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"Europe at Crossroads" - Rede von Europa-Staatsminister Michael Roth in Ottawa/Toronto

27.10.2016

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The day before yesterday I met your Foreign Minister Dion. I told him I was optimistic about finding a solution on CETA. I am very relieved that this turned out to be justified. When one has followed Brussels for so long as I have, one gets a sense of it.

I have been and still am a staunch supporter of the CETA agreement. I believe globalization is an opportunity that can be shaped – in a social, democratic and sustainable way through clear, binding and predictable rules in such agreements. Especially Germany takes advantage of open borders, exchange and trade. Our prosperity and a large number of our jobs depend on this.

And yet, globalization and free trade have come increasingly under fire. Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in Germany against the TTIP, the trade agreement with the U.S., but also against CETA. Therefore, allow me to use this opportunity to explain to you where these reservations stem from, not only in the tiny Wallony, but in many places in Europe.

For many people, TTIP and CETA are symbols of unfettered market radicalism. They fear that the social welfare state will be dismantled, standards watered down and that jobs are under threat.

As a progressive politician, as a Social Democrat, I have to admit that we have obviously not done enough to explain how trade and welfare actually go hand in hand. In hindsight the secrecy around these trade negotiations was counterproductive. We should have been much more vocal in saying that the answer to these fears is not to close the door on the rest of the world and stop developing.

The solution is to be part of the development and to offer a strong safety net and an active labor market policy that can build bridges between old and new jobs. People with secure jobs are not afraid of progress.

But in the environment that I have just described it became virtually impossible to distinguish between the two agreements, CETA on the one hand and TTIP on the other hand. With CETA we had successfully completed seven years of negotiations with Canada. The new progressive Canadian government under Prime Minister Trudeau had made tremendous efforts to forge compromises on issues that are also very sensitive to Canadian interests.

With TTIP, on the other hand, we have not advanced so far yet; many crucial issues still remain open and it will take still some time to negotiate a comprehensive deal in the best interests of both sides. This made it easy for those in Germany and Europe who criticize the deal to abuse this discussion, by playing to deep-rooted Anti-Americanism which remains prevalent in some parts of our societies.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

One has to admit: The European Union is not a simple structure, it is a rather complex organism. Normal trade agreements fall under the sole competency of the EU Commission. But comprehensive trade agreements as we have now negotiated with Canada and the U.S. touch also upon the competencies of member states. Therefore, it required not only votes by the European Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, but also by all member states. According to their constitutional requirements it can take up to 40 national and regional parliaments to give their consent. I know: many find it infuriating that a small regional Chamber can block an international trade deal. But this touches upon the very essence of our European dilemma between parcipatory democracy and global efficiency.

With this in mind, I can only express my gratitude and great respect to the Canadian Government. It negotiated in good faith, in a spirit of compromise and with extreme patience. You came a long way to acquiesce those European concerns that I described earlier.

I still hope that soon we will be able to sign this agreement to strengthen our strategic cooperation. Europe needs reliable partners in these challenging times. Let me just remind you of the political upheavals Europe is facing:

Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and the conflict in Eastern Ukraine were a decisive turning point for European security. Equally, the instability and disruptions in Europe’s Southern neighborhood will impact Europe’s security for years to come. They have long reached our doorsteps – through the influx of refugees and major terrorist attacks in European cities.

The immediate and existential threat regarding the euro zone seems to be over. But the far-reaching social implications of the financial crisis are still felt in many countries, for example in Greece, Portugal and Spain.

In June the British people voted to leave the EU: And also in many other EU Member States we are confronted with bigotry and anti-European, nationalist – often even xenophobic – movements and parties.

The UK has opted to leave the EU, much to our regret. But that doesn’t change things for the rest of us: We are more than ever convinced that the EU is and remains the relevant framework for Germany’s foreign and domestic policy.

Yes, the EU is a complex animal. But to call into question the entire project of the EU is irresponsible populism. The EU remains the best instrument we have to address the challenges we are facing in a more and more globalized and crisis-ridden world.

For Germany, European integration forms part of its DNA, for two reasons: Because the European Union has been founded to overcome a legacy that weighs heavily until today: its history of war and nationalism.

And because the EU provides us with more leverage than a single nation state would have alone, for the challenges at home and at the international level. This is also true for a bigger member state like Germany. Even Germany, though apparently politically and economically a heavyweight, can only realize and defend its national interests within and through Europe. We’re all pretty small fishes in a very large pond if we are on our own! Today, Europe accounts for 8 percent of world population – 2050 it will be mere 5 percent. Soon no single European country will be amongst the leading economic nations, but together, in the EU, we will still be one of the front-runners.

So let me be very clear: The EU is our past, our present and our future. Germany will continue to take responsibility for the European project, in close cooperation with the EU institutions and its partners in the EU.

We are ready to redouble our efforts to confront a growing anti-European mood. And we will redouble our efforts to deconstruct the nationalistic and populist discourse according to which a retreat on the national level would increase control of our own fate. The opposite is true: it would make us all more vulnerable and irrelevant on the international level.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We need to prove why people are better off with more Europe than without. First of all, we need to regain trust, by better showing people that Europe offers concrete solutions and answers to their worries. That is what we are currently doing within the so-called Bratislava Process.

In the run-up to the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome in March 2017, we have agreed to put in place an ambitious and focused agenda, mainly in three areas: to strengthen our Common Foreign and Security Policy, to complete the Ecomomic and Monetary Union in a way that creates not only growth, but employment and social inclusiveness for all and to establish a workable European asylum policy.

Allow me to focus here on the issue of migration, the greatest challenge for a Europe surrounded by extreme instability in the Middle East and Africa:

We have managed to find a common answer to the unprecedented influx of migrants and refugees into the European Union in recent months: The EU-Turkey Agreement has led to a tremendous fall in the loss of life and in irregular border crossings into the EU. Numbers of arrivals went down from a daily average of 1,700 persons before the implementation of the Statement to a daily average of 102.

Moreover, we have set up a new European Border and Coast Guard, to ensure full control of our external borders, and we will considerably strengthen the Common European Asylum Office.

Furthermore, we have set-up hotspots in order to efficiently register all migrants and refugees that reach the European Union in Greece and Italy.

And, last but not least: We have stepped up our cooperation with countries of transit and origin. Through tailor-made partnerships with key countries of origin and transit in Africa, we are using all policies and instruments at the EU's disposal to ameliorate the humanitarian situation of refugees by investing into housing, medical care and education. This will enable migrants and refugees to stay closer to home and, in the long term, to help third countries' development in order to address root causes of irregular migration.

Europe must advance. It would be wrong to allow the shock of the British referendum to paralyze us, to give up the idea of further integration. It is true: Not all member states will be ready to move forward on integration at this point in time. But multiple speeds have long been a reality in Europe and should enable us to move ahead with a group of member states, while remaining open for others to join at a later stage. This is why we call for a more flexible European Union.

Let me assure you: The EU will live up to the challenges it is facing. The leaders of the EU Member States know exactly what is at stake. A strong and united Europe will remain an important and attractive partner for Canada and will play its role on the international level, alongside our Canadian partners, for peace and security in its neighborhood and in the world.

This was the very signal, which we wanted to send out with the EU-Canada summit. If we look at the world, there are hardly any closer partners than Canada and the European Union when it comes to shared values and ideals we not only live up to, but we would like to promote around the world.

Germany will play its part to preserve these achievements, unparalleled in human history, and to shape the future of Europe as best we can in order to ensure the liberal order, pluralism, open societies, political stability, economic prosperity social inclusiveness and absence of major conflict that so far have distinguished the European model.

One thing is crystal clear: Transatlantic cooperation, close partnership between Canada and Europe unity are key in this endeavor.

The famous German filmmaker Wim Wenders once said: "Europe is heaven on earth, the promised land, as soon as you look at it from the outside. I have seen Europe from Chicago and New York, from Tokyo and Rio, from Australia, from the heart of Africa, the Congo, and from Moscow. I am telling you: In each case, Europe appeared in a different light, but always as paradise, as a dream of mankind, as a stronghold of peace, prosperity and civilization."

Today I’m looking forward to looking at the European Union together with you from a Canadian perspective. And I’m quite curious which Europe you perceive: A continent of crisis or a continent of hope? For me personally Europe will remain a unique project of peace, prosperity and civilization - despite of all the current difficulties and challenges.

Thank your for your attention.

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