Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Strasbourg, 15/02/2022 – 19:01

Remarks

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Thank you President, thank you Honourable Members,

This is a debate that takes place because the Treaty wants it to take place. The Treaty mandates us – article 36 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union – that we have an annual debate on the implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and on the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy annual reports. It is a broad issue. Let me try to concentrate on some specific ideas before entering in the debate with you. Thank you, first of all to [David] McAllister and [Nathalie] Loiseau for their introductory statements and, in advance, I thank all the contributors to the outstanding work of the Parliament on the new reports.

I suppose the reports were very difficult to draft because 2021 was a very difficult year. We have the pandemic lasting longer than expected. Inequalities are increasing, geopolitical challenges worsening and we have to learn quite a lot of lessons from that. You rightly mention the case of Afghanistan. That is one of the key issues which we have to look into, in order to take lessons of what was happening there. This may be the worst case.

But there are other cases which are positive. There are positive developments as you also acknowledge in your report. In the multilateral fora, the European Union remained committed to lead the global response on the pandemic and the fight against climate change. On security and defence, we developed the Strategic Compass, thank you to for the references that you made to it, Ms Loiseau. Thank you also for the support, I hope, the Parliament will bring to the Strategic Compass, because it is the first structural response to the security challenges that we are facing. We can talk a lot, but in the end, what matters are the structural responses. The Strategic Compass is the first and most important structural response in defence challenges.

We need to become a powerhouse. We have to continue defending multilateralism. But we have to be a powerhouse. There is no contradiction between the two objectives. On the contrary, they go hand in hand, as you, Mr McAllister and Ms Loiseau, have been saying and is well-reflected in your Reports.

Overall, I see in your reports four kinds of issues to address.

First, on multilateralism and the global commons. When I talk about global commons today, it is to talk about the pandemic and climate.

Second, how we relaunch transatlantic relations. I was talking with the new US Ambassador in the European Union [Mark Gitenstein] the other day and I was talking about how to reinvigorate the transatlantic relations in a context which is marked by the worsening of the Ukrainian crisis, the increasing threats by Russia, and by the intensification of a strategic competition of the US with China.

Third, how we stabilise our neighbourhood, how we deepen our engagement with Africa – we have been talking about it before – and how we engage with the Indo-Pacific. And thank you to the French Presidency for putting that on the agenda because the Indo-Pacific is the place in which the history of the world will be written in this century. Ukraine has been concentrating our efforts, our worries, on what is happening in our relationship with Russia. And the US has had to come back to Europe. But, the China issue will dominate this century, and the Indo-Pacific will be the place where we will have to be engaging more and more. And we are not engaged enough in that.

And fourth, the growing weaponisation of interdependence. We believed that interdependency was a way of ensuring peace, because the Coal and Steel Community was to create interdependency in order to avoid war. And we had that in our DNA: interdependency is a way of avoiding war. But today interdependency is a weapon. If you are dependent on me, I use this dependency in order to threaten you.

Now some words on each one of these four issues.

First, on Multilateralism and global public goods. We advocated a multilateral response to the pandemic and we became the biggest donor of vaccines. Do not forget it. Let us stop being masochists. We are the biggest donors of vaccines. The biggest exporter, yes, but exporting is a commercial issue. You can export to Japan and it does not help the poor people in the world. Donating is another thing. On donors, we are the first one. We need to do more, yes, but do not forget that we are the one who [already] does more in the world.

Climate: we were in Glasgow the ones who played a steering role, launching the Global Methane Pledge, to reduce global emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030. This is a good example of how the European Union should operate internationally: taking initiatives and building coalitions to rally the world. We cannot build a coalition among others to respect our efforts on climate change. Our efforts would be completely useless, because we are only 8% of the global emissions.

Transatlantic relations have been very much revitalised with the Biden dministration. Although we do not necessarily agree on everything, certainly not, but this relation has been key in the current geopolitical context. And with respect to the Ukrainian crisis and other threats by Russia, I want to say that the American Administration has been with us extremely cooperative and we have been participating before and after any kind of exchange with Russia, both from NATO and the US. We have also launched our strategic dialogue about China. In climate, in corporate taxation and the Iran/JCPOA negotiations at this critical moment, in which the balance may go to the agreement or to the disagreement in the negotiations that we are coordinating, our relation with the US has been much better and I hope that it will continue being better to ensure this transatlantic relations will also influence positively the other transatlantic relation. The other transatlantic relation is with Latin America which is on the other side of the Atlantic. Your report rightly called for stepping up on our relations with Latin America. Last year I visited Brazil and Peru. In 9 years, this was the first high-level visit of the European Union to Brazil. In 9 years, the first high-level visit of any European Union authority in Brazil – which is not the smallest country in Latin America or the less influential country in the world. We have to continue working on that.

Let me turn now to my third point: Neighbourhood, Africa and Indo-Pacific. Last year, we dealt with the challenges related to the stabilisation of our periphery, as well as the deepening of our engagement with Africa and the Indo-Pacific. There are a lot of examples that show that we have to face hybrid conflicts, cyber operations, intimidation, the state hijacking of planes and the blatant manipulation of migrants (like in Belarus), energy blackmail (by Russia against Moldova), the use of disinformation and propaganda, and, in the military area, it has been said how in the Sahel the privatisation of armies is posing a new threat to our operations.

On the Western Balkans, we must continue working to bring these countries closer to their European future. At the same time, we have to counter the rise of divisive rhetoric and actions, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and Kosovo.

In the eastern Mediterranean, we have seen tensions with Turkey easing. Still, Turkish activities in Varosha continue to remain of concern.

And then, there is a different set of crises that demand tailored responses: Ethiopia, Mali, Sudan, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Belarus… But we need to look at these challenges from an integrated perspective and consider the geopolitics of all different elements, from climate to migration, digital standards and trade altogether. Your reports underline the need for more coordinated and coherent approach, which is certainly needed. And according to the Treaty, I am in charge of giving more coherence to the external policy of the European Union, putting together the two pillars: the intergovernmental pillar and the Commission pillar. And, believe me, it is not an easy task. I am trying to do my best, but first I need to get unanimity among Member States and then I have to merge the positions of the Council and the Commission.

You mention also the nuclear deal (JCPOA). Last year we resumed the talks, and these talks are in a critical moment. Maybe in a couple of weeks we are able to see where we are, definitely.

On our Southern Neighbourhood and Africa, the situation in Libya has improved, but we have seen a clear regression in Tunisia. In the South of Africa, the year was marked by many conflicts. I am not going to talk more about Africa, let us wait until the Summit to talk.

Looking East, the report drafted by David McAllister rightly points out that there is a particular chance to upgrade our relations with the countries in the Gulf. The Gulf certainly is a critical region for us. Several Member States have recently addressed a letter to me asking to increase our relations with the Gulf, to nominate a Special Envoy – a European Union Special Representative for the Gulf Area. The Gulf is the broader Middle East, not focused only on the Peace Process between Israel and Palestine, which is unhappily stalled, but also the broader Middle East, including all the conflicts in the Gulf: Yemen, Iran, Syria, Iraq. And certainly I will propose this to the Council.

I already talked about the Indo-Pacific region.

And, finally, I do not want to be long, the report of Ms Loiseau on CSDP, I think there is growing consensus on strategic autonomy, or, if you like it better, strategic responsibility. Because this is in the end about the responsibility of the Europeans. There is the Strategic Compass, which is nothing against NATO, but it is a way of making the European pillar inside NATO stronger. And the stronger we will be, the stronger will be our alliance. That is what I explained to the American Ambassador the other day in my office.

PESCO has launched 14 new projects. We expanded our partnerships, enabling the participation of Canada and the US, which is a very important step.

We launched in Mozambique the first military ‘Train and Equip’ mission. We are thinking about the idea and concept of a Coordinated Maritime Presence in the Gulf of Guinea and the Indo-Pacific.

I have many other issues to talk about.

Thank you, Mr President, for your patience and your attention. We continue our discussion with your interventions.

Thank you.

Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-218131

 


Closing remarks:

Thank you, Ms President. Thank you, all of you Honourable Members for your interventions.

I hope that the Member States have been listening to you. I hope that you have convinced them. Thank you for your support on trying to make a stronger security policy and a stronger European Union defence.

I believe, after listening to all of you, that we can agree that the landscape for our external action is more complicated both in our borders and further afield. Fundamental principles of our security architecture are being questioned in a way that the European Union should not and will not accept.

I understand your claim that we need to forge alliances with like-minded partners to increase our autonomy; that this has nothing to do against NATO, on the contrary, strengthening our unity and our defence capabilities will also strengthen the Atlantic alliance. We need to keep working on fighting the COVID pandemic, on climate, to ensure that democratic principles continue to guide developments and the use of new and disruptive technologies and we need to continue working to ensure a safe and orderly migration, working and investing in partnerships with countries of origin and transit. On energy, we have to work with others on the diversification of routes and sources of supply, especially in these times, and we need to help our partners to develop renewable forms of energy, especially in oil and gas producing countries. Especially, also, in countries that do not have these natural resources.

We have to treat these transversal topics as the real core foreign policy. We cannot go jumping from one crisis to another, from the coup d’état de la semaine to a crisis of the following month. But taking energy and climate diplomacy, technological diplomacy, migration, as already common terms and themes, together with cyber diplomacy or migration diplomacy. We are preparing the External Action Service to be able to deal with these global issues. It is not just the geographical approach, but this kind of transversal approach, because the world of tomorrow is being framed by intended events and mainly this intended events are related to crisis; but unintended events, which are not in our capacity to avoid, which is the climate transformation. And a third one, which is the technological transformation, which is intended, certainly, because this is something coming from the human-kind mind and spirits. But it is going to completely change the political landscape. The geopolitical landscape will be completely changed by these two factors: climate and technology.

These are not related with the crisis of the week, but to this deep transformation of our world. We will continue enhancing our work on these fields.

Believe me, we will not spare efforts for any challenges, the work will continue this year. Thank you very much for your contribution and your cooperation.

Link: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-218134

Source – EEAS

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