|Foreign & security policy
Create an "Axis of Good"
|Remarks in Brussels February 19 on the future of European foreign policy. The need to reforge the relationship with the United States and create an "axis of good" with a vision for a better world.
Remarks on “Shaping a Credible EU Foreign Policy”
Brussels, February 19, 2001
With the Convention on the future constitution of the European Union about to start its work, and with a profoundly changed international environment since September 11, it is certainly timely to discuss what must be done in order to create an increasingly credible common European foreign policy.
But first we need to remind ourselves of how far we have actually come.
It wasn’t that long ago that foreign policy, not to speak about defence, was distinctly off limits when it came to the European Communities or the European Union. Then, we were forced to take the one step after the other. The fall of the Soviet empire took us to Maastricht in 1991 and its ambitions. The challenges in the Balkans have then taken us to the Petersberg tasks, the Headline Goals, the Kourtenberg complex and not the least the High Representative to a situation in which we are no longer discussing if we need a EU foreign policy, but how we should further improve what we have started to develop.
During the decades of the Cold War it was all about keeping the Americans as deeply engaged military in the affairs of Europe as possible, thus deterring the Soviet empire in the hope that one day it might actually collapse. And most of the problems of the rest of the world were, for better or worse, viewed through this prism.
Then the threat that had been defining a generation as well as uniting Europeans and Americans suddenly evaporated, and we entered into a decade of optimism and confidence. We could slash military budgets as we watched the advance of democracy and free economies around the world. There was the belief that the world of global markets was going to be the world of global peace.
There were, of course, the unfortunate troubles in the Balkans. But most tended to see them more as an exception than as a rule. They were mostly seen as remnants of the past rather than harbingers of the future.
Come September 11. Perhaps it didn’t change the world as much as we all said at the time. But it certainly changed the way in which we view the world and its challenges. We woke up to the bitter realisation that – if I might use that analogy – the Balkans had been the rule and not the exception. Global terrorism was the fusion of an open world and of closed minds.
During the 1990’s we gradually developed the instruments to be more effective in securing both the prosperity and peace of our continent. The Euro is there, and the Lisbon process has at the least produced a declaration of intent. The commitment to enlargement represents going from preventing war through military deterrence, as we did in the past, towards building peace through civilian integration. And we stumbled along in trying to do things slightly better in the one Balkan crisis that come after the previous one.
These tasks continue to be of enormous importance. We are, at the most, halfway towards creating that new order of peace and prosperity in all of Europe – to the West of Russia and the Ukraine – which we started to envisage in 1989 and 1991. If we include the areas of South-Eastern Europe, and make the jump over the Bosporus to Turkey, we have at the very least another decade to go.
This remains the most important contributions that Europe should make to global peace and stability. We have no right to forget that it was the rivalries of Europe, and the totalitarian temptations and threats that they bred, that created war over the entire world not once, but twice, during the last century. We have a duty to save the world from the wars of Europe. The deepening and broadening of European integration is the number one instrument for this.
Clearly, the Balkans remains a problem area. We did major mistakes in our handling of this area a decade ago, and we have been living with the consequences ever since. I’m not saying this in order to take responsibility away from the local actors, but in order to make clear that we have reason to look at our own mistakes as well. Progress has certainly been made during the last few years, but we are far from that self-sustaining stability that has been the aim of our policies, not to mention harmonious multi-ethnic societies.
Both Javier Solana and Chris Patten have been devoting enormous energies to the region. But I believe one should discuss going further in streamlining the European and international structures for the region, thus creating the preconditions for these eventually evolving into institutions and instruments of an accession process into the EU itself.
I believe Bosnia could be a starting point.
There seems to me to be far more logic in the EU taking over the NATO military role in Bosnia than doing the same in Macedonia. With the UN police operation being replaced by a EU police operation, and with a EU-designated High Representative in place, it would make sense for virtually all international activities in Bosnia to come under such an overall EU hat. And then one could look into ways in which such a model, over time, could be extended as well as integrated with the EU itself. Further reforms of the Stability Pact, now under new leadership, could be discussed in the same light.
Clearly, we have a duty to seek to contribute to peace and security in a much larger area than this. Although we can have no ambitions to be a global power in every way in every corner of the world, we clearly have not only opportunities but obligations that cover key global issues and important global regions. We want to contribute to their peace and prosperity – partly because we want to be good people, partly we want to protect ourselves from evil people in the future.
It is in these areas that September 11 has made such a difference. Core global issues are on the table.
We are suddenly discussing not only the limited Middle East in the form of the conflict over Palestine, but the enormous peace and prosperity challenges in the Greater Middle East between the Indus and the Nile, as well as all the ticking issues of along the southern littoral of the Mediterranean. For Europe, the questions of the future development inside Islam, and our relations with it, is far more than an academic exercise. Peace in our “near abroad”, and peace in our suburbs and neighbourhoods, will ultimately depend on it.
We are suddenly waking up to the realisation that we are all neighbours of chaos, and that regions of chaos and disorders at the end of the day risks threatening all of us. It might be the sudden death brought to lower Manhattan, or it might be the slow death brought to most European big cities through the traders of death in drugs.
And we are simultaneously waking up more and more to the other dangers confronting us. Infectious diseases that we thought were gone are in some cases making a ferocious comeback. We have gotten used to hear about the horrors of HIV/AIDS in Africa. But it’s spreading. The second highest rate of new infections now seems to be in parts of the Caribbean – on the doorsteps of the US. The highest rate of infection now seems to be in Russia and the CIS countries – over the doorsteps of Europe.
It’s a more uncertain world out there, affecting us more directly, and more and more we see our domestic audiences understanding that foreign policy isn’t one of the luxury items of politics, but increasingly a basic necessity when it comes to their future.
And in parallel, there is the understanding that this can no longer be purely or even primarily a national policy. National foreign policies will remain. There are, and will remain, issues where there is a clear-cut national interest that needs to be taken care of with a national foreign policy. But increasingly the role of foreign affairs in Europe is to be part of that collective act of composing that must result in an increasingly common European approach to the wider issues of the wider world.
Obviously, the relationship with the United States is a critical one. That was the case during the decades when we were united by a common threat. But as the common threat disappeared, we saw new strains developing in the relationship. During the last few years the relationship has been suffering increasingly from the lack of a common vision.
September 11 changed all of that. Suddenly, we were all Americans. There was a common threat. That the Americans did their own thing in military terms was a major problem for NATO in terms of its perception of itself, but not necessarily more than that. It would have been naïve to expect anything else, apart from the fact that European nations simply did not have the capabilities.
But while the United States is still in a post-September 11 mood, Europe has entered into a post-Afghanistan mood, and we see tensions rising to the surface again. For the United States, we are only in the early phases of a long-haul war against global terrorism. And wars, almost by definition, requires a certain single-mindedness and simplification of the issues. For Europe, the wider global issues – what in the US is sometimes referred to as “the root causes” – are back on the table. The United States feels a threat. Europe feels the lack of a vision.
This is a situation that requires leadership in Europe. The relationship with the United States remains the cornerstone of European foreign policy and the most important axis of good in the world today. We need to formulate a policy – a vision – that is anchored not only in our common values, but also seeks to meld the common threat that we face into a common vision of what we must seek to achieve. We must look at our own shortcomings. We cannot complain that we are not listened to, it we don’t have very much to say.
Apart from what is needed to overhaul and strengthen the machineries here in Brussels – and the report spells out what most of us here today probably agree needs to be contemplated – I believe we need a true European debate about our the content of our future policies.
We need a Big Debate, leading to a Big Deal based on the Big Issues.
It’s a striking fact, that at a time when we are most affected by what’s happening around our borders, and globalisation – good and bad – is affecting our societies probably more than ever, we are spending a smaller share of our combined resources on measures to influence the outside world than we have done for generations.
We have run down our military forces to such an extent that we have difficulties sustaining even 50.000 soldiers in the Balkans, not to speak about possible missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere. We are not near the capabilities necessary to be even a junior partner in the sort of expeditionary wars that might be called for.
We have reduced our assistance to the developing countries in most cases. Partly this has been a reaction to the failures of old-style bilateral development aid. But there is simply no way in which the emerging economies, not to speak of the desperate economies of sub-Saharan Africa, can start taking off without access to far larger amounts of capital than they have today.
We have in very many cases reduced the size and the functions of our diplomatic representations abroad. They are the antennas, and they can be the instruments of conflict prevention.
On the political arena, we often see the centre-right talking about more resources for defence, and the centre-left talking about more resources for the developing world. Across the Atlantic, we hear the Americans talking about more resources for war-winning strategies, while here in Europe there is more talk about more resources for peace-winning policies.
The simple fact is that they all are right. There is no way in which we can go on reducing resources towards global security, stability and justice in the way practically all of our countries – including the United States – has done over the past decade.
|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 http://bildt.blogspot.com.
At www.bildt.net 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.