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J. Barroso: Address to World Summit 2020

Address to World Summit 2020, Seoul, Korea, February 3-8, 2020


First of all, let me thank UPF and also Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon for their kind invitation to be with you here today in Seoul in this great country of Korea.

I was invited to speak about the European Union’s role in global governance and contribution to peace, so it is appropriate that I start with a quote by Baruch Spinoza. I mentioned this quote when I had the honor of speaking on behalf of the European Union when I received the Nobel Peace Prize for the European Union in 2012 in Oslo.

Spinoza, one of the greatest minds of mankind who was a great philosopher from Amsterdam who was of Jewish-Portuguese origin, said: "Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence and justice."

When we think about the words that we hear today, in the public discourse in Europe and probably also that in the rest of the world, words like crisis, refugee crisis; emergency, climate emergency; extinction, planet extinction; war, trade wars; disruption, technological disruption—these words do not suggest that we are living in a state of benevolence. On the contrary, we are living in an age of anxiety, and we have to think why we have this anxiety and what the best ways to deal with it are. Because it's true that globalization, which was able to allow so many hundreds of millions of people to come out of poverty and disease, is now provoking anxiety in so many of our citizens all around the world. And we see negative developments—more protectionism; nativism; nationalism; and xenophobia, in which the other is very often seen as the source of the problem, and now not our companion, our brother looking for the solution.

In the European Union, there are now 27 countries. It started after the Second World War with six member states. I continue to think that the basic values and the basic concept behind the European Union is valid today and more important than ever. The idea is to make things such that war becomes not only impossible but unthinkable among the countries of the Union. It is a political process, a process for peace, but based on the idea of economic integration through a common market that allows the free circulation of goods, of services, of capital, of people. But it's not just about the economy. It's about values that are stated in our treaties—the values of dignity of human beings, peace, human rights, democracy, equality of rights between men and women, respect for the rights of citizens belonging to minorities.

So, we want to believe that these values are not just part of the European identity. They should be seen as universal values, and I know that today many people are trying to bolster that identity against the idea of universalism. It’s true that we are bound by some identities, of our family, our village, our region, our country. But it is a mistake, I believe, to confuse patriotism with nationalism.

Patriotism is to love what belongs to us. Nationalism very often is to hate what belongs to others. And, in fact, we need to also defend the others. We are for identities, but open identities. We can be patriotic. We can love our country and also feel some solidarity towards the "others." Some people say: "This is idealism. With that idea we are not going to solve the problems of the world." I don't agree. I believe that a universal approach indeed is more realistic than a fragmented approach.

Let's think about some of the problems we have in the world today: climate change; international terrorism; epidemics or pandemics, such as the coronavirus we have now; threats to peace and stability; threats to free trade and financial stability; and technological disruption. All these threats are international in nature and do not stop at our national borders. We need to have an approach to solve them together. We can no longer say to each other, "your side of the boat is sinking;" we have to solve issues together. If there is a common problem we have to find a common solution.

That is why, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I believe that the idea of the European Union, with all its imperfections, can offer some inspiration to other parts of the world. The idea of it is very simple: not to give up our power but to share power, to put it together and to think that more important than any political construct, any party or any ideology, more important than politics, is a human being—not an abstract concept of a human being, but a concrete person, a man, a woman or a child.

Politics is an instrument, not an end in itself. Politics is there to serve the common good. And I believe that building on the past experience of Europe, the terrible wars we had, but also the true reconciliation that we have achieved, are some elements to think about, because, frankly, I believe that in other parts of the world this state of reconciliation has not yet been achieved.

So, it is with modesty that we should propose to all parts of the world to think about the best ways to achieve this spirit of reconciliation.

I thank you for your attention.



To go to the World Summit 2020 Schedule page, click here.