It is now nearly sixty years since Winston Churchill dictated -
from the vantage point of his bed in a railway carriage at Adana
in Turkey, in the 'margins', as diplomats say, of a meeting with
the Turks - a memorandum to the Foreign Office entitled 'Morning
That memorandum set out his early views on the need for a
regional structure for Europe after the war. In a BBC broadcast
in March 1943, much of it devoted to his ideas on the re-organisation
and reconstitution of Europe, Churchill declared of his
scheme:'…It must eventually embrace all of Europe and all the
main branches of the European family must one day be partners in
it…We must achieve the largest measure of common integrated
life of Europe that is possible, without destroying the
individual characteristics and traditions of its many ancient
and historic races'.
I wonder what Sir Winston would make of today's European
Both sides in the European debate in the country I know best
are fond of enlisting Churchill in their cause.
But it seems to me that there is a good chance that while
Churchill like the rest of us would find a good deal that needs
improving about the European Union, he would strongly approve of
at least two important aspects of our efforts today.
First, I think he would share our determination to broaden
the membership of the Union. The man who coined the term 'Iron
Curtain', but loathed all it stood for would surely be the first
to say that such a policy was not just morally right, but vital
to fulfilling one of the fundamental aims of any European
foreign policy namely the projection of stability, above all
within Europe. He, perhaps the greatest European of his day,
would have endorsed the view of one of the greatest Europeans of
our day, Vaclav Havel, who told the European Parliament earlier
'Enlargement is a vital interest of the European Union….The
idea of two Europes living cheek by jowl, the idea of a
democratic, stable, prosperous Europe on the road to integration
and a less democratic, less stable and less prosperous Europe
is, in my view, completely illusory. It sounds like the idea of
sustainable coexistence in a room which is half flooded and half
dry. Despite its differences, Europe is indivisible, and
anything serious which happens to it will have repercussions on
and consequences for the rest of the continent.'
Second, Churchill would, I believe, have supported efforts to
strengthen our collective influence in the world by fashioning a
common foreign and security policy. Not a strait-jacket policy;
not a policy blind to individual national interests or seeking
to snuff them out. But a policy designed to make sure that where
it is in Europe's interests to speak and above all act as one,
it is capable of doing so; a common foreign policy, not a
uniform one. Churchill would have applauded that: but he would,
I suspect, have reserved final judgement until he could see if
it was delivering 'actions this day', as well as fine words.
It is now just over a year since I became Commissioner for
External Relations. I have spent that time trying to help close
the gap between rhetoric and reality in our efforts to implement
The position I hold is a new one. Previously there were four
and at one stage six Commissioners dealing with foreign affairs
issues, which were divided up geographically.
Romano Prodi wisely changed that, and now there is one
Commissioner for External Relations, as well a Commissioner for
Trade, a Commissioner for Enlargement, a Commissioner for
Development and a Commissioner for Monetary Affairs all of whom
form a team of External Relations Commissioners. As Commissioner
for External Relations, I oversee a €5 billion budget for
external assistance and the parts of the Commission responsible
for implementing them.
My appointment to the Commission coincided with Javier
Solana's appointment as the first High Representative for CFSP
and Secretary General of the Council.
Javier and I share a determination to speed up the way the EU
does business in foreign policy, and to adapt our procedures to
the age of the internet, 24 hour news and instant communication.
The modern world will not wait for management committee
sub-group 34 to meet three weeks hence before a decision can be
taken. And public opinion will not accept it either.
So improving our ability to deliver our ability to bring
Europe's considerable financial, trade and political clout to
bear has been my number one goal in the last 12 months and will
remain so for the next four years. It is necessary worldwide,
but most urgent in those areas where Europe's interests are most
directly at stake, such as in the Balkans.
I will return to the Balkans in a moment; Europe's efforts
there embody in microcosm much of the debate about CFSP. Since
1991, South East Europe has become a tragic and costly proving
ground for Europe's pretensions to a common foreign policy.
Balkan grave-yards testify to our failures; the faces of the
people in the streets of Belgrade last week offer hope, perhaps,
that we are starting, just starting to get things right.
But let us return for a moment to first principles: why have
a common foreign policy at all? What are we trying to achieve
After all, history is littered with failed attempts to
fashion a CFSP that could be more than the sum of its parts.
There was the Pleven Plan. There was the de Gasperi Plan, the
Fouchet plan…With European Political Co-operation, the baby at
least survived. But it was always a rather sickly creature. By
the late 1980s, EPC boasted an impressive jungle of committees;
it issued ringing declarations, usually several days after the
event in question had passed; but it failed to make much impact.
During the 1990s, events steadily forced Member States to
improve this hitherto rather feeble performance.
- First, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the
Soviet Union changed the political landscape of Europe
completely. Until that point we knew what was required of
us: to stand up to Soviet expansionism, and to preserve our
own liberty and values. Now we had to look beyond our
immediate neighbourhood, to shore up fragile democracies on
our borders, to try to fashion a strategy to nurture
democracy and the market economy in Russia and throughout
the former Soviet Union. It was and is a costly venture, in
which we all have a formidable stake. Small wonder that it
occurred to many that it would make sense to try and tackle
- Second, as the EU matured in other respects with
enlargement, and the creation of the single market and the
launch of the single currency the extent to which external
and security policy was lagging behind became steadily more
apparent, and the gap between the rhetoric and the reality
- Third, and most dramatically, with the collapse of the
former Yugoslavia, we suddenly found ourselves tackling real
instability on our borders, instability that was propelling
waves of refugees into Western European cities. Europe's
weakness was exposed in brutal fashion in Bosnia, where we
were unable to stop the fighting until the United States
intervened. It was little better in Kosovo, where Europe
once again had to lean heavily on US military capacity to
halt the ethnic cleansing.
There was a growing realisation that Europe could not
continue like this. It was neither fair nor politically very
smart to continue to rely on the United States to such an
extent, given Europe's relative prosperity; and such an approach
was more rather than less likely to drive a disenchanted US
Congress into unilateralism or isolationism or a mixture of the
two. Europe needed to become a stronger partner for the United
States, and to be able to do more for itself.
We already know in trade negotiations how much stronger
Europe is if it speaks together. And the same logic applies in
foreign and security policy. As Tony Blair said in his excellent
speech in Warsaw last week as good a speech by a British Prime
Minister on Europe as I can recall '…though nations will
jealously guard their own national interests, there are times
when it will be of clear benefit to all, that Europe acts and
speaks together….The individual nations, even the larger ones,
gain through the collective strength of the EU. That is one very
clear reason, quite apart from the economic ones, why the
eastern European nations want to join'.
It is one thing to state a self-evident truth; it is quite
another, believe me, to move from laudable aspiration to the
practical reality of getting 15 very different nations to work
together effectively and coherently on the world stage.
First the EU institutions need to know what the direction is,
and all pull towards it. That requires a sensible and sensitive
partnership between them, to draw on all our considerable
strengths as a Union, and to resist temptations to
compartmentalise our assets between different institutions. That
harnessing of effort is what the structures of CFSP are designed
to achieve. And that is why the Commission has such an important
role to play not, let me stress, carving out new
responsibilities for itself, but exercising those it has
already, in the service of CFSP. That is why the Treaty fully
associates the Commission with CFSP. We participate fully in the
Council and we enjoy, in Community jargon, a 'shared right of
initiative'. Rightly so. The Commission, after all, bears
responsibility for some of the most valuable tools for
implementing any European foreign policy. Those include external
trade questions, including sanctions, for example;
responsibility for European external assistance (worth some 12
billion euros last year); or for many of the external aspects of
Justice and Home Affairs.
But what do we actually want to achieve as a European Union?
I suggest two key goals:
First, to manage more effectively our relationships with our
nearest neighbours. The Member States' ability to do that
effectively is plainly less than that of the EU acting as a
whole, deploying to the full extent the full range of policies
over which the Community has competence, from trade to external
assistance, from environmental co-operation to competition
policy, as well as some aspects of justice and home affairs. Our
aim: the projection of stability, as I mentioned earlier.
Second, we should try to bring our experience of multilateral
co-operation to a wider stage. The EU has been a tremendous
force for stability and prosperity on this continent. It has
reconciled long-standing enemies and helped make further wars
between them unthinkable.
Europe had a mixed record in the last century; our continent
spawned two world wars and the Holocaust. But we also showed a
happier face to the world, becoming a powerful example of how
intractable problems can be overcome by nation states working
together, given the political will and the right framework.
Our first priority must be to help to ensure that Europe has
a strong economy capable of upholding a strong foreign policy.
As Ernie Bevin, the first postwar British Foreign Secretary
said: 'Give me the coal, and I'll give you the policy'.
So we must promote a competitive European economy. The
Commission's external trade policy is a central component of
European foreign policy. The EU must contribute to open,
rule-based international trade. We should champion globalisation,
which I strongly believe to be a force for good, not only
because of the economic benefits of trade that it can bring to
the poorest countries, but because it promotes open societies
and liberal ideas. But we must also address the risk of
polarisation between the connected and the isolated. Liberal
trade and advanced technology are making people better off but
not everywhere and not in every country.
This brings me immediately to external assistance where, as
many of you will be painfully aware, the reality of our efforts
falls well below the potential.
The EU is the biggest aid provider in the world much bigger
than the United States. The EC and its Member States account for
55% of all official international development assistance; and
for two thirds of all grant aid. But the money is not well
managed, and as a result the EU has a very poor reputation as an
aid provider worldwide, despite the generosity of Europe's
taxpayers. I do not want to cast aspersions on our many
excellent staff; they have been saddled with procedures that
Kafka would have found challenging, and there are too few staff
EC aid volumes have increased two to three times as fast as
our ability to manage the funds. We have to work with absurdly
heavy procedures imposed by Member States wanting to
micro-manage projects, and to secure contracts. As a result, in
the last five years the average delay in disbursement of
committed funds has increased from wait for it - three years to
four and a half years. Four and a half years! For some
programmes, the backlog of commitments is equivalent to 8.5
years. No wonder some beneficiaries are reluctant to accept EU
We cannot credibly continue like this. In May, I announced
plans to clean up the mess. We are proposing to the budgetary
authority that a proportion of each assistance programme should
be committed to its management. With these additional resources:
- We can do a better job of multiannual programming and seek
to involve Member States at that stage, so that they do not
delay projects later by excessive oversight procedures.
- We can create a single office of the Commission, called
Europe Aid, which will identify projects and oversee their
implementation from start to finish.
- We can devolve more work to our delegations in country,
bringing management nearer to the projects themselves, and
involving beneficiary countries more closely in
We want to beef up the number of staff dealing with our
programmes to something approaching the figures for Member
States. The World Bank and Member States have between 4 and 9
staff for every 10 million euro they manage. The UK's DFID has
6.5, for example. The Commission has just 2.9. We want to
devolve decision making from Brussels to people in the field,
and make sure they are adequately trained for the task. And we
want to lighten excessive procedures.
These proposals are now under active consideration in the
European Parliament and Council of Ministers. They received a
generally favourable reception at the informal Foreign
Ministers' meeting at Evian in September; and the French
Presidency has given priority to improving the effectiveness of
our external activities.
The need for our reforms becomes no less urgent; there is a
pressing need for us to be able to deliver assistance rapidly
and effectively pretty much whenever we intervene. Rare is the
case where things can be done at a leisurely pace.
I could now hop from continent to continent showing how we
try to apply some of the principles and approaches that I have
covered. It would be the traditional 'tour d'horizon', all
take-offs and landings without much time for even getting out of
the airport terminal, let alone doing any sight-seeing.
We have global responsibilities and challenges. We have to
establish a strategic partnership with Russia, helping the
Federation to develop the infrastructure of sound economic
management, assisting with improvements in the safety of nuclear
power, working to deal with some of the shared problems around
the Baltic. We have burgeoning, complex trade and political
relations with China and India. We are supporting political
initiatives to bring greater security to the Korean peninsula.
We have concluded a Free Trade and Political Agreement with
Mexico and seek similar agreements elsewhere in Latin America.
We are funding peace efforts right across Africa. We devote much
attention to our developed country partners in the OECD like the
USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
All that and much more makes this Commissioner ubiquitously
peripatetic. But let me come back to Earth with one dramatically
up to date example.
I return, as I said I would, to the Balkans, where one can
see all aspects of our policy in action.
We have learned many, many lessons as Europeans in the
Balkans over the last decade.
Much of what Javier Solana and I are trying to achieve in the
respective areas for which we are responsible is born out of the
Union's experience in the Balkans.
On the military side, we learned in Bosnia and then in Kosovo
that Europe needed to be capable of mounting large-scale peace
enforcement operations and sustaining them. We learned the need
for a policing capacity, pitched somewhere between conventional
soldiers and on street policemen, to tackle mob violence. We
learned the need for Europe to be able to respond fast and
coherently in emergency humanitarian crises, and to be able to
call quickly and efficiently on the resources that Europe
possesses from emergency medical facilities to human rights or
election monitors at short notice.
Now the EU is taking action to make that possible. The Union
is determined to be able to deploy 60,000 troops capable of the
full range of so called Petersberg tasks humanitarian and rescue
work, crisis management, peace-keeping and even peace-making.
This is the Council's rather than the Commission's domain Javier
Solana is busy establishing the necessary command and control
arrangements and, on the institutional side, working to resolve
the complexities of the relationship with Nato including the
involvement of non-Nato members of the EU and non-EU members of
Nato. It is obviously essential that the whole enterprise should
be tightly co-ordinated with Nato, serving to reinforce Europe's
contribution to its own security.
The military dimension is not a matter for the Commission.
But another thing we have learned in the Balkans is that you
cannot simply divorce the military from the non-military side of
crisis management. You have to have close co-ordination between
institutions if you are to deliver an effective European foreign
policy on the ground; you have to co-ordinate your assets in the
service of a single strategy. The Commission might, for example,
be providing customs support and training in one or more
countries, or police training, or media support, or implementing
trade concessions; or helping to nurture institutions, upon the
success of which depend the prospects for withdrawing expensive
peace-keeping troops and building a lasting peace.
It is precisely such a strategy that we are implementing and
have been implementing in South East Europe.
Like others, I give the lion's share of the credit for what
happened in Belgrade last week to the brave people of
Yugoslavia. They reclaimed their country, they refused to see
their election stolen from them. They wanted, after all these
years, to live in a normal country again; to be part of Europe
once more. And they rose up to make that happen.
But I also believe that what happened in Belgrade was
indirectly - a success for the policy of the European Union, the
United States and the rest of the international community.
We stood firm on the principle that what was happening in the
Balkans was our business too. We rejected the view that this was
a region in which people were almost genetically programmed to
murder one another, and that its problems were too complicated
and too distant to matter.
We made mistakes, to be sure. We prevaricated too long as
Milosevic pursued his mad scheme to build a greater Serbia; as
he fomented ethnic hatred by his criminal abuse of the media,
especially television; as he attacked Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia.
But we did, together, stop the war in Bosnia; we did halt the
ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. We stayed the course, and in the
last few years have worked tirelessly to keep faith with the
region and rebuild its hopes.
Not only have we kept tens of thousands of soldiers deployed
on the ground.
We have pursued a steady strategy in recent years to
stabilise the region and associate it more closely with European
structures. We have sought to build a ring of increasingly
stable and secure democracies around Serbia, better able to
withstand Milosevic's attempts to export trouble, and more
capable of demonstrating to the Serbian people the extent to
which Milosevic was holding them back from mainstream Europe.
So we have been negotiating a Stabilisation and Association
Agreement with Macedonia; working with BiH to build institutions
and create a functioning state; working to support the reforms
being implemented by Albania; and pouring enormous sums into
We maintained a firm policy towards Croatia under the
previous regime; but when Croatia chose democracy, the European
Union made a radical change in its policy. We have been lending
strong support to the Government of Croatia since its election
in January support we fully intend to maintain.
We have deployed the full range of tools in our policy
arsenal in pursuit of this strategy. We have EU customs
assistance missions operating in Kosovo, Bosnia and Albania. We
are helping to train police across the region. We are providing
budgetary support across the region.
Last month EU foreign ministers agreed a radical package of
trade liberalisation measures, which will come into effect on 1
November. We have devoted enormous efforts to supporting the
democratic government in Montenegro, to stabilise the situation
there and to help it tackle the threat that then existed from
Belgrade; an example of pro-active crisis prevention in action.
In Serbia itself, we imposed sanctions against the Milosevic
regime, while maintaining strong support for civil society and
especially the independent media. Much of that support we had to
do rather quietly; supporting people like Radio B2 92 and their
superb web-site, and the ANEM television network. We launched
with Javier Solana and Bodo Hombach a Campaign to support the
Independent Media in Serbia following the crackdown by Milosevic
in May this year. In June the European Commission funded an
emergency assistance programme in collaboration with the Swedish
Helsinki Committee. This helped support 16 local media outlets
in the run-up to the election on 24 September.
Let me just say that we were glad to provide this limited
help; I wish we could have done more. Because the independent
media in Serbia are real heroes; they kept truth alive, and when
the history comes to be written of this remarkable period, they
will deserve a good deal of the credit for helping to bring
democracy to Serbia. I welcome today's release from prison on
the brave journalist Miroslav Filipovic. I hope that a new era
of media freedom is coming at last in Serbia.
We also launched practical programmes like Energy for
Democracy last winter, which delivered much needed heating oil
to opposition controlled municipalities throughout the winter;
and we launched Schools for Democracy this summer, which has
been helping schools in opposition municipalities.
We have used a rolling programme of visits by EU Ministers,
Javier Solana and myself in recent months to underscore Europe's
commitment to the region.
I repeat: the overwhelming credit for the revolution in
Belgrade belongs to the people on the streets and to the
opposition who worked so hard for so long to this end.
But our strategy helped, I believe, to make their efforts
Now we must stay the course.
Above all we must honour our promise to the people of
Yugoslavia that democratic change would see them welcomed back
into the European family; and honour our promise to help them
rebuild their country economically and institutionally.
I am delighted that the meeting of EU foreign ministers here
in Luxembourg yesterday decided to lift sanctions against
Yugoslavia, keeping only those that directly hit Milosevic and
his cronies. And the EU made clear its determination to launch a
full scale reconstruction programme for the FRY; to support its
full involvement in the SAA process and in the Stability Pact.
But we will also need to maintain our commitment to the rest
of the region to Montenegro, to Kosovo, to Croatia, to Bosnia,
to Macedonia and to Albania. If there is one thing we have
learned in the last decade it is that the problems and
opportunities in this region are intimately bound up with each
other, and can only be resolved together.
In the last decade, history has come full circle in the
Balkans; the war Milosevic started a decade ago has come, at
last, to an end. As President Clinton put it at the weekend,
'democracy has retaken every piece of ground he took'.
But history has also come full circle in the wider Europe
too. A democratic Europe that is both whole and free is now at
last a real possibility.
Europe must be ready for it, and able to play the role that
its friends expect of it on the world stage.
The final word goes to Havel again. In the speech to the
European Parliament to which I referred, he called on Europe to
'get its act together.'
It was a justified call.
And on CFSP it is a call, I hope and believe, that is being
acted on. We are not there yet; but we are starting to get
there, in ways of which I hope both Vaclav Havel and Winston
Churchill would approve.