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W. van Eekelen: Address to World Summit 2013

PhotoLooking around the world, it is hard to find a model of integration and common destiny like the European Union is providing after the Second World War. Conceptually, the most interesting point is the approach of people like Schuman, Monnet, and Adenauer to solve age-old problems by putting them in a new context. Rivalry between France and Germany first was restrained by the Coal and Steel Community, which made nationalist military expansion of a single country impossible. A subsequent attempt at a European Defence Community failed, because it was a bridge too far. Instead, the focus was on the formation of a single economic market with a level playing field under the rule of law.

The construction of Europe was an interesting mix of competition and solidarity. Competition among firms regardless of their nationality. Solidarity with less developed regions. The set up was “sui generis”: a Commission proposes, decisions are taken by a Council of Ministers, on most issues with qualified majority, and with co-decision by the European parliament. A Court of Justice enforces implementation of directives and regulations throughout the Union and even beyond, because countries like Norway and Switzerland follow suit even if they did not participate in the decision making.

The process of enlargement probably was the greatest foreign policy achievement: giving the new democracies of Eastern Europe a sense of belonging and support on reforming their governments in terms of accountability. I assume that the countries of the Western Balkans over time will also join the EU and I hope Turkey as well. But the criteria for enlargement have hardened, which may seem unfair to the new candidates. The financial crisis has made us look much harder at the way member countries follow up on their promises. A new word entered our vocabulary : moral hazard. It means the risk that certain countries slow down on the implementation of their commitments when the pressure slackens and thus harm the countries which were fully compliant. That was the reason why the decisions to restructure financial oversight of national budgets and the banking system took so long. Support for those in trouble would only be acceptable if it was clear that they would do their utmost to honor their commitments, even if this meant painful adjustments and austerity. I suppose UPF has a different notion of ‘moral hazard,’ but I hope you understand what I meant !

Of course the EU is not perfect. On the internal market we are doing relatively well, but economic policy coordination has been weak. We built a Monetary Union but failed on the indispensable corollary of Economic Union. Instead we have used vague terms like Political Union, a term few people understand and which even may frighten them. Fear of a Super State – whatever that might be – is grossly exaggerated, because all 27 members participate in virtually every decision taken in Brussels. But it is a fact that more and more people see European integration as threatening, because they experience it as a process which keeps on rolling forward without them having control over it. Also that is an exaggeration, because since the Treaty of Lisbon the European parliament has real powers, as shown during their handling of the financial crisis, the so-called six-pack. Therefore, I find accusations of the EU being undemocratic, grossly untrue. The European Parliament is not less democratic than most national parliaments.

That brings me to foreign, security, and defense policy, which is organized in a different manner, more in the way of a traditional intergovernmental conference with unanimous decision making. We have tried to improve the structure by combining the High Representative, now Lady Ashton, with that of Vice President of the European Commission, thus forging an integrated approach. She chairs the council of Foreign Ministers and is the head of the European Defense Agency and the European External Action Service. Today, the EU has delegations abroad which are responsible for the entire spectrum of its activities.

Where the EU falls short of expectations is the field of security and defense. We talk of ‘pooling and sharing’ but in fact maintain defense establishments which do very little together. That is untenable at a time of shrinking defense budgets and will harm the competitivity of European industry. But the basic approach is correct: the link between security, development, and good governance. We like to work together with regional organizations like the African Union and ASEAN in South East Asia. The EU has mounted some 24 operations, most of them of a civil-military character. A most successful mission has monitored the peace process in Aceh [Indonesia], where the guerrillas handed in their arms and the army withdrew forces correspondingly.

In December the European Council will devote a session to defense policy, and countries are already gearing up by preparing white papers aimed at a new vision of security, a vision which, I hope, will show a greater sense of responsibility in Europe to contribute to peace and security in the world.

Peace requires hard work. It is not something which floats down from the air, but is the result of using all instruments available to the international community. Without a minimum of security there cannot be development and our efforts would be wasted. But in the long run there cannot be stability and security without lasting development. It has taken some time for the ‘developers’ and the ‘security sector’ to see the essential connection. That’s why I am grateful to the UPF for organizing this conference under the heading of ‘Peace, Security and Human Development’, for we’ll make progress only if these three remain inextricably linked.

For more information about World Summit 2013, click here.