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The Alcuin Lecture
The annual Alcuin Lecture at the University of Cambridge. I spoke October 25 on the new European agenda from Balkans to broadband.

Mr. Carl Bildt KCMG

Former Prime Minister of Sweden
Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the UN to the Balkans

The New European Agenda:
From the Balkans to Broadband.

The 2000 Alcuin Lecture

University of Cambridge
October 25

It is truly an honour to be invited to give the Alcuin Lecture this year. And it is certainly no less an honour to do it in the footsteps of Lord Brittan of Spennithorne – although I fear he will remain better known as Sir Leon Brittan across Europe for decades to come.

As perhaps no one else, he has truly demonstrated the contribution that Britain can make to the development of integration in Europe, and the weight that Britain and its political tradition can have in this Europe, if only there is the full commitment by Britain to be at the hearth of the debate about the future of our common continent.

Our respective countries did not belong to those that were part of the process of European integration from its start. But it should nevertheless be remembered, that some of our most prominent statesmen in modern times were ardent believers in a closer union between the states of Europe as the only way for Europe to come out of that vicious circle of national conflicts and horrible wars that had caused too much suffering.

As a young politician in Sweden arguing the case of European integration, there was no one I quoted more often than Sir Winston Churchill.

His speech in Fulton Missouri about the iron curtain descending upon Europe from Stettin to Trieste might still be more well known, but his earlier speech at the University of Zurich arguing for a United States of Europe to achieve reconciliation and peace between the old enemies on the continent of Europe is perhaps of greater relevance today.

And in my own country, it is often forgotten that the young Dag Hammarskjöld, before he was called upon to assume the difficult role of Secretary General of the United Nations during some of the coldest years of the cold war, was a strong public proponent of these very same ideas.

There were historical reasons why our respective countries did not belong to those that during the 1950’s initiated the process of closer integration between the nations of Europe.

The wind of change had certainly started to blow through all the pink-painted areas of the globe, but the consequences of that wind for the future of Britain wasn’t yet fully felt. And having, more by luck than by skill, managed to stay out of the two devastating world wars, Sweden still believed that there was more security to be sought in isolation than in integration.

But now, we are living in a very different Europe. Both the United Kingdom and Sweden are members of the European Union, your country since the early 1970’s and my country since the mid 1990’s, although there are still remnants of old hesitations in our respective public attitudes and political postures.

Now, we are part of the common endeavour of shaping our common European future – although it is obvious that we are still very much shaped by our separate past.

I used to say that I belong to the post-war generation in Europe.

Born well after the guns felt silent in 1945 after the two horrible episodes of civil war in Europe, we grew up in societies were affluence started to be felt, welfare was the code-word for progress, the distinction between state and society not always very clear, the nature of Soviet power not something that should be discussed too much, and our closest neighbour to the East probably being Vietnam.

But there was an uneasy feeling about the entire state of affairs.

Rationally, we had no difficulty seeing the necessity of building peace on policies of nuclear deterrence, but when this rationally was attacked in emotional terms, it had difficulties holding its ground.

Rationally, we could see that one needed to cooperate with this Soviet power that one also had to deter, but when we started to read about the GULAG archipelago, it become more and more clear how evil was the empire that directly or indirectly dominated so much of the affairs of Europe.

Rationally, we could certainly see the wisdom of the policies of deterrence and détente, but on a deeper level there were difficulties in defending both the postures of nuclear deterrence and of ideological détente. It was obvious that a truly better Europe had to be built on truly different foundations.

Since a decade back, this has been our task. But it is a task that we have only just started with.

A decade is a short period. We often forget how different everything was just little more than a decade ago in Europe, and how radical are the changes which have occurred in the basic conditions of Europe as a result of the revolutions of those years a decade ago.

Then, there was still a wall dividing Berlin, Germany and all of Europe. Then, there was no world wide web.

It was in late 1989 that the wall came down in Berlin, and it was in late 1990 that the web was born in Geneva.

And since then we have been dealing with the consequences of the death of the wall and the birth of the web. With the gradual disappearance of what divides, and the gradual strengthening of what unites.

The Europe of the wall is gradually – but only gradually – giving way to the Europe of the web.

In the middle of the momentous political changes in Europe a decade ago, the then leaders of the then European Community met in Maastricht in late 19991 to chart the course for the future. They decided to transform their community into the European Union, to open it up for new member states willing to join, to embark on an effort to create a common foreign and security policy and to aim at the creating of a common European currency before the end of the decade.

Only weeks after that meeting in Maastricht, the red flag was lowered from the Kremlin, and the evil empire that had dominated half of Europe for a generation, and cast its shadow over all of it during most of the century, come to its end.

The 1990’s has been dominated by this the Maastricht agenda laid down in 1991.

By 1995, the Union went from twelve to fifteen members, as the former neutral countries of Austria, Finland and Sweden become new members. With the exception of Norway and Switzerland, the Union then embraced all of what could be defined as Western Europe. It was ready to start the process of enlargement into Central, Eastern and South-eastern Europe.

And the common European currency was indeed created. It is fair to say that most observers for most of the 1990’s doubted that this would in fact happen. It was seen as a political project beyond the capabilities of the political leaderships of Europe.

The starting point was indeed a difficult one.

The early 1990’s saw the spectacular collapse of the Exchange Rate Mechanism – the then effort to achieve the desired monetary stability in Europe. Most of the public budgets were in heavy deficits, we were very far from currency stability, and signs of a true process of economic convergence between the key economies were in fact rather few.

But the train set in motion at Maastricht did reach its destination. Against the expectations of most, there is today a well-functioning common currency covering 11 nations from Portugal in the south to Finland in the north, soon to include Greece as well.

And, as observers on the other side of the Atlantic point out more frequently than observers on this side, it has been a success.

I will return to the issue of the rate of exchange with the dollar, but the key aim of the common currency was to contribute to the creation of more of a common markets. Although the coins and the banknotes will not appear until 2002, we have seen the emergency of a more common market faster than anticipated.

The part of the Maastricht agenda which was less of a success during the 1990’s was the creation of a common foreign and security policy for the countries of the European Union. There were many reasons for this, but the paramount reason was the fact that we were utterly unprepared for the challenges we were going to face in the Balkans.

There were, in the early 1990’s, three very major tasks concerning the security structure of Europe that we were faced with. We mastered two of them far better than expected, and failed with the third of them in a most tragic way.

The reunification of Germany within the framework of both the EU and NATO, as well as the withdrawal of the massive Soviet forces stationed in Germany since 1945, was achieved. This was an achievement that bordered on the miraculous.

And with this, the fate of Soviet power in Central Europe was sealed.

The second major task was the re-establishment of the independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and the withdrawal of Russian forces from them.

This was even more challenging, since here we were dealing with areas that had been part of the Soviet Union proper, and were some Russians claimed rights going back to the days of Ivan the Terrible. And the military forces here were not primarily forces for offensive warfare, as those in Germany, but for the defence of the Russian heath land itself.

Nevertheless, this was achieved as well.

The third challenge was the transition of the areas of Yugoslavia from one order that clearly did not work towards another order of self-sustaining stability.

Here we failed, and failed massively. We failed to avert a war in Croatia in 1991, failed to avert the war that started in Bosnia in 1992 and failed to avert the war over Kosovo. We were clearly up against forces stronger than we had thought, and forces we only partly understood, but the failure was nevertheless ours.

Today we have approximately a quarter of a million young men and women in uniform committed to service in the Balkans, with key issues of some of the core political conflicts of the area still wide open. Clearly, we are still far away from that self-sustaining stability that we started to seek for this area a decade ago.

And the image of Europe as a power capable of conducting serious foreign and security policies suffered accordingly. Although facts were different, the impression was nevertheless created that only the Americans have the policies and the powers necessary to create peace in Europe.

Now, the Maastricht agenda has run its course. It was the agenda of the first decade of the new Europe. And we have entered the phase that will be dominated by the twin agendas of Helsinki and Lisbon.

The Helsinki agenda is the one set by the last meeting of the European Council of the 1990’s. And the Lisbon agenda the one set by the first meeting of the European Council of the new century.

The Helsinki agenda is the agenda of peace, and the Lisbon agenda is the agenda of prosperity. The first deals with the challenges coming from the fall of the wall, and the second deals with the challenges coming from the rise of the web.

In Helsinki, the leaders of the European Union decided to embrace the most ambitious agenda possible in terms of the coming enlargement of the Union in the years ahead.

Now, accession negotiations were started up with all the Baltic countries, all the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, with Romania and Bulgaria in South-eastern Europe as well as with Malta and Cyprus in the Mediterranean. And – in a decision of profound importance – the prospect for membership was opened up for Turkey as well.

Once upon a time, the process of closer European integration was started as an instrument of peace, trying to bring the former enemies of France and Germany so close together as to make further wars between them not only impossible but also unthinkable.

Having achieved this, the peace-creating powers of the process of European integration will now be extended to all of Europe to the west and to the soth of Russia and the Ukraine. It will one day encompass an area that stretches from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the outskirts of the plains of Mesopotamia in the south. It will bring in major areas of conflict and tensions of the past, trying to create a peace for the future.

This will, mildly speaking, not happen overnight. There are truly gigantic problems to be overcome. But as the experience of the Maastricht agenda and the emergence of the euro shows, once a goal has been set, the European Union tend to move - step by step, crisis by crisis – towards achieving that aim.

I believe this part of the Helsinki agenda will be with us for substantially more than the coming decade.

I believe – looking also at the experiences of the past – that we will see that enlargement happen in several phases, with each phase also being a phase of further steps in the necessary institutional evolution of the European Union.

The first phase, bringing in the Baltic and the Central European nations, should be possible to complete within the period of this European Parliament and this European Commission. It should be completed before the next European elections in mid 2004.

The second phase will in all probability coincide with more major steps in the institutional evolution of the Union, resulting in a treaty more crisp and more clear than the present amalgamation of past treaties, now in the form of a constitution. It will extend the process of enlargement into South-eastern Europe as well. It should be completed by 2009.

On an optimistic assumption, it could be possible to complete this part of the Helsinki agenda by the third phase, ending in 2014, which just happens to be a century after the old order of a more integrated Europe was brought down by that fateful shoot in Sarajevo.

Then, the largest city of the European Union will no longer be London with its links also across the Atlantic, but rather Istanbul, which literally straddles continents, cultures and traditions, thus reflecting the new realities that we already see emerging in the large cities throughout our continent.

The Helsinki agenda is essentially about peace.

After the age of deterrence, we are creating peace through integration. But the Helsinki agenda is also about making Europe more credible as a power for peace by giving it the instruments to conduct a truly common foreign, security and defence policy.

Today, the focus in the public debate tend to be on the deficiencies that are there in Europe in terms of different sorts of military hardware. And these are indeed serious.

The present commitment of soldiers to the Balkans seriously strain the combined capabilities of the European nations after the severe cut-backs that have been undertaken in all countries during the 1990’s. There was much talk of a peace dividend when in fact we were faced with a major peace deficit in Europe.

But I am less concerned with the hardware than with the software deficits we are having. In the aftermath of the Kosovo war, much has been written about how we are lacking in terms of smart bombs. This is a problem, but I am far more concerned by how the wars in the Balkans have demonstrated how we have been lacking in terms of smart policies.

And this is key. Military force is an instrument of policy, and not an end to itself.

If we do not have the software capabilities in terms of smart policies to deal with complex issues like the ones we will be faced in the different fracture zones around the periphery of Europe in the decades ahead, no amount of hardware capabilities will help. Smart bombs without smart polices is about as useful as capable PC’s equipped with louse software.

We need, thus, to develop the policies for structures of peace that will be of relevance in the areas of concern to Europe, and then the role that the use of military force can and must play within these policies for peace.

And this must be done by a European Union where cultures when it comes to the use of military force differs very substantially between the different countries, where perspectives and priorities tend to be influenced both by the history and the geography of the different countries, and where the institutional set-up is likely to be constantly evolving.

Nevertheless, it must be done, and I have no doubts it will be done. If we look ahead, there is no doubt that the process of phased enlargement of the Union, in parallel with the developments of the true instruments of a common foreign and security policy, will increase the possibilities for peace in the wider European area in the decades ahead.

One of the reasons for my optimism is that at every one of the crisis we will undoubtedly face in these efforts, we will have to stare at the consequences of failure, and then we will see that we are forced to succeed.

Because a Europe that does not integrate more, might well be a Europe where the forces of disintegration gets the upper hand, national rivalries once again come to the forefront, the prospects of peace diminishes and the prospects of war increases.

We have learnt by the bitter experience of the Balkans during the last decade that we do not have the luxury of believing that we live in a post-war Europe. We live in a Europe where the forces of division, animosity and even hatred still have the potential to bring war to parts of our continent.

Thus, we have no alternative to success with the Helsinki agenda.

If the Helsinki agenda of peace is driven by the fall of the wall, then the Lisbon agenda for prosperity is driven by the birth of the web.

In Lisbon, the leaders of the European Union set ambitious goals for the future. They committed themselves to policies to ensure that the European Union becomes “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world”.

We live in the midst of a revolutionary technological shift, the impact of which we are all feeling in our daily lives, and which we are certainly starting to see in our economies.

The relentless increase in microprocessor capability – Moore’s law might continue for some time to come – in combination with the tremendous increase in telecommunication capabilities and the rapid rise of the use of the Internet is truly transforming the conditions for our economies, but at the end of the day for social and political life as well. That was the case with the previous great transformations, and there is no reason whatsoever to believe it will be different now.

But there is no doubt that we are lagging behind the United States in this development. Not necessarily because we are significantly less good in basic research and innovation – the web was, after all, invented on this side of the Atlantic – but because we lack some of the flexibility and some of the entrepreneurial spirit that the Americans do have in their society.

The web was invented in Europe in 1990, but it was commercialised in the United States three years later, and ever since developments have been driven by the other side of the Atlantic.

This can not go on. During the past year we have seen the dollar and the euro drifting apart, to a very large extent due to the fact that funds have been flowing from Europe into the US economy in the belief that prospects for profits are better there than they are here. And with more funds being available, and with markets being more flexible, we will see a stronger development there than here.

Last year, the term “new economy” entered the political vocabularies on both sides of the Atlantic.

But we should recognize, that what we term new economy remains almost entirely a US phenomenon so far. It is in the US economy we have seen the rapid rise in productivity that has made it possible for their economy to grow significantly faster than anyone anticipated since the mid-90’s.

In Europe, there are areas where we are beginning to see something resembling a new economy. But if we look at the macroeconomic figures, it is nowhere to be seen as of yet. Technology investments in European industry still runs at levels half of those in the US, and recent studies claim that it on the average takes twelve times as long to start up a new company in Europe as in the US.

The Lisbon agenda sets out to rectify this. It is about liberalizing markets, creating new rules for a new economy, encouraging entrepreneurship, restructure old welfare state models and get Europe as a whole to embrace the possibilities of the new technologies.

I believe this will be as challenging in the years ahead as will be the Helsinki agenda. And here it will primarily be a case of challenging old political doctrines and the old structures that these old structures have created. There are certainly differences between the countries, but the need for reforms is there in every single one of them.

We see some signs of change starting to happen. Germany is undertaking a tax reform that certainly points in the right direction, and which are bound to influence other countries. Sweden has pushed through a fundamental reform of its pension system that could well serve as a model for other countries. The European Commission is moving aggressively forward with its e-Europe agenda for regulatory and other reforms in the years ahead.

But the challenging is substantial. The target we are aiming at is constantly moving. Technology is continuing to develop, and we might well be faced with new competition also from the economies of East Asia, as well as other places in the world, in the years ahead.

The one area were we are ahead is the emerging area of the mobile Internet. And here there is a distinct northern light over the emergency of the new economy in Europe, with Finland and Sweden emerging as the world leaders not only and perhaps not even primarily in the relevant technologies, but also in the wide-spread application of them throughout society.

The Helsinki agenda for peace and the Lisbon agenda for prosperity are united by the facts that they can only be achieved by common efforts and by taking our common endeavour in the European Union forward.

There is no way any nation states can master these agendas fully on its own. The fall of the wall and the rise of the web are forces that call for more of integration between the countries of Europe. Only thus can we succeed.

But this in no way signifies the death of the nation states. I believe that cultural and national identities are important, and I even believe that they might become even more important in a period of dramatic and for some even traumatic changes.

It is only when people feel secure in their national and cultural identity that they will be ready to fully endorse and take part in the common European efforts that will be so necessary. But it also a Europe where peace is more secure and where prosperity is stronger and more widespread, that we can fully enjoy the richness that is there in the national and cultural diversity of Europe.

Bildt Blog Comments

In addition to this webpage, and the email letters ongoing since 1994, I have now started a blog as well.

You find it at

At you will continue to find articles, speeches and different documents.

At the blog there will be the shorter and perhaps somewhat faster comments.

And the e-letter continues to give at the least an attempt at analys.

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