Europe asserts itself in a globalized world

04.02.2011 - Interview

In security policy, too, greater integration is the only option if Europe wants its voice heard amidst the chorus of world powers new and old. By Federal Foreign Minister Guideo Westerwelle.

In security policy, too, greater integration is the only option if Europe wants its voice heard amidst the chorus of world powers new and old. Contribution by Federal Foreign Minister Guideo Westerwelle on the occasion of the Munich Security Conference, published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, 04 February 2011.

As the world moves through a phase of dramatic change and upheaval, the global balance of power is shifting. The economic and political significance of new global players has grown at breakneck speed. Emerging economies make up the majority of the G20. The financial and economic crisis has accelerated this process: As the USA and Europe weathered a severe economic blow, China, India and Brazil proved themselves as engines of growth.

One of the fundamental tasks of international politics is to shape globalization responsibly. If Europe hopes to remain among the key global players, it must not squander its potential. No European country on its own possesses enough political and economic leverage to have a lasting impact on the future course of the world.

The post-war generation reinvented Europe as a response to the all-consuming catastrophe of the two World Wars. Continuing the project of European integration is now just as important as ever, but for different reasons. Whereas after the War the establishment of balance, peace and prosperity lay at the heart of European integration, today’s Europe is a project devoted to asserting itself in a globalized world. Only when it is internally stable and capable of acting effectively in the wider world can the European Union ensure prosperity in Europe, safeguard economic competitiveness and maintain our influence in shaping international relations.

The currency union was a political project. But the financial and economic crisis showed that the economic foundations on which the euro rests are also in urgent need of strengthening. A stable currency and a stable internal market require joint efforts in economic and budgetary policy. What we are currently experiencing in Europe is not a euro crisis but rather a debt crisis. That is why we Europeans need to work intensively in two areas of internal policy: First, we must consolidate our budgets to make both the individual eurozone countries and the euro itself less vulnerable. Second, we need to increase our competitive strength on an international scale. Only by succeeding at these tasks can we create an enduringly strong and stable internal market.

Internal stability and consolidation are the basis of our ability to act effectively in the world. Only a European Union with a stable internal market will have the strength to act as a persuasive player on the world stage.

We also need better coordination in external matters in order to be able to throw the full collective weight of Europe behind our plans. In foreign and security policy too, we must move in the direction of greater integration. We stand at the beginning of a decade that will set the course for managing the formative challenges of this century. This applies to the creation of suitable structures for global governance as well as to dealings with the powers that seek to influence this process to their own benefit. In order to safeguard European opportunities for our own development and to influence and shape the world, the EU must develop into an actor with global leverage, broadly capable of effective action.

But the EU will only become a full-fledged global player if it harnesses the foreign policy potential contained in the Lisbon Treaty. The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European External Action Service which supports her give us the chance to speak with one voice. They provide the foundation for implementing European interests through focused diplomacy. It is up to the member states and the Commission to provide the support that the High Representative and the instruments of her office need. All sides must be prepared to act together and to put their national sovereignty to the service of shared interests.

Effective security and defence policy is a key element of the global role of the European Union. As the world’s strongest economic area and trading power, as a community of values and as a union of liberal democracies, the EU has an interest in peace and stability throughout the world. Europe cannot afford to leave it to the USA and other states to commit to pursuing these aims. The development of a European security and defence policy – for example, to protect against terrorism, to secure trade and shipping routes, to manage crises – will play a vital role in determining Europe’s future importance in shaping world events. The European Union cannot pass on its responsibilities in security policy to any other power. With its neighbours to the east and south, in its Russia policy, in regards to Turkey – Europe’s geographical location and economic interdependence present specific security policy issues that must be addressed by Europe itself.

Through the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the EU in theory enjoys one of the world’s most modern instruments for handling crisis and conflict. In bringing together civilian and military means, Europe has created an approach that does justice to the concept of comprehensive security in the modern world.

But a good approach can only prove fruitful if it is implemented in practice. Considerable achievements have been made in the past ten years. The European Union has carried out an array of successful peace and stabilization missions. These EU missions, however, are very modest in light of the more than 300 billion euro consumed by the member states’ individual defence budgets for 27 national armies.

In security policy, too, greater integration is the only option if Europe wants its voice heard amidst the chorus of world powers new and old. Here too the Lisbon Treaty offers a feasible path: It enables those EU countries that are prepared to do so to team up on concrete projects and act as trailblazers, while also giving the other member states the option of joining in.

In order to facilitate progress in cooperation and integration, the Foreign and Defence Ministers of Poland, France and Germany have launched an initiative to further the development of the Common Security and Defence policy. This initiative is intended to expand planning and leadership capacities as well as intensify the cooperation of armed forces in the EU member states. For the long term it holds a vision of a shared European defence, that is to say, the prudent pooling of our security and defence policy resources.

Europe’s self-assertion and its role in the world rest upon two pillars: The first is a successful internal market based on sound economic policy as an internal foundation for successful action in the world. And the second is a powerful foreign and security policy which joins together our European interests and capacities in order to ensure that we have a voice and a formative role in global concerns. The journey towards realizing this vision will not be easy, but this is the path we must take.

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