Address by HR/VP Catherine Ashton at the seminar “The EU and Brazil in the world”, in the presence of Foreign Minister of Brazil Antonio Patriota, Diplomatic Academy
“I am delighted to address the seminar “The EU and Brazil in the world” at the Diplomatic Academy of the Instituto Rio-Branco. And I was just saying to the Minister and to colleagues and to Ambassadors here that the best part of any event for me is the interaction with the audience, the questions and answers, for two reasons: one is you get to ask what you really want to and second I get to find out what really interests you, and I’m told that you will be very direct. So I hope you will be, because that’s the best kind of conversation.
Antonio, you’ve just done a fantastic tour de force on so many issues, so I will for my contribution focus on European dimension of what we call the post-Lisbon era of Europe and hopefully share some thoughts with everyone here that will build into the conversation. The Lisbon Treaty is a sort of watershed for the European Union. If you look back to how these 27 – shortly to be 28 (Croatia will join very soon formally) – countries got together, it was by-and-large an economic growth, economic security set of issues that made it happen. The creation of the single market enabled people, goods, trade, investment to travel much more easily across the borders of the European Union and it was, in my mind, essentially about trying to get the economic growth and development. But it became very obvious, quite soon – although it took a long time to complete – that there was also the strength of the political coming-together. Not that the Union took away from the importance of domestic sovereignty, but that doing things together – whether it was 12 or 15 or 25, 27 and now almost 28, by being able to speak with the same message, with all these voices – was actually incredibly important in terms of foreign policy, in terms of security issues, in terms of the voice that we had in the world.
So the authors of the Lisbon Treaty – and it took a long time, over 10 years to move from the constitution to a treaty to where we are now – wanted to see what I call “politics meet economics”, and to join up the way that the outside world looked at Europe, from being a combination of rotating presidencies and the Commission and different institutions to being Europe. It makes it easier, it makes it simpler, it makes it joined up. Two very small examples of that.
When Prime Minister Putin was President the first time around, in the course of his eight years, he met 16 presidents of Europe, beginning and ending with Portugal, and that’s because in that period of time 15 countries rotated in that post. And in the course of those different presidencies, different priorities emerged, different relationships with Russia were much in evidence. The Prime Ministers or presidents of the European countries represented Europe well, but nonetheless they approached it inevitably with the sense of the bilateral relationship, also much in evidence. And for some countries, who are very small, perhaps they weren’t able to make the impact, for some countries who had difficult relationships with Russia maybe they made a different kind of impact. So it was not a satisfactory process, it was important, but not optimal.
The other example is on the fight againts piracy. When I took over this role, I brought together all of the people working in Brussels on the issue of Somalia and anti-piracy. The piracy off the coast of Somalia is an enormous problem for every country that seeks to trade in the world and hugely difficult for the people of the region. And I brought together the military staff, because we have a military mission Atalanta that provides ships to protect the World Food Programme, and the development team, since we have over 30 development projects in Somalia. I brought those involved in foreign policy working on Somalia and the region – Kenya, Tanzania and others – and I brought them all in one room. Until then they have never sat down together before. The reason was because Europe wasn’t joined up in its work and that I believe was fundamentally going to mean that we weren’t able to be as dynamic and as able to operate in the world or to find solutions as we would be if we joined up.
So the post-Lisbon world is about a joined up Europe where you don’t have to guess which bit of the institutions anybody comes from, because it doesn’t matter; where anyone meeting Europe meets Europe and we are able to deal with all of these issues in a comprehensive way.
When I became the High Representative I set out three key priorities for my mandate. The first one was to create a new foreign policy service. The Commission had traditionally delegations across the world (nearly 140), but they were focused on economic issues particularly trade and investment, some on climate change. But the political processes weren’t being handled by the delegations; they were done by the rotating presidency or in countries where that particular country didn’t have an embassy by one of the others. And so I needed to build a service that brings together economics and politics and creates a new capacity for the European Union to add value to what the Member States do on the ground. Not take away from them, but add to what they do, and to forge a new direction for European foreign policy that is based on a large range of issues. It means for example that in some countries our focus shifts a little bit. Traditionally we are focused, with countries like India, on our economic relationship. Now we are also focusing much more on security issues which are of enormous interest to them and where European countries have much to offer: counterterrorism, cyber security, piracy, which I have mentioned before, to mention just 3. So building a new kind of service that could serve the people of Europe and could serve our relationships with the rest of the world in a joined up way.
The second priority I set myself was the neighbourhood, long before the events of North Africa happened. I believe that Europe should be judged by its effectiveness in its own neighbourhood. The reality of whether we are going to be a successful group of countries, a successful bloc able to tackle some of the big challenges, would rest in our ability to sort out the difficulties that existed on our doorstep. When I said that I was thinking much more about Bosnia/Herzegovina, about the relations between Serbia and Kosovo and our relationships to the East. Those still dominate my agenda; they don’t get as much publicity as events of North Africa but as you know we are still engaged in trying to resolve at least in part the issues between Serbia and Kosovo and that dialogue goes on very quietly in Bruxelles led by one of my team. Equally we are trying to make sure in Bosnia that the EU is the solution, that we are taking over the responsibility for helping Bosnia economically and politically to move forward. So we are on a journey in our neighbourhood to the East of trying to make sure we can do it.
And of course the events of North Africa, our neighbourhood in another direction, changed the dynamic in that part of the world and again the interesting aspect in this for me is how does Europe really respond to the challenges that are raised in Egypt, in Tunisia, in Libya and of course in Syria. I would again argue that this about “economics meets politics”. If I take Tunisia where the new Prime Minister decided to make his first visit outside his country to Brussels – that was not an accident. That was because we have been working with the Tunisian government to pull together their needs both politically and economically; a combination of support for civil society, support for human rights groups, helping them develop their elections, helping them develop the institutions that they will need to take forward what I call “deep democracy”. That means democracy that is not just about an election, it’s about everything else – it’s about the capacity to build the institutions, freedoms and rights. It’s also of course about the economy and using the European Union’s ability to leverage resources, to be able to put together a package which for Tunisia was 4 billions Euros over three years of grants and loans coming from the European Investment Bank, from the European Commission, from different parts of the European institutions, but also in addition to that, bringing the private sector in who will be able to have genuine investment in the country.
It’s a good model for me. Economics speaks politics translated into a well-rounded approach that supports the transition politically against the values that we believe the people of Tunisia want, together with the economic needs that are going to be so important and need to be delivered as well. So in our neighbourhood we are trying to develop and design ways in which we can really add value. We can talk about Syria and Iran, and Libya and so on shortly but let me just leave you with that particular example and move on to the third priority which is our strategic partners.
I said to the European Council, the meeting of all of the leaders of the European Union, that we needed to think creatively about what it was that we wanted in our relationships with our strategic partners and I divided this into two areas. The first is bilateral relationships, the importance of the relationships between us, with trade and economic issues and strong political relationships. These relationships are very different with each of our strategic partners. Our relationship with Russia is very different to our relationships with Brazil or India; our relationship with the United States is very different to our relationship with China, but these are big strategic relationships that we have to nurture and that enable us to make important bilateral relationships for the future.
But more importantly or as importantly for me in my role, it’s about the relationship that we have in tackling some of the global issues that we face. The Minister quite rightly raised one of the most important or two of the most important issues: one is climate change which we were able to make a common cause between Europe and Brazil and I really do pay tribute to the role of Brazil in this, it’s enormously important. It’s more than just a sum of the two coming together, because it also brings in other countries and it gives a much more dynamic force to the fight against the climate change. I would also argue on development, Mr. Minister says too, that the critical nature of sustainable development for all of us needs clever and creative partnerships and to think differently about how we deliver our development goals. Collaboration means we use our economies of scale, the ability to deliver for each other in different parts of the world where we are more active, the capacity to think together about how to make the most difference in the least possible time to support people who are trying to grapple with some fundamental issues of development. All of that is deeply significant.
But also on issues that I think can become more complex, that in essence are difficult to do, but at least easy to have a strong and clear vision. Human rights, for me fundamental – the human rights apply to everyone, you just have to be human and here, that’s it. It applies universally. And making common cause on how we translate that in our work is of enormous interest to me and to the European Union, because it’s quite a challenge. How do we actually make a difference in different parts of the world, how do we make a vision of human rights become a reality with countries that are on a journey that is very different to us or are at a different point in the development? And how do we, if you like, reward the changes that are made and recognize the challenges?
That would be a very interesting element, when we talk about the BRICS, because there are so many differences between the different countries in this group. It is wrong to try and bundle these countries together and think they are all the same. There is a phenomenal difference between the approaches of Brazil or Russia or China on some of the core issues. Therefore I say let’s not get countries bundled together and assume they would take a common view on everything. There are strategic relationships on strategic issues where the natural gravitational pool is in different directions. We want to make those relationships strong – particularly on really important and difficult subjects that we have to deal with and then of course on some of the really hard edge issues that we face, of which I just pick on one which is Iran.
The purpose of everything that I am doing with Iran is to get them to the negotiating table. I have inherited the role of negotiator with Iran to persuade them not to pursue a nuclear weapons’ programme. They are signatories to the nonproliferation treaty and if you sign a treaty, you have obligations under it and if you are a signatory to the treaty, you have obligations to make sure others who have signed it also stick by what they have said. So although it is a world we would rather not be in, of trying to put the pressure on Iran, the pressure is for the purpose of the talks. This is what I call a twin-track approach and I am completely clear about that – there are only two tracks, pressure and the negotiations. And in all that we do with Iran – and that is true in other cases too – what matters is how much we stand together in trying to persuade Tehran to do what actually they are obliged to do in any event. This would be true in the Middle East as we work together on the peace process and – frankly I don’t care who succeeds in getting the Israelis and the Palestinians to get together, I just hope somebody can and at the moment it falls on the King of Jordan to whom I am paying enormous tribute for what he is doing. But trying to work together to deal with these really difficult issues where we, by the different relationships that we have, the different ability that we have to put the pressure on, we keep that pressure.
So my final word is this. It is an enormous pleasure to be in Brazil. I have said right at the beginning of my set in office, this is a relationship that is important, but I don’t think that the EU had made it as important as it ought to be. And one of the reasons I am here is to recognize that – I believe with our shared values and with the ability of this nation to really to drive forward on so many critical issues – that there is much we can do together and I look forward very much to that. Thank you!