José Manuel BARROSO
President of the European Commission
Council on Foreign Relations
New York, 13 May 2005
Ambassador Holbrooke, thank you for your kind introduction. And thank you, the Council on Foreign Relations, for hosting this meal. Now, however, my turn has come to speak, illustrating that there really is no such thing as a free lunch. And as you will all have to sit and listen to me, there is clearly no such thing as a free lunch for you either.
The relationship between Europe and the United States must be the most scrutinized one in the world. Whole forests have been cut down to fuel the transatlantic relationship industry. Universities, think tanks and journalists are kept busy every day looking for fresh perspectives. At times it can feel like every possible viewpoint has already been expressed, every amusing quote exhausted, every argument analysed to death.
Nevertheless, this industry sometimes comes up with some brilliant insights, or offers constructive advice for healing or deepening that relationship further. But sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes, important truths and perceptive analysis are buried under overly imaginative generalisations about Roman gods and goddesses.
So before giving you my view, let me start with some first principles. Due to our history, Europe and the US do enjoy deep bonds of kinship and share both culture and values. Our economic relationship has built on these solid foundations to bind us even further together. We are each other’s biggest trading partner; in 2003 the overall volume of EU/US trade in goods and services totalled some $770 billion. For all the headlines that our trade disputes grab, the reality is that they affect less than 2% of this volume. Even more amazing is our two-way direct investment stock, which is worth not far short of $2 trillion. As many as 14 million jobs in the EU and the US depend on transatlantic commercial ties.
It is therefore entirely normal that we should work together. Not because of some mystical sense of brotherhood, but for the hard-headed, practical reason that our interests - and perceived threats - very often coincide. And by acting together, we are stronger, and more likely to achieve our shared objectives.
Let me highlight just one of the many areas where we are co-operating well bilaterally: security and counter-terrorism.
The establishment of a new US government department – the Department of Homeland Security – to take responsibility for a range of border, transport and related security policies has changed the landscape within the US system. The European Commission has worked hard to build links with this new entity, and this has already borne fruit, both in terms of improved dialogue and practical policy-making. For example, the Policy Dialogue on Border and Transport Security, established in April last year, has encouraged much greater openness to, and awareness of, each other’s interests and concerns. It will meet again next week to discuss a whole range of security-related issues.
And let no-one think that this is just another bureaucratic talking shop. Improved dialogue has led to much greater co-operation. The EU already offers counter-terrorism assistance to a wide range of third countries, while financing more targeted work with priority countries like Morocco and Algeria. But in March EU experts also participated in a successful visit by US State Department and FBI officials to Tanzania, focused on money laundering. These co-ordination efforts look set to continue, and the US has already asked the EU to participate in future visits.
Preventing terrorist financing is a high priority for the EU. We have produced policy recommendations and a number of seminars and conferences have been held during the past year in which the EU and US shared best practices. Some new workshops on countering terrorist financing will take place shortly, and the US is invited. In addition, the third Money Laundering Directive will add specific counter-terrorism elements and tighten controls on cash movements and wire transfers.
It is important that we continue to co-ordinate our activities. In this respect, I would like to mention the US Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act, passed by Congress last December. It is vital that we consult each other before new rules are introduced which have an external impact.
So a real partnership is there, and it covers a broad range of other issues too. However to develop our common purpose further, we must have confidence and trust. More than ever in a world that has become complex and unpredictable, our dialogue should be an open and honest one among equals. It should accommodate legitimate disagreement and sometimes necessary compromise. We should probably start by clarifying some delusions. America will not be more successful in achieving its objectives by taking the unilateral path. Europeans need to spend a bit more time matching their words to deeds.
And on this basis, unlike some perhaps, I am optimistic about this relationship. Obviously President Bush’s visit to the European Commission in February was an important push. The President and Secretary of State Rice showed they were keen to be in listening mode and to respond to their partners’ concerns. We have seen evidence of this with evolutions in US policy, most recently on Iran.
The EU, for its part, has worked hard to be worth listening to. We are maturing, speaking with a unified voice more often and on a much broader range of issues than in the past. The European Constitution, currently being ratified by Member States, will accelerate this trend. The EU is ready to play a more substantial strategic role in global affairs. The enhanced relevance and credibility which has resulted from this is reflected not just in President Bush’s visit, but also the increasing willingness of US legislators to visit Brussels and engage with both the European Commission and Parliament.
The EU/US Summit in Washington DC on 20 June should continue this progress. We are looking at ways of using the summit to underline our co-operation and find new ways of working together, particularly in facing the challenges of today’s world.
But while EU-US joint efforts towards the common goals of promoting democracy, stability, peace and security around the world are of paramount importance, this co-operation is not sufficient. The world has changed, and so has its problems. Even with the tightest of partnerships, can Europe and America really stop global epidemics like AIDS alone? Can we halt climate change and environmental degradation in glorious isolation?
The fact is, to address today’s global problems effectively, and translate noble aspirations on peace and prosperity into reality, we must have an approach based on inclusiveness and a rules-based order. And no, this is not the conclusion of a frustrated European Lilliputian, trying to tie down the American Gulliver. It is a pragmatic response to unique problems and opportunities which previous generations simply didn’t face. Multilateral action, involving large parts of the international community, is often the only way forward if our goal is to find solutions that work rather than to engage in political wishful thinking.
And, as an aside, let me say that Europe is no Lilliput. Today, the 25 and-soon-to-be 27 Members of the Union, with 500 million citizens, is by far the world’s largest donor of development aid, as well as its largest trading bloc
Several organisations in the multilateral framework have proved their worth here. Take the World Trade Organisation. It offers a forum where countries can come together and agree rules for free and fair trade. Crucially, these rules are then backed up by a dispute settlement system. Willingly submitting to these disciplines has allowed for a massive liberalisation of global commerce. This has lifted millions out of poverty, particularly in Asia, while consolidating prosperity in developed countries.
Nor do specific efforts undertaken by a smaller group of engaged countries on behalf of the international community undermine this argument. Rather they illustrate a healthy pragmatism in the global community to search for the most effective solutions. I could cite here the search for solutions to regional conflicts under the OSCE, for example, or African development and debt relief efforts through the G8.
But of course the only truly universal multilateral organisation is the United Nations. With its inclusive membership and worldwide legitimacy, it remains the most important arena for advancing common solutions to our common problems.
But just as the EU/US partnership is not enough by itself to tackle global issues, so too specific UN Security Council resolutions or international conventions alone are insufficient.
Yes, the countries of Europe and the United States are all members of the United Nations. Yes, we all subscribe to the Charter and have obligations under the Charter and international law. However an active commitment to effective multilateralism means more than rhetorical professions of faith. It means having a strong political will to implement the international consensus; it means taking global rules, instruments and commitments seriously; it also means helping other countries to implement and abide by these rules. Above all, it is not about multilateralism per se, but about how effectively it is used to address challenges. And this is where the EU/US partnership can and does pay dividends.
In many of these fora, we are the driving force that makes them work. We form the nucleus of democratic societies which help and support others in need, as well as dealing with challenges. The result is that the entire international community benefits.
Of course, we must be honest and face the fact that multilateralism doesn’t always work immediately, nor as effectively as we might like.
More recently, events which preceded the Iraq war have led some Americans to the mistaken conclusion that the UN – or even the multilateral approach generally – is in some way fundamentally flawed and irredeemable. But they forget that the UN is not some unwanted, alien imposition. It is simply the sum of its Member States. When the UN is perceived to have failed, it is more often than not because its Members have failed.
My message is then: don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Despite any imperfections, I remain convinced that the multilateral approach is the only way forward. To paraphrase Churchill on democracy: it’s our least worst option. And if we, its Members, are responsible for the perceived failures of the system, we should also be responsible for putting them right.
The important thing is that a process of reform of the UN is now underway, and the momentum is there to really make a difference.
Both the EU and the US should seize this opportunity and accept the role of front-runners on UN reform, in order to ensure real change for the better. We have to bring about the necessary direction and engagement required. I hope the US will engage fully with us in the UN reform process and continue to intensively coordinate with its European partners.
For the EU, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s ‘In Larger Freedom’ report represents an ambitious, achievable and balanced agenda for the UN Summit in September. It will go a long way to strengthening the organisation. We support the establishment of a new security consensus for example, in particular the broad meaning the report has given to the concept of peace and security.
The proposed Peace-building Commission could fill a very real gap in the UN institutional machinery. It should have a broad mandate covering the whole continuum from peace-making and peace-keeping activities to long-term development issues. It should pay particular attention to issues such as how to support democratisation, good governance and functioning institutions, strengthening the rule of law, ensuring respect for human rights - all core US and EU values.
I welcome other proposed institutional reforms. The Human Rights Council in particular will render the UN human rights machinery more relevant and efficient. The proposed Democracy Fund also has strong EU support. Proposals on environmental governance are good, but could be further strengthened [to make progress towards the establishment of a UN Environmental Organisation]. But we need to make sure that the issue of UN Security Council reform, whatever the position of one or the other partner, does not due to its complexity block progress on the rest of the Summit agenda, and all the other reforms. I really hope that the UN membership will make every effort in this regard.
With the UN in the process of being reformed and reinvigorated, the EU and the US can look forward to even better returns on their joint investments in multilateral action.
We can start to take a fresh look at climate change, for example. We should put misgivings about each other’s views on the Kyoto Protocol aside and focus on the period beyond 2012. There are many new avenues worth pursuing where co-operation would be fruitful.
We should also continue our drive to eradicate poverty and promote development around the world. A speedy conclusion to the Doha Development Agenda would certainly help here, as would further efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
As the world’s biggest donor, responsible for 55% of worldwide official development assistance worth $43 billion in 2004, the EU has an important role in the process of achieving these goals. It is a responsibility we take very seriously. Thus far, we have respected our Monterrey engagements. In 2006 we should surpass the target of spending 0.39 % of our gross national income on overseas development assistance. This effort has to be maintained.
The Commission, in its development package to the Council, has suggested that the collective effort of the EU should reach 0.56% of GNI by 2010, nearly an extra $26 billion, in view of reaching 0.7% by 2015. If you’ll forgive me, Ambassador Holbrooke, this is not just ‘theatre for the press’, as you so vividly described it here last month. The EU is deadly serious about hitting the 0.7% target, and we are already more than half way there. I truly hope the US will join us in this effort, because few can doubt that this would have a dramatic impact on the ground.
In conclusion, I think the time has come to move away from the old dichotomies of unilateralism and multilateralism, of Mars and Venus. We need to look at EU/US relations in a new light.
As prosperous, free and influential parts of the world, the United States and Europe cannot escape their common responsibility for global security and prosperity. Our respective histories show that people of diverse cultural identities can peacefully live and prosper together in a world based on the rule of law and democracy. In tackling today’s global and regional challenges, we have to live up to our demanding heritage. I firmly believe that the only way to do so is to develop an ever stronger bilateral relationship embedded in an effective multilateral framework.