European Union has publicly committed itself to do all it can to help bring to justice the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of these acts, and to hold accountable those hiding, supporting or harbouring them.
We thus pledged our complete solidarity with the government and people of the United States.
Over the days that followed, I was very satisfied to see this declaration of solidarity translated into swift and concerted European action.
Chris Patten, the Belgian foreign minister Louis Michel and Javier Solana went first to Washington and then on to Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria to help build a global coalition against terrorism.
European authorities began rapidly stepping up intelligence and police co-operation, both within the EU and with third countries, especially with the US.
On the basis of emergency legislation agreed at Community level, the EU froze more than 100 million euro worth of assets of people suspected of terrorism.
The Commission drew up uniform EU-wide standards to improve security for air travellers. It tabled proposals for a common definition of terrorism, for a system of EU-wide penalties for terrorist offences and for a European arrest warrant. Proposals that were strongly supported by the European Council at its special meeting on 21 September.
That Council asked each EU country to "contribute according to its means" to the new global campaign against terrorism. And this is, indeed, what has been happening with some countries mobilising or offering troops, others providing intelligence or making available air bases.
Despite the importance and success of this joint action, the fact is that media attention has largely been focused on what individual countries have been doing.
This has somewhat obscured and tainted the ongoing debate on the specific role Europe as a whole should be playing on the international stage.
That is precisely the issue I want to focus on today.
From the very start of my term of office, one of my Commission's objectives has been to boost Europe's voice in the world. Given the new world situation, this is now a matter of urgency.
If the European Union is to be a major actor on the world stage it must speak with a single, clear and forceful voice and back up its words with unified action.
The Union has indeed made progress in this direction. You only have to compare, for example, the disparate attitudes of our Member States to the Gulf War a decade ago with our recent united stance on the situation in the FYROM and the coherence of our present response to terrorism.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Belgian Presidency for its hard work to promote this progress, and for the courageous and intelligent way in which it has sought to maintain support for the Union's shared goals.
But we are still a long way from having the genuinely Common Foreign and Security Policy we so badly need.
I am therefore very glad that, in the Union's declaration of 14 September, we publicly committed ourselves to developing our Common Foreign and Security Policy and to ensuring that the Union really can speak out clearly and with one voice.
A common policy is not, of course, the same thing as a single policy uniformly adopted by every Member State.
No: a common policy pools the different strengths of different individual countries, enabling them to pursue shared goals using shared instruments.
Has Europe been "absent", as some people allege? My answer is "NO" but we need to draw a certain distinction here.
Europe is taking very specific and effective action in those fields where integration is not just a possibility but a practical reality. This is not surprising, since the Community method has, for the last fifty years, ensured that Europe can act effectively, rapidly and visibly.
It is in areas where Europe is less integrated, and where the Community method is virtually absent, that the European Union seriously lacks effectiveness. This hard fact should make us even more determined as we prepare the future revision of the Union Treaty.
A common policy ensures that the different national policies are co-ordinated within a Community framework, according to the Community method, and serve the interests of the Union as a whole.
In the field of foreign and security policy we have not yet reached that point. But that must be our objective. We must lose no time in constructing a foreign and security policy that builds on our experience of Community action.
Our first priority must be to act in unison.
In my view, individual action taken by only a few countries is in the interests neither of the Union as a whole nor of its individual Member States, be they large or small.
At Ghent I noted that no Member State wants to move in that direction. But the Commission will remain vigilant, on behalf of us all.
Our second priority must be to have specific institutional mechanisms for taking policy decisions.
That is the kind of Common Foreign and Security Policy we must develop building on the progress we have already made. And we need to develop it fast if we are to be a real force for good in the world now emerging from the tragedy of September 11th.
I am pleased to note that the Parliament's Constitutional Affairs committee has discussed at length and with great care the implications of the common foreign and security policy for the functioning of the institutions, and in particular of the Council.
I welcome the proposals put forward in the Poos report and I commend Mr. Poos for his tremendous achievement in addressing these delicate and sensitive issues. My hope is that this House will fully endorse them today and that the Council will commit itself to implementing them as soon as possible. The Commission is ready to play its full part.
The statement issued on 14th September has important implications for the Union's foreign policy priorities.
In the short to medium term we must pay even closer attention
to our dialogue with the Arab and Islamic worlds;
to the Middle East peace process;
and to exploiting the full potential of the Barcelona process.
The time has come to make new moves in the Mediterranean area. The results we have achieved so far have not been altogether satisfactory though this is not always our fault. We must now take full advantage of all the opportunities open to us to ensure real progress.
The Euro-Mediterranean region must aim at genuine economic integration and at setting up institutional mechanisms for taking common decisions.
There is also a widespread expectation of us to play our role in the Middle East with renewed vigour. We must take concrete joint action to respond to this challenge, knowing that we are capable of doing so.
Further afield, we need to review our policies on trade and co-operation with Pakistan, India and Iran as well as with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.
I also believe we should be ready to respond to the new signals of interest in joint action on shared goals (such as the fight against AIDS) coming from countries like Libya. Once again, Europe is best placed to respond to these political signals and to help such countries join our coalition.
We also need to work energetically to build a consistent and active policy of relations between the Union and all its neighbours. A partnership with specific goals, institutions and means, particularly in our relations with Russia and the Ukraine. A partnership that will bring lasting stability to our own continent.
World wide we have to build new confidence. And one key way to do so in the immediate future is to successfully launch a new round of world trade talks.
At the same time, we must act more vigorously to offer the world's poorest regions a real chance of sustainable development.
I have said it before, and I will go on saying it: we must harness globalisation so that it works for the good of the poor as well as the rich.
We Europeans must be proud of the policies we have been pursuing as we prepare for enlargement. The European Union project is still the only concrete, practical and democratic response to galloping globalisation.
We therefore have to tackle energetically, boldly and imaginatively the global issues that breed resentment and discontent: poverty, growing gaps in income, intolerable economic and social imbalances.
These are the things that sow frustration and tension in relations between the developing world and the West.
So the coalition against terrorism must advance hand in hand with a coalition for development, with the Union leading by example.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The special European Council on 21 September asked the Commission to analyse the economic impact of the terrorist attacks. We did so immediately, and I presented our report to the Ghent European Council.
Clearly, the European economy was slowing down even before 11 September. So the main immediate consequence of the terrorist attacks is a further loss of consumer confidence and a widespread sense of uncertainty.
However, there are several positive factors to bear in mind. Factors that enable us to face the current shock much more calmly than in similar circumstances in the past.
First, our economic fundamentals.
The European economy, unlike that of the US, is free of trade imbalances and Europeans still have a strong tendency to save.
Moreover, unlike in previous crises, the Union has been largely protected from possible shockwaves of devaluations and counter-devaluations of currencies by the existence of a solid, reliable single currency, the euro. The events of these last weeks should make us even more proud of the quantum leap forward that the euro has allowed us to achieve.
Second, our economic and social agenda.
We are undertaking major structural reforms, following a carefully designed strategy the Lisbon strategy. The reforms are far from complete, but the present crisis should stiffen our political resolve to see them through.
I appeal to this House and the Council to stop hesitating and to speed up the approval of all the decisions taken at and after Lisbon to make the European economy more efficient.
Only if we meet the Lisbon objectives and targets will we be able to minimise the extent and duration of unemployment and maximise growth potential in the medium term.
Third, our instruments.
We have achieved significant fiscal discipline that still gives us some room for manoeuvre during the slowdown. However, the problem of coordinating our economic policies arises at this stage in all its gravity. And it arises because, in this sector too, we have persistent difficulty in applying the Community method.
On this basis, I conveyed to the European Council two messages.
First, the information currently available shows that our economy is genuinely resilient.
Second, we need to keep on closely monitoring economic trends, not only in the Union and the euro zone but also worldwide. If the situation changes we must be ready to act.
Once again, let me stress the importance of co-ordinated action. With the current degree of integration, all action must be properly co-ordinated at Euro-zone and EU level. In the present uncertain situation, we must show that we are acting in a co-ordinated manner and that we have the will to use all the available instruments.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This is a time for maximum unity, determination and firmness of purpose. Let us ensure that lasting hope comes out of the evil of 11 September.
Our peoples' reaction to the recent events shows that Europe needs to be more, not less, present. If Europe is to fully live up to its pledge of solidarity solidarity with the United States but also its defence of global solidarity EU Member States must genuinely act as one Community. The Commission will continue to devote all its energy to working for this outcome.
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