26 juni 2009
Carl Bildt, Utrikesminister
Carl Bildts tal vid The Council for Italy and the United States (eng)
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To start with the obvious: the state of the world is more demanding, more difficult and in key areas also more dangerous than just a few years ago.
We are in the midst of a global economic crisis of a nature and magnitude we have not experienced in living memory.
And as it unfolds over the months ahead we will see its different political effects increasingly hitting the weak economies and fragile states across the globe - affecting us directly and indirectly.
At the same time, we are facing a challenge to our global climate and future living environment of a once-in-a-millennium order. And we know that action cannot be delayed forever - the clock is ticking and we have a responsibility to act.
And we see tensions rising in the entire area from Palestine to the Punjab - as well as signs of increasing geopolitical manoeuvring in the vast areas to the East of our Union.
Two decades after the breaking down of the Iron Curtain - that momentous change in modern history - the European Union has developed into a bulwark of stability, democracy and prosperity encompassing nearly half a billion people and constituting the largest integrated economy in the world today.
Among other things, this has fundamentally transformed the trans-Atlantic relationship.
Europe has gone from being a problem - the powder keg that could ignite a new global conflict - to becoming a partner when it comes to addressing all the regional and global challenges of our age.
That's no insignificant achievement - as a matter of fact, it stands without parallel in our modern world.
But it goes without saying that the turbulence of the world today is presenting us with new challenges - in safeguarding our own stability and prosperity here in Europe, but also in the ongoing task of building a Union that can make increasingly significant contributions to meeting the wider challenges of our region, our world and our age.
It is at this juncture in time that my country - Sweden - stands ready to assume the Presidency of our Union for some months. Those months will pass quickly - but during them some key challenges will have to be handled.
And let me make some remarks on some of them - on the economic and climate challenges, on our widening regional responsibilities, and on the tasks we jointly - as Atlantic partners - face in the wider world.
This is a time of transition for the European Union.
After the elections to the European Parliament we are now initiating the process of appointing a new European Commission. It will take its time - it will not be in place until the end of this year.
But we are also hoping that the remaining countries will now be able to ratify the Lisbon Treaty - with the referendum in Ireland expected in early October as the most important event in this process.
If this occurs - and I sincerely hope it will - we will immediately begin to set up the new institutions and initiate the new procedures that will - above everything else - make for a more effective common foreign and security policy for our Union.
Our ability to be an effective partner to the United States - as well as actor on its own on the wider global stage - will be reinforced in important ways.
Institutions are important. That's one of the key lessons of the decades of European integration.
But policies are certainly not less important. That's another lesson that should be obvious.
Institutions without policies are like hardware without software - little more than scrap metal.
And while an update of our hardware is certainly called for it is ultimately the software of policies that is decisive.
And it will be the policy issues that will be absolutely key as we struggle with the immediate economic crisis and gradually start to focus on the place of Europe in the post-crisis world.
A decade has soon passed since our Union - having mastered at least some of the major political challenges of the 1990's - decided to put the economic issues at the centre of its efforts.
Seeing the dynamism of the American economy at the time, we launching that Lisbon Agenda that aimed at making us "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world" by 2010 - next year.
Today it is abundantly clear that we will not reach that objective.
While there were obvious achievements - the rise of female participation in our economies among the most significant -there were also notable shortcomings that should have been avoided.
Some years ago we pledged to spend 3 % of our GDP on research and development.
In this age of breathtaking scientific and technological change, staying at the forefront of the ongoing - sometimes even accelerating - knowledge revolution is key to our long-term future.
But today it is only two countries - Finland and Sweden - that meets this key objective, while the Union as a whole only registers a rather dismal 1,9 %.
The priority of the day is obviously to deal with the dramatic deterioration of our economies. We are conducting a combination of hyper-Keynesian policies and very loose monetary policy in order to get the financial system back in order and to revive the growth prospects.
If we add the automatic stabilizers - which one should - we are talking about a Union-wide stimulus package amounting to app 5 % of GDP. These are very big numbers by any standards. And it would be remarkable indeed if we they did not succeed in starting to turn the situation around.
But as this happens I believe it is imperative that we go back and lock at the need for more long-term structural reforms of our economies.
I believe that we must look at the ways in which we can extend the stability offered by the Euro also to the countries of Central Europe and the Baltic area.
And we must certainly note that one of the key lessons of this crisis - hardly a new one - concern the necessity of maintaining macroeconomic stability.
We see those countries that in the past years failed in that respect now being far harder hit by the crisis than those that did.
A particular challenge in the years ahead will be to return to a fiscal order that is more sustainable and more responsible. And this will be particularly both demanding and important as a number of countries are entering the decades with our societies will start to age.
When our economies improve, we must then also focus on starting to take down the massive deficits now developing.
It's a question not only of taking responsibility for the years ahead of us - but also for those weaker states and economies that otherwise might be squeezed out of the international credit markets.
We must recognize that to be competitive abroad we need to be competitive at home.
Thus preserving our single market and all of its rules and standards - a core achievement of our Union - will be even more important in the future than it has been in the past.
Our task in reforming our economies, preserving the open global economy and starting a decisive transition to a carbon-light world is no less than help in the creation of an era of truly sustainable globalisation - to the benefit of the entire world.
From the G8 meeting here in Italy, over the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, and heading to the COP15 climate conference in Copenhagen, this will be at the forefront of policy for us all.
The European Union has taken upon itself the ambitious task of being the global leader in this green transition.
We are committed to reducing our carbon emissions by 20 % by 2020 - and we are ready to go to 30 % if there is a global agreement with a fair sharing of the burden.
To achieve this will be a momentous task.
It will have to include new institutions of global governance, new mechanism of global finance, new efforts at revolutionary technologies and determined political leadership everywhere.
For the United States and Europe to agree on the basic outlines of such a deal will be necessary - but not enough.
Separately as well as together with must engage with the other major actors of this new global drama - with China, India, Brazil and others.
Indeed, I am convinced that it will be our intensified green diplomacy that will dominate the summits between the European Union and China, India, Brazil, Russia and the United States that Sweden will have responsibility for in the next few months.
Copenhagen must be a success!
There is little doubt that the credibility of our Union on the wider global stage has been dramatically enhanced by our successes during the past two decades - enlargement and the Euro the two most obvious.
And it is equally obvious that our future weight and credibility on the global stage - perhaps in particular across the Atlantic - will be a function of how we handle to coming challenges related to the economy and to enlargement - to the peace and prosperity of our own part of the world.
In much the same way as there will be a post-crisis debate on our economic strategy - with a new Lisbon strategy coming up next year - I believe there will be a new debate on strategy of enlargement and engagement in our own part of the world.
We are committed to the concept of an open Europe - and we should certainly not underestimate the transformational force that is inherent in this concept in wide areas of our part of the world.
The most immediate tasks ahead are those associated with the regions to which this city always looked - with the app 100 million people of South-eastern Europe that is now knocking on our door.
It was only a decade ago that Strobe Talbott and myself - as well as others - struggled with open wars in the Balkans.
Indeed, I can even remember sitting here in peaceful Venice hearing the loud noises of the machines of war passing by above us.
We have come a very long way since then.
Serbia has the most European - and reform-oriented leadership in its history. Kosovo is an independent country. The politicians of Bosnia are quarrelling - but war will never be an option. Croatia is making substantial process in its negotiations for accession to the European Union. Albania is heading for an important election on Sunday.
It is my hope that we within the coming year will be able to make a transition for the entire region to a new, more demanding and more important phase of European integration.
The road to membership for all of them will undoubtedly be a long one. The processes of state-building in the region after the violent break-up of Yugoslavia are not everywhere finished.
But for the first time since the brutal wars I genuinely feel that the forces of integration in the region are becoming stronger than the forces of disintegration.
To maintain this momentum is a key task in the years ahead.
And what applies here also applies elsewhere.
Perhaps the single most important political process in Europe in the months ahead will be the talks on bringing unity to the divided island of Cyprus.
Two decades after the end of the division of Berlin it remains shameful that we still have a European capital divided by walls and barbed wire.
Success - or failure - of these efforts will have major ramifications for the strategic situation in South-eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean for decades to come - as well as for issues like making it possible for the Union and Nato to work more effectively together in Afghanistan or our future challenging areas.
There are divided views in different parts of Europe on whether our door should be open to Turkey as well - although the vast majority of member countries and the vast majority of the European Parliament support the ongoing reform and accession process.
I belong to those firmly convinced of the immense strategic benefits inherent in this process.
A Union that includes also the demographic dynamism and economic potential of Turkey will undoubtedly be a stronger Union - and a Union that can truly demonstrate that it is committed to overcoming all the obstacles of the past and the prejudices of the present will be a significantly more credible voice in the rest of the world.
During the recent year we have launched a far more ambitious approach to the countries of our immediate neighbourhood than we had in the past - with first the Union of the Mediterranean last year and then the Eastern Partnership this year. In their different ways these are policies of high strategic significance for our European future.
The countries of North Africa and the Middle East will see a rise in population that will equal two Egypt's - app 160 million people - during the next two decades or so.
With their young populations, they will experience either a huge demographic dividend as they open up their societies and economies, creating huge opportunities for all of Europe - or they will risk despair and destruction if these new millions don't see any hope for their future.
We have a stake in their future - and we must engage more deeply with each of them in trying to shape it.
To the East of our Union there is the vast region with its 12 very different countries between us and the borders of China - the 80 million people of the six Eastern Partnership countries, the 140 million people of Russia and the 60 million people of Central Asia.
A recent report by the European Council of Foreign Relations described the situation in this area in rather bleak terms:
"Politics is a toxic mixture of authoritarianism and stalled democracy, ongoing secessionist tensions continue to stoke fears of violent conflict, and the economic crisis is wreaking havoc throughout the region."
Again, it is obvious that we have a stake in their future -and that we must engage more deeply with each of them, based on their own priorities and their own wishes.
That our relations with Russia have deteriorated over the conflict with Georgia - and most recently over Russian unwillingness to stand by the agreements made at the very end of that conflict is obvious. Equally obvious is that there is some confusion over the course that Russia itself wishes to take - notably during the last few weeks on the issue of the road to membership in the WTO.
But we must persist in trying to get Russia truly involved and embedded in a rule-based European and global order - along with all others.
And we must not let up our efforts to convince them that nothing will bring more security to Russia than relationships with all their neighbours - including the smallest ones - based on true friendship and thrust.
But our ambitions are not only the ambitions to our South or to or East. We should not neglect our High North.
I believe it is increasingly likely that we will see an application for membership from Iceland in the near future - and this will by necessity shift our attention to the challenges of this area as well.
An Icelandic application must obviously be discussed on its own merits, although with its membership of the single market as well as the Schengen area the country is obviously already far into our structures and policies of integration.
A membership of Iceland - if that is where we end up - would not only bring in a country with a longer tradition of democracy - its parliament was founded more than a thousand years ago - than any other European country but would also bring our Union more directly into the strategically increasingly important Arctic issues - environmental challenges, energy possibilities and possible future revolutionary new transportation routes between the Atlantic and Pacific worlds
We thus have - as Europeans - major issue in front of us when it comes to our own part of the world.
And it is to a large extent the way in which we handle them that gives us the necessary credibility in handling the wider global issues.
The trans-Atlantic relationship today is probably better than at any time in living memory.
That does not mean that there are not different perspectives and views on different issues - as we indeed have also in the European Union.
But it does mean that there is a shared perception of the agenda ahead, a firm commitment to working together and an intensity of dialogue that we have not seen for a very long time.
The agenda that we face from Palestine to the Punjab is most challenging.
And its different issues are of course intertwined with the huge issue of our relationship with the entire Muslim world - our immediate neighbour not only on the map but increasingly also across the street back home.
It was a most important speech President Obama gave in Cairo. Its effects should not be underestimated - I believe we can already see an Obama effect in the young women confronting the fundamentalist thugs on the streets of Teheran.
The Great Satan is no longer there - no longer can the rulers from the past rely on the myth of a hostile West.
And this means that our free and democratic societies - Europe and the United States - might be beginning to regain the strength of those soft powers of transformation that at the end are more powerful than any other can ever be.
In Trieste today and tomorrow - at the G8 Foreign Ministers meeting and all the meetings associated with it -we will be discussing ways ahead in trying to move towards peace in the Middle East, stability in Afghanistan, strengthened democracy in Pakistan and reconciliation with the nation of Iran.
That the nation of Iran needs, seeks and wants reform should by now be obvious to each and everyone. The repression of the regime might succeed for the day, but it can never stop the necessity of reforms for tomorrow.
Our message to the nation of Iran remains what it was:
We want an open and constructive and friendly relationship with your nation. We respect the values of your society in the same way as you must respect the rules of that international order and the universal rights that ultimately works to the benefit of all of us.
Even confronted with the brutal scenes on the streets of Teheran - and elsewhere in Iran - we must not abandon hope.
There is change coming - if not today, or tomorrow, then certainly a day thereafter.
And as firm and strong as we must be in clearly condemning what we see now, as firm must we be in our commitment to a truly new relationship with an Iran ready to open up to a better future.
In this - as on so many other issues - the United States and Europe must stand together.
I began by saying that the world today is more demanding, more difficult and in key areas also more dangerous than just a few years ago.
But against this stands the fact that we have a new understanding across the Atlantic and the prospect of a better partnership between the United States and Europe.
Whichever of the great challenges of our time you look at, the conclusion is the same.
The United States and Europe must stand together. That is the necessary precondition for any progress on any of them.